Home  |  User Forum  |  News  |  Fantasy Sumo  |  Media Requests  |  Contributors  |  About Us Sumo 101  |  Links  |  Archives  |  Swedish

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

Day 14 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Saturday the 14th is often the best day of the tournament. This time we were guaranteed to have drama last through Sunday the 15th, as the top guys (Kakuryu and Terunofuji) came in tied so there was no mathematical chance of the yusho being decided today, but as Saturday usually does, this day brought a careening-cement-truck with-bombs-strapped-on level of excitement. With Terunofuji's injury and his attempt to compete, we suddenly had a yusho race worthy of the name. It was bittersweet in that it came of misfortune, but there was no doubt the drama felt keen. The announcers' constant talk throughout the broadcast of Ikioi's yusho chances were twiddle-faddle, but I was psyched to see what Terunofuji could do, and thought there was a real possibility Kisenosato could pull a flotsam-and-jetsam yusho. I expected Terunofuji to give no quarter today. If he intended on giving away matches, he would simply have withdrawn instead. The question for me was, would he be able to overcome the injury, or would he be too lame to compete? Would there be grit and guts and victory, or would there be depressing but compelling injury-mandated defeat? Would Kakuryu let up, and Kisenosato take the opportunity to finally get a yusho, and cry plump tears down his cute apple cheeks? It felt like it was all up in the air.

However, there was another possibility that didn't occur to me at first: Terunofuji staying in meant he faces Kakuryu on senshuraku, not Goeido, and that meant all the four-loss guys were eliminated by his participation, and the three loss guys handicapped: even if both Yokozuna...sorry, Terunofuji and Kakuryu, both lost today, those two would still have a guaranteed 12-3 record for one of them as they play each other tomorrow. So, Terunofuji staying in, even if he loses out, gave the Mongolians increased control over the outcome. It is possible Terunofuji remaining in the tournament was not a guts-and-glory move, but a political one that increased the Mongolian stranglehold on the yusho hunt. And after seeing today's bout, I'm guessing that's the play.

Let's take it from the last three matches, where all four yusho hunters were concentrated today.

M12 Ikioi (10-3) vs. O Kotoshogiku (9-4)
Talent, like murder, will out. Ikioi has for many basho been a destroyer in the lower banzuke, a disaster in the upper. We all know Kotoshogiku ain't much--but he is also an accomplished veteran. Ikioi had absolutely nothing on the Geeku today. His talent level was outed: he is outrageously ineffective at this level. His tachi-ai moved Kotoshogiku zero, he was unable to get a belt grip, and Kotoshogiku almost look surprised as he was able to drill Ikioi off the dohyo in seconds flat, oshi-dashi. Thank goodness: Ikioi as yusho contender was nonsense. This ended that.

O Terunofuji (11-2) vs. O Goeido (6-7)
I have a bad left knee. I do a lot of mountain hiking. These things should not go together. However, what I notice is that, whether from psychological reasons of forgetting the pain because I have walking that needs doing, or for physical reasons that my body releases chemicals that block/mask the pain, once I get going, the knee hardly bothers me at all when actually out on the trail. I once sprained an ankle, which turned purple, yellow, and dead-looking, and, being somewhat cussed, climbed a 2,000 meter peak the next day anyway. It barely hurt at all; it was simply a matter of lacing up my boot, putting one foot in front of the other, and letting my endorphins and adrenalin do the work. So, I was watching Terunofuji closely. He wasn't even limping. I thought he would be able to put the injury aside, ride the rest of his physiognomy for a few seconds, and win this one.

I still think he could have done that. However, instead he gave this bout to Goeido. He tried a hari-te--not his style--that didn't work and left him wide open, giving Goeido moro-zashi. He had an opportunity at an outside left with his rattlesnake arms, but didn't take it. He tried a maki-kae on the right but didn't complete it. Goeido drove him out easily, yori-kiri. I did not see a weak knee being involved in this at all, though you could claim he was up too high because he wasn't free to bear down on a bent knee. But I don't buy it. I desperately wanted to believe that this one would be straight up because of the injury, but watching it, I just can't lie: Terunofuji looked to be having no trouble with his injury--all his trouble was with Goeido's 6-7 record, and/or with Kakuryu's first Yokozuna yusho. This loss gave Kakuryu a clear path to the yusho on a logical narrative featuring Terunofuji's knee. I wanted to buy this product, but when I picked it up, found the quality to be poor. I'm putting it back in the bin.

O Kisenosato (10-3) vs. Y Kakuryu (11-2)
When this started with an attempted flash-pull at the top of the head on a matta by Kakuryu, I was filled with dread: I thought he intended to lose, and to look bad doing it. And if not, I was disgusted because it is more nonsense from him following the henka the other day. Either way it was a bad start. So I was grateful for the matta. However, smartly, on the re-do, Kakuryu did it again. It's funny; on the first try I thought it was classless, cheap, and embarrassing--and when he did it again, I thought it was clever, fresh, and appropriate. Why? I don't know. Just something about it. This time Kisenosato should have been ready for it? Gutsy to reveal your strategy and yet stick with it? Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me? Human psychology is funny like that, and it gave me wicked delight. It gave him the win yori-taoshi, and put paid to the last of the non-Mongolian contenders. They wilted in the Mongolian sun, with nary a tree to shade under on the cruel, endless steppe, and we were left with just two:

12-2: Kakuryu
11-3: Terunofuji

Amazing. My feeling for years has been that while there is yaocho and mukiryoku all over the place, including in lots of bouts we're not looking for it in, and more so in upper level bouts, and there is limited scripting, like getting certain guys to Ozeki or Yokozuna, there is no large-scale overall scripting; if there were, a Japanese wrestler would have won a tournament many times over the past ten years. Instead, what we have had, over and over again, is the same thing we have this tournament (though we have gotten to it by a very odd and winding road this time): a group of Mongolians so dominant they can afford to lose a few matches to their chasers and each other, but keep the golden chalice all to themselves. They are deeply guilty of yaocho and arrangements amongst themselves. Sometimes it is perceived that this site thinks the Japanese wrestlers are all on the take and the Mongolians are all selfless heroes: Japanese bad, Mongolian good. Absolutely not. Both sides are richly en-webbed in the bout-fixing traditions of this sport, and it is the Mongolians, by a country mile, who are the most guilty of championship rigging this past decade--because they are the only ones who have access to it. I wish I could say I am looking forward to tomorrow, and to a degree I am, but my interest is mostly academic, because I don't think we will see sumo tomorrow: I think we will see the Mongolians wrap up their storytelling in a neat little package of their own determination, just like they did when Asashoryu gave his first tournaments to Hakuho, when Hakuho gave some to an aging Asashoryu, when Hakuho gave Yokozunahoods to Harumafuji and Kakuryu, and when, just this May, Hakuho gave a tourney to Terunofuji before he even needed it. You have to get near the top on your own--Tamawashi, say, can't join the club ‘cause he ain't got it--but once you're there, you're in The Firm. Will they go the obvious route, and get Kakuryu his first yusho as a Yokozuna, with the knee as narrative? Or are they in a hurry to get Terunofuji to Yokozuna, and will they sell us a "thrilling" Takanohana vs. Musashimaru 2001 "guts" victory for Terunofuji? I do wish it would be determined in the ring. Let's watch and find out. But I have every confidence the outcome is being decided right now.

Proletariat and Peasantry:

J5 Mitakeumi (10-3) vs. M15 Hidenoumi (6-7)
Mitakeumi is one of the latest young hopes, so fresh to the sport he still can't put his hair up. He's torn up Juryo, and this was our first look at him. He looked excellent, driving out Hidenoumi yori-kiri while looking more like an M5 than a J5. Straightforward, no nonsense, overpowering win. A word of caution, though: compare the height and weight of the following recent big hopes and up and comers, and what do you see?

Terunofuji: 192/159
Tochinoshin: 191/159
Osunaarashi: 189/146
Ichinojo: 190/183

Myogiryu: 187/140
Endo: 183/145
Chiyotairyu: 182/167
Mitakeumi: 179/149

I don't want to be overly deterministic here, but in this sport as in most, duh, body size and shape makes a big difference. We talk a lot about the "fighting spirit" and drive of the foreign wrestlers from presumably tougher backgrounds, but they're also simply bigger, and that is hard to overcome. So, I'm not optimistic with Mitakeumi, but I'll look forward to seeing how it goes.

M13 Tokitenku (6-7) vs. M10 Kyokushuho (8-5)
When the tachi-ai is silent, that means someone cheated--it is an odd sensory deprivation, no bodies kersmackling, a whish in the air, and we had it here. The culprit, of course, leaping to the side, was Dirt Lord (Tokitenku), who got an outer left off of this, but Kyokushuho is no dummy and got right back with him; it was immediate migi-yotsu after that. This was a long bout--Dirt Lord is patient, and has a lot of long bouts--and Kyokushuho couldn't get anything going with Tokitenku's mawashi loose and ropey. Completing the trifecta of Tokitenkuisms (henka, length, trips), Tokitenku ended this one with a beautiful kake-nage, or kick throw, lifting Kyokushuho up with his knee and spilling him over. The henka sucked. The kake-nage was beautiful. I'll take it.

M9 Gagamaru (6-7) vs. M15 Asasekiryu (6-7)
The gyoji dealt Gagamaru a loss, letting Asasekiryu thump into him though Gagamaru's hand wasn't near down and not calling a matta. Gagamaru simply put his head down and fell down forward, hataki-komi. Sumo needs instant replay like baseball; there is plenty of time between matches, and in addition to the shimpan group, the stable master might could have the right to call for review on one bout per day. But, that doesn't exactly waft of tatami and irori smoke, roasting barley tea and clacking geta, so I'll keep my modern ideas to myself.

M14 Kitataiki (6-7) vs. M9 Kagamioh (3-10)
Kagamioh henka'ed with a loopty-loop big'un cheatsie, but Kitataiki was fast back on him with a deep grip all the way to the back of the belt and Kagamioh, who has looked terrible all tournament and only emphasized that with the gobbity move today, got what he deserved in this yori-kiri loss.

M16 Seiro (6-7) vs. M8 Toyonoshima (9-4)
Seiro tried to get the front of the belt, but all he got was the front of Tugboat's belly, lifting him up and back as he was worsted by one of my faves, Toyonoshima. Surprised to see Toyonoshima fighting an opponent this low ranked this late in the tournament with a record like his, but it gave him a chance to show he ain't puddin' ‘gainst weak sauce. Yori-kiri.

M7 Endo (7-6) vs. M10 Kotoyuki (7-6)
If fought straight up, Endo will have no answer for the powerful oshi attack of Kotoyuki; Endo needs to get on the belt with smaller guys and out-wile them, or get in and under big guys and move laterally and work them up. Instead, he got in a push battle here. Doom. A sigh. Kotoyuki had clinching his winning record in his sights, and went with ‘m-gunna-kill-ya hard hands to the face. Endo, true to form, looked good for a moment or two, moving forward into it, but did not have the power to withstand this stuff, and was pretty soon a mangled oshi-taoshi heap on the other side of the dohyo, where Kotoyuki fell over on him for good measure.

Tomorrow Endo gets Asasekiryu, also 7-7, and that is an appropriate match for his level; it should be straight up as both guys will want kachi-koshi but Endo doesn't really need it (M6 or M8 next time really doesn't make much difference), so I'll be interested to see if he can look legitimately better than a guy he really needs to be able to beat.

M14 Sokokurai (7-6) vs. M7 Amuuru (7-6)
Sokokurai offered defense only, and not a very good one, as he kept his hands up and out to the side as if waiting for Amuuru to slip around to the side, which is of course not what Amuuru does or did: he waltzed inside, got moro-zashi, and you-got-nuthin'd Sokokurai out, yori-kiri. Slow and steady, up the banzuke Amuuru goes. This guy is a lot of fun, and looks like he'd be polite to your mother, too.

M11 Chiyotairyu (5-8) vs. M6 Tokushoryu (5-8)
I was looking forward to this, as we should have had power on power here with a couple guys wanting to prove they're the better pusher, but instead Tokushoryu went herky-jerky at the tachi-ai, went backwards, and Chiyotairyu went back to his old haunt, the pull, and what's worse, it worked (giving him incentive to try again), hataki-komi. Not sure Tokushoryu was giving it his full effort here. Doesn't matter; move on, nothing to see.

M12 Chiyootori (6-7) vs. M5 Kaisei (5-8)
Kaisei did a good job of lifting Chiyootori's right arm up with his elbow off the tachi-ai; with an overhand grip on the left, this gave him room to work with. Chiyootori tried to work that right arm to the inside, but he and Kaisei they just ended up holding hands over there, and while ‘Otori was fooling around with that, Kaisei was slowly rotating him until his back was to the bales, at which point Chiyootori panicked, let go of the arm, Kaisei got inside over there, and it was an easy yori-kiri win for The Big Sea (Kaisei). Very disappointing tournaments for both these guys given their rank and abilities. Lame effort too by Chiyootori, who gave up and walked out at the end when he decided his position was bad enough. Let's see some better effort next time, buddy, and maybe you can break out of the Chiyonokuni/Chiyoo/ /Chiyomaru/Chiyotairyu/Chiyootori "quantity not quality" pack.

M13 Daieisho (6-7) vs. M4 Takarafuji (4-9)
Look at Takarafuji strutting around with that big pink flower on his lapel over his new award, a pretty ribbon and medal with a smiley face, "Most Cooperative Rikishi!" Congrats to you, friend, and hope it gets you what you need next time around! Or do guys who do too much of this (hello Ichinojo and Aoiyama) never break out of the pack? Here is Takarafuji, who has earned some future Ozeki talk even from the likes of me, who has never been liked him, who is an M4, who is sizable (186/161) and experienced, just standing there and offering nothing but corresponding hand moves, like a mime in a mirror, to a little (179/135) rookie up from M13 in his first Makuuchi tournament, and getting beaten oshi-dashi like a sleepwalking grandmother. I've liked what I've seen of Daieisho, but this was an eye-roller and I'm very tired of Takara Boom Dee Ay, Ay, Ay! this tournament.

M3 Sadanoumi (4-9) vs. M8 Takekaze (4-9)
Very nice aggression here by Takekaze, who immediately got in and under and put a hard hand on Sadanoumi, who was going backwards and tried to pull Takekaze down. Kind of worked; as Sadanoumi faded away to the left, Takekaze ran his way out of the dohyo as Sadanoumi also descended off of it--both sailed completely free of the clay. To my surprise, the painted fan went to Sadanoumi, but It was close so they called a do-over. I would have given Takekaze the win, as he was moving forward and it looked to me like Sadanoumi's foot broke the plane of the dohyo first. In the do-over Takekaze tried the exact same thing, but this time Sadanoumi was ready for him, stayed low, got underneath with grips, and won yori-kiri. It is time for Takekaze to sit down for a cup of tea with Kyokutenho and Wakanosato and say, "so, how do you like it?"

M2 Osunaarashi (7-6) vs. M6 Aminishiki (7-6)
This one started with a henka by Aminishiki that should have surprised no one, and indeed Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) recovered and was able to grab his man, and looked to be about to bull him out, but Aminishiki is nothing if not wily, and got a good inside grip and kept very low; so low that the biggest danger to Giant Sand looked as if Shneaky (Aminishiki) might take the hand he was holding and touch-down it onto the dirt just below. However, Sandy is much stronger, and bulled his man back to the tawara and over, using a powerful outer grip, yori-kiri. Survival and victory here for his kachi-koshi punctuates a very good tournament by this rising star. Please don't go all Ichinojo on us, now.

M5 Tamawashi (3-10) vs. M2 Sadanofuji (0-13)
I think Tamawashi was actually trying to win this one; he hasn't had a good tourney and could use another win or two. He got up in Sadanofuji's face and thrusted and slapped. He got his man all the way back to the tawara. However, Sadanofuji was doing the same thing, thrusting and busting, and with better focused thrusts: almost every blow of his at this point went straight to the face or throat, while a lot of Tamawashi's blows were bouncing rubberily off of Sadanofuji's upper body. Sada reversed the momentum and got a load off with a tsuki-dashi destruction Must have felt good; I guarantee you this one win felt like eight today, and will let him go into next basho, even at M14 or whatever, with a fresh mindset. Tamawashi is at sea.

M1 Aoiyama (6-7) vs. M4 Ichinojo (7-6)
Neither of these guys has had good tournaments, with Aoiyama being charitable in the first half and often sloppy in the second. Ichinojo is improved over his recent basho, but just looks way too beatable and inconsistent. Hard to believe a year ago I was debating to myself who would be better, him or Fuji the Terrible (Terunofuji). I have to say Ichinojo looked much the better wrestler than Aoiyama in this match, though. Foolishly, Aoiyama let it get off to a belt start, not his game, and was headed in the wrong direction, but he pulled out of that and got his big thrusts going, which evened things out in the middle of the ring. Still, thrusting out the Iron Blob of Gravity Grease is like removing its slidey feet and then trying to thrust your refrigerator out of your kitchen (try that), and Aoiyama was soon gassed and still had a couple of meters left to go. Ichinojo then resumed the belt and body attack, and it was any easy yori-kiri victory after that. Kachi-koshi for him, make-koshi for Aoiyama, which is right for how they've shown this tournament, but after watching this my verdict is still that Ichinojo holds back a lot and we haven't seen his best. Cut it out, kid.

M11 Homarefuji (8-5) vs. M1 Yoshikaze (9-4)
The ghost is crackling through Yoshikaze's sinews like static electricity. Yoshikaze blazed into Homarefuji with his typical energy, stood him up, slapped him hard in the face, then went for bulldozer non-grip scoops underneath; when that got Homarefuji near the straw, The Possessed (Yoshikaze) reversed momentum while staying in close and smashing down his opponent with a well-timed, well-used pull, hiki-otoshi. The interesting thing to watch with him this tournament is how focused Yoshikaze is; yes, his energy level has in the past often lead to him being wild, out of control, and beatable, but in this tournament that energy has been as tightly focused as Tommy Iommi in War Pigs.

K Tochinoshin (8-5) vs. K Okinoumi (6-7)
As the two komusubi took each other on, surprising to see Okinoumi with the near-.500 record, as he has felt very blah (as usual) this tournament, while Tochinoshin has been one of the four big stars (Terunofuji, Osunaarashi, Yoshikaze are the others). The tachi-ai was lame; looked to me like both guys were trying to shade out to the left, and while that might be just about right for most tired Komusubi trying to salvage something on a Day 14, Tochinoshin should have been steaming forward here. No matter; he got a powerful looking outside left, and when Okinoumi let him add an inside right, it was over. Tochinoshin tried to tsuri-dashi his man--pick him up like a perch on the line and drop him in the bucket--but that is hard to do, and he had to settle for the yori-kiri win. That's plenty. Excellent tournament for him, and his first winning effort as a sanyaku man (previous: 0-4).

S Tochiohzan (8-5) vs. S Myogiryu (7-6)
And the battle of the Sekiwake, and a good one. Myogiryu won this by beating Tochiohzan at his own game: getting to the inside. It took a quick maki-kae after the tachi-ai, and it wasn't a total success, as Tochiohzan is the best in the division at the inside game, and eventually was able to keep Myogiryu's right arm on the outside. However, it was too late for Tochiohzan: he was already back at the straw, was standing up, and had a determined opponent. Smartly, instead of forcing the issue at the bales or continuing to try to work that right arm inside, Myogiryu took what was given, reversing momentum and using the high position his right arm was forced into to fell Tochiohzan with a lovely neck-throw, kubi-nage. I think that puts an end to the Ozeki talk for Tochiohzan, which is a good thing, as this guy is better as a dangerous Sekiwake than a questionable Ozeki who would need, for the first time in his career, deference and propping up. The Peter Principle: everyone is promoted to the level of their incompetence. Meanwhile, Myogiryu has quietly had his typical feisty, competitive tournament, and now that it is also a winning one, it means we'll see both of these guys at Sekiwake again: good for them, for the banzuke, and for us: that is where they belong.

Mike slaughters the bull tomorrow.

Comments loading...

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Remeber that classic movie from the 80's, the Three Amigos? The sophisticated plot involved this small Mexican town that was being overrun by bad guys--I think they were actually Mongolians, and so this chick waving a pink fan around--or maybe she was just wearing a pink blouse--sought help from a trio of men whom she thought could save the day. As described on Wikipedia, the amigos are "three silent film stars who are mistaken for real heroes by the suffering people of a small Mexican village and must find a way to live up to their reputation." Replace "silent film stars" with "Ozeki" and "Mexican village" for "nation of Japan," and that really describes the current landscape in sumo these days.

If you remember the film, Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms, and Ned Nederlander were bumbling actors who had no business taking on the bad guys, but through dumb luck and some help from their friends, they somehow found a way to save the day in the end. Stop me if this sounds all too familiar. Anyway, as I lightheartedly brought up the similarities to Kane, he got right to work and came up with a sweet graphic, so queue up your favorite toe-tapping Mexican music acoustic guitar riff and get ready for Japan's version of the Three Amigos!!

I blew a major snot bubble when I opened my email and saw that picture, and as I've watched the Aki basho head down the stretch, I really have no choice but to just shake my head and laugh while saying, "Is this really happening?"

Unfortunately, it is, so let's get right to the day's events starting with a review of the leaderboard:

11-1: Terunofuji
10-2: Kakuryu, Ikioi
9-3: Kisenosato, Toyonoshima

As the Sumo Association is wont to do, they will pair guys lower in the ranks who find themselves on the leaderboard with guys in or around the sanyaku who are enjoying great basho, and it's the perfect litmus test to see if the lower-ranked dudes are really worthy. If they somehow pass the sanyaku test, then the schedule could get readjusted to where the lower-ranked guys are paired against Ozeki and even Yokozuna on the final weekend, but we haven't seen that scenario since 2000 when Takatoriki scored his only career yusho from the M14 rank!

Up first from the nether regions was M8 Toyonoshima who failed to pass the Bouncer test yesterday and was paired against the feisty M1 Yoshikaze today. Toyonoshima kept his arms in tight attempting to deny Yoshikaze the inside, but Cafe just shoved his foe upright and got moro-zashi anyway. Toyonoshima countered well though with a left kubi-nage and right tsuki-otoshi attempt that threw Yoshikaze off his game just enough to where Toyonoshima got his left arm to the inside. This enabled him to counter at the edge nearly pulling Yoshikaze out of the ring, but Monster Drink is on a mission this basho, and he refused to give in grabbing Tugboat by the right leg and then escorting him clear across the dohyo and off for the ashi-tori win. While Toyonoshima certainly padded his record the first 11 days (through no fault of his own), it was no surprise to see Yoshikaze work him like this and officially knock him off the leaderboard at 9-4. Yoshikaze moves to that same 9-4 record and should earn a Shukunsho and probably Kantosho for his efforts this basho.

Up next was M12 Ikioi facing a tall task in Komusubi Tochinoshin, who easily got the right to the inside at the tachi-ai and followed that up with the left outer grip putting Ikioi in a pickle from the get-go. Ikioi attempted a nice counter scoop throw with the right hand that threw Tochinoshin off balance a bit, but he still maintained the left outer and had just survived Ikioi's best shot. After gathering his wits, Shin went for the force out charge again where Ikioi next went for a counter inside belt throw that wasn't quite as effective as the scoop throw. It still caused Tochinoshin to take his time and reload, however, but on the third force-out attempt, he finally bullied Ikioi back and across the straw for good. Pretty basic stuff where the better tactician won out as Tochinoshin picks up kachi-koshi at 8-5. Ikioi's height advantage allowed him to make this a decent match, but he falls to 10-3 with the loss. With the yusho line threatening to dip down as low as two or three wins, Ikioi's still in the hunt...on paper. Ikioi draws Kotoshogiku tomorrow in a very compelling matchup, and if Ikioi fights has hard as he did today against Tochinoshin, he'll have no problem defeating the Ozeki. Let's see how he chooses to approach the bout.

The matchup of the day featured Ozeki Terunofuji vs. the senpai, Kisenosato. Terunofuji actually had moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but he wasn't pushing forward with the de-ashi and opted to bring his right arm out lazily allowing Kisenosato to counter with his own left inside. As a consequence of his deep left inside position from the start, Terunofuji allowed the Kid to grab the right outer grip, and so as soon as the Ozeki relinquished moro-zashi with the right, he gave Kisenosato the upper hand easy as you please. And Kisenosato responded well mounting a quick force-out charge that Terunofuji countered with a left scoop throw, but he stopped short in the attempt not wanting to throw Kisenosato completely across the straw, and so the two squared back up where Kisenosato mounted a second charge that saw Terunofuji just awkwardly plant his right leg against the tawara and then fall straight back onto his arse with Kisenosato mounting him in short order.

As Terunofuji walked back up the hana-michi, he was noticeably limping favoring the right knee, and after watching the slow motion replays, you could see that Terunofuji braced his right foot against the tawara, but as Kisenosato forced his way into the Ozeki's body, Terunofuji's knee just buckled and gave out resulting in the awkward ending to the bout. When I watched the bout live, I was seriously ready to slit my wrists thinking, "That is the worst acting I've ever seen...and that's saying something!" But after watching the replays, it made better sense.

First and foremost, this was total mukiryoku sumo on the part of the Ozeki. I'm sure the majority of people missed the subtle tachi-ai, but Fuji the Terror Bull had moro-zashi and then not only gave it up for no reason, but he let the senpai have the outer grip in the resulting migi-yotsu contest. It was a slick move for sure, but Fuji knew what he was doing. Next, when Kisenosato mounted his first force-out attempt, it was quite reckless and enabled Terunofuji to unleash a counter scoop throw with the left, but he stopped short on the move because it was actually going to work. Finally, the whole reason Terunofuji came away limping is because he put himself in an unnatural position at the edge, and with a 175 kilo guy bearing down him, the knee couldn't take the pressure. You know what they say though--and they really do say this: you let up in the ring, and somebody's going to get hurt. This bout was a perfect example.

While the loss was intentional on the part of Terunofuji, the knee injury certainly wasn't, and we'll just have to see what happens tomorrow. After the day's festivities, Terunofuji was quoted as saying, "I heard something pop [in my knee]", so I suspect that the Ozeki will go kyujo, and it'd be convenient since he's fighting Goeido tomorrow. It's funny, a couple of basho ago when I raised the major predicament that sumo was facing (the threat of four Mongolians at the top of the banzuke sucking up 50 wins per tournament), I never thought the whole solution to the problem was going to be kyujo, but we'll play with the hand we're dealt. The result of today's bout knocks Terunofuji down to 11-2, and so in just two days we've gone from the threat of a zensho-yusho by Terunofuji to his likely kyujo and a seriously watered-down yusho race. As for Kisenosato, he stays in the hunt at 10-3, and a female fan reportedly caught up with him afterwards and asked for a kiss on the veranda to which the senpai replied, "Lips would be fine."

I can't help but speculate as to whether or not the Mongolians sometimes make their choices to let up as a result of the bouts playing out on the dohyo in front of them, and I certainly wondered if that was the case today as Yokozuna Kakuryu welcomed the senpai, Goeido, because I do think that the Mongolians have a certain level of pride and want the yusho to stay among one of their own. As is usually the case, Goeido was wide open at the tachi-ai gifting Yokozuna Kakuryu moro-zashi, and the Kak was in so deep his left arm was at the back of Goeido's belt. Goeido assumed the kubi-nage stance with the right, but he was so far gone at that point he didn't even attempt the counter move. To say that the yori-kiri was swift and decisive would actually be an understatement in this lopsided affair, and the true gap between the top Mongolians and the Japanese Ozeki was on display in this bout. With the win, Kakuryu pulls even with Terunofuji at 11-2, but the Terror Bull is done for all intents and purposes. As for Goeido, he reportedly picked himself up from the arena floor in a huff and turned to one of the yobi-dashi and said, "Wait a minute!" He then pointed towards Kakuryu and said, "He was using real bullets!" Regardless, Goeido falls to 6-7, and I look at that record at the end of day 13 and think to myself, "Where have we seen that before?" Goeido will get the freebie against Terunofuji tomorrow and then his likely matchup with Kisenosato will be extremely interesting.

With the dust settled on a painful day of sumo, here's how the leaderboard shapes up heading into the final weekend:

11-2: Kakuryu, Terunofuji
10-3: Kisenosato, Ikioi

The storyteller baton passed from Hakuho to Terunofuji has now been placed in the hands of Kakuryu, so let's see what he chooses to do. Kakuryu draws Kisenosato tomorrow, and I don't even have to go into the political implications of that one. I hate it that the drama down the stretch is not "Whose going to take this thing?" but rather "What's Kakuryu and his stable master going to decide?"

In other bouts of interest, Senpai Kotoshogiku used a left hari-te against M3 Sadanoumi setting up the quick inside position on the same side, and with Sadanoumi just standing there like a blow-up doll, Kotoshogiku scored the yori-kiri win in less than two seconds. The Geeku moves to 9-4 with the win, and in a rather tender moment that few people picked up on, he took the 4-9 Sadanoumi aside at the base of the dohyo and said, "Young man, you...have...got it!"

M6 Aminishiki looked for his only option against Sekiwake Tochiohzan--a pull attempt from the tachi-ai, but Tochiohzan stood his ground well and just waited for the opening. It came about two seconds in when Aminishiki went for a full on pull that allowed Tochiohzan to duck inside and shove Aminishiki back and across in one fell swoop. Tochiohzan picks up kachi-koshi with the win at 8-5, and if he can win these last two days, we'll see if there's any mention of a possible Ozeki run in Kyushu. As for Aminishiki, he falls to 7-6 with the loss.

Sekiwake Myogiryu pushed and then pulled quickly at the tachi-ai running circles around M7 Amuuru without actually running in circles. After a second or two, Myogiryu easily assumed moro-zashi against the befuddled Russian and forced him back without argument. Both rikishi end the day at 7-6 and should pick up a deserved kachi-koshi.

M5 Tamawashi looked to dictate the pace with tsuppari against Komusubi Okinoumi, but The Mawashi got off to an ineffective start, so with Okinoumi seeing his opponent well the whole way as he mildly retreated, the Komusubi was finally able to get his left arm up and under The Mawashi's right armpit/shoulder area easily pulling him down from there. Nothin' to write home about as Okinoumi moves to a respectable 6-7 while Tamawashi falls to 3-10.

M1 Aoiyama blasted M4 Takarafuji off of the starting lines with those hissing tsuppari, and Takarafuji had no answer getting pushed out in about three seconds. Ta Ka Ra Boom De Ay was a hair late at the tachi-ai and could never recover nor get close to the inside. Aoiyama keeps kachi-koshi hopes alive at 6-7 while Takarafuji is circling the drain at 4-9.

M2 Osunaarashi wisely opted not to go chest to chest with M4 Ichinojo at the tachi-ai using his moro-te-zuki and then getting the hell out of there. As Ichinojo gave chase, Osunaarashi tried to bludgeon him with those sideway swipes, but the blows merely glanced off of the Mongolith forcing Osunaarashi to abandon that plan and hook up at the belt. They did so in migi-yotsu where the Ejyptian kept his can back far away from the clutches of Ichinojo, and now it was a matter of who'd grab the outer grip first. Ichinojo was inches away while Osunaarashi had much further to go, and I think it was clear that Osunaarashi was out of options at this point. He finally went for a maki-kae with the left hand, but Ichinojo got his left inside at the same time and used the momentum shift to finally force Osunaarashi out in the end. The M2 just played right into the Mongolith's hands here as both rikishi end the day at 7-6 after their 1:18 affair.

M2 Sadanofuji dictated the bout the entire way against M11 Chiyotairyu, but he was too hesitant (an 0-12 start will do that to you) to just go out and lay the wood to Chiyotairyu, and so Tairyu was able to move around just enough before finally timing a pull of Sadanofuji's outstretched arms sending him to the dirt for the 13th time in as many days. Near the end, Sadanofuji connected on a nice shove to the face, but there was no de-ashi behind his sumo the entire time, and so he suffered yet another bad loss falling to 0-13. Chiyotairyu moves to 5-8 with the win.

M5 Kaisei was too nonchalant at the tachi-ai allowing M10 Kotoyuki to just thrust him upright and then move around the ring timing shoves that kept Kaisei off balance throughout. Kaisei was half-assed the entire way as Kotoyuki pushed him around and out for the easy win. Kaisei was completely mukiryoku here, but I don't think it was intentional. He just looks bad this basho falling to 5-8 while Kotoyuki stays alive at 7-6.

M6 Tokushoryu focused his hand into M13 Daieisho's throat standing him up at the tachi-ai, and as Daieisho tried to duck back into some sort of position, Tokushoryu obliged by reversing gears and scoring the quick pull down win. Tokushoryu is still make-koshi at 5-8 while Daieisho hangs on by a thread at 6-7.

M7 Endoh came with a right slap to M12 Chiyootori's face while Chiyootori was half-assed with his right kachi-age and left arm, and with Otori just standing there, Endoh moved to his right and pulled Chiyootori off balance towards the edge. As Chiyootori looked to square back up, Endoh was onto him with the left inside frontal belt grip and right outer easily forcing his foe across. Chiyootori was completely mukiryoku here from start to finish falling to 6-7 while Endoh creeps closer to kachi-koshi at 7-6.

M13 Tokitenku used a left hari-te, but before he could get the "sashi" inside, M8 Takekaze immediately moved to his left and used a left tsuki pressed into Tokitenku's side to turn him around and completely off balance, so the final shove out from behind was academic. Not sure why this was ruled tsuki-otoshi because Tenku never hit the dirt, but nobody cares anyway as Takekaze moves to 4-9 while Tokitenku is 6-7.

M14 Kitataiki managed the left to the inside at the tachi-ai while M9 Gagamaru attempted to counter with the right kote-nage, but it was too slow developing allowing Kitataiki to score the easy force-out win leaving both dudes at 6-7.

M9 Kagamioh looked asleep at the wheel from the tachi-ai getting his right to the inside, but M15 Hidenoumi had other intentions seizing moro-zashi and just plowing forward with no resistance. The yori-kiri was easy peasy Japaneasy as Hidenoumi stays alive at 6-7 while Kagamioh is 3-10.

M10 Kyokushuho blasted M14 Sokokurai (7-6) off of the starting lines and had him shoved out in less than two seconds for the oshi-dashi win picking up kachi-koshi at 8-5 in the process.

M11 Homarefuji didn't explode out of the gate with his tsuppari attack, and so M15 Asasekiryu was able to fight off Homarefuji's thrusts as he danced around the ring before finally getting the left inside and right outer, and Homarefuji was too gassed to counter at this point to hunker down and compete. Good patience from the Secretary as he moves to 6-7 while Homarefuji is idling his time at 8-5.

Last and probably least, M16 Seiro and J3 Arawashi hooked up in the gappuri hidari-yotsu stance where Seiro impatiently went for the maki-kae with the right, but Arawashi was pinching in too tight and took advantage of the momentum shift scoring the force-out win in short order. Seiro falls to 6-7 with the loss, and good finish might propel the 7-6 Arawashi back up to the dance.

As we head into the weekend, I'm sure the drama will abound, and so your singing bush is signing off until senshuraku.

Day 12 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
As Mike clearly said yesterday, we are unlikely to see much in the way of ring-generated storylines the last four days, though there is plenty of possibility for political-generated storylines as The Future (Terunofuji) faces The Past (the three Japanese Ozeki) and one or two others. Like Mike, I was keenly interested to see how yesterday's bout between Kotoshogiku and Terunofuji turned out, and relieved to see that the content of Terunofuji's sumo remained the same. I doubted he would continue that for all of the last four days, but it has been enough--yesterday's win over Kotoshogiku was the turnkey on his great performance this tournament--it meant, "yeah, it's me now."

I am also, to be honest, interested to see how the rest of "Stop the Terunofuji" does turn out: will he finish off a repudiation with an emphatic destruction of all four remaining opponents, defiantly signaling that the Mongols still remain in control? Will he drop one or two, politely saying the Mongols intend to remain on top but are happy to work with other interests? Or will he be legitimately beaten some, whether from jitters, inexperience, or an opponent really stepping up?

Here's the thing: as I said in my first report, the advent of this tournament was boring to me. I was not looking forward to it. And the storylines have neither been particularly compelling--up until today, we had no legitimate yusho race, no surprise legitimate contenders, just expected continued emergence from Terunofuji. However, I'm enjoying the tournament a lot. Why? Because there has been a lot of great sumo. Forget the storylines and the politics; what we have seen from The Future on the dohyo daily has been thrilling, and is what we should be excited about. Ditto for Osunaarashi, with honorable mention to Tochinoshin: yeah, I'm a skeptic on Tochinoshin, but that is because he has never succeeded in the sanyaku before. Well, he's doing it now. But I digress. Terunofuji's sumo, while nearly 180 degrees opposite of Asashoryu's style in his early career, reminds me of the great Asa in that I am riveted every day, and find myself murmuring to those around me, or to myself aloud, "that was awesome" at the end of each of his matches. Hallelujah for that: somewhere along the line I had started mostly looking at stories, and not sumo--probably because there wasn't enough good sumo going around, and because The Storyteller (Hakuho) was so powerful. This tournament, I'm back to looking at the sumo, not the stories. The Storyteller is on hiatus, and Terunofuji has brought the sumo back to the dohyo. It has been a good feeling.

So let's see whither that goes; we start with him, then will move on to the other leaders, and will even go three deep on the leaderboard, jus' like NHK sez.

Leaderboard Matches

O Terunofuji (11-0) vs. S Tochiohzan (6-5)
The time had come. Terunofuji's march to zensho was looking too easy, Tochiohzan's shoot-the-moon for Ozeki-hood was crumbling like fall leaves under a boot heel. A win by Tochiohzan would put both things right. Tochiohzan's specialty is moro-zashi, and he got it here as usual. Problem for him was, Terunofuji had that powerful from-above pinching I'm-so-much-bigger-than-you-dude kime going on, and used it to sling Tochiohzan to the side for what looked like a winning move. Strangely, however, he couldn't complete it, changing it for a half-hearted kime-sling to the other side, which also didn't work, after which Terunofuji moved backwards, dragging Tochiohzan across the dohyo with him, until Terunofuji stepped out for the yori-kiri loss. He was way too upright in the end of this one and he paid the price.

M12 Ikioi (10-1) vs. M1 Yoshikaze (7-4)
I love this pairing. The Association finally moved Ikioi up the banzuke, but they gave him not a guy with the best record or the most fearsome skills, but a guy who is more deserving of a 10-1 record than he is. It is a bit gutsy from the Association, as Ikioi can beat Yoshikaze, and would thus inch closer to a possible yusho-from-the-undercard debacle. Remember when Hokutoriki almost won that tournament in Osaka years ago out of nowhere? My wife said, "he has a ghost in him." That is Yoshikaze this tournament, not Ikioi: Yoshikaze has a ghost in him. Welcome, occult guest. Anyway, Yoshikaze had both fists on the dirt from early on, looked all in, and took care of business. Ikioi is much bigger and had him going backwards off the tachi-ai, but Yoshikaze was fearless and aggressive and forced himself forward and into the face of pressure; Ikioi panicked and tried the pull, and our supercharged Yoshikaze responded with an emphatic yori-kiri dismantling. Love it. This, of course, happened before the Terunofuji match, and helped open space for a Fuji the Terrible (Terunofuji) loss.

Alternate Match of the Day: O Kotoshogiku (8-3) vs. Y Kakuryu (9-2)
Good match. Kakuryu tried an early pull and I thought, "oh, here we go again," but he wasn't standing straight up when he did it this time and so he survived it. A few seconds after, he did something very cool: pinwheeled both arms around on a quick and demonstrative maki-kae, but Kotoshogiku defended well with a much tighter, smaller maki-kae of his own, sending both back to their original grips. This put them chest to chest with butts slung back for some old fashioned sumo. However, Kotoshogiku didn't have a grip, and Kakuryu did. Kakuryu therefore now went for the force out, and when Kotoshogiku proved to have too much tippy-toe talent to go over, Kakuryu just dumped him to the side in the most nonchalant uwate-nage I've ever seen, like giving up trying to hold up a heavy, loose sack of beans. Still, I liked this a lot: good stuff from both men.

M2 Osunaarashi (6-5) vs. M8 Toyonoshima (9-2)
I've been reluctant to come around because I haven't thought Tochinoshin could handle the hot stuff and Osunaarashi was much too undisciplined, but for this tournament I'm agreeing with Mike on the following: the four best rikishi in Aki content-wise have been Terunofuji, Osunaarashi, Tochinoshin, and Kakuryu. I do wish I could include, say, Myogiryu, Yoshikaze, Toyonoshima, and Ikioi in that group, but even though all of them have decent accomplishments this go-round, the only one of those who has done consistently memorable sumo this time is Yoshikaze, and it is too wild to make my heart go pitter pat: the other four have a lot left in them, and with the possible exception of Kakuryu have not peaked, and that cannot be said of Yoshikaze. And so we have a problem. Even I yell, "good grief! There are already four Mongolian Yokozuna (yeah, I know it is really only three), and now we have to make room for Giant Sand (Osunaarashi) and Tochinoshin as top rankers of some sort, too?" But this is a good problem. Let me return to the theme of my intro and say I will ignore the politics and the storylines, and simply enjoy the sumo. This wasn't a particularly great match, but it did show good survival abilities for Big Sandy. He got his hands in to the face for his patented moro-te, but he also retreated doing it, tried a quick little pull in there, and was soon in trouble. Toyonoshima followed him around the ring and even had moro-zashi, but he was too eager, and Osunaarashi pushed him down from above, tsuki-otoshi. Why couldn't the experienced, tenacious Toyonoshima win this bout where he had his opponent on the run and out of position? I will say we're seeing a size and strength difference so great here that Big Sandy can use it to overcome most danger. Terunofuji and Tochinoshin have the same advantage and ability. None of the four Japanese wrestlers I named earlier in this paragraph do (though Ikioi should but has never displayed it). Wish the physics didn't work out like that. Wish this match had been more worthy of the leaderboard, and wish Osunaarashi could have a spot on the leaderboard too. However, I love Tugboat (Toyonoshima) as much as everybody, am happy to see him having a turnaround tournament, and again, am enjoying the sumo of Terunofuji, Osunaarashi, and Tochinoshin very much.

Match of the Day: S Myogiryu (6-5) vs. O Kisenosato (8-3)
Myogiryu tried a nodo-wa on Kisenosato, but that probably wasn't a good idea, because Kisenosato's arms are much longer and it left Myogiryu open to attack. Kisenosato grabbed the offending arm, pulled Myogiryu forward, and slapped him aside by the shoulder. After that Myogiryu was off balance and Apple Princess (Kisenosato had such nice red cheeks when he was young) drove him out from there, with some nice hands to the throat of his own and a final Jovian shove that upended Myogiryu completely and left him lying on the dirt sideways past the bales. Cool.

Resultant Leaderboard:
I said I would only give you one leader until the content of his sumo changes. Now that that has happened, I'll fill in the rest. Here is how we are set up for the final three days:
11-1: Terunofuji
10-2: Kakuryu, Ikioi
9-3: Kisenosato, Toyonoshima

Not on the Leaderboard, so since I've been talking about him, we'll also put him up top:

K Tochinoshin (6-5) vs. M5 Tamawashi (3-8)
After some slapping around that was doing nothing for Paycheck (Tamawashi), Tochinoshin did a cool combo of a throat-choke (nodo-wa) and a distinctive slap to the belly. He then surged to a belt grip and humped Tamawashi (that's technically called gaburi) until he won. 7-5 at Komusubi is always a good record. Nice work, man.


M15 Asasekiryu (5-6) vs. J2 Takanoiwa (5-6)
Nice hard tachi-ai, but Morning Red Dragon was trying to pull from right after that, and High Cliff (Takanoiwa) knew what to do--don't fall down and drive out your opponent oshi-dashi.

M13 Daieisho (5-6) vs. M16 Seiro (6-5)
Battle of the mildly promising freshman and sophomore. Seiro looked tentative off the tachi-ai and lost it there. He was able to get a grip with the left, but Daieisho was underneath and in control. When he was ready, Daieisho stood Seiro up further, moved in closer, and got a belt grip of his own while forcing Seiro out, yori-kiri.

M15 Hidenoumi (5-6) vs. M11 Homarefuji (7-4)
Both wrestlers kept their arms in tight and looked to win a pushers-battle in this one, but that plays to Homarefuji's game--he moves forward well, and doesn't have a lot of tricks. And Hidenoumi doesn't have a lot of anything that I can discern; he was easy tsuki-dashi fodder for Mountain of Praise (Homarefuji) in this one.

M10 Kotoyuki (5-6) vs. M13 Tokitenku 6-5)
Show Off vs. the Dirt Lord. Here, I suppose, is an opponent against whom an ostentatious hoot by Little Snow Off (Kotoyuki) can be forgiven. Tokitenku looked bad, trying a kick off the bat that did connect with Little Snow's ankle but couldn't move it--chanko-nabe to the rescue! Little Snow followed Tokitenku back into oblivion with hard hands to the face, even as Tokitenku continued to lift his legs like he was trying out for the Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders, trying to keep his balance rather than kick this time. Oshi-dashi win for Hoo! (Kotoyuki).

M9 Gagamaru (5-6) vs. M12 Chiyootori (6-5)
Odd bout. Bouncy Butt (Chiyootori) leapt into a nice inside left grip and it looked like he had moro-zashi for a minute, and I was about to take a page from Mike's book and complain about wrestlers who leave their arms wide open at the tachi-ai for no good reason. However, Lord Gaga responded as he should with kime, pinching down on little ‘ol Chiyootori's arms (and what man but Lord Gaga could make Chiyootori look little?) and driving him back to the rice bags. But lo! There Chiyootori recovered and reversed the momentum. It was an illusion, though: Lord Gaga had Chiyootori's arm trapped well and good, and commenced to twisting it like you'd do to your kid brother when you were feeling sadistic, turning as he did so to add more oomph, and it did look painful; the house of Chiyootori's spirit crumbled, he tried to escape, and Lord Gaga was able to remove him from behind, okuri-dashi. This was kind of messy and I wasn't too fond of it. Compare it, however, to the Terunofuji match, which also started with a dominant kime by the bigger man. Which result makes more sense?

M8 Takekaze (3-8) vs. M14 Kitataiki (4-7)
Good match-up of underachieving veterans; I liked it that they put Takekaze all the way down at the bottom of the opponent slate where he belongs and gave Kitataiki someone struggling. They were made for each other this tournament. Why am I wasting so much ink this bout, I ask myself? I've spent a lot of years watching these guys 90 times a year. Wow, that's kind of shocking even to me. So, I care about them now. If you watch the matches from every tournament for ten years (which I haven't) you would see Takekaze and Kitataiki 900 times each. Sumo is great. Anyway, Takekaze made two mistakes here: he tried to get on the belt, which he isn't good at, and stayed in there way too long, allowing Kitataiki to get his belt, then tried to pull Kitataiki with a good grip around the head, but he was too upright and Kitataiki too close ‘pon him for that to work at all, and it resulted in a yori-kiri win for Kitataiki. This wasn't bad at all.

M7 Endo (5-6) vs. M14 Sokokurai (7-4)
Captain Japan (Endo) against the wily It's Dark There (Sokokurai), who was as limp as a dead fish on the beaches of Lake Kucherla. Sokokurai isn't great, but can be counted on to give you a good effort with lots of creative resistance. Here, he did neither; it was typical Endo first half sumo (look there, Endo has established a nice belt grip and has some forward momentum!) but not typical Endo second half sumo (er, normally Endo in the second half does not have power to finish his opponent off and suddenly gets obliterated like two gallons of milk dropped from the third floor balcony; instead, here Sokokurai had no answer for Endo and was danced out, yori-kiri, as Endo actually "broke off Sokokurai's grip"--yes, those are quote marks of irony!--and easily beat him). Endo needed this one so that we can see him get a kachi-koshi… and see him get utterly destroyed at M4 or so next time? What is the point of it all? Lies beget lies: you have to tell bigger and bigger ones to cover your original little ones. The fallacy of tariffs and price supports: your product gets weaker and weaker and you need more and more prop-ups as you futilely resist the free market's blind but effective, juggernaut drive to eliminate your inferior product. Like nature: one day a year or two ago my young son and wife and I tried to save a poor fishy we found breathing its last on the beach. We kept putting it back in deeper water and it kept flopping over on its size and being washed up again. Helping Endo is like helping that fish.

M10 Kyokushuho (6-5) vs. M7 Amuuru (7-4)
Kyokushuho played this very well. Amuuru was coming at him with oshi attempts, but they were too cautious. Kyokushuho first tried a few pulls, as Amuuru wasn't doing much to deserve better, but then when he saw an opening leapt in, took Amuuru by the body, spun him around, and moved him on out, okuri-dashi. I've been loving Amuuru, but he proved here he'll be vulnerable to experienced wrestlers if he lets up on the tenacity even just a little bit.

M11 Chiyotairyu (4-7) vs. M5 Kaisei (4-7)
I was looking forward to this; there was little chance of henka from the solid Brazilian, and Chiyotairyu had to know a pull wasn't going to work against a guy with Redwood legs like Kaisei's, so I thought here will be the power of strength against the power of size. However, I'm more and more with Mike on this one--Chiyotairyu seems freaked out by sumo, and seems to have lost all his winning instincts if he ever had any. The tachi-ai was fine, but then Chiyotairyu fell off to his right: not a henka, not through any move Kaisei made against him. Just because. I can speculate he was thinking of evading but did it half-assed; hence, he was left with nothing but a position diagonal to his opponent. Kaisei was all over that, oshi-dashi. But I don't know. I watched this four times in order to try to tell you what it was Chiyotairyu was trying to do, and still have no idea.

M4 Ichinojo (5-6) vs. M6 Tokushoryu (4-7)
Tokushoryu just isn't showing enough forward movement or aggression this tournament. Ichinojo is slow and ponderous, but still was the one moving forward at the tachi-ai; he got one arm underneath and into Special Sauce's pit, and that was enough to push Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) back enough that he was an easy oshi-dashi push-out victim. How to melt butter: light a little fire under it.

M9 Kagamioh (2-9) vs. M2 Sadanofuji (0-11)
This is another good pairing that I shouldn't care about but do. The Association gave the hapless Sadanofuji an opponent in Kagamioh who in my opinion has looked even worse than him, even though he has more wins: "so okay, try him." Unfortunately for Sadanofuji, he's so out of mo' this tournament he couldn't win even this. His tachi-ai idea was to play the bongos on top of Kagamioh's head, and that let Kagamioh in for deep, deep belt grips way around on the back, one hand on each side of the crotch strap. Even Kagamioh, who has looked awful this tournament, had no problem winning with that position, yori-kiri. Will they really let Sadanofuji go 0-15? Don't bet on it, but I'm having fun watching.

M1 Aoiyama (2-9) vs. M6 Aminishiki (7-4)
I can't believe Aminishiki, who has looked so bad this tournament, is 7-4. Wha' happen? I can definitely believe Aoiyama is 4-7--he has looked tired and ineffective this tournament, with a "why bother" demoralization undertone. However, he destroyed Aminishiki here; Shneaky stood around like a crash test dummy while Aoiyama practiced hissing death thrusts and won, tsuki-dashi. I'd have done equally well as human-teppo-pole Aminishiki in this one.

M3 Sadanoumi (4-7) vs. K Okinoumi (4-7)
The gyoji's fan looked like child had chipped the lacquer off it, leaving a large random ugly splotch. The match was also kind of a large random ugly splotch. Sadanoumi moved forward into the grasp of his lover and then sort of danced upward into this arms before falling over sideways in a swoon. Sukui-nage win for Okinoumi as he threw Sadanoumi with an arm around the upper torso. A nice strength move, a weird looking bout. The seas merged. Umi-umi. Very romantic.

O Goeido (5-6) vs. M4 Takarafuji (4-7)
Take your pick: the "dedicated victim" or, alternately, "underwhelming underachiever" of the tournament is either Aoiyama or Takarafuji. Okay, it's both. Takarafuji's facial expression seemed closer to annoyance with the whole affair than determination, and he just let Goeido get his arms around him and remove him, yori-kiri. Takarafuji is not looking very good in luminous pink-purple.

Mike looks great in luscious lapis lazuli lavender tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As we enter the shubansen, or final five days of the tournament, everything hinges on Terunofuji and whether or not he'll try and run the table or cop to that ridiculous "Stop the Terunofuji" storyline manufactured prior to the basho. Regardless of what he does, as Harvye as been hinting at the last couple of days, the true leaderboard reads as follows: Terunofuji. Once Kakuryu went down to Myogiryu separating him from Fuji the Terrible by two losses, the yusho was all but decided at that point, but that doesn't mean we still don't have a yusho race. It's been interesting watching the NHK leaderboard the last two days because they've sometimes kept it at two losses, and then they've also dipped it down to three losses presumably to keep as many of the Japanese Ozeki on the leaderboard as possible.

Regardless, let's start off day 11 focusing on the leaders down to the three-loss category, and in that scenario, your leaders shape up as follows:

10-0: Terunofuji
9-1: Ikioi
8-2: Kakuryu, Kotoshogiku, Toyonoshima
7-3: Kisenosato, Sokokurai

First up was M14 Sokokurai who shaded left at the tachi-ai and used a right stiff -arm constantly at M12 Ikioi's throat to keep him away from the belt. Ikioi was patient swiping at that arm intermittently until Sokokurai went for a quick tug of Ikioi's right arm, but it was a lightweight move at best, and from there the Mongolian just hunkered over and waited absorbing an even lighter slap from Ikioi that gave Sokokurai an excuse to just put his hand to the dirt. You never want to use words like "light" and "lightweight" to describe a bout that involves two dudes on the leaderboard, but Sokokurai was totally mukiryoku here. When you go for a pull as he did against Ikioi's arm, you pivot to the side, not just stand there in the middle of the ring and wait for your opponent's move, and Ikioi's slap was so soft, even the chicks in the audience were thinking, "Ehh? Even I can slap harder than that." It wasn't a great day to start out in terms of sumo content, but the result was desirable for the Japanese fans as it left Ikioi firmly on the leaderboard at 10-1 while Sokokurai thankfully falls off at 7-4.

M12 Chiyootori came with that marvelous tachi-ai of leaning forward with your hands out wide just gifting M8 Toyonoshima moro-zashi, and the force-out was inevitable from there. Is it too much to ask for some competition against these "leaders"? It's bad enough that we have to watch Ikioi and Toyonoshima fight as potential leaders when Yoshikaze is clearly the best Japanese rikishi this basho, but with Terunofuji just running away with this thing, I guess this is one way to keep the local fans interested. Toyonoshima moves to 9-2 with the win while Chiyootori falls to 6-5.

M4 Takarafuji won the tachi-ai sending the bout with Senpai Kisenosato to hidari-yotsu, and the right outer was there for Takarafuji's taking, but he refused to partake, and I knew the outcome at that point. Takarafuji was in such control of this bout that he was even standing at a slight angle favorable to grabbing that outer grip, and after about eight seconds, he reached for it instinctively but let it go almost as fast, and so after some more dancing for show, he let Kisenosato grab the outer grip instead, and that led to the impressive-looking force out win on the part of the senpai. Don't be fooled, though. Takarafuji controlled the pace of this bout from the beginning but would not grab that outer grip, even when he was in prime position to do so. Thanks to mukiryoku sumo, Kisenosato moves to a boring 8-3 while Takarafuji takes one for the team at 4-7.

The bout of the day in my mind featured Ozeki Terunofuji vs. the Senpai, Kotoshogiku. A win by the Terror Bull meant his full intention was to yusho. A loss by Terunofuji meant he was in total cooperation mode. And to read that a different way: Kotoshogiku's chance of beating Terunofuji in a straight up contest was about 1%. The Ozeki forced the bout to hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai and then took his time in grabbing the left outer. Kotoshogiku was completely at Terunofuji's mercy at this point, and after five seconds or so, Fuji the Terrible forced his left thigh against the Geeku's right leg to pin him in close before sending him down easily with a right tsuki to the side. This looked like a bout of butsukari-geiko where Terunofuji was conducting and Kotoshogiku was the worn out guy forced to fight yet another bout. I mean, the Ozeki just had his way from the start, and that precise finish was a thing of beauty. I can't say enough about how much this kid has progressed this calendar year, and with the win, he sends the statement that his intention is to yusho. At 11-0, there's no one to stop him. Kotoshogiku falls to 8-3 and fortunately doesn't need any more help the final four days.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Kakuryu henka'd to his left and just shoved Sekiwake Tochiohzan down by the shoulders in a second or less drawing jeers from the crowd and deservedly so. Kitanofuji, who was in the booth providing color, was as irritated as I've ever heard him, and he let the Yokozuna have it. I realize that a henka from a Yokozuna is never good, but I got the sense that Kitanofuji was in a bad mood not because of the henka but because of the way Terunofuji is carving up this field. How long have we waited for a Japanese guy to yusho? It's been nearly 10 years, and in the mean time, we've had a whole host of foreigners rise up and take their first yusho, and the frustration in Kitanofuji's voice was not just a result of Kakuryu's act today. It was the result of sumo in general. Dude knows just like the rest of us that there is really no hope on the horizon of turning things around, and that's why he's got the redass. He couldn't care less about Kakuryu, but the fact that he's ranked at Yokozuna just gave him a subject to rant over because he can't say what's really bugging him. Anyway, Kakuryu moves to 9-2 with the quick and dirty win while Tochiohzan falls to 6-5.

The ultimate result is a slight reshuffling of the leaderboard as follows:

11-0: Terunofuji
10-1: Ikioi
9-2: Kakuryu, Toyonoshima
8-3: Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku

It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see Terunofuji throw someone like Goeido a bone down the stretch, but I would be surprised if he doesn't take the whole shebang with a record of at least 14-1.

In other bouts of interest, Senpai Goeido delivered a left hari-te while getting the right to the inside completing the hari-zashi against M5 Tamawashi, and with Tamawashi keeping his arms up high and just standing there threatening a kubi-nage that would never come, Goeido just twisted him down tripping well with the right leg in the process. Like the Kisenosato bout, this one looked impressive, but that will happen when your opponent is mukiryoku. If anyone's tired of me always talking yaocho or mukiryoku sumo, I'll make you this promise: I'll stop talking about it when the rikishi stop doing it. With the win, Goeido moves to 5-6 while Tamawashi falls to 3-8.

M2 Osunaarashi came with a wicked moro-te-zuki followed by fat slaps against Sekiwake Myogiryu that set up left outer at the back of the belt and right inside for the Ejyptian. Osunaarashi not only held Myogiryu's coffee at this point, but he called him sugar too as he just bullied the Sekiwake back and across without argument. Look at Osunaarashi sailing now to a 6-5 record, and this dude has just dominated his non-Mongolian peers. I'm sure some scoffed when I called mukiryoku sumo on the part of Osunaarashi the first two days against two of the senpai, but after watching his body of work since then, there's no question he let up for all three senpai. And there's his five losses...both Mongolians and the three senpai. Osunaarashi is a playuh, but I fear that he'll be reined in a bit as is the case with Tochinoshin and Ichinojo. Myogiryu falls to 6-5 after the drubbing.

Speaking of Komusubi Tochinoshin and M4 Ichinojo, the two hooked up in migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Ichinojo actually pressed his head against Tochinoshin's shoulder and grabbed the left outer. Grabbing the left outer left his own right hip exposed, and Tochinoshin used his long arm of the law to grab it turning the bout to gappuri migi-yotsu. After the two dug in, Tochinoshin brilliantly broke off Ichinojo's outer grip that set up the eventual force-out win. This was really solid sumo, the kind of sumo you'd like to see at the end of every day between the rikishi on the leaderboard. With the win, Tochinoshin moves to 6-5 while Ichinojo falls one below sea level at 5-6.

Komusubi Okinoumi was passive at the tachi-ai, so M1 Yoshikaze just crushed his way forward and then used a few tsuppari to set up the left inside, and once gained, he went for the immediate scoop throw that worked wonders. Yoshikaze is kicking ass and taking names this basho at 7-4 while Okinoumi falls to 4-7.

Normally I'd be pretty geeked about the M1 Aoiyama - M5 Kaisei matchup, but Baby Huey as been bland to this point and it carried over to this bout that started in migi-yotsu where Aoiyama had the left outer. Kaisei had so much girth for Aoiyama to work around that he eventually abandoned that outer grip and opted to use a tsuppari attack that sent the lethargic Kaisei back and across. Both rikishi end the day at 4-7, and you normally don't want to abandon an outer grip like that, but I think Aoiyama sensed that his opponent wasn't all there.

At this point of the broadcast, they showed a close-up of the coach for Japan's national soccer team, Vahid Halilhodžić. Not sure what he was doing there, but I presume he was trying to pick up a few pointers on match fixing.

M2 Sadanofuji was purely defensive against M8 Takekaze, and you won't win a bout like that. He allowed Takekaze to just do his thang and score the eventual push-out win by the teets. Takekaze is just 3-8, but the Sadamight is worse at 0-11.

M9 Kagamioh came with a henka to his left that M3 Sadanoumi easily read gaining moro-zashi and sending Kagamioh out and down in mere seconds. Gotta love when a guy reads the henka as Sadanoumi moves to 4-7 while Kagamioh is dismal at 2-9.

M6 Aminishiki used a cheap henka to his left that caused M10 Kotoyuki to just run himself off the dohyo. Kitanofuji couldn't have cared less over this henka, and while there is the rank thing when it comes to Kakuryu and the henka, you can at least say something. It was a dirty move today, and it's really hard for me to root for a guy who resorts to this sumo a coupla times a basho. I don't care about anyone age. If you can't do proper sumo, retire rather than subject us to this. Aminishiki moves to 7-4 at the end of the day while Kotoyuki falls to 5-6.

M7 Endoh came out with a defensive tachi-ai that couldn't defend M11 Homarefuji's tsuppari attack worth a hill of beans, and so Homarefuji just bullied Endoh back and out as if he were some over-hyped dude who had never accomplished anything in the division before. Bad display of sumo for Endoh as he falls to 5-6 while Homarefuji is 7-4.

M13 Tokitenku shaded left at the tachi-ai and M7 Amuuru responded with a good ottsuke with the right escorting Tokitenku closer to the edge, and with Tokitenku on his heels, Amuuru assumed the right inside and left outer grip scoring the easy yori-kiri. Amuuru is one step closer at 7-4 while Tokitenku falls to 6-5.

Let's end with M14 Kitataiki who dueled J2 Takanoiwa in a good hidari-yotsu affair. Takanoiwa gained the right uwate first, but it was one fold of the belt, and so Kitataiki was able to dig in and secure his own eventual righter outer grip, and once obtained, he went for the outer belt throw while Takanoiwa responded with the left inside resulting in a beautiful nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge of the ring. The outer won out as Kitataiki moves to just 4-7, but the whole reason why I comment on this bout is to praise the effort of both parties. I love the nage-no-uchi-ai because it means both guys are trying their hardest, and remember when dudes would get all bloody on their foreheads because they'd refuse to put their hands down when being thrown? I just miss that kind of toughness.

Okay, if there's any drama left these last four days, it will likely be for political reasons, but let's just see how it all plays out. Harvye fills you in tomorrow.

Day 10 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Today the Tokyo Metropolitan government gave me a call, conferenced in with NHK. They said, "since we can't Stop the Terunofuji, we want to emulate that Nagoya-area tour the wrestlers did last time out." I said, "actually, Terunofuji is pretty impressive; I don't think we need any stories that take away from him." Tokyo was not impressed, "yeah, but, you know, the fans just kind of yawn when he wins. But if we could have him and Tamawashi holding hands while waving from Tokyo Tower, well, that'd give folks a smile." I reminded them that time between matches is quick, and suggested instead they ask their announcers to focus on up-and-coming hopes like Amuuru, a late blooming tough nut, or Osunaarashi, who has returned from injury with dynamic, sometimes frightening sumo that lends daily excitement. "Up and comers? What about Endo?" one of them said. I pointed out that Endo has been in the division a few years and with his yo-yo banzuke performance and two-stroke-engine power, he is no longer an "up-and-comer." The guy from NHK was lost in his own world, though, and gasped "Endo at the Sky Tree!" One of the Tokyo guys likes sumo a little bit and asked me about Kotoshogiku's chances for the yusho. I sighed and said yeah, let's do the Tokyo tour thing.


O Terunofuji (9-0) vs. M5 Tamawashi (3-6)
Most guys these days seem content to let Terunofuji get on the belt and try to beat him anyway--hasn't been working too well, though it has led to some massive contests. Tamawashi was smarter, and delivered an epic, prolonged battering to the face that had Terunofuji befuddled and almost down. This is the way to handle a superior opponent: take him off his game, give no quarter, and hope something works out you can take advantage. Tamawashi didn't stop moving and was vicious; I even think I saw an ear-pull in there. However, Terunofuji was able to push him backwards; even that was dangerous, as Tamawashi almost got him first on a pull to the left, then a shoulder-shove to the right; Terunofuji backed off a bit. It was only when Tamawashi let the action slacken just a little that Fuji the Terrible was able to finally reach over and get a left overhand grip. He was cautious now and and seemed to have his confidence shaken in bit; they moved to a brief stalemate in the center of the ring. Here, Terunofuji got an inside right grip in addition to his left; it was shallow, but this moved things in his favor. I still thought Tamawashi might pull it out--he needed one more big move. Also, which guy was more gassed? I guessed it was Terunofuji with his size and after surviving all that. However, at the 48th second of this match it was Terunofuji who won it by unloading an uwate-nage and throwing his man convincingly to the dirt. Terunofuji is absolutely the real deal this tournament. He's won many tough bouts against opponents giving their all, and I keep mistakenly thinking he's the fourth Yokozuna. That's not a joke or a sell: his sumo is simply so yokozuna-esque that I honestly forget he is still an Ozeki. Here, in the face of much pressure and misdirection, he kept his cool. And when he had every right to be worn out, instead he was the one with the energy left to win it. Granted, Tamawashi is not a top notch wrestler--but his fighting was top notch today, and Terunofuji looked like a Yokozuna in absorbing it, overcoming it, and moving to 10-0.

I don't know why NHK chose to send these two for a stroll in Hikari-ga-oka Park afterwards instead of Tokyo Tower as they'd promised; I mean, it's really beautiful and huge and when the ginkgo trees bloom it's blazingly beautiful, but it's about 20 stops up the Oedo Line and nobody knows about it. Wait a minute…

Anyway, let's check out the rest of the leaderboard.

Chasers: One Loss

Y Kakuryu (8-1) vs. S Myogiryu (5-4)
While Myogiryu is one of Japan's best wrestlers, I figured we were in for a mismatch here with a Yokozuna having a good tournament. However, Kakuryu could get nothing on Myogiryu, who wouldn't let him get to the body, and Myogiryu had both arms inside and low. Feeling the pressure, instead of forcing himself to the inside with Yokozuna technique, Kakuryu tried a very big pull. Myogiryu used that to emphatically force him out. But wait! The gyoji gave it to Kakuryu, as Myogiryu did fall down while doing this. But wait! Mono-ii! From what I saw I have absolutely no idea who won, but I will take it on faith that the video guy called in the right result: Myogiryu was declared the winner, oshi-dashi. Props to Myogiryu here for the sound effort. Active, aggressive, smaller rikishi like Yoshikaze and Myogiryu seem to give Kakuryu trouble, and in losing to them both times he resorted to the pull.

Afterwards Myogiryu was allowed to play "chef" at the famous Jiro Sushi, where he showed Kakuryu how to slice fish.

M12 Ikioi (9-1) vs. M7 Endo (5-4)
Both man slapped lightly and ineffectually at each other; I hesitate to call this weak stuff even tsuppari; perhaps both were looking to pull? Ikioi got his chance and with a swipe at Endo's head got him to put both his palms on the dirt in front of him. I'm always suspicious for bouts that end that way, and didn't like this.

At the SkyTree, people kept asking Ikioi to take pictures of them with Endo.

Chasers: Two Losses

O Kotoshogiku (7-2) vs. O Kisenosato (7-2)
Perhaps Kisenosato was already looking forward to his date with Kotoshogiku, because he looked taken by surprise and barely budged at the tachi-ai; Kotoshogiku stood him upright and forced him out with classic Kotoshogiku gaburi-humping right quick (does this work against anyone else anymore, by the way?). I was listening to the radio at this point, and the announcer went nuts and declared that Kotoshogiku's yusho chances were alive! That honestly hadn't occurred to me; it was then that I decided to include the two-loss guys as part of the leaderboard today.

And it was Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato who were sent to the iconic local symbol, Tokyo Tower, instead of Terunofuji and Tamawashi! Wonder how that happened?

M8 Toyonoshima (7-2) vs. M11 Chiyotairyu (4-5)
If Toyonoshima wins the tournament it will have been a farce, but I like him so let's enjoy his excellent basho and note him amongst the two loss guys. Meanwhile, let me be fair to Chiyotairyu: we criticize him a lot for not moving forward enough, because he's so powerful when he does, but this is at least the second time this tournament he got burned by being very predictable. Yes, he hit hard and worked toward a linear, power force out, but Toyonoshima, without breaking a sweat, responding by moving to his left and letting Chiyotairyu drop onto his face, tsuki-otoshi.

As Toyonoshima is kind of old school, they let him have his wish and sent these guys to one of Tokyo's oldest neighborhoods, Asakusa, where they checked out the rambling temple grounds of Senso-Ji before eating in one of the divey, awesome restaurants that surround the site in warrens of streets. They were joined by Toyonoshima's gap-toothed, country dad, who made sure everyone drank a lot of shochu.


M14 Kitataiki (2-7) vs. J1 Fujiazuma (3-6)
I guess Kitataiki didn't want to lose against a second division guy with a losing record, because he fought like a tiger in this one. He still even lost the tsuppari battle, and only won by jumping in for a last ditch belt grip that allowed him to lift Fujiazuma to a yori-kiri loss.

Later these two were introduced to the other patrons on a Sumida River boat cruise. One old man asked his wife "did those guys win a raffle or something?"

M13 Daieisho (5-5) vs. M15 Asasekiryu (4-5)
Battle of the bright red belts. Asasekiryu tried twice to reach in real low in front and grab the belt, and Daieisho was justified in trying the pull in response; didn't work. Daieisho then got in Asasekiryu's grill, stood him up, and whap-slapped him out oshi-dashi. Good stuff from the rookie.

At Koishikawa Shokubutsuen (a very beautiful and varied outdoor botanical garden run by the University of Tokyo), they talked about the ephemeral quality of youth and age while gazing at the seasonal plants.

M14 Sokokurai (6-3) vs. M11 Homarefuji (6-3)
Homarefuji doesn't have much. He had Sokokurai going around and around the ring, but it was all a lot of unfocused pushing, with nothing on Sokokurai's belt or body. Finally, Homarefuji did go for Sokokurai's belt and got it, but he didn't act quickly on it or defend his own belt, and Sokokurai immediately got a grip as well. Then two grips. And Sokokurai was able to lift his opponent to a place of discomfort and for yori-kiri win.

Later Homarefuji impressed Sokokurai at the Nikko temple complex, an hour or so out of town, by explaining the iconographical aspects of the mausoleum architecture, and Sokokurai impressed Homarefuji by explaining that Inner Mongolia is part of China.

M10 Kotoyuki (5-4) vs. M16 Seiro (4-5)
I'm not saying Seiro is future sanyaku material, but he keeps doing some little things right. Here, Kotoyuki had his heavy guns out and blazing for an attempt at tsuki-dashi, but Seiro was able to evade. Then, it went to belts, and I figured out smaller man, Seiro, was toast. Instead, he had Kotoyuki out yori-kiri in seconds flat.

After the match, Kotoyuki bowed low the NHK and Tokyo authorities, muttered an indecipherable expletive into his fist, and announced that instead of going to the selected site, he was taking Seiro drinking in Roppongi; he did say he'd make sure the rookie didn't get any spiked drinks or go into any clubs with the touts on the corner, but Seiro looked a little bit uncomfortable.

M12 Chiyootori (6-3) vs. M10 Kyokushuho (4-5)
Bad tachi-ai with no forward movement from Chiyootori, and Kyokushuho got in low with hands on the body and had a near instant yori-kiri win. Who knows why it would be, but I'm not sure how hard Chiyootori tried in this one.

Kyokushuho sprang for the picnic lunch had on the the vast, impeccably clipped lawns of Tokyo's best for-pay park, Shinjuku Gyoen.

M9 Gagamaru (5-4) vs. M13 Tokitenku (5-4)
Yes, the henka sucks, and I would simply outlaw it. Here, we saw one of the ways it can work. Tokitenku moved away at the tachi-ai, and while Gagamaru did not flop on his face (henka Plan A), while he recovered he was vulnerable (henka Plan B) and Tokitenku was able to get a nice overhand left grip. This ended up being a winner; once he also sneaked a right inner, Tokitenku used the left outer for a pretty nice uwate-nage 200-kilo meat-toss.

Later they went to Tsukiji fish market and practiced sliding frozen tuna around on the floor, trying to knock each other down. They called it "human bowling." Oh, those sumos!

M8 Takekaze (2-7) vs. M15 Hidenoumi (3-6)
Hoo, man. Takekaze must be on his last legs. This match went on for quite a while and played to Takekaze's strengths: lots of deeking and pulling, he had his opponent running all over the ring. Takekaze is a dai-veteran, Hidenoumi is in his second Makuuchi tournament and has looked bad this tournament, and the fact that Takekaze couldn't use his experience to get a win here--for after a while of nothing working, Hidenoumi simply pushed him out, oshi-dashi--looks pretty bad for Kaze.

There is a great monorail ride from Shimbashi to Toyosu that takes you over the Rainbow Bridge with a bird's eye view of Tokyo's modern architecture. Hidenoumi said that like their bout earlier, he felt a bit of dizziness but enjoyed how it all turned out.

M9 Kagamioh (2-7) vs. M7 Amuru (5-4)
Amuuru can be very quick. They called his win here uwate-dashi-nage, but all I really saw was him keeping his hands in tight, then pulling on Kagamioh's arm with a sudden lurch while moving out to his right. Kagamioh jerked two palms to the dirt in response (which, as usual, made me somewhat suspicious, but I have nothing beyond that). If this was legit, it showed great instincts from Amuuru, whom I like more and more.

These two were sent shopping in Tokyo's upscale Ginza district; I'm sorry, I have no thematic tie-in.

M4 Ichinojo (4-5) vs. M6 Aminishiki (6-3)
It is hard to play tricks on The Mongolith because he is so big and slow there is no opportunity for him to overreact. So, Aminishiki tried to get inside on him, which was like putting a sardine in jello. So, Aminishiki tried to pull Ichinojo--which required standing up, and which was like a moth trying to knock down a layer cake. Ichinojo dispatched Aminishiki yori-kiri with ease.

These two spent the evening in Tokyo's famous book shopping neighborhood at Jimbocho, looking for the latest releases about hot debate topics back at the stable like semiotics and hegemonic transition theory. In the end, though, Ichinojo came away with a Jane Austen novel and Aminishiki bought The Stranger by Camus.

M6 Tokushoryu (3-6) vs. M2 Sadanofuji (0-9)
Sadanofuji might could have gotten a guy he could beat here, but Sadanofuji now has it in his head that he can't win this tournament, and he'll just have to wait for November for better news at this point: momentum is huge for these guys and Sadanofuji's mo' is all bad. He tried two hands to the face, but Tokushoryu doesn't have any neck to be bent back, and Tokushoryu responded with a neck throw of his own for the win, although the kimari-te was called tsuki-otoshi.

Noticing that these two have about 400 kilos between them, they were sent to the Yokohama Chinatown for Chinese food. However, they didn't find it very authentic, so on their own they wandered down to the cool, modernistic harbor, downed a few soft serve ice cream cones and other snakcs, then went and saw the Yokohama Bay Stars baseball team in their cool, miniature, very round stadium; each guy had several portions of yakitori, takoyaki, hot dogs, fried chicken, and beer. It was a good night.

M1 Aoiyama (3-6) vs. M3 Sadanoumi (2-7)
This was a re-enactment of the earlier Chiyotairyu-Toyonoshima bout, with Aoiyama playing the part of Chiyotairyu (just as I've said he should, he went with his signature strength, in his case huge, powerful arm thrusts, and was burned for it) and with Sadanoumi in the part of Toyonoshima (simply evaded the predictable attack to the right and watched his opponent stumble out of control and put a foot in the loose sand on the other side of the tawara). It is a tough balance, but Aoiyama and Chiyotairyu have to find a way to use their strength without being predictable; in Aoiyama's case today I think his arm thrusts were not fully extended, causing him to need to bring his body too far forward too fast. He needs to make sure his opponent is moving backwards at the same speed he's moving forwards.

Aoiyama told the producers he was too tired to go far, being kinda overweight an' all, so they let him and Sadanoumi walk literally next door to the Kokugikan to the Tokyo Edo Museum. Unfortunately it is only mildly interesting outside (looks like a Star Destroyer or something) and inside (how much appetite for Edo-period history do you have?), so Aoiyama went back and beat up the Teppo pole some. Ugghh! Urrngh! Urrgghh!

K Tochinoshin (4-5) vs. M1 Yoshikaze (6-3)
Focus. Yoshikaze was all up in Tochinoshin's personal space trying to get busy and cause some shtuff, but Tochinoshin ignored it. You could almost see him thinking: "okay, right inner,,,got it,,,now left outer,,,got it!" He had the right inner very quickly, negating any tsuppari or evasion possibilities for the ultra-genki Yoshikaze. Then big ‘ol Tochinoshin lifted Yoshikaze bodily up, dangled him in the air, and set him down outside the straw. This is called tsuri-dashi ("fish out"), and Mike was just talking yesterday about not seeing it much of late. Here is a wrestler big and strong enough to do it.

Ueno Koen is huge, including several major museum, a zoo, a miniature amusement park, garden-like areas, and homeless person blue-tarp camps. Who to send to cover this vast territory? The producers were at a loss until they hit on Yoshikaze--gave him two cups of coffee and he gave Tochinoshin the tour of his life. Unfortunately they got kicked out of Ueno Zoo when Tochinoshin practiced oshi-dashi on the okapi.

Alternate Match of the Day: M2 Osunaarashi (4-5) vs. K Okinoumi (4-5)
Oh, my. Osunaarashi stuck with his plan: two hands to the face, then body up. Okinoumi had no answer for this and Giant Sand (Osunaarashi) got a left outer grip. He then ran Okinoumi over to the bales, but once he was there, he did something a little different: sensing Okinoumi's imbalance, Osunaarashi pulled him backwards with his left hand and put his right hand on Okinoumi's face and pushed him over onto his back with what should by rights have been called kao-tsuki ("face thrust"). Unfortunately, that kimari-te does not exist, so they called it oshi-taoshi ("push-over"), which is also appropriately descriptive.

They sent these guys to see the giant outdoor Buddha statue at Kamakura, which is hollow; Okinoumi hid himself inside it, said he was going to meditate on forgiveness, and said he always spends between-basho time inside there, which is how he gets so placid.

S Tochiohzan (5-4) vs. M4 Takarafuji (4-5)
Tochiohzan loves moro-zashi, got it here against the passive Takarafuji, and drove him out yori-kiri while Takarafuji's arms dangled uselessly like gigantic gummi worms. Takarafuji has to give better effort than that.

Without question Tokyo's premier shrine is Meiji Jingu, a massive and stately thing in the grounds of the equally massive but less stately (a bit of Central Park feel) Yoyogi Park. Both wrestlers prayed there to become the next Ozeki, but the atmosphere was disturbed by their buzzing cell phones; Myogiryu kept texting them from Jiro Sushi.

O Goeido (4-5) vs. M5 Kaisei (3-6)
This was won off the tachi-ai; Kaisei simply drove forward and put both hands to the inside. Goeido had no answer for this; he let himself be driven out oshi-dashi while holding Kaisei's forearms on the outside--what strategy is that? Kaisei wasn't doing much of anything--there wasn't much "oshi" in his "dashi," just feet moving his bulk forward and Goeido in front of him, but he didn't have any hold on Goeido, so why didn't Goeido evade? Going to have to go back to calling him Go-Away-Do. Kotoshogiku's ozeki-hood has become embarrassing because he is gifted so many wins; Go-Away-Do's ozeki-hood is embarrassing in a different way: he looks so inconsistent and frequently plain bad that you wonder how he could have possibly got to this rank.

Goeido and Kaisei scored one of the big sites: they were give a tour of the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, Goeido kept stumbling, dropping things, and laughing loudly at inappropriate times. Kaisei flushed a little and smiled politely. Goeido went home and sighed with frustration: WHAT am I doing WRONG? WHO AM I???

Terunofuji, 10-0.
I'm sticking to my guns: there is only one real leader in this tournament; it has been a showcase for his skills.

Mike tours the banzuke tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Today was a holiday in Japan called Keiro-no-hi, which I think can be loosely translated as "Respect for Sumo Fans Day." Wednesday is a holiday as well, and so the government threw in Tuesday as a bonus giving Japan a rare five-day holiday in September. These prolonged holidays mean broadcast gold for sumo because they know viewership will be high, and so they bring out the guns when Japan is on vacation. Yesterday as Harvye mentioned, they had Kyokutenho in the booth and spent considerable time reviewing his career and prominent bouts, but the atmosphere was a lot more subdued and on-edge today, which can happen when you have a Gangstuh in the booth.

Dressed in a slick suit and tie, Don Sato was flanked by Fujii Announcer to his right and Mainoumi to his left, and you could just tell it was going to be a great two hours regardless of what transpired on the dohyo. In fact, I really thought about ignoring the sumo altogether and just focusing on all of the Wakanosato anecdotes and stats, but that wouldn't do, and so let's focus on just a few of the highlights before we get to the action in the ring.

The broadcast started off with a bout between Wakanosato and Asashoryu where Don had the Yokozuna in a firm right outer grip that he used to bully Asa to the edge before engaging him in a nage-no-uchi-ai that resulted in Asashoryu being thrown flat on his back. It was a great moment for the Don and after watching it, Mainoumi commented, "Suka-to shimasu, ne," or that really felt good [to watch]. It was almost an instinctive comment that revealed just how satisfying it was to see a Japanese rikishi legitimately kick a Mongolian rikishi's ass. And back then, you had guys who could still do it in Wakanosato and Kaio, and so to see Don Sato finally retire like this severs ties back to the good ole days when Japanese rikishi were still competitive.

Another interesting talking point was Wakanosato's failure to reach the Ozeki rank. He spent something like a record three straight years ranked in the sanyaku, and that was back when Japanese rikishi weren't coddled as they are today. The Don earned everything he achieved on his own, and due to the emerging dominance of Mongolian rikishi and the absence of free bouts, Wakanosato could never get over the hump and string together 33 bouts over three basho. Of course, Wakanosato also went through nine surgeries in his career, which also hampered him, but what the Sumo Association wouldn't give to have Wakanosato in his prime on the banzuke today.

Another one of the bouts featured Wakanosato winning by tsuri-dashi. If you're new to sumo, you may not even know what that is because we never see it anymore, but it's a move seen when a rikishi picks his foe up clear of the ground, keeps him in place using his gut as a fulcrum, and then walks him over and across the straw. It takes incredible strength to pull the move off, especially for a guy like Wakanosato and his crocodile arms. Can you imagine Endoh or any of the pretend Ozeki winning by tsuri-dashi?? They could be fighting the lightest guy in the division, and they still couldn't pull the move off. It's just another reason why I always have the redass when it comes to the three faux-zeki. It's insulting to have watched guys like Wakanosato or Akinoshima who never made it to Ozeki and then watch the current crop fumble around the dohyo on a daily basis and actually have hiramaku rikishi let up for them.

I really could go on and on regarding Don Sato, but we do have a basho on our hands, so let's refocus our attention to the day 9 bouts. Before we get to the action, let's review the leaderboard, which NHK began featuring starting with today's bouts:

8-0: Terunofuji
7-1: Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Ikioi

Other than Hakuho's absence, this is a leaderboard that we've seen regularly for the last few years. Namely, you have the key Mongolians still fighting; you have Kisenosato; and then you have another scrub Japanese rikishi who will end the basho around 10-5 once paired with actual competition. If precedent holds, Terunofuji will drop bouts along the way as needed in order to keep the Japanese rikishi on the leaderboard. Now, they can and will go down as deep as two losses from the sole leader, and so let's see if Terunofuji drops a bout along the way if Kisenosato and Ikioi fall more than two bouts back.

Up first was M12 Ikioi who was paired against the slippery M6 Aminishiki, who employed a henka to his left from the tachi-ai, but he didn't actually pull at his opponent allowing Ikioi to regroup in time. As Ikioi turned to his right to square back up, Aminishiki got his left arm to the inside and mounted a low charge straight into Ikioi's body, but the M12 easily assumed the right kote-nage stance and threw Aminishiki down and across the edge largely using his own momentum against him. This was a curious bout because Aminishiki wasn't committed to a pull as part of his henka, and then when he dove back towards Ikioi with the left inner, he just plowed straight forward like a torpedo without direction oblivious to Ikioi who had stepped to the side in order to execute the kote-nage. I really think that had Aminishiki cared to adjust his body in order to keep Ikioi in front of him on that final charge that this bout wouldn't have been close in favor of Shneaky, but he failed to adjust, and Ikioi gets the win improving to 8-1. Aminishiki, who was intentionally soft today in my opinion, falls to 6-3.

Next up was Senpai Kisenosato who hooked up into hidari-yotsu against Komusubi Okinoumi from the tachi-ai. Without securing his opponent sufficiently with the right hand, Kisenosato mounted a hurried charge that totally exposed himself to a right tsuki-otoshi move at the edge from Okinoumi that easily sent Kisenosato across the straw in a matter of seconds. This is open all the time against the senpai as I seemingly point out every day, but rikishi usually stay square instead of executing this common counter move at the edge. That's one of the most obvious signs when calling yaocho in favor of the senpai, and today's sumo was a perfect example of what's available all the time against the senpai. With the loss, Kisenosato falls to 7-2 while Okinoumi is in decent shape at 4-5.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Kakuryu used a crushing tachi-ai followed by effective tsuppari that knocked M4 Takarafuji completely upright and back a step. Before Takarafuji could recover from the initial onslaught, the Yokozuna was onto him like stink to bait scoring the two-second oshi-dashi win. Kakuryu sails to 8-1, and he really has no competition on this banzuke until he fights Terunofuji on senshuraku. With the loss Takarafuji falls to 4-5.

Last and certainly not least is our sole leader, Ozeki Terunofuji, who used a hari-zashi tachi-ai yet again slapping with the right hand into M4 Ichinojo's grill before inserting the right arm to the inside, and the Mongolith was just too slow to react as Fuji the Terrible worked his left arm to the front of Ichinojo's belt before mounting a quick force-out charge. As Ichinojo flailed his arms, Terunofuji ended up with moro-zashi which only added insult to injury and led to the bout's finishing in about three seconds. Remember just 6 - 8 months ago when these two provided argubably the best bouts of the basho? Kitanoumi Rijicho commented afterwards in the papers that the difference in these two is due to the amount of keiko each does prior to the basho. There's probably a little bit more to it than that, but if Fuji the Terror Bull can get an arm to the inside, he'll beat anybody except Hakuho.

The Ozeki moves moves to 9-0 with the dismantling, and let's see if he reacts to another Kisenosato loss. If Terunofuji is indeed gunning for the Yokozuna rank, he cannot afford more than two losses, so let's see what happens here in week 2. As for Ichinojo, he falls to 4-5 and part of me wants to ask, "How is this dude 4-5 at this point?" but when you consider he's given two bouts to Ozeki so far, it puts it into better perspective. Okay, a 6-3 mark with losses to the two Yokozuna (humor me in the case of Terunofuji) and Myogiryu...that sounds more like the natural order of things.

With the dust settled among the leaders, the new leaderboard shapes up as follows:

9-0: Terunofuji
8-1: Kakuryu, Ikioi
7-2: Kisenosato

Wow, any semblance of an interesting yusho race is hanging by a thread with that leaderboard, so in my view, the only unanswered questions left are 1) Will the Terror Bull run the table in his quest for Yokozuna, or 2) Will he choose to keep the leaderboard interesting for the Japanese fans throughout week 2.

In other bouts of interest, I can finally comment on a bout where a Japanese Ozeki won that wasn't yaocho!! Of course, the reason is that Goeido and Kotoshogiku squared off today, but still...

The Geeku latched onto the left front belt grip from the tachi-ai and immediately charged into his opponent, and Kotoshogiku's left frontal was so tight that Goeido couldn't even bring his right arm to the outside in order to set up a counter kubi-nage to halt his senpai's momentum. So with Goeido focusing on his right arm, Kotoshogiku just rushed him back to the straw and across without argument. Remember when bouts between two Ozeki were highlights of the day? Not so here as Kotoshogiku moves to an important 7-2. Important because he only needs one more bout and then he can be thrown to the dogs. As for Goeido, he falls to 4-5 and with six more days of competition, the effort to find him those four wins is going to get ugly.

Is it obvious yet that M2 Osunaarashi is better than any Japanese rikishi on the board? Okay, the Ejyptian's technique is still quite raw and lacking, but when you combine his size and power, there isn't another Japanese rikishi who can compare to him. Today against Sekiwake Tochiohzan, Osunaarashi used his patented moro-te-zuki tachi-ai to push Tochiohzan straight up, and with the Sekiwake looking anywhere but at his opponent, the M2 slipped to his left, grabbed the easy outer grip, and the swung Tochiohzan clear across the dohyo and out for the easy win. I mean, Tochiohzan was manhandled here. Mainoumi pointed out that Tochiohzan has a weakness for getting hit in the face, and Osunaarashi's initial paws to the head rattled him for sure as Osunaarashi moves to 4-5 while Tochiohzan has now lost four in a row to fall to 5-4.

If that wasn't bad enough, Sekiwake Myogiryu was drubbed by M1 Yoshikaze leaving both Sekiwake with 5-4 records after the first nine days. Instead of going for the inside, Myogiryu used a wicked slap with the right hand followed by wild tsuppari, but doesn't he know that's Yoshikaze's game? It clearly showed as Yoshikaze slipped into moro-zashi and used the insurmountable position to march the Sekiwake back and out. Myogiryu managed a kubi-nage grip as a counter ploy, but Yoshikaze just laughed that off as he shoots to 6-3. Meanwhile, as mentioned, Myogiryu falls to 5-4, and that hurts because you'd like to see some other Japanese guys come up and threaten for the Ozeki rank. It's going to be a hard sell after this basho with Tochiohzan and Myogiryu largely just floundering around. In my opinion, Ichinojo and Osunaarashi would make great candidates for Ozeki if they were just allowed to fight full throttle.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Tochinoshin and M3 Sadanoumi hooked up in migi-yotsu where Sadanoumi actually had the left outer grip, which he used proactively to force the Komusubi back, but Shin is just the better rikishi as he used his height and length to turn the tables at the edge in Kyokutenho style for the comeback win. This kind of counter move was completely absent in his bout against Kotoshogiku, for example, and it's worth pointing out when rikishi do counter properly so as to illustrate the difference when these guys fight the Ozeki and let up in various ways that many people just don't detect. For his troubles, Tochinoshin moves to 4-5 while Sadanoumi is struggling mightily at 2-7.

M1 Aoiyama used a sweet tachi-ai and those hissing tsuppari that M2 Sadanofuji just couldn't answer, and the result was a lopsided bout that last just a few seconds. Aoiyama moves to 3-6 with the win while Sadanofuji was forced back so quickly, he could never get his bearings. The Sadamight falls to 0-9, but he's looked okay this basho.

M5 Tamawashi thoroughly dictated the pace with his long arm of the law tsuppari against M9 Kagamioh, and before Kagamioh (2-7) could even get his bearings straight, The Mawashi (3-6) slapped him down a few seconds in.

M7 Amuuru used some nice shoves to keep M5 Kaisei up high, and as Kaisei moved forward without a purpose, Amuuru easily assumed moro-zashi with the left, deep inside and right frontal grip. Kaisei had nowhere to go but back and out as he suffers yet another lethargic loss at 3-6. Amuuru looks to continue his steady climb up the ranks at 5-4.

M10 Kyokushuho opened with a decent left paw to the throat against M7 Endoh, but he had no de-ashi behind the move pulling out (heh, hen) and settling for hidari-yotsu. Kyokushuho's entire sumo to this point lacked aggression, and it allowed Endoh to assume the perfect right outer grip, so the Mongolian just stood there and let himself be thrown down by that outer belt grip. You could tell, too, by the way that Shuho caught himself with two palms to the dirt that he knew what was coming. I mean, if you know a guy is about to attempt an outside belt throw AND your intention is to win the bout, you counter pretty quick with an inside throw of your own or some kind of positioning with the legs to threaten a trip. Anything except putting two palms to the dirt. Show me another bout where a dude wins by uwate-nage and the loser puts two palms to the dirt. It's not the natural flow of a sumo bout contested by both parties. Endoh moves to 5-4 with the win, and intentional or not, Kyokushuho was definitely mukiryoku in this one as he falls to 4-5.

M14 Sokokurai shaded left at the tachi-ai, but M8 Toyonoshima caught him with a good right to the throat and had his body in front enough to where Sokokurai couldn't escape and score with a counter pull near the edge. Don't look now, but Toyonoshima is 7-2, which should put him on the leaderboard should NHK choose to hype the two-loss rikishi at this point. Sokokurai falls to a not so shabby 6-3.

M13 Daieisho shaded slightly to his right at the tachi-ai as M9 Gagamaru tried to set the rookie up with some thrusts, but Daieisho brilliantly pushed up at Gagamaru's extended right arm spinning him around and off balance to the point that Daieisho pounced with a final thrust attack sending Gagamaru across the bales. Pretty good sumo from the rookie as Daieisho moves to 4-5 while Gagamaru is 5-4.

M10 Kotoyuki was average at the tachi-ai in his thrust attack, but M14 Kitataiki came with his hands up high, so after a second or two, Kotoyuki adjusted and finally plowed forward with good de-ashi scoring the tsuki-dashi win in the end. The fact that this bout was tsuki-dashi is due way more to Kitataiki's lethargy than it was good sumo from Kotoyuki (5-4). Kitataiki is hapless at 2-7.

M11 Chiyotairyu opened his bout against M15 Hidenoumi with his left shoulder pressed in tight and a senseless mawari-komu move around the ring. Took a second or two for Hidenoumi to figure it out, and then he struck with a right tsuki into Chiyotairyu's side pushing the Kokonoe prodigy off balance and ultimately out. Hidenoumi will take the easy win as he now sits at 3-6 while Chiyotairyu falls to 4-5. Before we move on, they asked Wakanosato who his least favorite opponent was, and he quickly said Chiyotaikai. For those of you who don't know Chiyotaikai, he was built in a similar fashion to Chiyotairyu, and he had a great tsuppari attack. He was worthless at the belt, but it didn't matter because he always stuck to his tsuppari guns, and it worked so well that he took a few career yusho and earned promotion to Ozeki...back when the banzuke meant something. I watched Chiyotaikai from the Juryo ranks when I was living in Japan, and I think Chiyotairyu actually has more physical potential. Dude's just too messed up in the head.

M13 Tokitenku moved left with a lazy henka and pull allowing M11 Homarefuji to read it well and push Tenku back in a second or two. What a boring bout, and I can't believe I'm even covering it as Homarefuji moves to 6-3 while Tokitenku falls to 5-4. For the record, Wakanosato considered Tokitenku an "iya na aite," or an opponent he hated to face, and it wasn't because of Tokitenku's skill. Trickery has it's place in baseball with the hidden ball trick or gimmick plays in college football, but keep it out of sumo please.

I guess if I've come this far, I may as well grab the final two bouts. M15 Asasekiryu stayed low at the tachi-ai as he is wont to do, so M12 Chiyootori focused on well place tsuppari to try and pry Seki upright. He eventually got the Secretary up high and back a step before pouncing with the left inside position and right outer grip at the edge, and the yori-kiri was swift and decisive from there. Chiyootori's 6-3 if you need him while Asasekiryu cools off at 4-5.

Last and certainly least, M16 Seiro was looking for pull the entire way against J2 Takanoiwa allowing the Juryo rikishi the left inside and right frontal grip, and from there it was easy peasy Japaneasy...er...uh...for the two Mongolians as Seiro is knocked down to a 4-5 record.

Harvye takes the baton yet again tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
I'm not at the venue today, but this is a rare occasion nonetheless: I'm actually sitting down in front of the TV to watch the bouts real time. Like most, I work Monday through Friday; I rarely get home before 18:00. Even on the weekends, I'm a parent, and the chances on a regular Saturday or Sunday of spending two hours in front of the TV in the late afternoon are very low. We're often out, hiking, riding our bikes, going to the science museum, whatever.

So why today? It is a five day holiday in Japan, and I've done my camping last night and am back, at the in laws, and need a break. Tomorrow it is off hiking. But for tonight, relaxing with the family. Granny is cooking karaage (fried chicken), wife is resting, son is watching the other TV with Grampa. So I can afford the two hours. Like Mike often says, watching the actual broadcast is a treat, as they fill the space between matches with fun stuff. Today it was recently retired Kyokutenho in the announcer's booth, with flashbacks to old matches and video greetings from erstwhile rivals who are still fighting. Kyokutenho looked like a proud new grandparent or something, his eyes all crinkled over a smile of child-esque, beaming happiness, at times looking almost moved to happy tears. Good for him--and for us. Later on they showed Wakanosato working as an usher with a humungous zit on his lip and a walkie-talkie. He also looked like he was about to cry, but for entirely different reasons. Oh, well!

Now, if the bouts were in the evening, after eight, my son's bedtime, I'd watch a lot more live sumo like this. I surely did when I was single. But even then, I usually was taping "Sumo Digest," a twenty minute or so program that came on live at 1:22 a.m. or something like that and showed all the bouts and key moments. My father-in-law, retired, watches quite a bit live in a desultory way, and when I'm retired I look forward to doing the same. But at this point in my life, this is a rare chance. Mike is right--a great way to increase the fans would be to have the bouts start, not finish, at 18:00. Or even later--jo'i from 20:00 to 22:00 would be great after-dinner relaxation.

But the jo'i is from 16:00 to 18:00 as always, and watching it today is a great pleasure, one of many in the slow-moving extended holiday weekend. It's a glorious day here. Blue sky, some puffy white clouds. It was up at 29 degrees Celsius, too much for this time of year, but better than summer, and here in the guest room, with the smell of tatami and of karaage cooking drifting in from the kitchen, natural light pouring in from outside, sliding paper doors open and the wind blowing through the house, it's heavenly. This is what the association and NHK wants for its viewers, I think, and I'm at rest and all there today.

M15 Asasekiryu (4-3) vs. J3 Toyohibiki (7-0)
Fought slow and not a great match, but Toyohibiki used good focus. Asasekiryu almost did a hair pull here, and it may have thrown him off balance, but the real key was Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) shoving Asasekiryu hard away off the tachi-ai and keeping him moving consistently backwards with neck shoves for the oshi-dashi win.

M14 Sokokurai (6-1) vs. M13 Tokitenku (4-3)
Tokitenku pulled a henka off the tachi-ai smooth like soft serve ice cream melting down the cone, but Sokokurai put on the brakes and got a quick inner right, matched by an outer left for Tokitenku. From here, all the action was on the other side. Sokokurai mostly kept Tokitenku's right arm pulled forward to keep him from using it, and tried various ineffective jerks and pulls. Tokitenku didn't move; I figured he was waiting to try a kick. Eventually, Sokokurai pulled a force-out move, but it didn't work, and during the fracas he gave up the right handed grip he'd thus far prevented Tokitenku from getting. From there it was an easy yori-kiri force out for Tokitenku.

M12 Ikioi (6-1) vs. M16 Seiro M (4-3)
A good test for Seiro; he's been marginally good down here, but he took on an under-ranked, decent wrestler in Ikioi. Seiro left himself wide open at the tachi-ai, and Ikioi got an inner right. Seiro had a grip too, but Ikioi had him moving backwards. When Seiro tried to throw Ikioi to the right, Ikioi used that momentum against him and twisted him down nicely, kote-nage.

M15 Hidenoumi (2-5) vs. M12 Chiyootori (4-3)
Hidenoumi had nothing here. Chiyootori came in low and tried to push Country Bumpkin (Hidenoumi) upright; it didn't really work. However, Hidenoumi just stood there doing nothing, and discovering this, Chiyootori went on the offensive and soon had his ai-te backpedaling and off-balance for the easy yori-kiri win.

M10 Kotoyuki (3-4) vs. M13 Daieisho (3-4)
"Oshi-zumo no Kotoyuki," said the announcers: push-sumo specialist Kotoyuki. Yes, indeed. He hit Daieisho hard, bending the rookie's head back with two paws to the face. This compromised Kotoyuki a little in that he was too high and had spent his energy concentrating on a move rather than on force, and Daieisho got him going backwards, as Daieisho had the better body contact off the tachi-ai, but it was worth it: Daieisho never recovered from the neck snapping, hardly spending a moment that he wasn't looking at the ceiling; Kotoyuki kept it up and soon smothered the rookie out oshi-taoshi, falling on top of him for good measure. Good effort by both parties.

M14 Kitataiki (2-5) vs. M10 Kyokushuho (3-4)
Long stare down from two guys going nowhere ended first in a false start by Kyokushuho, then one by Kitataiki. C'mon boys; just rip into the match and turn it around--fooling around with "I'm bigger than you" tactics ain't doin' nuthin'. To their credit, on the third try, they did rip into it: Kyokushuho's long-armed face whacks were vicious. To his credit, Kitataiki ignored this and worked his way onto dual belt grips. However, the difference in their gas tank at this point in their careers was obvious: Kitataiki's position didn't matter, as Kyokushuho calmly turned him around to the bales, using arms around the torso, and got a sukui-nage win.

M11 Homarefuji (5-2) vs. M8 Toyonoshima (5-2)
Homarefuji stood up with the purpose of one weak, ineffectual stick-in-the-face to Toyonoshima. Bad move. Toyonoshima gets his head bent back a lot, so maybe it is thought to work, but most of the time it seems to have little effect on him--I usually see him win the very matches he looks about to have his head torn off in. Here, all Homarefuji got out of trying this (and failing) was Toyonoshima underneath and advancing hard; Toyo even got a good, hard hand in Homarefuji's face at the tawara just before the oshi-dashi force out. Turn around is fair play..

M11 Chiyotairyu (3-4) vs. M7 Amuuru (4-3)
Chiyotairyu had it working here; this is what he really needs to do: hit hard on the tachi-ai from underneath, keep moving forward, and DO NOT PULL. Amuuru had zilch in answer to rough hands to the face, and it was oshi-dashi for Chiyotairyu in seconds.

M6 Aminishiki (5-2) vs. M7 Endo (4-3)
As we have "Oldest Guy" here against "Handsomest Guy," we got an unneeded break from Kyokutenho memories, and some focus on kensho banners in abundance (for two guys whose Maegashira ranks total up to 13…) and such. Both wrestlers were in character here. Aminishiki shamelessly henka'ed with the cash envelopes in the balance. Endo recovered and responded with pretty good set-up, hands-to-the-face, but couldn't finish it off: when Endo changed to hands-to-the-body, Aminishiki immediately saw he was too low and slapped his annoying foe down like a deer fly at the lake, hataki-komi

M9 Kagamioh (2-5) vs. M6 Tokushoryu (1-6)
Kagamioh is as blah as they get. For me Tokushoryu has some size that his risen him to a level he can hardly handle, but little else. That one standout trait was enough here; if Kagamioh is ever going to get the jo'i he'll have to show us something we haven't seen. Tokushoryu got a fat arm in and under on the left, put his head down, and plastered out his overwhelmed foe oshi-dashi.

M5 Tamawashi (2-5) vs. M8 Takekaze (1-6)
Long stare down here, leading to a tachi-ai so slow it looked like a do-over, and should have been, as Tamawashi never put his fists down. Takekaze easily pushed out his momentum-free and unprepared foe oshi-dashi.

M9 Gagamaru (4-3) vs. M5 Kaisei (3-4)
Another slow tachi-ai, but then again overloaded semis take a while to gear up, too. Blaf! Gagamaru's head hit Kaisei in the right shoulder, and Gagamaru put his right bludgeon on Kaisei's face and stuck it there like plaster; he had is man upright and it was oshi-dashi in seconds. Kaisei did nothing here but I'll give Lord Gaga credit for a solid, classic, effective oshi attack.

M2 Osunaarashi (2-5) vs. M1 Yoshikaze (5-2)
I've never noticed this before: Osunaarashi practices de-ashi when he goes back to get the salt. Either that, or his odd lurching lope to the bucket is an audition for the Hunchback of Notre Dame musical. Meanwhile, and we haven't seen this in a few tournaments from him, it was back to a Raging Bull audition in the actual match. Yes, he started with two hands to the face, but then, instead of using that to go in for the belt, which would have roasted Yoshikaze like an undersized peanut, Osunaarashi stood around too-tall and looked for opportunities to whack Yoshikaze in the face. The Boxer! Which is a good game for the uber-genki Yoshikaze, who usually fights like that anyway. However, there is also a leedle difference in power here, and Yoshikaze was not able to survive Big Sandy's attack, even though it looked to me like Osunaarashi was giving him a chance: "bring it! Let's see what you've got!" What Yoshikaze got was a tsuki-dashi dismantling.

K Tochinoshin (2-5) vs. M2 Sadanofuji (0-7)
Sadanofuji's jo'i debut has been as bad as everyone expected, but Tochinoshin was cautious (and/or charitable) with him. His opponent was very big, and had an inside left, so perhaps it was warranted, but I would think Tochinoshin could have had a quick linear force out here. Anyway, he didn't, and when standing around looking for a safe way to a W, tried two kicks. Like trying to kick over one of the Tokyo Metropolitan Towers--didn't work. Eventually, though, Tochinoshin mustered the strength he is famous for and did in fact get a linear yori-kiri win--just took a while. Someone will give Sadanofuji a "sorry, man" win one of these days if he doesn't pick one up himself.

M1 Aoiyama (1-6) vs. K Okinoumi (3-4)
I was thinking before the match "where are Aoiyama's pile-driver bludgeons?" I've missed them, and without them--I'm referring to his powerful oshi arm-thrusts--he has been bad and boring the last few tournaments. So I was happy to see he brought them out here… ‘cept they didn't work too great; Okinoumi seemed just fine with all that meat in his grill, and even got Blue Mountain (Aoiyama) on the run a bit. But instead of then losing, Aoiyama just pulled Okinoumi down hataki-komi. Not a great match. Still. Blue Mountain should be much better then he has shown, and should bring back his Tenderizer strategy. David Ortiz should hit home runs, Dee Gordon should steal bases. Aoiyama has been trying to steal bases. I want home runs, mixed with swings and misses.

O Goeido (3-4) vs. S Tochiohzan (5-2)
We are seeing the real Goeido this tournament, and it is only a little more fun than seeing the "helped/enhanced" Goeido, as the real Goeido is so, so sloppy. Still, this was a match to look forward to in some ways, as we have the most recent Ozeki hope who did make it (Goeido) against the new challenger for the same (Tochiohzan): now that Tochiohzan is realistically out of the yusho race, we still have interest to see if he can get 10 wins or so and stay alive in the second tournament of a three-tourney Ozeki effort. And we are back to the drama of whether Goeido is worth 8. Unfortunately, Tochiohzan offered so little here and fell down so sloppily to a quick hataki-komi loss, I mistook him for Goeido--such a loss would have been in character for him--and didn't realize who had won until I looked up and saw that it was Goeido drawing kanji in the air. Sigh. These guys both have some skills, and I would have liked to have seen them show them off.

M3 Sadanoumi (2-5) vs. O Kisenosato (6-2)
I continue to like Kisenosato. He didn't leave himself quite as open as usual, and this was a bruising tachi-ai from both. I also like Sadanoumi, who stayed low and got a left inside. Problem is, as Kisenosato had protected himself at the tachi-ai and kept his own left arm in tight, Kisenosato was then able to get a left inside, too. He is also much bigger than Sadanoumi, and off of this set up the bout was all his for an easy yori-kiri win. Points taken away from Sadanoumi, the bout in general, and sumo itself, however, for Sadanoumi's "okay I give up" easy-peasy let-me-just-step-out at the end. That's what makes questions fly.

Match of the Day (as usual…) O Terunofuji (7-0) vs. S Myogiryu (5-2)
If the pre-tournament hype was "Stop the Terunofuji," maybe the Hakuho withdrawal was "Go the Terunofuji." "Stop the Teru" isn't turning out too good… but then again he hasn't faced any of the ostensible three Stoppers, the Japanese Ozeki. We'll see how that works out--should be, um, stomach-churningly interesting. Meanwhile, today Terunofuji got one of the top three or four Japanese guys, who is probably better than one or two of the Ozeki, so I was primed for this.

Fast, aggressive tachi-ai from both men, and though Terunofuji was trying to scoop Myogiryu up with the right arm, Myogiryu was all over him, and got instant moro-zashi with both hands way around on the back of Terunofuji's belt, like an over-amorous guy during the slow dance. However, Mountain of Terror (Terunofuji) bore down with a kime attack, pinching in Myogiryu's arms, with Myogi looking tiny beneath him. After this, it was on; Myogiryu tried to use his better position, and Terunofuji his tsuyosa--plain and simple, strength. Myogiryu did get Fuji the Terrible near the straw once, but The Future (Terunofuji) used his good ring sense, strength, and size to put a stop to it. Eventually The Future dragged Myogiryu over to the straw and, momentarily, slung him out sideways (Myogiryu schwebte ins Luft) kote-nage--the third time we've seen him do a force-out this way this tournament: his opponents have nowhere to go underneath his bulk, and even if he doesn't get them over the tawara directly, they get squeezed out sideways, like tuna juice being drained from the can. This tournament is Terunofuji's.

M4 Takarafuji (4-3) vs. K Kotoshogiku (5-2)
As usual, Takarafuji played passive and let this one develop, which should play well for him, as Kotoshogiku is old and broken down much, and I thought he would wilt. They both had a left inside on the body, with Kotoshogiku lower down, but they couldn't get any play out of this, so it moved to the hands-on-each-other's-shoulders, we're-actually-kind-of-resting position for a bit. They did then body back up, again with Kotoshogiku lower down, and here it got very disappointing, as Takarafuji seemed to just give up at this point, literally holding Kotoshogiku's hands and looking as if he was gently pulling a docile senior citizen out of the ring rather than being driven out oshi-dashi. Must just be the camera angle, though, right?

M4 Ichinojo (4-3) vs. Y Kakuryu (6-1)
I was looking forward to this quite a bit--at their best, on your left we have top level size and strength, and on your right top level technique. They did not disappoint. The Mongolith (Ichinojo) tried lean-on-him-and-wait, and smartly kept both arms in tight; he had one inside grip and was smothering the Yokozuna's arm on the other side. However, Kakuryu was hunched low and was ready for whatever; The Mongolith tried a maki-kae that briefly put them in a more traditional yotsu position, but Kakuryu capitalized on this by doing a lightning maki-kae of his own against the slower Ichinojo--I also think Ichinojo's size worked against him, as Kakuryu had so a lot of space to work with underneath once Ichinojo opened up to yotsu. Kakuryu now had a right inner and left outer grip, and that was all she wrote: Kakuryu finished off the yori-kiri win easily from here. Good match to end the day.

Terunofuji, 8-0.
Until something changes in the content of The Future's sumo, that's all the leaderboard you're going to get.

And I'm off to dinner with the fam.

Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
For some reason, today's broadcast started late here in the States, and so I missed NHK's opening. I really look forward to the weekend broadcasts because they always have a theme each day since they know the audience will be larger. While I missed the intro, I'm pretty sure the opening was on "foreign rikishi in sumo" because throughout the broadcast, they showed various statistics like how many foreigners are currently on the banzuke and the different countries they represent. They even had Kotooshu in the booth to provide color, and he's actually quite good, so it turned out to be an enjoyable broadcast.

Due to the late start, I missed the first couple of Makuuchi bouts, so we'll begin with one of the better bouts of the day, you know, the kind of bout I expect to see with regularity among the jo'i. M12 Chiyootori came low in his attack with M16 Seiro looking pull all the way. After dancing around the ring this way and that, Chiyootori finally got the right to the inside while Seiro countered with the firm left outer grip, and then the two really dug in. With Seiro never really established to the inside, his only hope was a series of counter pulls and tsuki-otoshi moves, but Chiyootori persisted through them all and finally forced a gassed Seiro out at the end leading wit that left to the inside. Excellent chess match today as both rikishi end the day at 4-3.

M12 Ikioi used his length and size to keep m15 Asasekiryu from the getting to the inside, and so Sexy moved left and yanked at Ikioi's right arm in the process going for broke. It wasn't quite enough, however, as Ikioi shoved into Asasekiryu's stomach with the left forcing his right heel to graze the sand beyond the tawara an instant before Ikioi touched down himself. It was a pretty sweet photo finish as Ikioi moves to a quiet 6-1 while Asasekiryu falls to 4-3.

M13 Daieisho and M11 Homarefuji engaged in a decent tsuppari-ai from the tachi-ai trading shoves to the throat, but it was Daieisho who looked to move laterally and looked for the surprise pull off balance, and in that process, Homarefuji cornered the kid near the edge and continued his linear attack scoring the good push-out win in the end. Great stuff today from Homarefuji who moves to 5-2 while Daieisho falls to 3-4.

M11 Chiyotairyu moved forward hard at the tachi-ai against M14 Sokokurai, but he led more with the left shoulder and elbow than he did with an all out tsuppari attack, and so Sokokurai moved to his right and easily tugged at Chiyotairyu's left arm sending him down in a heap near the edge. Sloppy stuff from Chiyotairyu who falls to 3-4 while Sokokurai joins Ikioi in the "let's get them off the leaderboard as fast as we can" group at 6-1.

M8 Takekaze and M10 Kyokushuho hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Takekaze actually ad the right outer grip, but as the two dug in, you could just see how uncomfortable Takekaze was at the belt. Moving his left arm around as if to spring some kind of trap, Kyokushuho took care of it for him breaking off Takekaze's right outer grip before storming him back and across for the nice yori-kiri win. Kyokushuho ekes forward to 3-4 while Takekaze falls to 1-6 and is "genki ga nai" as Inuta Announcer aptly put it.

M10 Kotoyuki used tsuppari at the tachi-ai against M7 Amuuru, but you could see the hesitation in the charge, and so Amuuru was able to grab his belt, but he mistakenly grabbed the left outer with noting to the inside, and so Kotoyuki was able to fire away with his tsuppari in close and force the Russian to the side and out with his oshi attack. Amuuru made the mistake of relying on a shallow outer grip first as he falls to 4-3 while Kotoyuki closes a bit of ground at 3-4.

With the crowd in a frenzy, M7 Endoh offered the left arm to the inside of M9 Gagamaru, but it wasn't set up with any force from the tachi-ai, and so Gagamaru easily moved to the side and latched onto that extended left arm and just kote-nage'd Endoh into oblivion a few seconds in to the disappointment of the crowd. Both rikishi end the day at 4-3.

M6 Aminishiki and M9 Kagamioh displayed the ugliest bout of sumo today where both guys looked for the pull after the tachi-ai. In the case of Kagamioh, you're a younger guy and you've got Aminishiki hobbling around, so why not try and get to the inside and use sumo skills to best your opponent? He didn't, and Aminishiki's been in enough of these fights that he capitalized on Kagamioh's early pull attempt forcing him back and down at the edge using his momentum against him. Ugly, ugly stuff all around as Aminishiki moves to 5-2 while Kagamioh falls to 2-5.

M6 Tokushoryu and M5 Kaisei hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai with Kaisei enjoying the deeper stance. Tokushoryu actually favors fighting from the left inside, but Kaisei was just pressed in too close. After ten seconds or so in the center of the ring, Tokushoryu attempted a maki-kae with the right, but he couldn't even get the arm up Kaisei was pressing in that tight. Kaisei felt the momentum shift of the maki-kae and immediately mounted his force out charge sending Tokushoryu over and across in short order. Good stuff from Kaisei who moves to 3-4 while Tokushoryu is a sickly 1-6.

M2 Osunaarashi caught M5 Tamawashi with a right paw to the face at the tachi-ai and then quickly moved left pushing Tamawashi off balance from there, and the push out from behind came in about two seconds. Osunaarashi moves to 2-5 with the win and has looked great when he's been trying to win. Tamawashi falls to the same 2-5 mark.

Sekiwake Myogiryu latched onto the front of M1 Aoiyama's belt with the left, and while Aoiyama was able to shove him back away, the move by the Sekiwake eliminated any momentum from Aoiyama. With the two now using tsuppari for position, Aoiyama went for the pull first, and that gave Myogiryu the shift in momentum he needed to score the oshi-dashi win moving to 5-2 in the process. Aoiyama should figure out that the instant he goes for a pull, he loses the advantage in the bout. He falls to just 1-6 but has been quite cooperative this basho.

You'd have to say the most anticipated bout of the day was between Sekiwake Tochiohzan and M1 Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze moved slightly left at the tachi-ai throwing enough of a change-up to the Sekiwake that he wasn't able to establish anything from the start. The two instinctively went for tsuppari at this point, but that's Yoshikaze's game, and he easily slipped beneath Oh's thrust attempts getting the left arm inside so deep that he just continued his de-ashi run driving Tochiohzan back and across nearly as fast as the bout began. That little shift at the tachi-ai was the difference in my opinion as both rikishi end the day at 5-2.

I think I've seen enough of M4 Ichinojo's shtick to be able to tell when he's mukiryoku. He'll start with a right kachi-age position, and I say position because he really doesn't stick it into his opponent's craw. Rather he holds it there and waits for his opponent to get in close, and then the Slug goes for a pull attempt. That pretty much described his act today against Senpai Kisenosato, and even with Ichinojo lethargic and not looking to move forward at the tachi-ai, he still got the right to the inside, but instead of grabbing the belt or wrenching Kisenosato up high, he just fumbled around with the arm and actually grabbed Kisenosato's belly roll at one point. Totally in control of the bout, Ichinojo allowed himself to be nudged back, and then he went for a lame tug at Kisenosato's left arm in kote-nage fashion, but it was just for show and as Ichinojo continued with his theme of retreat sumo, he stepped across the straw oblivious to his position in the ring. I'd describe Kisenosato's offensive attack if it existed, but Ichinojo was in complete command the entire way. go figure as he falls to 4-3 while Kisenosato is now 6-1.

Ozeki Terunofuji looked for the right inside against M2 Sadanofuji at the tachi-ai, but Fuji shoved him away well the first few seconds. Still, he couldn't budge the Ozeki with his thrusts, and Terunofuji eventually got his right hand up and under Sadanofuji's left pit turning him to the side and lifting him up. Terunofuji didn't go for the kill at the point opting to settle into hidari-yotsu. Sadanofuji actually had the right outer, but Terunofuji just bullied his gal over to the edge with the right inside grip before standing Sadanofuji upright and shoving him across in the end. Pretty solid stuff as Terunofuji moves to 7-0, and I told Kane the other day that I think Terunofuji is actually better than Hakuho was in his second basho ranked at Ozeki. As for Sadanofuji, he falls to 0-7.

Senpai Kotoshogiku actually looked good against Komusubi Tochinoshin...to the untrained eye, but the Private was mukiryoku throughout. The Geeku was quick out of the gate grabbing the left frontal grip coupled with the right to the inside, and he immediately attempted his force out charge. Tochinoshin withstood the charge at the edge, but didn't counter with anything. He coulda turned the tables at the edge as Kyokutenho was so good out or he could have applied pressure with his left outer grip, but he was just standing there. As the action flowed back to the center of the ring, Kotoshogiku next went for a decent right inside throw, but Tochinoshin absorbed it well and coulda countered yet again by pivoting to the side and using his left outer, but he stood pat despite the left outer and right frontal group. From that lethal position, he relinquished his left outer and just let Kotoshogiku force him back and out from there. Near the edge, Tochinoshin was in the perfect position to move right and tsuki-otoshi the senpai's arse right outta the dohyo, but he stayed square and allowed the yori-kiri after what looked like a well-fought bout but was actually total mukiryoku sumo on Tochinoshin's part. You just have to trust me when I say that Shin had so many openings, but he refused everyone one of them falling to 2-5. Kotoshogiku moves to 5-2 with the gift.

Rounding out the senpai, Goeido was clueless against Komusubi Okinoumi in their hidari-yotsu affair. with no reason to panic after two seconds, Goeido went for the maki-kae with the right arm like a dumbass whereupon Okinoumi seized on the momentum shift and had Goeido pushed back and onto his back without argument. If you're ranked as an Ozeki, you cannot get worked like that in the dohyo at the hands of anyone. Goeido falls to 3-4 and will need some serious charity in week 2. As for Okinoumi, he improves to the same mark.

In the final bout of the day, Yokozuna Kakuryu used a quick hari-zashi tachi-ai against M3 Sadanoumi slapping with the left before getting full on moro-zashi. Sadanoumi was completely lost at this point as Kakuryu waltzed his way to the two second yori-kiri win. The Kak sits at 6-1 after the dismantling while Sadanoumi is 2-5.

Day 6 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
On the one hand, the tournament looks to be developing into one with a lot of interest. With Hakuho and Harumafuji gone, there is an impression that you have a leveled playing field where a lot of different things could happen: Kakuryu could take the championship with some mighty struggle. Terunofuji could take a huge step towards Yokozuna. One of the Japanese Ozeki could take advantage of a variety of opportunities and stumble forward into the limelight. Or a darkhorse like Tochiohzan or Myogiryu could surge out of the pack and give us all something very new to think about. The bottom line is that in this way of thinking, there is no dominant guy among those left over, and anybody could emerge: exciting.

But I would argue that this is not the way things will play out. Rather, as usual, what we have is one dominant wrestler who is a cut above the others, and for whom the tournament is there for the taking. The Japanese Ozeki cannot do it without help...scratch that, they cannot do it even with help. Tochiohzan is a fine rikishi whom I like very much, but he is not of yusho caliber and that shines forth all too clearly when the lights are bright. And Kakuryu is excellent, but is more of an Ozeki than a Yokozuna, will lose some here and there, and is a guy who can be very happy with a 12-3 or 13-2 and also has a 10-5 in him from time to time.

The dominant Mongolian in control of the basho who will watch the others wither like Fall leaves is Terunofuji, sitting in for Hakuho. The others are already falling away around him, match by match, man by man. Yes, it is easy to predict that when he is undefeated. But it is more than mathematically logical: it is true in strength, size, style, and ring presence. The Future is Now.

So, let's see whether the rest of the basho plays out as "The Kaleidoscope of Insanity!!!!" (half a dozen guys fighting desperately in free-for-all fray for an 11 win or so yusho) or "March of the New Titan!!!!" I'm going with the latter.

M15 Asasekiryu (4-1) vs. M16 Seiro (3-2)
I thought Asasekiryu was a little slow and cautious off the tachi-ai here, and while this was a long one, that set a losing tone for him. He's older and slower now, and has to bring it against the young guns. They felt each other out with the arms for a long while, and eventually gave up belt holds, an inner for Asasekiryu and an outer for Seiro. Seiro was slightly lower, put his head on his opponent, bulled his right arm to the inside of Asasekiryu, and drove to a yori-kiri win.

M14 Kitataiki (1-4) vs. J3 Toyohibiki (5-0)
Uh-oh. I'm always kind of glad when mediocre veterans like Toyohibiki fade away to Juryo: he was never going to be a sanyaku mainstay, his sumo is not exciting, and when he is gone we get to watch the new, the Seiros and Daieishos and Amuurus. But here is, undefeated in Juryo--he has a few more Makuuchi tournaments in him, looks like. Kitataiki is about four tournaments older than him in the same progression, but headed in the other direction again. He's fought hard this tournament, but his chlorophyll is brown. Here, Toyohibiki stood him up, got in close, focused forward, and pushed him out. That's good, simple sumo, and an oshi-dashi win.

M12 Ikioi (4-1) vs. M15 Hidenoumi (1-4)
Very messy match by the sophomore, Country Bumpkin (Hidenoumi). He kept both arms low off the tachi-ai like a couple of shovel scoops, and I liked that, but his chin ended up on top of Ikioi and he was looking at the sky--not good. Ikioi pinched down on his arms and Hidenoumi tried to escape, and when he pulled away he was off balance and ripe for a pull, which was entirely justified here for Ikioi, who caught him and knocked him even more off balance. The result was an oshi-dashi win as Ikioi followed his man to his doom, but this was all about a well-timed pull. Hidenoumi is looking very Juryo this tournament.

M14 Sokokurai (4-1) vs. M12 Chiyootori (3-2)
This was oshi-ai: both guys pushing at each other without any belt action. Both stayed nice and low, and the pushes were not wild--decent stuff here. However, Sokokurai won this by keeping his two arms close inside, something like a needle-nosed pliers, while Chiyootori's arms were wider--something like an open vice. Eventually, those pliers pried that vice open, spun it around, and got a solid oshi-dashi win. It wouldn't surprise me to see Sokokurai make a cameo in the jo'i one of these days.

M11 Chiyotairyu (3-2) vs. M13 Tokitenku (3-2)
Dirt Lord (Tokitenku) gave a quick slap in the face, a good move against the explosive Chiyotairyu, and that ended well for him as it went into mutual right-inner / left-outer belt grips, which does not play to Chiyotairyu's strength (tachi-ai demolishment). Tokitenku is a tall dude and stood stronger than Chiyotairyu, whose push and sling attempts went nowhere. It didn't help Chiyotairyu that Tokitenku's mawashi was loosey as a goosey and Chiyotairyu's was prim and proper as a button popper. It ended in a patented Dirt Lord kick for a ke-kaeshi win by Tokitenku, but he set it up by immobilizing Chiyotairyu and waiting for the right moment. Nice start for him this tournament.

M10 Kotoyuki (2-3) vs. M11 Homarefuji (3-2)
Kotoyuki is not only a show off, he's a sneaky, sloppy slob. Yes, he bows nicely after his infractions (whatever; we've had enough of that, too), but barely touching your hands to the dirt and in fact not doing so and sweeping them up in attempt to catch your opponent off guard is called "trying to cheat" in my book. The gyoji caught him. If you want to be Mr. Honor, put your damn firsts on the dirt like Kakizoe and fight from there. I will give Kotoyuki credit for fighting in a lively way once they started over, sticking and jabbing Homarefuji in the face--but it didn't work, as Homarefuji maintained against it and got an oshi-dashi push out win--after which Kotoyuki collapsed into the crowd, gassed. If he spent less energy working on his pre-bout shtick and scheming, and more on the ring, he might be a jo'i guy. But. He. Ain't.

Match of the Day: M13 Daieisho (2-3) vs. M9 Kagamioh (2-3)
Daieisho could be good, folks. Low tachi-ai, good pressure, arms forward, feet apart, changed tactics nicely to get the belt when he didn't get the easy push-out. He had a very deep left inner. However, Kagamioh also had a left inner, applied the pressure, and had the rookie on his strawbale deathbed--when Daieisho twisted, pulled, used all the leverage he had, and dumped Kagamioh out behind him as he fell over backward. Classic utchari win that reminded me of our dear departed Kyokutenho. This kid is in his first tournament in the division, the youngest guy here, and fought with great poise.

M10 Kyokushuho (1-4) vs. M8 Toyonoshima (4-1)
Tugboat (Toyonoshima) had all the momentum and looked like a sure winner; as often happens with him, his opponent tried to break his neck by shoving his head over backwards and bending him like a banana, but Toyonoshima snapped back right on Kyokushuho and had him going backwards once again. However, give credit where credit is due, Kyokushuho then grabbed Toyonoshima around the head with his right arm and used his left grip to throw Toyonoshima down beautiful as you please for a nice uwate-nage comeback win.

M7 Endo (3-2) vs. M8 Takekaze (1-4)
Like the crowd, I do get excited for Endo bouts, but for a different reason: he is usually so overmatched, it is suspenseful to see in what way he will be destroyed, or, if he wins, to try to figure out how he did it (and if it was him who did it). Much as I might scorn the hype, there is something about him and I do enjoy him. Here Takekaze had nothing but pull on his mind, which was a mistake, as this is one of the few guys Take could probably out-power. Takekaze also survived much longer then he should have: with his strategy so obvious, Endo should have been able to read his pulls and drive him out emphatically and quickly. Instead, it took about the fourth big pull before he got the oshi-dashi win. Endo just isn't looking good enough when he wins; he is more fun in his spectu-lo-rama losses.

M6 Aminishiki (3-2) vs. M9 Gagamaru (3-2)
I am ready for Aminishiki to go the way Kitataiki and Toyohibiki are going: to quote the 80's, flip him over, he's done. Today's match was terrible. Aminishiki pulled a slow-motion henka so languid it looked like a mistake. Fortunately, Gagamaru turned as slowly as the Exxon Valdez in responding, so Aminishiki was able to get a grip on his belt and start spinning Clotted Cream (Gagamaru) around and around. That didn't work either and they stopped and Cheesecake Dumpling (Gagamaru) should have been able to drive him out. More failure. So Aminishiki started to spin him again, and at the end of the spinning they both fell out of the ring, Gagamaru being dragged and Aminishiki being pushed. The gyoji gave it to Gagamaru and who the hell knows because this looked like synchronized swimming in a molasses pool. The judges then reversed it and gave Aminishiki a shitate-nage win, but to me both guys looked like losers.

M5 Tamawashi (2-3) vs. M7 Amuuru (3-2)
Everybody loves an underdog, and Amuuru is compelling. When he snuck into the upper division as an old rookie after many injury-filled years in the lower ranks a few tournaments ago, I figured we were seeing a well-deserved cup of coffee for a hard worker but that he would soon disappear, never to be seen again. Instead, little by little, he is working his way up the banzuke, and next tournament we may see him in the jo'i. Love it. I also liked what Tamawashi did here: as they slapped each other, Tamawashi at first let Amuuru do the more wild, vigorous slapping, but he watched carefully, waiting for an opening. Then, when Amuuru got in a vulnerable position through too much uncontrolled activity, Tamawashi poured on the steam: his slaps got hot, fast, and very heavy. However, he overplayed it. Amuuru was dead to rights at the hemp, but Tamawashi let him get out to the side, where Amuuru alertly grabbed Tamawashi's arm, used that to keep himself in and get behind Tamawashi, then grabbed Tamawashi's washi from behind and pushed him out lickety-split, okuri-dashi. All that at the end by Amuuru happened so fast you could barely see it--impressive.

M3 Sadanoumi (2-3) vs. M6 Tokushoryu (0-5)
Sadanoumi did absolutely nothing here, letting Tokushoryu get underneath him and way, way inside with his arms. He then hung around like a cold cut draped on a butcher's table while Tokushoryu carried him out oshi-dashi. Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) needed a little help and got it.

M5 Kaisei (1-4) vs. M2 Sadanofuji (0-5)
Battle of the purple behemoths. It sucked, though. This is kind of what I imagine a giant squid fighting a sperm whale at 700 meters down might look like: hard to move your tentacles fast in such heavy water...can't...move…! It literally looked like they were on slo-mo as they traded arm...blows? More like touches. I don't know what was going on here, but Sadanofuji looked bad as he lost one by walking backwards though it didn't look like Kaisei was doing much of anything but touch him. Oshi-dashi. That's seven oshi-dashi results in 13 matches today, by the way.

S Tochiohzan (5-0) vs. M4 Ichinojo (3-2)
Part of what keeps me coming back is when there seems to be a bout that would be a very obvious yaocho candidate and then, to my surprise, is not. I would emphasize as usual that we really can't know what the motivations are for this stuff: I expected Ichinojo to lay down and die in this one--he does a lot of that, he has enough wins to afford to, and Tochiohzan was working on a win streak that makes a good story--but he didn't. This one was won off of good defense at the tachi-ai by Ichinojo. Tochiohzan loves to get moro-zashi, and almost had it, but Ichinojo made two good moves: he pinched down kime-style with his left arm to neutralize the inside position Tochiohzan had there, and more important, grappled determinedly with his right arm to keep Tochiohzan from getting to the inside there. It worked. Tochiohzan did have enough momentum during this defense to get one of Ichinojo's feet against the bales, but that had never bothered Ichinojo--I like to call him the Iron Blob of Gravity Grease because he is so damned hard to lift over the straw once you get him there--he sticks to the clay like something from an alchemist's lab. Ichinojo regrouped there and drove Tochiohzan out yori-kiri. I like this guy at Sekiwake, and if he stops playing games could be an Ozeki in a year or two. Tochiohzan probably will be too.

M4 Takarafuji (4-1) vs. S Myogiryu (3-2)
I just don't get Takarafuji, and this match was classic him: passive and patient, letting the other guy fight the way he wants to, seeking not to give in and waiting for a chance to use his potent strength. I'd like to see him develop a style where he seeks rather than waits for wins, though. Case in point, he never did make a move in this one, was standing up way too tall, and paid for it: and Myogiryu eventually got him yori-kiri.

O Terunofuji (5-0) vs. K Tochinoshin (2-3)
Fuji the Terrible used his size to his advantage in this one. He rushed right in and grabbed a right inner grip on Tochinoshin's belt. Normally, he'd have then been ripe for Tochinoshin to get his own grips. However, Teru's torso is so long, Tochinoshin couldn't reach on that side. Tochinoshin kept Terunofuji off his right by pushing his arm up in the air, but consequently Tochi couldn't get a grip over there either. Changing tactics, Tochinoshin brought his right arm down, got an outer grip, and simultaneously brought his left arm in low and in front, where he could reach the belt above the crotch. He then used this dual-grip position to swiftly drive Terunofuji backwards. However, this also meant he'd given up moro-zashi: dual inside grips for Terunofuji, and both of them were at Tochinoshin's back, not sides: that is very deep position, and hence Terunofuji still had enough position and control to turn Tochinoshin 180 degrees at the straw and, with a little jerk, slip him sideways over the bales, yori-kiri. Another impressive win in a power-on-power contest for The Future. Believe it.

M1 Aoiyama (1-4) vs. O Kotoshogiku (3-2)
Twiddle dee, twiddle doo: very bad acting here by Aoiyama. Early on we could have pretended that Kotoshogiku was going to win this by getting better position underneath and keeping Aoiyama's arms high so that Aoiyama, despite his prodigious power, couldn't do any driving. However, Aoiyama gave it away by grabbing and then releasing a nice, long outside right hold he was able to get, and then dancing straight forward with pattering little steps, with no movement right or left, and falling down all tumbled-doo in response to a mild-mannered twist-out and throw by Kotoshogiku, tsuki-otoshi. Like Mike, I get tired of calling foul in the Ozeki bouts, but you have to call it like you see it. I dearly wish I didn't have to, but this was an eye-roller like way too many before. It happens.

O Goeido (3-2) vs. M1 Yoshikaze (3-2)
Yoshikaze scooped, pulled, and pushed: after those three moves in sequence, Goeido fell down to his left in front of him. Goeido was doing that hot favorite dance number of his, the "Cleveland Mayfly": all quivering, twitching frantic limbs, desperate, uncoordinated, easily squishable. So...it seems that Yoshikaze will be getting a special prize or two this tournament with all these big wins. Why has that been decided? Who knows! Who cares! I'm past it! Just give me more Terunofuji and Osunaarashi!

M2 Osunaarashi (1-4) vs. O Kisenosato (4-1)
The biggest star of the tournament has not been Yoshikaze or Terunofuji. Some of the former's wins were dramatic in the wrong sense of that word, and the latter's wins have been great but are expected. No, the grit and man-up fighting of Osunaarashi in going toe-to-toe with the big boys, and losing well, has made him our man this time around. In this bout, he gave a wide open Kisenosato a good push at the throat off the tachi-ai, but disappointingly, when he tried to parlay that into belt grips, at first both hands came up a little short, whereas Kisenosato got an outer left. Surprising. Osunaarashi was able to move forward anyway, and did then get the right inside belt grip, but Kisenosato used his momentum against him and, with an uwate-nage from his outer left, pin-wheeled Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) to the dirt. It all looked a little too pat and graceful to me, but unlike with the Kotoshogiku match I've got nothing in particular to complain about so I won't.

K Okinoumi (2-3) vs. Y Kakuryu (4-1)
Okinoumi gives such a lethargic, comfortable impression before his bouts it makes me tired just looking at him. He does not belong in this or any other Yokozuna match and I like him best around M5, where he has to work harder for his wins and gets schooled when he doesn't. Here, Kakuryu quickly had him on the slide and at the straw, but instead of bulling him over, began to do this odd shakety-shakety with his upper body like a bad dancer in junior high school gym class. Okinoumi needed no further encouragement, put on his mean face, and drove Kakuryu clear back across the ring. Wait: did anyone else notice that the Yokozuna had moro-zashi? When Kakuryu got close enough to the hemp to have called it exciting, he turned Okinoumi around, showed how dominant his position was but hoisting up Okinoumi's arms like a scarecrow, and deposited him out, yori-kiri.

Still Premature Leaderboard...But Fun
Pretty good collection of interesting guys between zero and two losses; I'm only going to list the jo'i:

Terunofuji 6-0
Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Tochiohzan 5-1
Kotoshogiku, Myogiryu, Yoshikaze, Ichinojo, Takarafuji 4-2

Mike burnishes your Silver Week Saturday tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It's funny how every tournament right around days 4 - 6 you can literally feel that we're in the dog days of the basho. Now that the initial excitement has waned and the next story lines will be created in week two, we just have to sort of get to the weekend. On the NHK front, they are using the slowdown to further market the sport to the usual demographics. On day 4, the theme was all about jungyo and the "fan service" provided at the exhibition events, and so they scattered clips throughout the broadcast from jungyo where the rikishi were interacting with the fans and having a jolly time, and then at the very end they posted all the dates to the upcoming fall exhibition season. I guess it was okay television, but what stood out to me is that 80% of the people attending the jungyo were retired folks.

The Sumo Association knows this well, and so they spent today marketing more towards the children. Apparently the heya have offer these stable mini camp experiences where elementary school aged children can come and work out with the sumos and learn various techniques. NHK had a reporter doing the story named Tobe Announcer who was skinny as a rail, and at the end of the piece, Tobe proudly announced they he too had done this sumo-beya taiken when he was in grade school. Currently, Tobe's running about a buck twenty...if that (in pounds), so he apparently hasn't gained any weight since his sumo taiken. Anyway, it's all fine and dandy, and I realize how the NSK needs to appeal to kids to get them interested in sumo, but you still have the issue of whose watching sumo. There's just this big gap from these kids interested in sumo all the way through to people who are no longer working with a few female fans scattered in between, and I really don't know how you solve it other than make the sport more accessible to the mainstream public, and to do that, you'd have to push back the start time two hours at least. I've been suggesting that for years, but it'd upset too much of the routine and order of things that the Japanese people adhere to, and so this current brand of sumo will be around for at least another decade.

On that note, let's focus our attention on the day's bouts starting with M15 Hidenoumi who kept his arms low and in tight as if to weasel them into moro-zashi against M16 Seiro. It would never come to fruition, however, so the bout morphed into a migi-yotsu contest where Hidenoumi allowed Seiro to secure the left outer way too easily, and once obtained, the fat lady cleared her throat and sang a lovely yori-kiri tune. Seiro is a respectable 3-2 while Hidenoumi is 1-4.

J2 Takanoiwa's charge was too hurried as he used the left to the inside, but it wasn't secure or deep, so M14 Sokokurai easily stepped out right and used a kote-nage throw to spill Takanoiwa out of the ring using his own momentum against him. Pretty slick move from Sokokurai who moves to 4-1 while Takanoiwa is still above five hundy at 3-2.

M13 Tokitenku employed a left hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping lightly with the left and getting the right to the inside, but M15 Asasekiryu moved out right away from a Tokitenku left outer grip, and then Seki hunkered way down low in the migi-yotsu position. As the two tussled in the center of the ring, Seki eventually got the right belt grip to the inside and a left outer setting up the methodic yori-kiri from there. Asasekiryu moves to 4-1, and I think the more stable environment of the Makuuchi division is working out well for him. What I mean by that is the Juryo bouts tend to be a lot like the senpai bouts, and so there's a lot more stability in this division. Tokitenku falls to 3-2 with the loss.

M12 Chiyootori was a day late and a dollar short at the tachi-ai against M14 Kitataiki, but Otori eventually managed hidari-yotsu and pushed Kitataiki upright setting up a yori charge. He got too lazy with his hips, however, and gave up the right outer grip to Kitataiki near the edge, and you could see the tide change at that point for Kitataiki who hunkered lower and survived a left inside belt throw from Chiyootori before dumping him across the ring leading with that right outer grip. Great stuff...the kind of sumo I'm looking for among a certain trio a lot higher up in the ranks. Kitataiki picks up his first win to move to 1-4 while Chiyootori just got sloppy falling to 3-2.

As M12 Ikioi and M13 Daieisho were going through there shikiri, without notice NHK immediately cut away from the sumos and broadcast the scene pictured at right occurring in the Japanese parliament. All of these dudes and a few chicks were going crazy around this little circle area, and I was like "Sweet! Cockfights in the Japanese parliament." But then a news guy came on and ruined the party by explaining that a bunch of politicians were protesting the signing of a bill that would allow Japan's national guard to be deployed overseas for actual combat missions. Turns out the circle was actually a table, and they were rushing this old guy trying to sign the bill. The ruckus lasted for about 20 minutes, and in all honesty, I saw more action than I'm used to seeing in the ring. Who knew that the real grapplers among the Japanese people these days were in the gumment?

As a result of the cockfights, I missed the next seven bouts, and I'm not going to chase them down on the innernet, so if anything interesting happened, fell free to report it in the comments section below.

What a coincidence! NHK turned its focus back to the Kokugikan just in time for the M7 Endoh - M4 Takarafuji bout where Endoh bounced off of Takarafuji using light tsuppari to try and get to the inside, but that won't work against a bull like Takarafuji whose under ranked on the banzuke to begin with. As Endoh lightly offered his right arm to the inside, Takarafuji pivoted left and grabbed the kote-nage grip on that extended right arm sending Endoh down with ease to the horror of the crowd. There were no endogasms or cigarette breaks today as Takarafuji soars to 4-1 while Endoh receives a bit of a reality check at 3-2.

M4 Tamawashi slipped out left looking to try and tsuppari his way into some sort of opening, but M4 Ichinojo moved well and got the right arm to the inside and left outer grip to boot, and from there Tamawashi didn't have a chance. Makes me wonder if Ichinojo, who scored the easy force-out win from there, let up a bit yesterday after gaining the similar stance against Goeido. The Mongolith moves to 3-2 while Tamawashi falls to 2-3.

M2 Osunaarashi flexed his muscles yet again today using a moro-te-zuki at the tachi-ai to knock Komusubi Tochinoshin straight upright where the Ejyptian was able to slip left and grab the firm outer grip coupled with the inside right. With Shin up so high that he couldn't counter, Osunaarashi forced him back and down in mere seconds for as impressive of a win as we've seen from him. It's weird to think that Osunaarashi picked up his first win here at 1-4 because he's definitely making his presence felt in the jo'i. Tochinoshin was prolly a little to lackadaisical at the tachi-ai, and he paid falling to 2-3.

Sekiwake Myogiryu's charge was average as far as getting his left to the inside, but he was half-assed on the other side allowing Komusubi Okinoumi to not only get the deep left inside, but he used it to raise Myogiryu's right arm straight up in the air, and when you have a taller guy bearing down on you like that, it was curtains as Okinoumi scored the ridiculously easy win after securing the right frontal grip. Myogiryu got burned here as he falls to 3-2 while Okinoumi picks up his first real win of the tournament at 2-3.

M1 Yoshikaze got the early left inside against the charging Kotoshogiku at the tachi-ai, and Monster Drink used that position to raise the senpai dangerously upright. The Geeku sensed he was in trouble and tried to maki-kae and get his own left to the inside, but Yoshikaze already had him driven back and across for the wham bam thank you ma'am force-out win. Like Okinoumi, Yoshikaze picked up his first legitimate win of the tournament as he moves to 3-2, and it's no wonder it came against Kotoshogiku, who falls to the same mark.

M1 Aoiyama offered a comical right kachi-age at the tachi-ai that he just left hanging there allowing Goeido to grab the left frontal grip, and with Aoiyama's keeping his left arm up high and wide, Goeido pounced getting the right inside as well where he mounted a force-out charge. I'd like to say that there was power behind the charge, but at the edge, Aoiyama instinctively went for a nifty counter tsuki-otoshi move pushing into Goeido's right side with the left hand, and he had the senpai dead to rights, but fortunately he realized his crime and relinquished the shove allowing Goeido to stay in the ring long enough to where Aoiyama just stepped his right foot across the line before Goeido lost his balance for good. In fast motion, this actually looked like a decent win, and even Sato Announcer in the both asked afterwards, "His sumo was so good today it makes me wonder why he doesn't do this everyday?" Yeah, no kidding. As they showed the replay, you could clearly see Aoiyama realize that he had Goeido on the ropes, and so he pulled both arms back and away and stepped out purposefully before Goeido lost his balance and stepped out as well. Goeido sneaks to 3-2 with the gift while Aoiyama falls to 1-4, and for everyone's viewing enjoyment, I'll post the slow motion replay here.  Try and identify the move Goeido employed to cause Aoiyama to step out (hint: there was no such move):

The matchup of the day featured Japan's two undefeateds in Sekiwake Tochiohzan and his senpai, Kisenosato. Tochiohzan came in low looking for the inside with his arms in tight while Kisenosato attempted to keep him away from moro-zashi. Kisenosato seemed to get frustrated, however, just a few seconds in, so he went for a stupid pull with the left arm that let Oh inside for moro-zashi. Once obtained, Tochiohzan forced Kisenosato back and across so fast you'da thought they just shot a clown out of a canon at the circus. This was a tough bout because someone had to lose, but credit Tochiohzan for his superior skills as he moves to 5-0 while Kisenosato falls to 4-1.

In the Ozeki ranks, Terunofuji used a right hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping M3 Sadanoumi's face silly before getting the left inside, and before the stars even cleared away from Sadanoumi's noggin', Terunofuji drove him to the side and out in freight train style. It's interesting because I don't see how anyone could watch the last four bouts and then come on here and tell me that I'm wrong in my analysis of the Ozeki. Seems like all of the negative comments regarding my remarks are just that... general comments accompanied by zero analysis to back the claims up. Day 5 made it painfully obvious that 1) Terunofuji is already light years ahead in his strength and ability, and 2) the other three just don't have any game.

Yokozuna Kakuryu stayed low looking for the inside against M2 Sadanofuji, and as the Yokozuna stretched his left forward, Sadanofuji attempted a surprise kote-nage throw that kind of rebuffed the Yokozuna, but the real surprise was that Kakuryu regrouped on a dime and just took advantage of the momentum shift from his opponent to yank him down to the dirt for the good hataki-komi win. I actually thought Sadanofuji gave it his best effort and fought well here; he was simply schooled by a better rikishi. The end result is Kakuryu's advancing to 4-1 while Sadanofuji is still looking for that first win at 0-5.

Alright, Harvye bridges the gap tomorrow and sends us into the weekend, and then the two of us will alternate days from there if none of the other fellas are able to write.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Watching a basho like this play out live and then reading about it in the Japanese media is so fascinating to me, and it's just about the only drama that keeps me interested in sumo these days. For example, after Kakuryu's loss to Yoshikaze yesterday, the common theme was that the added weight of Kakuryu's being the lone Yokozuna in the tournament had to have bothered him and contributed to his poor technique. A Mainichi reporter caught up to the Yokozuna and asked him about this to which Kakuryu replied, "No, it didn't bother me at all." The reporter's reaction to that in his story was, "Though he denies the added pressure, relying on his bad pull habit is likely proof the he was in too big of a hurry to win."  Yeah. Or not.

After Hakuho's withdrawal, the one thought that never entered into this expert's mind was, "Uh oh, Kakuryu's going to feel the weight of being the lone Yokozuna!" And it obviously never entered into the mind of Kakuryu either because he stated as much. What kind of pressure is there on this banzuke of being the lone Yokozuna? Kakuryu has one guy in his sights: Terunofuji. Other than that, he can have his way with anyone else in the field. The media's conjuring up the notion that the Kak felt extra pressure is nonsense, but nonetheless, that's the explanation and so that's the way it's perceived. As for Kakuryu and his breakdown of his day 3 sumo, he put it, "My initial charge wasn't bad, but everything after that wasn't good. Then the worst possible habit reared its ugly head."

The bad pull habit rears its ugly head in sumo all the time; it just never happens when a Yokozuna fights Yoshikaze. Chiyotairyu is a great example of the pull habit rearing its ugly head under pressure in the Makuuchi division. Tochiohzan in his playoff bout against Kyokutenho back in 2012 was a great example of the pull habit rearing its ugly head under pressure. And then the one that still haunts me to this day...Kaio going for pull sumo against Miyabiyama on Day 13 of the 2004 Kyushu basho (I did not have to look that up) which resulted in a loss that denied Kaio promotion to Yokozuna. Those are three great examples of rikishi resorting to pull sumo under pressure. There is no way that Kakuryu resorted to pull sumo other than by choice. The real question is why he chose to do it, but we'll just have to wait and see how this all plays out to find the real reason.

As for Hakuho's injury, I read in multiple outlets that it was due to too much pre-basho keiko (they called it o-ba-wa-ku...figure it out). What? Too much keiko? Is that even possible? We hear all the time about rikishi not doing enough keiko, and then there's the old sumo adage that if you're injured, you even need to do more keiko. Too much keiko? The Japanese reader will never stop to think about it in that way, however. They won't recall that no nagging injuries to Hakuho were reported after all that keiko, and they certainly won't think to recall his first two bouts and identify how an iron man who hasn't sat out a tournament in 10 years at the sport's highest rank (think about how great that is) will suddenly succumb to an injury in two harmless bouts against Okinoumi and Yoshikaze. There are so many contradictions that are obvious to me, but that's just not how the Japanese people are programmed to think. So...the story is that Hakuho had too much keiko prior to the basho and Kakuryu was under too much pressure as the lone Yokozuna on the banzuke.

The most likely scenario in all of this is that the two Mongolians (three actually) are opening the door for Terunofuji to achieve the Yokozuna rank. If Terunofuji takes the yusho here in September, he's odds on favorite to yusho in Kyushu as well to the tune of about 70% in my opinion. As for all of this fakery going on to set up a Japanese rikishi yusho...I just don't see it. You can safely throw three or four bouts in favor of a guy and get away with it, but not 10 - 11. At least I don't think you can safely throw 10 - 11 bouts in one guy's favor, but nothing would surprise me at this point. My role is to watch it all play out and then tell you how the politics behind it all is influencing the outcome of some matches. Not most of them...but definitely some of them.

Okay, with that behind us, let's turn our attention to the day 4 festivities where M15 Asasekiryu hooked up with M14 Kitataiki in hidari-yotsu right out of the chute, and Seki dictated the pace early with a right belt grip that just consisted of one fold. The weak outer allowed Kitataiki to hunker down and stay in the bout, and when he eventually grabbed an outer of his own on, the stellar sumo contest was on. Back and forth they went with Asasekiryu maintaining the lower stance, and so near the edge Seki retooled his outer and went for the kill barely surviving the utchari counter attempt at the edge. This was a great bout of sumo, and notice how we never get sumo from the Senpai like this win or lose. Asasekiryu has looked good in his return to the division moving to 3-1 while Kitataiki falls to a tough-luck 0-4.

M15 Hidenoumi and M14 Sokokurai engaged in the low, grappling position from the tachi-ai that the Mongolian was eventually able to force to hidari-yotsu, and once there, Hidenoumi just wasn't in position to halt Sokokurai's force-out charge. Sokokurai's a guy where you really need to defeat him from the tachi-ai, and if you let him dictate the pace, you're in trouble due to his unorthodox style. Live and learn as Hidenoumi falls to 1-3 while Sokokurai improves to 3-1.

M13 Tokitenku fired a quick left hari towards M16 Seiro's face before settling into migi-yotsu completing the hari-zashi tachi-ai. Seiro responded well, and both guys simultaneously grabbed left outers sending them chest to chest in the straight up yotsu-zumo affair. After grappling this way and that, Tokitenku worked his right leg inside of Seiro's left tripping him up brilliantly with an uchi-gake move. If I saw this kind of straight up sumo everyday from Tokitenku (3-1), I'd be a fan too. Seiro falls to 2-2 with the loss.

M13 Daieisho meant well from the tachi-ai with his tsuppari attack against M12 Chiyootori, but he was too extended with his thrusts allowing Chiyootori to catch him with a tsuki up and under his extended left arm, and from there, Chiyootori turned his gal sideways and pushed the rookie out from behind in short order. Chiyootori's 3-1 if you need him while Daieisho falls to 2-2.

M10 Kotoyuki fired a right paw into M12 Ikioi's neck from the tachi-ai, but there were no de-ashi behind it. KotoLoogie was still able to strong arm Ikioi back close to the edge, but about three seconds in he aligned his feet, the cardinal sin of sumo, and Ikioi pounced planting his left hand into Kotoyuki's side and pushing him all the way back and across the dohyo for the oshi-dashi win. I wouldn't know the reasoning behind it, but Kotoyuki just looked mukiryoku to me in this one. He normally storms out of his stance and tries to kick his opponent's ass straightway. He was undefeated head to head against Ikioi, so the softer, more timid approach and lack of defense at the edge didn't make sense to me. What does make sense is Kotoyuki's 1-3 record while Ikioi shoots to a quiet 3-1.

M11 Homarefuji and M10 Kyokushuho engaged in a wild tsuppari-ai with Kyokushuho obviously looking for the pull. On his second pull attempt, Homarefuji read it and pushed Kyokushuho back and out easy as you please. Homarefuji will take opposing sumo like this every day till Tuesday as he moves to 2-2 while Kyokushuho deservedly falls to 1-3. Only looking for pull attempts against Homarefuji? Weak.

M11 Chiyotairyu just ignored his lethal tsuppari tachi-ai opting to settle into a hidari-yotsu affair from the start against M9 Kagamioh. It was a curious move, but perhaps Chiyotairyu felt that his size difference could prove the difference. As the two dug in chest to chest, Chiyotairyu attempted a maki-kae with the right that didn't work, but it gave him the stifling righter outer grip in the end, and once that was obtained, Chiyotairyu drove his gal straight back and out for the impressive win. On his way back, Kagamioh stubbed his toe in the dirt and came up limping afterwards, so keep an eye on him as both rikishi end the day 2-2.

M9 Gagamaru employed a hurried force-out attempt against M8 Toyonoshima with no inside position and no belt grip, so Toyonoshima easily slipped out left at the edge and pulled Gagamaru down for the quick kata-sukashi win. Gagamaru falls to 2-2 with the hiccup while Toyonoshima is a keen 3-1.

Was it possible that the M6 Aminishiki - M8 Takekaze bout wouldn't end in a pull down? Didn't think so as Aminishiki got the right arm wrapped around Kaze's head first yanking him down to the dirt a few seconds in. Aminishiki's 3-1  while Takekaze is 1-3.

M6 Tokushoryu shaded left with a half assed kote-nage attempt against M7 Amuuru's extended right arm, but the Russian easily pivoted towards his opponent and solidified that right arm to the inside while adding insult to injury with the left inside as well. Maintaining moro-zashi, Amuuru scored the yori-kiri win against the self-compromised Tokushoryu in mere seconds moving to a sweet 3-1 in the process. Tokushoryu is obviously not well at 0-4.

Wup...listen for it. Yes, here comes the mighty M7 Endoh stepping in the ring to take on M5 Tamawashi who used quick tsuppari out of the gate, but there wasn't much oomph behind it. As a result, Endoh got the left inside and made his yori-kiri charge straightway, and as Tamawashi was driven back near the edge, he instinctively went for the counter left tsuki-otoshi but pulled back staying square in front of his opponent just waiting for the knock out. Intentional or not, there was no spirit to Tamawashi's offense or defense as Endoh soars to 3-1 while Tamawashi falls to 2-2. After Endoh silled the dill, NHK focused a camera on this chick decked out in pink, wearing an Endoh t-shirt, and experiencing an Endogasm right there on national television. Beyond the gal in pink, just look at the reactions on the faces of the three people in this pic. They've completely been programmed by the NSK and the media to go bonkers over a dude whose list of accomplishments in the Makuuchi division rivals Tokushoryu's total number of wins so far.

Speaking of meager sumo so far, M5 Kaisei just plodded forward not even looking at M3 Sadanoumi, and so Sadanoumi darted left and yanked Kaisei out of the ring by the right arm tottari style. And it was just that quick as Sadanoumi moves to 2-2 while Kaisei is still winless.

M2 Sadanofuji came out with lumbering tsuppari that really went nowhere, so M4 Takarafuji patiently fought them off before eventually grabbing the right outer grip, spinning Sadanofuji around, and pushing him out from behind okuri-dashi style. While I want to get excited about Takarafuji's 3-1 record, the competition has been weak. Sadanofuji falls to an expected 0-4 start.

At this point of the broadcast, they mentioned M3 Takayasu's withdrawal, which gave Sekiwake Tochiohzan the freebie and a 4-0 start.

Our other Sekiwake, Myogiryu, employed a quick strike against Komusubi Tochinoshin before moving to his left in an attempt to secure the left frontal belt position. He would get that left grip coupled with the right inside, but that's a dangerous proposition if you can't win straightway, and the Sekiwake didn't. The larger, stronger Tochinoshin settled in, and Myogiryu knew he wasn't going to win the chest to chest affair, so he relented on the left belt grip but just couldn't shake Tochinoshin who had grabbed a stifling left outer grip of his own. With Tochinoshin maintaining the firm right inside position and left outer grip, Myogiryu simply couldn't counter as Shin graciously drove the fork into his opponent and escorted him out. Myogiryu (3-1) is one of the top two Japanese guys on the board, but he was no match for Tochinoshin today, who evens things up at 2-2.

Senpai Goeido had his hands full with M4 Ichinojo, who executed as quick of a tachi-ai as we've ever seen shooting forward and getting the right to the inside followed by firm left outer grip. Goeido dug in well, however, and thought about shoring up his own left outer grip, but that would have been suicide, and so he pulled a quick one on the Mongolith using a quick retreat where he went for his patented kubi-nage throw with the left hand. Ichinojo sensed the sudden change in momentum and barreled forward shoving Goeido over and down as he belly flopped to the clay resulting in an extremely close finish.

The ref pointed in favor of Ichinojo who had the upper hand and all of the forward momentum, but the men in black called for a mono-ii. Replays showed that Ichinojo's right shoulder clearly touched the dirt first, but Goeido's body was well across the straw and flying off the dohyo altogether. What to do? What to do? This one was close indeed and purely a judgment call that could have gone any of three ways without argument: 1) Ichinojo touched the ground first, so he loses. 2) Goeido's body is too far gone by the time that Ichinojo touches down, so the senpai loses. 3) They both died at the same time, so call for a rematch. After as long of a conference as I can remember, they decided on option 1 overturning the ref's decision and giving the win to Goeido. The result left both rikishi at 2-2 and there's no need to get into the politics that may have been behind the decision.

If the previous bout wasn't close enough, Senpai Kisenosato and M1 Aoiyama looked to hook up in hidari-yotsu, but in a somewhat wild affair, the two created separation before trading tsuppari more in an attempt to feel the other guy out instead of really going for an offensive. With no continuity to the bout, Kisenosato looked to have Aoiyama backpedaling from a shove or two, but Aoiyama executed a quick counter pull dragging at the senpai with his left while pushing Kisenosato towards the dirt with his right. As Kisenosato fell, he attempted to shove Aoiyama across the dirt in desperation resulting in another close call. This time the ref pointed in favor of the senpai, but Kisenosato left a big scrape in the sand just beyond the straw, and so a mono-ii was called for the second bout in a row. Replays this time showed that Kisenosato's right toe scraped beyond the straw an instant before Aoiyama stepped out, and the NHK Announcer (I believe it was Sanbe Announcer in the booth) was of the opinion that it looked as if Kisenosato touched out first, but once again, this could have gone any of the afore mentioned three ways. After another lengthy conference that rivaled the one after the previous bout, the men in black agreed to uphold the decision and give the win to Kisenosato. The result is Kisenosato's moving to 4-0 while Aoiyama falls to 1-3.

It would have been interesting to listen in on the conversations taking place during the judges conferences, but I can't say I'm surprised that they ultimately ruled in favor of both Japanese senpai over the foreign rikishi. Kisenosato is the brightest hope for a Japanese yusho this basho, and it would have been disastrous for Goeido to start out 1-3 after all the hullabaloo on day 1 and the reports in the media pre-basho talking about "Stop The Terunofuji." Regardless, I didn't have a problem with either decision because you literally could have ruled in any of the three ways for both bouts.

In the Ozeki ranks, I wonder what was going through M1 Yoshikaze's mind as he stepped into the ring to face Ozeki Terunofuji? About the only person that knows Yoshikaze was gifted those two wins better than I do is Monster Drink himself, and so I'm positive he approached the bout thinking, "I may as well just go forward and see what fate delivers." Yoshikaze did offer the right arm early and got it inside, but Terunofuji has proven countless times that he doesn't need an inside grip to completely dominate his opponent, and so Fuji the Terror Bull (as Kane has coined) wrapped both arms tightly around Yoshikaze's limbs from the outside and then hoisted him over and out in mere seconds. There's really nothing else to say here. The lack of determination or any sort of plan from Yoshikaze shows that he was resigned to his fate, and if you compare his three bouts against the Mongolians, I think it's pretty clear he is incapable of scoring an upset over any of them in a straight up affair. Believe me, I give credit where credit is due despite what a lot of readers think, and if a rikishi legitimately scores an upset over an elite rikishi, I'll call it. Terunofuji breezes to 4-0 with the win as he continues to define what it used to mean to be ranked as an Ozeki while Yoshikaze falls to 2-2.

Senpai Kotoshogiku latched onto the left frontal belt of Komusubi Okinoumi before shoring things up on the other side with a right paw to the inside, and with Okinoumi showing no signs of defense, Kotoshogiku just rushed him straight back and across falling down near the edge in the process. Okinoumi was long gone before the Geeku hit the dirt, so it was no harm no foul as Kotoshogiku improves to 3-1. Okinoumi falls to 1-3, and if you believe that all sumo is fought straight up, surely you'd have to think of Okinoumi after this one, "And this guy beat Hakuho in a chest to chest yotsu-zumo contest on day 1?"

The marquee matchup on the day was Yokozuna Kakuryu welcoming M2 Osunaarashi, and before we get to the bout, how about that display from Terunofuji and Osunaarashi yesterday? It's unfortunate that the best bout we'll see the entire fortnight occurred on day 3, but it is so refreshing to see two guys go at it among the jo'i like that. Due to the politics in sumo and deference to the Japanese rikishi, we rarely see contests among the jo'i that are so good, and so it's worth acknowledging those two a day later, especially Osunaarashi. Simply put, had the Ejyptian fought like that in his bouts against the senpai, the clear difference between them and the M2 would have been manifest. If the three senpai were capable of producing an all-out chest to chest bout of o-zumo, they'd be involved in all-out chest to chest bouts of o-zumo...win or lose. I'm not saying it has to be like that every time, but when was the last time you saw a bout featuring one of the senpai where someone's belt came loose? Or when was the last time both combatants in a senpai bout exerted so much pressure chest to chest that the only direction to go was sideways? All I'm asking for is what Asasekiryu and Kitataiki gave us this morning, but they can't produce it. If they could, we'd be seeing it, and I'd sure as hell be giving them credit for it.

Back to the bout at hand, Osunaarashi came with his usual moro-te-zuki at the tachi-ai, but Yokozuna Kakuryu was magically able to slip his right arm to the inside despite the pressure form the Ejyptian. Kakuryu may have snuck that right arm inside, but Osunaarashi countered it with a firm left outer grip, and so the attention next turned to the other side where Kakuryu was looking for moro-zashi with the left, but Osunaarashi had the arm clasped in tight creating the stalemate. After several seconds of jockeying in this position, Osunaarashi managed to get his right arm to the inside and mount his first force out charge. Kakuryu withstood the attempt and the migi-yotsu battle was on with the M2 maintaining the outer grip. Kakuryu knew he was in a bit of trouble here, and so he attempted a quick maki-kae with the left, and when it was denied, Osunaarashi launched his second volley leading with the left outer grip, but Kakuryu showed his brilliant ring sense evading to his left and using the left arm to push hard into Osunaarashi's side sending the Ejyptian's foot across the straw. It was a brilliant tsuki-otoshi from the Yokozuna in yet another fantastic bout featuring Osunaarashi and an elite Mongolian. Osunaarashi falls to 0-4, but I guarantee you that he has the attention of everyone in the jo'i. He's easily been my favorite guy to watch so far. As for Kakuryu, he survives the pressure of being the lone Yokozuna moving to a stable 3-1.

I'm relieved that Terunofuji didn't continue this nonsense of having Yoshikaze knock off elite rikishi, and the Terror Bull is the clear favorite at this point to pick up his second career yusho. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but that's why they fight 'em and that's why I write 'em.

Day 3 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)

he Storyteller has put down his book.

What I have been itching to write is that, honestly, the advent of this particular basho filled me with great boredom. However, I wasn’t going to write it because I’ve complained myself in the past about writers on this site being too negative and not showing more enthusiasm. Just can that, I thought, and focus on the positive. But now that Hakuho decided the same, yawned, and went off to beddy-by, trying to wake the rest of us by leaving the basho’s story for someone else to tell, out with it: it is true that Hakuho’s plod to 40 doesn’t jazz even me, one of his biggest fans, and someone who loves to watch dominance of true greats (one of the best pleasures in pro sports). Terunofuji is great fun, but the new-love infatuation part of it is already waning. The storylines this tournament had to be made up out of thin air: Ozeki rebound? Really??? The two stories should have been Hakuho marching on 40 and Terunofuji fighting for Yokozuna, with possible sidebars like “Can Tochiohzan mount an Ozeki run” (I hope not--let him be real), “Can Endo fight well at this rank” (no), and “Can Kakuryu get a yusho as a Yokozuna” (yes, but does he want to?). A few of those stories are still alive, so let’s cover them.

M15 Asasekiryu (1-1) vs. J2 Kitaharima (1-1)
Something old, something new. Asasekiryu was very high throughout this one, and I thought he was meat, but Kitaharima is a skinny snip of a thing, looked nervous, and didn’t know what to do with his lower position: he was reactive and too cautious as Morning Red Dragon (Asasekiryu; long time no see, bud) wrenched him about by the head to a hataki-komi loss.

M15 Seiro (1-1) vs. M14 Sokokurai (2-0)
We may have a little something in Seiro. Sokokurai is a wily veteran at this point, and is often good at this position in the banzuke. However, Seiro stayed low, used nice pressure up high early on, then got the belt and worked Sokokurai out yori-kiri.

M15 Hidenoumi (1-1) vs. M13 Tokitenku (1-1)
I love Tokitenku. Maybe I’m just a contrarian, but he will win at whatever necessary cost. This had a few interesting moments. After the initial smack together, both extended their butts back instantly, wary of being belt-gotten; this showed how very horizontal Hidenoumi can get his big body, and how impressively, scarily long Tokitenku’s arm is. He couldn’t quite reach the belt, but as soon as Hidenoumi moved--had to happen eventually--Tokitenku inevitably got a nice outside left there. I thought, “he’s got it now.” Then he did something odd; he brought his right hand under across Hidenoumi’s chest and clamped it onto his own left wrist. Why? This pinched Hidenoumi’s right arm, supported Tokitenku’s left hand, and the arm created some space between their chests that made things more difficult for Hidenoumi on the left. It was all a set-up, too: when Hidenoumi charged, Tokitenku brought that right arm back out, put it on the back of Hidenoumi, and used his left to throw Country Bumpkin (Hidenoumi) down, uwate-dashi-nage. Okay, yes, even I chortled aloud at Tokitenku’s ridiculous whiff-kick on day 2, like a Vegas showgirl slipping on a melon rind, but you’ve gotta like this today.

M13 Daieisho (1-1) vs. M14 Kitataiki (0-3)
Kitataiki was faster off the tachi-ai, but he is getting pretty old, and offered little more than wide, windmilling arms up high. Daieisho just stuck with it, kept Kitataiki in front him, and scored the yori-kiri win. Kitataiki looked disgusted at something during his barely perceptible loser-bow; maybe age.

M12 Chiyootori (1-1) vs. M. 11 Homarefuji (1-1)
Bouncy Butt (Chiyootori) leapt in low here and stayed lower, but the key to this bout was offense (Otori) vs. defense (Homarefuji). Homarefuji, in the weaker position up higher, did little for the first half of the bout but defend and warily watch his opponent. When Homarefuji finally got to putting on tsuppari, they were slow and defensive, and Chiyootori had more vigorous volleys from below. At this point Homarefuji looked tired and cooked, and when Chiyootori decided his opponent was limp, he changed momentum, caught him by the arms, and dragged him down forwards hataki-komi. Chiyootori is pretty good and is down here because of injury; I’d like to see him back in the jo’i.

M11 Chiyotairyu (1-1) vs. M12 Ikioi (1-1)
Chiyotairyu has been losing his competition with Endo for “most disappointing promising young talent” because Endo had so much more hype (including, let us not forget, on this site at first) that he’s consequently more disappointing. Chiyotairyu’s bugaboo has been pulls. However, today, he disappointed in that even though he did not pull, he had a weak tachi-ai and was driven backwards. When he did reverse the momentum at the end he fell down to a hataki-komi loss, though Ikioi was falling on his arse in front of him. Um, disappointing.

M10 Kyokushuho (1-1) vs. Kagamioh (1-1)
Lame, lame. This does show you the power of the henka--the whole thing played like some slow-motion demonstration of a technique; Kagamioh narrates his victory for a gaggle of students: “now jump out to your left; as you see, your opponent will now be compromised. While he grasps at thin air grab him like this and usher him out; as you see--thank you, Kyokushuho, just like that, yes--he will be so befuddled that even if you aren’t moving very fast you’ll have total control and can score an easy yori-kiri victory. Now you try it.”

M10 Kotoyuki (1-1) vs. M8 Toyonoshima (1-1)
For me, this was Disgrace vs. Honor. It was also Young Power vs. Old Savvy, though, so I was worried that Kotoyuki would advance the New World of Pander another few meters toward Armageddon. Thank the lord, old Toyonoshima confused Little Snow (Kotoyuki) with some arm gyrations off the tachi-ai, then kept low, kept his eyes focused forward, moved his feet constantly (watch them; they pitter and pat forward and back even when his upper body is not moving much), evaded deftly when danger neared at the edge, and took advantage of the over-eagerness of his vampy opponent but pulling him down by the head tsuki-otoshi when he had enough room.

M8 Takekaze (1-1) vs. M9 Gagamaru (1-1)
A physical mismatch: a little round ball against a great big one. Gagamaru is also as nimble as a rubber beach ball, and Takekaze got under Gagamaru’s warm globes (thank you, Kane!) and was in the process of pushing him out, but Takekaze also didn’t offer much in the way of creativity here, and though Gagamaru is lumbering, once he’d withstood the “my hands are a human brassiere!” attack of Takekaze and turned the momentum around, his oshi-dashi force-out of Little Ball was academic.

M6 Aminishiki (2-0) vs. M7 Amuuru (1-1)
Amuuru never did much to get inside here, to the extent that at first I didn’t think he was trying, but it didn’t matter; he is an up-and-comer, and Aminishiki is a like an old Toyota that can’t pass the state inspection and is slated for export to Angola: when Aminishiki’s punchless holds and pushes amounted to nothing, he pretty much just fell down, yori-taoshi. And here, I cannot resist quoting the great Kintamayama, who, in the spirit of Mike and Clancy, perhaps, made a legroll joke: “if you lay down their bandages side by side you can reach China.”

M7 Endo (1-1) vs. M5 Kaisei (0-2)
I was interested in this match because you can sum up Endo’s problem in two words: no power. Even when he has been healthy and fighting well, his signature match has been to have a few seconds of solid technique full of potential, and then be utterly destroyed by an opponent who has gathered his inner chi, just doesn’t need to give in, and won’t. And against Kaisei, you need power, so when they got into a test of strength right off the bat, I though Endo was toast. This was a back-and-forth match, and both wrestlers had their opponents near the straw more than once. Kaisei had a big right overhand grip, and Endo was nestled in with a left inner. To my surprise, the bigger Kaisei looked to have Endo smothered out twice, but Endo was able to fight back at the edge, and in the end, using lower position, Endo got a yori-kiri win. I do believe Endo could beat Kaisei straight up if he used some livelier style (Kaisei is inconsistent and eminently beatable), but I’m not sure physics allows for what we saw today.

M6 Tokushoryu (0-2) v. M4 Takarafuji (1-1)
Oh, Tokushoryu. You are bad so far this basho. You need to get in hard and be ferocious in there. Takarafuji is anything but dynamic, and he looked to be in slow motion, like a guy negotiating a cart of books around the library, but Tokushoryu didn’t even try to get to the belt and had nothing going on here as he lost yori-kiri.

M4 Ichinojo (1-1) vs. M3 Takayasu (1-1)
I remain intrigued by Ichinojo. His breakout basho last year was so dominant I’m not at all convinced by his lame, inconsistent performances and desultory technique ever since. Today, he was everything he should be. He went back to “stand there and wait.” He had a right inner hand to the body, and put it on the belt when he wanted to; however, Takayasu is a good opponent and also had a right on the belt, so Ichinojo let the match stagnate, dangling his left meatpaw over Takayasu’s right arm, waiting to see what he could do with it. Finally, after about a minute, the moment was right; Ichinojo added a left outer grip, re-established the right inner, and smothered Takayasu down and out like a dumptruck of dirt on a leprechaun, yori-taoshi. Unfortunately, Takayasu looked pretty hurt: he could barely move and left in the antique wheelchair. That’s what happens with The Mongolith lands on you (we’d had to start calling him The Slug, and only with wins like this can he re-earn Mongolithianism).

M3 Sadanoumi (0-2) vs. M5 Tamawashi (2-0)
To paraphrase, as Clancy said to Don Roid, “there are only so many ways you can say this guy pushed that guy out.” This was a slap fest, won by Sadanoumi, who pushed Tamawashi out (oshi-dashi).

S Tochiohzan (2-0) vs. K Okinoumi (1-1)
Tochiohzan has looked fantastic this basho; three dominant, efficient wins. Here he got inside and overpowered Okinoumi, pushing and sliding him backwards. Okinoumi tried a maki-kae and a pull, and that had zero effect; he merely went out all the faster, yori-kiri--that is how focused and solid Tochiohzan was. Looking forward to seeing what happens as the pressure increases on Chestnut Mountain as the tournament progresses (Tochiohzan). What Japanese wrestler has come closest to winning a tournament since 2006? It is him.

M2 Sadanofuji (0-2) vs. O Kisenosato (2-0)
Sadanofuji is way overmatched at this rank, but this was a bout he could potentially win: Kisenosato relies on a pretty simple yori-kiri attack these days, and at 200 kilos, Sadanofuji had a chance to resist and play to his strengths. He tried, but he simply isn’t good enough yet; it was stalemate for a minute, but Kisenosato has been playing this game for a long time, and drove him out; he ain’t gunna lose a yori-kiri decision to YOU.

Match of the Day: O Terunofuji (2-0) vs. Osunaarashi (0-2)
Smack 'im in the face, grab the belt: this is patented recent Big Sandy (Osunaarashi), and it worked here: he had dual grips. Except, lo!, it didn’t: Terunofuji had calmly gotten a good right inside grip at the same moment. It was then power against power in migi-yotsu (both had right inside / left outside), and folks, 1 + 1 = A LOT O’ FREAKIN’ POWER when these are your two integers. Terunofuji’s first force out attempt at the bales was unsuccessful; major props to Giant Sand for resisting. That broke off their grips and, getting tired, the two lurched back to the center of the ring and it was more chest-and-body, less grips. But the Mountain of Terror (Terunofuji) wasn’t done yet: a second force out attempt at the bales, pure strength on strength, was in the cards at the opposite side of the ring, and this time Sandy, utterly spent, tripped out over the straw, stumbled away, and fell: yori-kiri for Fuji the Terrible. This was without question the match of the day. Watching The Future (Terunofuji) is absolutely electric right now. This is what sumo was meant to be.

S Myogiryu (2-0) vs. O Kotoshogiku (2-0)
Both of these guys carry portions of Japanese honor, are off to 2-0 starts, and something had to give. They both went at it hard, but nature took its course: the younger, now better Myogiryu, with a stiff arm inside on the left and determined forward momentum, got a yori-kiri win. Let’s have more of this kind of thing, please.

Y Hakuho (0-2) vs. M1 Aoiyama (0-2)
The Yokozuna withdrew. He doesn’t do that much, but to be honest I’ve been expecting it for a year or so now: it is a much easier way to give up a basho than in the ring. (However, for my money, he could have spared us the two questionable losses and just announced something from the keiko ring.) We may see this once or twice a year now as he readies his end game, but here’s hoping that is still a half decade in the making. Let us also now pause and consider: Hakuho had gone eight and half years--51 tournaments--with only kachi-koshi outcomes. Think on Goeido or Kotoshogiku, or even Harumafuji or Kakuryu, and then think on that: eight years of winning tournaments. Marvelous.

O Goeido (1-1) vs. K Tochinoshin (0-2)
Unlike Mike, I am not sold on Tochinoshin at this level. He has plenty of power, but I don’t see enough dynamism. Funny thing to say as here he is beating an Ozeki, but his tsuki-otoshi win here had little to do with him and more to do with the sloppy stupidity that is so frustrating in Goeido’s sumo: essentially, they hit hard of the tachi-ai and after a few moments Goeido bounced off to the right and ran out the ring, out of control, off of a headslap by Tochinoshin. Goeido. He’s a head shaker, this guy: this is how he’s always been, and one of the most inconsistent rikishi on the banzuke should not be an Ozeki if he can’t settle down at this point in his career.

M1 Yoshikaze (1-1) vs. Y Kakuryu (2-0)
These two wrestlers traded tsuppari up high, with several fast, miniature head pulls by Kakuryu in there, and that is a good game for Yoshikaze. To everyone’s surprise, Yoshikaze scored his second straight kin-boshi with a linear force-out oshi-dashi win in the end over the remaining Yokozuna in the tournament. Yes, Kakuryu did not do much to move right or left, and he is savvy enough we could expect some of that. But I am going to upset expectations and say I can’t call foul here. I like Kakuryu--he makes a great Ozeki, and can look Yokozuna-esque when he is in the zone--but he is beatable, is not dominant, and I don’t think he earned his rank legitimately (two great tournaments out of character with his normal career record progression). Yeah, Yoshikaze is often a bottom dweller milling around at M12 or so, but he is a veteran and a gamer, and he can beat Kakuryu if the latter is off his guard/concentration. If this WAS yaocho, why today? And why against Yoshikaze? Why not wait, and lose against Tochiohzan, Endo, Kisenosato, or etc.? Nah. I’m going to call this one legit. You never know (and that’s the problem with yaocho and mukiryoku--it poisons the viewing experience and makes you spend time questioning even legitimate bouts), and the agendas are often murky and beyond our ken (maybe Kakuryu lost a ping-pong match in the dorm basement while they made bets and ate peanut butter cups stolen out of the broken vending machine)--but I see nothing here to call foul on, so I won’t.

Premature Leaderboard
Believe it or not, this is the complete list of the 3-0 rikishi at the end of the carnage: Terunofuji, Kisenosato, Tochiohzan, Myogiryu. One solid favorite, one twilight hope, and two dark horse dark stars, glimmering in the murky sumo night.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The day 2 broadcast began with a review and breakdown of the final three Mongolian bouts from day 1, and NHK didn't even touch on the senpai bouts. It was such a stark contrast from day 1, but then again, when you have serious mukiryoku sumo taking place atop the dohyo, you don't want to be constantly showing it in slow motion in an attempt to come up with explanations of what just took place. Due to the low key start from today's broadcast, I suspected a fairly quiet day, but by the time the broadcast was over, I was seriously contemplating just giving up on this sport. I mean, why waste my time?

The thing is...I have to remind myself that there will be constant friction between the way my Western mind wants to watch sumo and the way that the Sumo Association and NHK are presenting the sport. I guess that's best explained with the topic of press credentials and sumo. I've pointed this out before, but I think that it's worth repeating now because it really helps to explain what is happening atop the dohyo these days. The Sumo Association has a policy that they don't issue press credentials to foreign news reporters. Now why would that be? Seems to me that if you have a product that relies on ticket sales, TV revenue, etc. that you'd want as much press coverage as possible to expand your market. Let's say ESPN came to the Association and asked for 1 press credential so they could make sumo a daily part of their sports coverage. Why wouldn't you want that kind of exposure? It's not the exposure that the Sumo Association is afraid of; it's the scrutiny from outsiders. You could not show highlights of the major bouts daily on ESPN's Sports Center without Western fans picking up on what's going on in no time.

The Japanese culture is different, however, and sumo knows what it can get away with as long as the media cooperates. I guarantee you that the beat reporters for the various news outlets in Japan gather after the bouts over beers and just laugh at what's going on these days, but they need a job and they may even like their job, so they play along with the set agenda and just leave it at that. You also look at the main followers of sumo, and you have old people and women who are not full time workers or homemakers. Who are the two most gullible demographics in Japan? Old people and women who are not full time workers or homemakers. You know that prevalent scam going on in Japan right now called "ore-ore-sagi?" It's where someone will call up an old person and say, "Grandma (or Grandpa if he answers the phone), it's me, it's me." Then grandmother then guesses at her grandson's name to which the caller then says, "Yeah, it's me, Taro" or whatever name was revealed by grandma.  Taro then goes on to explain that he's in serious trouble and he needs a cool 10 million yen wired to his bank account. And grandma falls for it!! I even saw a documentary on the fraud once where an old lady went to the bank and asked to wire 10 million yen to a random account, and the teller--they're all trained to watch for ore-ore-sagi now--recognized what was going on and tried to explain to the old lady what was happening. The grandma was stubborn as a mule, however, and insisted that her grandson was in trouble and needed the money. They finally had to get the bank manager to come and sit down with her and go over the details slowly, and the grandma finally agreed to listen to them.

The point I'm trying to make here is that you have a segment of Japan's population that is extremely gullible to acts that we Westerners would see and just laugh off. The culture in general is quite trusting and gullible if you ask me, and they're strictly obedient to authority and never question it. As a result, sumo is able to portray these myths surrounding the domestic rikishi and then use just enough timely yaocho to make it all believable in the eyes of the Japanese sumo fans. At the end of the day 2 bouts, I was seriously ready to slit my wrists and say my good-byes, but I have to remember that I'm not commenting on a sport in the way that the Western world defines it; I'm commenting on sumo.

With that said, let's focus our attention to the day 2 bouts starting with J1 Chiyomaru who used tsuppari up high against M15 Hidenoumi from the tachi-ai. With Maru just staying up high and not really firing any potent volleys, Hidenoumi slipped into the easy moro-zashi and scored his first win of the tournament just like that.

M16 Seiro came with extended arms towards M14 Kitataiki, who latched around both of those arms from the outside in the kime-dashi hold. With Kitataiki not really attacking, Seiro backed up and easily slipped into migi-yotsu with left outer grip to boot, and once that position was obtained, he scored the methodic yori-kiri win from there. Seiro picks up his first win of the tournament while Kitataiki is winless.

M15 Asasekiryu charged low as he is wont to do, but M14 Sokokurai did his homework and knew what was coming, so he executed a slap with the left hand against the Secretary's shoulder that set up migi-yotsu for Sokokurai where he also gained the left outer grip. Seki's too old to defend that anymore, and Sokokurai dispatched him in short order moving to 2-0 in the process. Asasekiryu ends the day at 1-1.

If there's one thing that will cheer me up, it's a failed keta-guri attempt by M13 Tokitenku. Such was the case today, and M12 Chiyootori caught his gal off balance, spun the Mongolian around, and then sent him on his way via tsuki-dashi as he looked to square back up. Sweet!  Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

M11 Chiyotairyu came with both arms out wide and high against rookie M13 Daieisho, so with the Kokonoe guy not doing anything, Daieisho executed some busy tsuppari, and while nothing really connected, something knocked Chiyotairyu to the side and off balance giving the rookie his first win! This was a gift from Chiyotairyu for sure. At least go for a stupid henka at the tachi-ai. Tairyu just stood there and then took a dive with really no force applied to the side of his body, but fortunately, it wouldn't be the worst dive of the day as both combatants finish 1-1.

M12 Ikioi and M11 Homarefuji engaged in a wild tsuppari affair where it was Homarefuji who gained the eventual right inside position setting up a quick force-out to the edge and push out to make it official. Pretty ho hum stuff as both guys end the day at 1-1.

M9 Gagamaru came with lazy paws to the neck allowing M10 Kyokushuho the left frontal grip and right inside easy peasy. Gagamaru attempted a maki-kae with the right turning Shuho's left frontal into a left outer, but the Mongolian already had the momentum and scored methodic yori-kiri win. The two furries end the day at 1-1.

M10 Kotoyuki seemed to be high on something committing a blatant false start. When he reloaded against M9 Kagamioh and the two went for reals as we say in Utah, Kotoyuki hurried his tsuppari attack so fast that it allowed Kagamioh to evade left pulling Yuki's right arm and then slipping back to his right scoring on the right tsuki-otoshi shove that sent Kotoyuki back and across for good. I suppose I like the excitement exhibited by KotoLoogie, but dude's got to make sure his tsuppari are actually having an effect on his opponent before he just rushes in for a kill like that. These two dudes also end the day at 1-1.

Well, the crowed is getting fired up; must mean that M7 Endoh is ready to fight. Today against M8 Toyonoshima, Endoh came with a good tsuppari tachi-ai that knocked Toyonoshima up high, but before he could really settle into the migi-yotsu position, Toyonoshima countered with a shove to Endoh's face to slow the pace. From this point, Endoh next shoved his way into hidari-yotsu coupled with the firm right outer grip, but the problem was that Toyonoshima meant to win this one, so he held on tight and finally felled Endoh at the edge with a left inside belt throw that wasn't very deep. I took the pic there at right with my cell phone to show just how powerful Endoh's position was. Dude's to the inside with the left; he has the solid right outer grip; and Toyonoshima's left inside position is pinched in a bit and consists of one fold on Endoh's belt. And Endoh still couldn't beat the aging veteran!? I realize there are a host of guys down at this level whom I could nitpick, but there's only one guy at this level who receives more press than anyone else, and so today I will point out yet another example of just how unskilled Endoh is in the Makuuchi division despite how he's portrayed in the media.  You gotta win your bout after gaining that position.

M7 Amuuru ducked low at the tachi-ai looking for the left inside, and so M8 Takekaze reacted by moving left and swiping at the Russian's arm, but Amuuru kept his balance and returned the slapdown favor sending Takekaze down in about 2 seconds. Both guys finish the day at 1-1.

M5 Tamawashi used his long arms of the law to tsuppari M6 Tokushoryu back and away from the belt at the tachi-ai. With Tokushoryu standing upright, Tamawashi next set the de-ashi in motion and had Tokushoryu pushed back and out in short order. After the bout, Fujii Announcer mentioned something about Tokushoryu suffering some pain in his right leg, and he did look as if he was limping a bit on his way out of the arena. It's highly plausible as Tamawashi is a cool 2-0 while Tokushoryu is still winless.

M6 Aminishiki and M5 Kaisei hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, but Aminishiki wisely stayed hunkered down and low because he loses chest to chest against the Brasilian. With Kaisei not pressing the action, Aminishiki executed a quick pull with left arm up and under Kaisei's armpit that easily sent Kaisei sprawling to the dirt in an ugly bout overall. Aminishiki is 2-0 if you need him, and I suppose that NHK and the media will keep hyping this story about Aminishiki being the oldest guy in the division. Old timer fans relating to an old-timer rikishi? Just playin' to the demographic as Kaisei falls to a surprising 0-2.

M4 Takarafuji exhibited a crushing tachi-ai against M2 Sadanoumi leading with left arm to the inside and just plowing Sadanoumi back so fast he flew off the dohyo...for the second day in a row. Ta Ka Ra Boom De Ay picks up his first win while Sadanoumi is still searchin'.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan got the right inside position early against M2 Sadanofuji who tried to counter by wrapping his left arm around Oh's right and moving laterally, but Oh turned on a dime and stayed square as the two traded a few thrusts before Oh got the left inside this time coupled with the right hazu position setting up the easy yori-kiri win. This was like stealing candy from a baby for the experienced Sekiwake as he moves to 2-0 while Sadanofuji's getting lost his first time among the jo'i was predictable. He's 0-2.

Sekiwake Myogiryu caught M4 Ichinojo with a right paw to the upper chest keeping him away a bit, but the Mongolith seemed content to just set up a pull as Myogiryu persisted in attacking from the lower position. With Ichinojo halfheartedly looking for said pull, it was a quick yori-kiri for Myogiryu. Remember when Ichinojo first entered the division, and he'd always get a paw inside and then just lean in on his opponent drawing the bout out ot over a minute? That sumo was curiously absent today, and I'm sure it was in an effort to make things easier for Myogiryu. The result is Ichinojo's falling to 1-1 while Myogiryu is a cool 2-0 outta the gate.

In the Ozeki ranks, Terunofuji welcomed Komusubi Okinoumi who was more like Slowkinoumi at the tachi-ai, but can you blame him? He walks into his bout against Hakuho yesterday and comes out with a win he knows he didn't deserve, and so the thought had to be running through his mind today regarding the Ozeki's intentions as well. Terunofuji was all bidness as he easily got his left arm to the inside from the tachi-ai and bodied Okinoumi over and across without argument. Okinoumi flirted with the left outer during the fray, but Terunofuji shook that off like a wet dog after a bath as he easily dispatched the Komusubi. Fuji the Terrible is 2-0 while Okinoumi drops to 1-1.

M2 Osunaarashi used a lazy moro-te-zuki attack allowing Senpai Kotoshogiku to pounce into the left inside position and go chest to chest with Osunaarashi up high. Osunaarashi instinctively went for the equalizing left outer grip at least three times and had if for the taking in my opinion (see the pic at right). Curiously, though, the M2 was never able to make that outer grip stick, and so the Geeku kept his gal upright and forced Osunaarashi towards the edge where the Ejyptian stared at his left arm as if to grab a left outer to counter or maybe go for a useless pull. What he didn't do was use his right inside position, which is where everything is set up, and so he just stood there square as Kotoshogiku forced him back and across before going for a watashi-komi move after the M2 was already out.

I actually think that the three senpai can use their experience to beat these newcomers to the jo'i like Sadanofuji and Osunaarashi, but when I see Osunaarashi refuse to grab the left outer grip, stay square at the edge instead of invading to the side, and then ignore any sort of counter move, I can't help but think he was mukiryoku. Regardless, the Geeku is 2-0 while Osunaarashi falls to 0-2.

Senpai Goeido had M3 Takayasu up high at the tachi-ai but couldn't capitalize in the migi-yotsu affair, and so Takayasu was able to halt the senpai's momentum and grab the left outer grip. You can't give that up so easily when you have your opponent upright like Goeido had Takayasu from the start, but Goeido allowed it, and the result was Takayasu able to regroup and score the textbook yori-kiri win in the end. This bout reminded me a lot of the Endoh affair where you had a guy with the obvious advantage, but he blows it in the end due to...let's face it, ineptness.  Another thing to consider with this matchup is if you had to choose one of the three senpai as a yusho favorite, you'd say that Kisenosato has the best shot, so it makes sense that his stable mate, Takayasu, would be out to run interference against Goeido. Regardless, both rikishi end the day at 1-1 while old people all around Japan are scratching their heads at yet another Goeido loss to rank and filer.

Rounding out the senpai, Kisenosato used a good right paw to the neck at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Tochinoshin, but Shin easily survived as the bout progressed to hidari-yotsu. Understandably, Tochinoshin refused the right outer grip the entire time and kept his left inner shallow as well as Kisenosato looked to dig in. At one point Shin went for a light tsuki with the right arm, but it dangerously sent Kisenosato over to the edge, so he quickly repented and just stood there in front of his gal letting Kisenosato force him back and out for the uneventful yori-kiri. Tochinoshin could slice Kisenosato up any way he pleased should he choose to do so, but it's just not in the cards right now in sumo, so Tochinoshin takes one for the team as he falls to 0-2 while yusho contender Kisenosato skates to 2-0.

After that debacle on day 1, there was no doubt Yokozuna Hakuho would take care of business against M1 Yoshikaze do day. Or was there? Once again, Hakuho refrained at the tachi-ai doing nothing against a completely inferior opponent as Yoshikaze fired timid tsuppari afraid to get close. With Hakuho doing nothing and Yoshikaze not mounting an offensive for the first five seconds, Yoshikaze put a left paw to Hakuho's right shoulder, and the Yokozuna immediately went down taking a dive to his right. Yoshikaze tried to aid the Yokozuna's fall with a right swipe, but it didn't catch up until Hakuho was near the dirt. This one was so blatant, and I'm kinda disappointed at how bad the acting has become. I think even the house knew that something was up here because the arena lacked the same kinda of buzz that was there when Okinoumi came away the victor yesterday. This was just ridiculous, however, and I can't believe anyone would actually watch this and think that the bout was possibly legit. There are probably people wondering if Hakuho is injured or sick or tired or whatever, but let me just clue you in on something: he's faking it!! When the banzuke came out, the three weakest guys among the jo'i were Okinoumi, Yoshikaze, and Sadanofuji. That the greatest rikishi of all time in his prime could fight like slime, fall on a dime, and waste our time as I coin this rhyme....sorry, got carried away.  That Hakuho could actually lose to two of the weakest guys in the jo'i straight up on consecutive days is simply implausible.

Regardless, Hakuho is off to an 0-2 start, and when that happens to a Yokozuna, it usually means he's going kyujo. I checked the funny papers up until midnight Japan time, and word is that the Yokozuna is done. The fake injury is being reported as pain in Hakuho's left knee, so in all likelihood, we finish things off without him.

I think it was prior to last basho when I first brought up the conundrum of having four Yokozuna-caliber Mongolians at the top of the banzuke. Not only does it make the Japanese dudes look bad, but if all of those guys are healthy, that's 48-50 wins per basho sucked out from among the jo'i. Whenever you have that many dudes in high double digits on any cross section of the banzuke, the other rikishi around them are going to have poor records because there just aren't enough wins to go around to compensate everyone. I brought this up because I knew the Sumo Association had a real problem on their hands, and it looks as if the answer the last two basho is to just have one or two of the Mongolians go kyujo. While that may free up a helluva lotta wins for other rikishi (namely the Japanese rikishi), it's still going to take a lot of yaocho to get one of the Japanese guys all the way to the yusho platform. I was extremely uneasy with the way the day 1 broadcast played out in terms of the lines Yoshida Announcer was delivering, and after watching Hakuho take another dive that will send him kyujo, it looks like a replay of the 2012 Natsu basho is upon us. If anyone cares, Yoshikaze is now 1-1!!

After all of the aforementioned drama, we still had one more bout to go where M1 Aoiyama stayed low initially and then used beefy tsuppari to keep Yokozuna Kakuryu away from the belt, but the Kak was able to catch Aoiyama on a pull attempt throwing him off balance, and as Aoiyama looked to square back up, Kakuryu executed a final pull that sent Aoiyama down to the dirt in exaggerated fashion. It actually looked as if Aoiyama was expecting something worse and had thus started that inane summersault of his own volition, but regardless, Kakuryu leads the way along with Terunofuji at 2-0. Aoiyama falls to 0-2 but should get the freebie against Hakuho tomorrow for his troubles.

Okay, I need a serious break after these first two days, so fortunately my right hand man, Harvye, will be here to pick up the slack tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
In my pre-basho report I talked about seeing multiple news outlets use the term "Stop The Terunofuji" in reference to how the Japanese Ozeki are supposedly on a mission to step up their game and prove to the sumo world that the threesome isn't just this group of clowns driving around in a Mini Cooper, and sure enough, the Day 1 broadcast began with edited clips from the Soken general keiko session held about a week prior to the start of the basho focusing on the keiko among the four Ozeki. In particular, the focus was on the three "senpai" Ozeki (as they referred to them), and then they showed clips of the Japanese Ozeki kicking ass and taking names in the keiko ring. In particular, they showed a clip of Kotoshogiku just destroying Terunofuji, and then they ended with Goeido thumping Terunofuji in a prolonged yotsu affair where Goeido eventually flung Terunofuji down and onto his arse.

Yoshida Announcer said that this new resurgence was due to the "Terunofuji Effect," and then he and Kitanofuji went on to discuss how Terunofuji's emergence had inspired the senpai Ozeki (they didn't say the "Japanese" Ozeki) to regroup and come out with some determination. If only all of this was really true and not some canned theme derived by the Sumo Association and picked up by the media. Anybody who has watched sumo in twenty fifteen can easily tell that Terunofuji is simply in a different league, and these "senpai" Ozeki are nothing but a bunch of flukes.

The reality is this: there are four solid Mongolians at the top of the banzuke, and a sorry crop of Ozeki beneath them who are so bad that they are now resorting to yaocho in the keiko ring in order to create a story. It really emphasizes just how vast the difference is at the top ranks of the banzuke, and so a ton of work needs to be done outside of the dohyo to make up for the lack of ability atop the dohyo. I don't know if this means we have a crazy finish in store at the Aki basho; all that I know is that the primary storyline being spun in the media to this point emphasizes the resurgence of the Japanese Ozeki.

With that in mind and Colonel Sanders in the house, let's get to the day's action starting from the bottom where M16 Seiro put both hands to the neck of J1 Fujiazuma before going for a quick pull. The move sent Fujiazuma off balance and stumbling forward, but he regrouped on a dime and met Seiro with the left inside as the Mongolian rushed in to finish off his gal. From this point, the better yotsu guy took over grabbing the right outer grip and bullying Seiro over and out with some oomph. Bad start from Seiro if he hopes to stay in the division from the bottom rung of the banzuke.

M15 Asasekiryu stayed low at the tachi-ai befuddling M15 Hidenoumi and coming away with the eventual right outer grip. Hidenoumi didn't even have the left inside with it locked between the two rikishi and his right arm trying to hold on with a kote grip. He wouldn't hold on for long as The Secretary used his experience and sumo skills to force Hidenoumi clear off'a the dohyo.

As M14 Kitataiki and M14 Sokokurai approached the starting lines, I thought to myself, "Damn, why do I always commit to reporting on every bout the first week?!" The two engaged in a pretty straight up hidari-yotsu affair where neither enjoyed an outer grip. Kitataiki looked to press the action and take the upper hand, but near the edge, Sokokurai hunkered down to his right threatening a frontal belt grip before slipping out right and knocking Kitataiki off balance. Kitataiki looked to counter with a right soto-gake leg trip, but it was set up more in defense and desperation than it was as an offensive move, and so Sokokurai survived and shoved the off-balance Kitataiki out with a wild push.

While I've never been high on M13 Tokitenku, you just knew he had something up his sleeve for our lone rookie this basho, M13 Daieisho. After hitting the rookie hard with a left hari-te, Tokitenku put both hands at the charging rookie's throat and then easily stepped out left sending Daieisho sprawling towards the edge of the dohyo. It took about two seconds for the veteran to employ the wily tactic and score the win, but these are just the lumps that rookies have to go through. Learn the guys in the division and learn their tricks.

Both M12 Ikioi and M12 Chiyootori struck hard at the tachi-ai where Otori was looking for anything to the inside. Ikioi kept him away nicely, however, with tsuppari to the jaw, and as Chiyootori hunkered down in an attempt to set up a counter pull, Ikioi just plowed forward and shoved Chiyootori back and across with some force.

How many of you have ever had your heart set on a guy only to get it broken over and over? Such was the case with me AGAIN today when against M11 Homarefuji (Homarefuji!!), M11 Chiyotairyu henka'd blatantly to his right at the tachi-ai going for the quick and dirty pull. Homarefuji was going for the moro-te-zuki tachi-ai and caught Tairyu mid-air, but he wasn't lurching forward from the tachi-ai, and so he had no momentum. Chiyotairyu was actually able to survive being caught red handed and scored the ugly pull down win with a single swipe at Homarefuji's extended left hand.

With M10 Kotoyuki and M10 Kyokushuho, you had a strictly oshi guy against a yotsu guy, but when Kotoyuki connected first from the tachi-ai with a few thrusts, Kyokushuho decided to trade an eye for an eye and engage Kotoyuki in the tsuppari affair. That lasted for about a second before Kyokushuho relented and went for a dumb pull that Kotoyuki capitalized on with a tsuki-dashi win.

M9 Kagamioh apparently doesn't know how to work around M9 Gagamaru's girth because despite getting moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, Gagamaru held his gal in close from the outside of both arms, and the yori-kiri was straight back and methodic from there. Kagamioh still hasn't learned to solve YubabaMaru.

The battle between the two M8's was semi-compelling with two veterans in Takekaze and Toyonoshima. The bout lasted about two seconds as Takekaze struck hard with two hands to the neck before moving sideways and going for the immediate pull down. It's funny Toyonoshima couldn't see this one coming.

With the crowd finally coming to life, it meant M7 Endoh was climbing onto the dohyo. His opponent today was M7 Amuuru, the tall Russian who has yet to beat Endoh in 2 tries. I guess I should rephrase that: "He hasn't tried to beat Endoh in two tries." And he wouldn't today either keeping both arms out wide at the tachi-ai gifting Endoh moro-zashi. The two grappled a bit in the center of the ring where Amuuru could have easily grabbed the left outer belt, but he was just content with a grasp of a single sagari. When a guy's hold on his opponent's belt is the sagari, you know damn well he's just along for the ride, and after a few seconds of nonsense, Endoh scored the easy force-out win. Total mukiryoku sumo from the Russian today, but he knows where his bread is buttered.

M6 Aminishiki henka'd to his left against M6 Tokushoryu, grabbed the quick and dirty left outer grip, and dumped Tokushoryu down in a second flat. What a stellar way to end the first half bouts!  With Kyokutenho's retirement, Aminishiki now becomes the oldest active rikishi in the division.  The media is hyping it quite a bit as a point of interest that will of course be a talking point for trivia starved old people all over Japan.

I guess I can't fault M5 Tamawashi for not wanting to go chest to chest against M5 Kaisei, but a second henka in as many bouts was weak. Tamawashi never really gave the Brasilian a chance moving left from the start and timing a great tsuki with the left hand into Kaisei's right side turning him off balance, and before Kaisei could really square back up, Tamawashi caught the Brasilian with some nice pushes to the torso sending Kaisei back and out. Didn't look as nasty as Aminishiki's henka, but it was still a cheap move.

M4 Ichinojo was just too powerful at the tachi-ai rebuffing M4 Takarafuji in short order. Takarafuji actually fancied the idea of his right to the inside, but Ichinojo wrapped both arms around it threatening to suck Takarafuji in tight. With nowhere to go, Takarafuji tried to slip out left and pull Ichinojo off balance, but the Slug pivoted well and caught T-Fuji with dual shoves that sent Takarafuji back and out in one fell swoop. I realize that his opponent was the slumping Takarafuji, but this Ichinojo has been missing for a few basho now, and I've speculated at large already as to the reason.

Sekiwake Myogiryu fished for the left frontal belt grip at the tachi-ai but was pushed away by M3 Takayasu, and as Takayasu looked to charge forward with his tsuppari attack, he was just positioned too high, and so the Sekiwake was able to duck his way in and threaten that left inside again. Takayasu's reaction was a stupid pull attempt, and the fat lady began singing at that point as Myogiryu scored the easy force-out in the end.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan had his way with M3 Sadanoumi, but I'm not sure how hard Sadanoumi was trying. He kept his arms out wide at the tachi-ai and just let Tochiohzan drive him back by the throat. Near the edge, Sadanoumi moved quickly to his left and actually tried to hook his right arm up and under Oh's left pit to throw him off balance, but it was an extremely unorthodox move and had little effect. Still, with Sadanoumi's having moved to the side, Oh and to square back, and I thought he was a bit vulnerable at this point, but Sadanoumi kept his arms out wide and just let Tochiohzan secure moro-zashi and score the easy win from there. My gut tells me that Sadanoumi was mukiryoku here, but I could be wrong.

With M2 Sadanofuji ranked at his highest level ever, I actually think I'd favor all three senpai Ozeki against him. It's kind of like Terunofuji vs. Kakuryu. I think Kakuryu is the better rikishi, but Kakuryu's still going to be able to beat the youngster due to his experience. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I thought Kotoshogiku had a chance against the Sadamight even if Fuji went all out. Unfortunately he didn't even try leaving both arms ridiculously high and wide at the tachi-ai, and he even helped the Ozeki out by backpedaling a bit. Took Kotoshogiku about two seconds to get his bearings, and once he had the easy moro-zashi, he drove Sadanofuji straight back and out. Fuji didn't even try and counter at the edge just walking back in linear fashion. Total mukiryoku sumo today from the M2, but we have this storyline we gotta hype.

Next up was Ozeki Goeido vs. M2 Osunaarashi, and once again, I think Osunaarashi is the better rikishi, but experience fighting among the jo'i does have it's advantages, and so I thought coming in this bout was fiddy-fiddy in either guys' favor. At the tachi-ai, Osunaarashi came with his usual moro-te-zuki tachi-ai, but there were no legs or power behind it, which resulted in a few shoves from the Ozeki that created full separation after two seconds. With both rikishi standing upright, Goeido attempted to duck his way back in, and Osunaarashi just stood tall with his hands up high allowing the Ozeki to get to the inside with the right and left outer grip. The Ozeki didn't exactly mount a charge at this point, and so Osunaarashi was able to counter with equal grips turning the bout to gappuri migi yotsu. The two danced around the ring a bit jockeying for position, but I just didn't see any effort from the M2 trying to knock the Ozeki upright or off balance with the right inside, and he certainly didn't attempt a throw with the left outer. The end result was Goeido's using a right scoop throw to push Osunaarashi over to the edge where the Ejyptian released his inside position and allowed Goeido to force him back watashi-komi style.

I guess I felt the same way as the announcers afterwards as they broke down the bout. They really didn't have a lot of praise for Goeido, and Kitanofuji used words like "kibishii" (that was dangerous) and "yoyu ga nai" (he had no room to spare) in describing Goeido's sumo. It was a close bout indeed, but I never could really see a point in the point where Osunaarashi just dug in and went for the kill. Rather, he danced along and went through the motions resulting in the win for the Ozeki in the end. I really thought Osunaarashi coulda won this from the gappuri yotsu position, but he never did flex his muscles. I suspect he was mukiryoku, and I'm not just saying that to create controversy. It just didn't look entirely legit to me.

Our final senpai Ozeki, Kisenosato, had the lightest load today against M1 Yoshikaze, and just before the bout, Yoshida soberly recited the statistic, "A Japanese rikishi hasn't taken the yusho since the 2006 Hatsu basho when Tochiazuma did it, so in this basho particularly there is a lot of expectation on Kisenosato's shoulders." The timing of such comments do mean something just as the intro to the day's broadcast hyping the senpai Ozeki meant something. I'm just not here trying to create these illusions or spinning these tales to try and create conspiracies or whatever. I'm reading what's being reported in the press, and then I'm taking the timing and context of these statements and trying to help explain why the opponents of the Ozeki are letting up on a consistent basis...because Yoshikaze was totally mukiryoku today and did nothing to attempt to defeat Kisenosato.

This one was over quick as Yoshikaze actually struck well with the right shoulder but quickly backed away keeping his hands up high and out wide after feigning a pull. Just standing upright, Yoshikaze allowed Kisenosato to get the left arm to the inside and force Yoshikaze back easily to where Cafe was already across the straw by the time Kisenosato got the right outer grip. This one was just silly it was so obvious, but you can't hype the senpai Ozeki coming in and then have one of them falter to a Maegashira rikishi. I think the crowd could also subconsciously tell because there was little applause at the end of this one and zero electricity in the air. Even Kitanofuji was struggling with comments after the Ozeki bouts, and then at the end of Kisenosato, Yoshida Announcer actually made the point that in order to keep pace in the yusho race, these three Ozeki just can't afford to drop any early bouts.

The lone Ozeki on the banzuke, Terunofuji, greeted the hissing M1 Aoiyama with the right inside followed by the firm left outer grip, and despite Aoiyama's attempt to move forward at the tachi-ai, Terunofuji held his ground and got Aoiyama upright with one scoop throw and then finished Aoiyama with perfect yori-kiri execution.  If you look at the pic at right, you can see that Aoiyama's right leg is high in the air, the natural result of two guys going it hard and then rikishi exerting enough pressure to throw the other guy off balance.  Contrast that with the opponents of the Japanese Ozeki; they seem to always have both feet on the ground in defeat at the edge

Yokozuna Kakuryu won the tachi-ai against Komusubi Tochinoshin threatening the left frontal grip and getting the right to the inside. Tochinoshin tried to maki-kae his way out with the right, but Kakuryu already had him lifted upright, and when the Komusubi attempted a left belt throw, Kakuryu used his right leg at the back of Shin's left stump in soto-gake fashion keeping the Georgian from finishing his attempt. At this point, Kakuryu's speed and overall technique took over as he was able to force Tochinoshin back and out before he could make another counter attempt. The key here was Kakuryu's ability to get Shin upright before the Private even knew what hit him.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho had a cupcake to deal with in Komusubi Okinoumi, a rikishi he was 12-0 against coming into the day. From the tachi-ai, Hakuho looked to create his usual position of the right inside left outer grip, but he curiously pulled out of the stance leaving the two in the hidari-yotsu position where neither rikishi held an outer grip. Instead of going for the outer grip, Hakuho wrapped his right head up and around the top of Okinoumi's melon, an inexplicable move for a Yokozuna of this caliber, and if Hakuho's pulling out prematurely (heh, hn...cool) wasn't evidence enough, this stupid neck hold was. With Hakuho just standing there, Okinoumi executed a maki-kae with the right arm giving him moro-zashi, and as he mounted a charge from there, Hakuho returned the maki-kae favor with his own right arm, but the Yokozuna was just standing there completely limp and mukiryoku allowing Okinoumi to just force him back and out (and yes, both of Hakuho's feet are on the ground in defeat). As soon as it was official, Yoshida Announcer happily exclaimed, "With this loss, it's safe to say that the race for the yusho has gotten that much more interesting!" Ya think?

This bout was an insult to my intelligence and should have been for everyone else watching. When they panned in close as Okinoumi walked back down the hana-michi, you could see it on his face that he knew what had just happened. No adrenaline, no emotion, just a sip from a water bottle. In the interview room afterwards, Fujii Announced asked Okinoumi to describe his sumo, and he basically said, "You saw the end result, and there wasn't anything interesting about it." Correct. Okinoumi did nothing to set up that victory, and he knew it. Fujii kept pressing for details, and Okinoumi was really struggling saying for the most part, "I don't really remember any of it." I'm telling you, the Komusubi was sweating a lot more during this interview than he was atop the dohyo, and why not? He was in a difficult position. In the end, Okinoumi joked that the difference this time around was that he's now married, and so having a new bride put him over the top. The remark caused Fujii Announcer to laugh out loud, and it was Okinoumi's best move of the night.  Good call too because your new bride is going to greet you at home with her hand extended demanding all 49 envelopes of kensho cash.  Welcome to married life, bro!

So Day 1 is in the books, and Hakuho already has a loss. I should emphasize that I'm not predicting a yusho from one of the senpai Ozeki. I'm merely pointing out the theme that is being fed to the Japanese public over and over by the media and the NHK broadcast, namely that these Japanese Ozeki are out to prove themselves and that they're worthy of the yusho race. You tell people something enough times and they just start to believe it regardless when commons sense, physics, and the simple eyeball test prove otherwise.




















hit counters