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Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Today's comments are going to be brief partly because the day has been so busy with all things non-sumo and partly because I have no idea what is going to happen on senshuraku. If the last two days are any indication, there should be more drama to come before the curtain falls, and your guess is as good as mine as to how this thing will play out. If sumo was always fought straight up, I could give you my predictions, but if I had a nickel for every fake bout I've witnessed the past two days, I'd almost have fiddy cent in my pocket. The yaocho doesn't matter, though. The venue is electric and zabuton are flying by the day's end, and that's the best the Sumo Association can hope for when the gap between their best (Tochiohzan) and the third best Mongolian on the banzuke is so wide. Because of that gap, this basho had become a laugher by the end of day 12, but my how things can change when both Yokozuna drop their bouts on consecutive days...on purpose.

Let's start this madness by focusing on the bout of the basho, the Yokozuna Hakuho - Ozeki Kakuryu matchup. They always say that letting up in the ring increases the chance of injury, and Hakuho was proof of that on day 13. After letting up and taking an unnatural fall in a defeat to Kotoshogiku yesterday, Hakuho's hand hit the step engraved in the side of the dohyo as he fell, and he stayed down on the arena floor for some time holding his right wrist. The Yokozuna got up slowly and was holding the wrist as if he may not be able to go the rest of the way, and that right hand/wrist would definitely play a part in Hakuho's sumo today.

From the tachi-ai, Kakuryu caught Hakuho with a nice shot to the throat forcing the Yokozuna to look upwards, but the Ozeki was dangerously high himself and wide open to moro-zashi as you can see in the pic at right. Hakuho's intention today, however, was not to take a single step forward because after Kakuryu's initial shot, separation was created between the two rikishi, and Hakuho just stood there and waited for the Ozeki's next move. Said move was more tsuppari thrown Hakuho's way where the Yokozuna fought them off and dodged laterally. Finally, the two hooked up into migi-yotsu sumo with Hakuho grabbing Kakuryu's belt from the inside with the right hand...yeah, that injured right hand. With no intent to move forward on the Yokozuna's part, Kakuryu latched onto the left outer grip towards the front of the Yokozuna's mawashi pinning that right arm in close while establishing the firm inside position on the other side with his right arm, and once gained, the Ozeki made his move forcing Hakuho back to the straw. At this point, Hakuho finally grabbed a left outer grip of his own, but he was too upright and hadn't shown any intention up to this point to make a move, and so he was backed out rather nonchalantly in the end.

This was actually an exciting bout, and the Osaka faithful were really into it, but how into it was Hakuho? Hakuho's sumo here actually reminded me of his same sumo displayed against Kisenosato and Goeido. He didn't come forward and hard at the tachi-ai, and he purposefully left himself open. When the two Japanese rikishi couldn't take that opening and capitalize, the Yokozuna pounced and defeated both of them in the end with little fanfare. Today, however, he fought a rikishi with excellent technique, and Kakuryu exploited it with ease, so my take on the bout is that Hakuho simply did what he's done a lot this basho...give his opponent and opening, and Kakuryu took it.

The fact is that Hakuho could have had moro-zashi a second with ease in this one. I know that first head shot looked potent from Kakuryu, but it didn't drive Hakuho back at all, and the best rikishi in the history of the sport can certainly take a swipe like that with no legs behind it. If Kakuryu's tsuppari attack really had effect, the Ozeki would have been moving forward with Hakuho getting knocked backwards. Instead, Hakuho moved backwards and laterally of his own accord. Second, if your right wrist is injured, what in the hell are you doing grabbing the belt with that hand and making that your only attacking technique? Hakuho always goes for the right inside from the tachi-ai, but he never goes for his opponent's belt; rather, he uses that right arm up into the pit of his opponent lifting him upright in order to set up the left outer grip. Today, however, he grabbed the inside belt and just stood there waiting for Kakuryu to grab as effective of an outer grip as possible and then make his move. Hakuho didn't employ a single move in this bout to show that he wanted to win it, and so he of course didn't even come close.

As for why Hakuho chose to do this mukiryoku sumo, I think there's several reasons. As I stated previously, I think he's giving the same thing to Kakuryu that he gave to Kisenosato a few days ago. And why wouldn't he? If Kisenosato doesn't have the game to take advantage of the gift then that's his problem. Second, I think by Hakuho's losing like this, he's giving the impression that the gap between himself and the other Japanese rikishi isn't so wide. I mean, you have Kotoshogiku simply floundering after 12 days at 6-6, and then he comes in and roughs up the Yokozuna without argument? It just doesn't make sense if everything is straight up. But, it's not, and so the fun part is to speculate why it's happening...not if it's happening.

The end result of the bout is that Kakuryu takes sole possession of first place at 13-1 while Hakuho falls to 12-2. Remember earlier on how I explained how Asashoryu and Hakuho had never been tracked down from behind to lose the yusho? Well, we are witnessing history, and why it's happening, I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see how senshuraku plays out.

The day's final bout featured that Yokozuna killer, Ozeki Kotoshogiku, facing Yokozuna Harumafuji who was shaking in his boots I'm sure. I mean, at the start of the basho we all knew Kotoshogiku was going to give both Yokozuna a run for their money didn't we? Both rikishi bumped chests at the tachi-ai in what started out as a migi-yotsu contest, but in the blink of an eye, both dudes ended up with inside lefts and the struggle was on...sort of. Harumafuji was content to let the Ozeki press forward offering little resistance as he was forced methodically back and across the straw, and if I'm not mistaken, the Yokozuna is actually laughing as he steps out. Kotoshogiku didn't even need a right outer grip to finish off the Yokozuna, and of course Harumafuji made no effort to grab a right outer of his own...or do anything that would have given him the upper hand. My guess is that Harumafuji gave this one to Kotoshogiku to 1) help justify the Geeku's win over Hakuho yesterday, and 2) give the Geeku kachi-koshi because the Yokozuna's guess as to what's going to happen tomorrow between Kakuryu and Kotoshogiku is as good as anyone's. The result is that Harumafuji has been officially knocked out of the yusho race at 11-3 while Kotoshogiku picks up what was looking like an improbable kachi-koshi just two days ago.

After the day's final bouts, the leaderboard shapes up like this:

13-1 Kakuryu
12-2 Hakuho

Kakuryu draws Kotoshogiku tomorrow, and who knows how this is going to play out? Two years ago, Kakuryu was in this exact position...a one bout lead heading into senshuraku where he threw his bout against Goeido leading to an eventual tie with Hakuho at 13-2 where the Yokozuna took the yusho in the end in a playoff. If that precedent holds, Kotoshogiku will beat the Ozeki tomorrow, but if the bout is fought straight up, Kakuryu will win. There is no sense in my predicting what's going to happen, but the drama for me in sumo these days is exactly that...is it going to be fought straight up or is someone going to throw it? What makes tomorrow's finish so interesting is the Sumo Association has two choices: a third Mongolian Yokozuna or Hakuho creeping ever so close to hallowed ground with yet another yusho. It's damned if you do or damned if you don't, and I can't wait to see how it plays out.

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Day 13 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
This tournament, for the first time in a long while, I found myself actually looking forward to seeing bouts the next day. I'm not sure, however, how much of that anticipation is due to interesting stuff waiting to transpire upon the dohyo or just the general feeling of change brought about by the changing of the generations. Yeah, it's official, Kotooshu finally decided to call it a career, and I guess that means it's about time I started looking for a new "official" rooting interest. But before the public announcement, let me just say a few words on him. As some of you might remember, Kotooshu is the primary reason I started following sumo way back in 2005. Before seeing the large Bulgarian on TV, I was under the erroneous but widespread impression that sumo wrestling is just this odd ceremony where some fat Japanese guys push each other around using their bellies (!), but that came under a big question mark as soon as I noticed there's no belly on Kotooshu and he's not even Asian. That prompted me to start looking closer at the whole thing and I got hooked faster than you can say "Kotooshu is a handsome bastard, ain't he?", which I'm pretty sure most female fans thought.

If I had to name an exact instant for it, I'm guessing it'd have to be Nagoya 2005, day 8, when Kotooshu won a very close nage-no-uchi-ai with then big-cheese-in-town Asashoryu. Ah, those were the days. To be completely honest, more often than not it was frustrating to be Kotooshu's fan, as his peak came sometime around the end of 2005, with the run which secured his promotion to Ozeki – the 2008 yusho fluke notwithstanding. But I guess that made the occasional victories against his more successful foes all that much more enjoyable. If not for the injuries, who knows? Best of luck to him securing a share.

Moving on to the action, it was funny to see Asahisho overwhelmed from the tachi-ai when his sloppy footwork resulted in moro-zashi for Masunoyama of all people and a nearly instant subsequent yori-kiri. Mirroring 6-7/7-6 records dictate that the two are likely to stay in their current divisions.

Young Mongol (youngol? hmm...) Terunofuji played brick wall to Chiyo the Round's charge and may well have stifled Sir Cumference's hopes for a division debut Kanto-sho. A well-timed grab at the front of Chiyomaru's mawashi and the ensuing force-out ensured at least one other chance for Terunofuji to avoid make-koshi. Chiyomaru falls to 8-5.

Satoyama persisted in his arguably hazardous habit of ducking under his opponent at the initial charge (on the plus side, this sometimes can result in more aesthetically pleasing kimari-te, like izori or Satoyama's own specialty, tsutae-zori, but you'll rarely see those above Makushita). While Satoyama did manage to get a deep inside grip and keep Myogiryu upright for most of the bout, I dare say the match was lost then Myogiryu locked the little guy's left arm very early on, as the differential in size and strength ultimately proved Satoyama's undoing. Myogiryu improves to 6-7 and sends Satoyama into double digit loss territory with the hard-earned kime-dashi win.

Gagamaru was henka'd into make-koshi by Mongol Azumaryu, who keeps kachi-koshi hopes alive at 6-7.

Jokoryu won the tachi-ai against Kyokutenho, getting a deep right inside while denying the ex-Mongol the left uwate. Tenho put up some token resistance, but without the mawashi, Jokoryu's youth and strength proved too much to handle. Nevertheless, Kyokutenho is 8-5, whereas Jokoryu still need to win one more to be on the safe side.

Takarafuji produced a very passive tachi-ai, opting to merely stand up, but Kagamioh's charge wasn't anything to write home, either, so the two just stood there for a while, hugging. After World Peace Day commemoration was over, though, it was Takarafuji who took the initiative by locking his foe's left arm and deploying a kote-nage which set up the okuri-dashi finish, taking Jackpot (yeah, I'll keep hammering at these until someone notices) over the kachi-koshi line. Kagamioh (5-8) mirrors (heh, heh, geddit?) his foe's record.

Chiyotairyu enjoyed a great start in his tussle vs. Tokushoryu, hitting home with a double thrust to the face which brought his foe to the straw, only to miss the finishing shot and see the tables turned on him. Tokushoryu had him on the back foot and, after running him once around the dohyo, got into yotsu for the final push, but at that moment Chiyotairyu (can one's shikona possibly get more epic? I mean, come on, a thousand generations of great dragons?) sensed the opening and deployed the precision tsuki-otoshi, felling the committed Tokushoryu like so much lumber and evening their records at a safe, if lackluster, 8-5.

Takekaze for some reason seems to have more trouble against the smaller, quicker and overall more agile types (like, say, all the Mongols) than against the larger white types. Takanoiwa took his medicine like a man, aptly survived the inevitable pulldown, then quickly served Takekaze some spirited pushing, finishing the job by oshi-dashi and improving to a very decent 9-4. Kaze can still hope to get some love out of this basho, as he falls to 7-6.

Osunaarashi today was more the victim of unpolished sumo technique than injury, when Aminishiki capitalized on Sandman's very high tachi-ai and eventually secured a frontal belt grip which he used to drag the big Egyptian man off balance and down to the dirt. Sneaky gets kachi-koshi with the technically sound win, while Osunaarashi still has a couple more shots at it. Incidentally, I'm surprised he's still being paired with guys ranked in the 5's and 6's. I guess the guys in black are really scared of his potential, huh?

Ikioi muscled his way into moro-zashi right from the tachi-ai against Kitataiki, and he gained enough momentum with the move to be able to finish off his opponent even after losing the double inside near the edge. Both guys are limping this basho with only 5 wins apiece.

In a duel of really large dudes, Kaisei bodied his way into a strong right uwate which he used to drive Sadanofuji to the edge and over without pausing much for sightseeing along the way. Kaisei "improves" to 4-9, whereas Sadanofuji crashes and burns at 1-12.

Tochinowaka actually got moro-zashi in his loss to the older and more experienced Okinoumi, but the normally advantageous grip was shallow and allowed Okidoki to get a double grip on the mawashi and clamp Lee's arms into uselessness. Okinoumi inexorably drove the action towards the tawara, where he even broke down the double inside grip and worked his way to Tochinowaka's side. The yori-kiri win does little more than mere damage control for the 3-10 Okinoumi. Lee isn't faring much better at 4-9. That's life in the jo'i for you.

Toyohibiki and Tamawashi engaged in a rather entertaining slugfest, riddled with violent thrusts, slaps, whiffs, shifts in momentum and, in the end, one large thrust from Toyohibiki which sent Tamawashi stumbling several feet before inevitably succumbing to gravity. The Mawashi is banished to double digit loss territory, while Hibiki improves to a still shaky 6-7.

Endo got yet another schooling in terms of sumo, this time from Takayasu, whose usual MO, the barrage of tsuppari, visibly bothered the youngster (and this feels weird, doesn't it? because he and Takayasu are roughly the same age, but Takayasu's been around for what feels like ages in the division) but wasn't enough to seal the deal. One misplaced thrust was enough to immediately turn things in Endo's favor, who got a deep left inside, but Takayasu countered with one of his own. A long stalemate followed, but Takayasu eventually took initiative, forcing his way into a double grip and preventing the same from Endo, who could only be a helpless spectator to the uwate-nage that soon followed. 6-7 is alright this early and this high up on the banzuke. Takayasu improves his already losing record to 5-8.

Bulgarian Aoiyama suddenly found himself the top Bulgarian on the banzuke and looked to avenge Kotooshu's grief at the hands of Shohozan (8-2 against the senpai). He did it and even earned kachi-koshi in the process by keeping Shohozan away from him with well-placed tsuppari to the head, then capitalizing on Cheetos's (5-8) overcompensation with a well-timed pull.

Yoshikaze proved it's never too late to progress, breaking his record for the highest rank to achieve kachi-koshi by two full ranks when he won the tachi-ai vs. Toyonoshima and got a very advantageous inside grip which he used to drive his heavier foe straight back and out with little resistance. Toyonoshima falls to make-koshi.

Chiyootori got his first taste of san'yaku opposition and, as expected, he was schooled harshly by one of the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke at the moment, Tochiohzan. Otori appeared to get the upper hand at the tachi-ai, driving Oh slightly back as a result of superior momentum derived from superior mass, but Tochiohzan reloaded and inserted a nigh insurmountable left on the inside, which he then immediately used to force his younger foe right back and out. Tochiohzan needs another one for the kachi-koshi, while Chiyootori (8-5) must be looking forward to his first ever honbasho bout against an Ozeki, facing Kisenosato tomorrow.

Speaking of which, Kisenosato ended his campaign against the Mongol horde with a nice, round 0-3, after being on the wrong end of a tsuki-dashi vs. Kakuryu. Kisenosato charged with the clear intention of getting some left inside, but the Kak kept him well away from the belt and took him off balance with a well-timed pull, and the finished the job calmly, earning his 12th win and a legitimate shot at promotion to the highest rank. With Hakuho left to face tomorrow and Kotoshogiku on senshuraku, it's a bit of a tall order, as my guess is he needs both wins to even be taken into consideration. However, if I were to put my tinfoil hat on, thinking a bit from the NSK's perspective, a THIRD Mongol Yokozuna would be about as useful for sumo as a pair of gloves for a hippopotamus. Something tells me Kakuryu will humbly lose the remaining two bouts, but we shall see, eh? Kisenosato falls to 8-5, if anyone cares.

Harumafuji lost his second in a row when he was blitzed at the tachi-ai by Goeido and the desperation throw which usually produces miraculous results against Goeido failed to save the Mongol from being thrown out of the dohyo. Of course, now that things are becoming relevant in the yusho race, I'm starting to wonder if it was legit. I mean, just how often does Harumafuji lose to Goeido? The first thing in favor of the mukiryoku theory is, as Mike duly pointed
out earlier in our chat, the phantom swipe at Goeido's head when Ex-Ama initiated the throw at the edge. It's pretty common for this kind of throw to be assisted with the other hand, which usually pushes down on the back of the opponent's head, but today Ama was completely unable to find the Father's noggin for some reason. One could argue, of course, that it was all according to the flow of the bout and Goeido's momentum prevented the success of the maneuver, so I guess it's inconclusive so far. The second red flag is the very unnatural way in which Ama's right leg went up in the air right after the tachi-ai. Again, the Devil's advocate could argue it was just Goeido's momentum blowing Harumafuji away, but I simply find it more likely that Ama just didn't give it 100% - it's good for sumo as a whole if the local boys have more success. The Yokozuna falls to 11-2 but is still mathematically in the race, while Goeido improves to a dubious 10-3.

In the last match of the day, though, things were a lot clearer, as Hakuho's hands got nowhere near Kotoshogiku's mawashi as he was being humped ever so closer to his first loss. Giku looked for the left frontal mawashi grip from the tachi-ai but failed to get it and proceeded to just move forward without any sort of solid... anything. Thankfully, Hakuho not only refrained from getting the mawashi, despite having a few very clear openings, but he also was content to simply stay in front of the gaburi-ing Ozeki, without as much as THINKING about attempting to move laterally or wrench the upright Geeku down using the right. If yaocho were unlikely, this kind of behavior would be highly unnatural, but we know better. Conclusion: while the previous bout might, for the sake of the argument, get the benefit of the doubt, this one is as fake as a $3 bill.

Now, you know I like to make predictions, but this time I'm very much in the dark – anything can happen. If it weren't for the specter of the general policy of the powers that be to promote Japanese sumo (and, if that means undermining the Mongols, so be it), I'd call Kakuryu a shoo-in for getting the rank by beating Hakuho tomorrow and making it to a play-off on Sunday. In the current context, however, I find that rather unlikely and will state again that Hakuho should win easily – not that this isn't the expected result anyway. Anything could happen, in theory, but my money's still on Hakuho to win the yusho. The special prizes are as tricky as they can be, because there are few guys with enough wins so far to be in contention, and I wouldn't give any prizes to any of them except maybe the Chiyo bros.

See you guys next basho, I guess. In the meantime, keep calm and carry on... reading Mike's reports.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The biggest news of day 12 was of course the retirement announcement of former Ozeki Kotooshu. Martin stated as early as day 6 this basho that Kotooshu was probably done, and then when his make-koshi became official on day 9, there was no choice but to call it a career. We've been saying for the past year or so that retirement can't be too far on the horizon, and you can just see when a rikishi has given up. Today, Kotooshu's former stablemate, Kotonishiki, was perched in the mukou-joumen chair, and the broadcast of course started off with talk of Kotooshu, and Kotonishiki was asked about his thoughts regarding the former Ozeki. Kotonishiki stated that he retired before Kotooshu entered the stable, but as a young oyakata, he would still sometimes spar with the rikishi. He recalled doing keiko with Kotooshu, and Kotooshu could never beat him, and he remembered well Kotooshu's giving him a look as if, "how in the hell is this little man beating me?"

Many of you will remember that Kotonishiki was very short in stature, but he was one of my favorite all time rikishi. Dude fought like a bulldog and took two tough yusho in his career despite his lack of size. Anyway, I enjoyed the comment, and it was indicative of a young Kotooshu and his desire to win. NHK next showed clips of when Kotooshu first entered the division, and to watch him back then was truly a treat. He was so fast, so tall, so skilled, and most importantly...so good looking that he quickly became a fan favorite among Japanese fans and foreigners alike. There was a tangible hunger present in those early clips that provided an excellent contrast to the lack of any hunger we've seen in Kotooshu for the last few years. The few years before Kaio retired, you could see that the mind still wanted it but the body was too weak. In the case of Kotooshu, however, the mind just lost its hunger...similar to Aran last year and then Baruto before that.

It's always sad to see these guys go, but you could argue that Kotooshu has been gone for a year or two now. For those still anxious to get their Kotooshu fix, keep a sharp eye on the broadcast as rikishi walk back down the hana-michi because there in a dull navy jacket and gray slacks will be Kotooshu-oyakata sitting on a cheap folding chair pulling security duty. Incidentally, Kotooshu has yet to obtain a share of oyakata stock, but his former rank allows him to remain with the Sumo Association for three years as Kotooshu-oyakata. Hopefully the dude saved up enough caish to procure a share of oyakata stock or his only choice in three years will be to remain in Japan as a TV talent or go home to Bulgaria.

Turning our focus back to the basho at hand, it's been known since about day 3 that this basho was coming down to the three Mongolians. As noted a few days ago, NHK was generous to extend the leaderboard all the way down to two losses just to keep a handful of Japanese rikishi on the board, but by day 11 the closest Japanese rikishi was three back'a the pack, so the only storylines left now are what doorknobs is Endoh going to lick and how many more rikishi will just stand there and let Goeido beat them?

Let's work our way down again today starting from the leaderboard meaning first up was Ozeki Kakuryu facing Yokozuna Harumafuji in the day's final match. Harumafuji was reckless in his charge going for Kakuryu's neck I suppose, but the Kak just brushed him aside and pushed the Yokozuna sideways and nearly down with a lateral swipe with the right hand that connected to the side of Harumafuji's face. While Harumafuji didn't entirely hit the dirt, before he could stand up and turn back around, the Kak just pushed him out from behind.  I thought the Yokozuna went down a little bit too easy after that first swipe, but who knows...the thing was over in less than two seconds, and NHK was so pressed for time that they couldn't show slow motion replays from the various angles. Regardless, the win brings Kakuryu even with Harumafuji at 11-1 and technically keeps Kakuryu's Yokozuna hopes alive. Even if Kakuryu doesn't end up attaining the prestigious rank, this basho of his has been far more impressive than anything Kisenosato and Goeido have put together combined in their so-called runs.

The day's penultimate bout featured Yokozuna Hakuho vs. Ozeki Kisenosato, and we were treated to two blatant false starts--one from each rikishi--and then a third false start before the thing even began. I didn't have a problem with them, though, because I knew the false starts would produce more action than the bout itself. When the two finally did get going, Hakuho came with a right kachi-age and a lazy left tsuppari into his opponent before attempting a quick and harmless pull that did nothing but give Kisenosato an opening...the he couldn't capitalize on of course. Hakuho turned things on at this point and got his left arm to the inside where he immediately mounted a force-out charge that the Ozeki could not answer. Hakuho cruises to 12-0 with the win while Kisenosato fades from the headlines at 8-4.

I thought the demeanor of Hakuho in this bout was a perfect example of the way the Mongolians currently approach sumo. We all know that Hakuho could have come out and just kicked Kisenosato's ass getting moro-zashi from the gun and driving the Ozeki back in less than two seconds. However, he let up just a bit today with a right kachi-age and lazy left shove that did create an opening for Kisenosato. When the Ozeki failed to take advantage, Hakuho got down to business and finished his foe off.

I think it's an example of how the Mongolians will create openings for their opponents, but they just won't lie down if their foes don't notice it and take advantage. In a similar fashion, we have seen the Mongolian rikishi drop bouts here and there to keep the yusho race exciting, but they won't just lie down and gift someone the yusho; the Japanese rikishi has got to largely achieve things on his own and then the Mongolians will cooperate. Sure, the two Yokozuna and Kakuryu could have started losing from day 9 when the Japanese rikishi started falling behind, but no one had done anything to create excitement, and so the three have just turned on the gas and taken over the basho.

The result of the day's final two bouts means that Hakuho is once again in sole possession of 1st place at 12-0 while Harumafuji and Kakuryu linger behind at 11-1. It's possible that Hakuho may drop a bout the final three days, but I'd be shocked if he dropped a bout plus a playoff for the yusho. The Sumo Association has done all they can do to try and create a domestic rival for Hakuho, but I don't think they have any choice now but to sit back and take their medicine as Hakuho claims the all-time yusho mark possibly by the end of the year.

Reviewing the sanyaku rikishi, Sekiwake Tochiohzan got the deep left inside at the tachi-ai and briefly had moro-zashi forcing Ozeki Kotoshogiku towards the edge, and when Kotoshogiku tried to shake off one of the inner grips by moving to the side, Tochiohzan capitalized by slapping him down by the shoulder. This was a perfect example illustrating how Tochiohzan has risen above the two Japanese Ozeki and quietly become the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke. Both dudes end the day at 6-6 but the Geeku has yet to fight both Yokozuna. Ouch!

I will say one thing about Sekiwake Goeido's 9-3 start...as fake as it's all been, the acting hasn't been terrible. Today M4 Yoshikaze was his usual feisty self dictating the pace of the bout early on with some wild tsuppari, but he purposefully took any lower body out of his attack and then offered up an extended left arm for Goeido to grab and throw him down kote-nage style. I mean, you look at this fall Yoshikaze is taking in the pic at right ,and it's totally exaggerated and the result of a rikishi going mukiryoku in the ring.  If someone tries to throw you down with a kote-nage, you counter with a scoop throw or inner belt throw of your own...with at least one foot planted!  Regardless, Goeido moves to 9-3 as mentioned before, but I'm not buying any of it. I don't think they'll hype Goeido for Ozeki in May just because we all know how it will turn out. The Sekiwake is simply being propped up in his hometown of Osaka, nothing more. Yoshikaze falls to 7-5 but should easily get his kachi-koshi.

The reason nobody cares about Goeido anymore outside of Kansai is because of M1 Endoh, who is on the brink of reaching the sanyaku. Can you imagine the hype for his sanyaku debut? The fans will be like Goeiwho? Endoh's opponent today was Komusubi Shohozan who was clearly out to send a message in this hidari-yotsu affair forcing Endoh back quickly to the edge using his brute strength and a stifling right outer grip, but Endoh survived at the edge thanks to the tawara and Shohozan's unpolished yotsu-zumo skills. Forcing the action back to the center of the ring, Endoh fished for a righter outer of his own, but Shohozan was a man on a mission forcing Endoh to the brink yet again, but the youngster survived a second time this time grabbing a right outer grip to counter, and counter he did using his superior yotsu skills to drive Shohozan back across the ring and out for a swell comeback win. Endoh moves to 6-6 with the win, and while everyone would like to see him get his eight, seven wins for his first go-around among the jo'i would be a success. As for Shohozan, he falls to 5-7 and was pissed. I think the first lesson someone taught me in Japan while watching sumo was that the guys who have been around awhile hate losing to the young guns who get all the hype. You could see that in Shohozan's demeanor today.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Toyonoshima was on defense from the start in his migi-yotsu clash with M3 Takayasu, but Takayasu's force-out attempt was really grounded to the dohyo, and so as the couple neared the edge of the ring, Toyonoshima moved laterally and easily dumped Takayasu to the clay with a left kote-nage throw. Toyonoshima's still got life at 5-7 while Takayasu's was snuffed out officially at 4-8.

In bout of interest from the hiramaku, rookie Terunofuji really took it to M3 Kaisei in a migi-yotsu contest where the rookie had the left outer grip. I know that Kaisei hasn't exactly been striking the fear of the Gods into anybody this basho, but he's a big, seasoned veteran with tons of experience fighting this high, so to see Terunofuji go chest to chest and force Kaisei out in just a few seconds was quite impressive to me. Kaisei (3-9) tried to dig in, but Terunofuji was just too powerful and too good on this day as he moves to 5-7.

M4 Ikioi was looking for something inside, but he didn't set it up with a good tachi-ai. M10 Myogiryu on the other hand did charge hard easily getting the inside position and forcing Ikioi back so quickly, he couldn't move laterally and provided the big push-out dummy in the end. Ikioi's make-koshi becomes official with the loss while Myogiryu has somehow stayed alive at 5-7.

M11 Osunaarashi came back from his kyujo today and why not? At 7-4 coming in he only needs one more win to clinch his eight, but M5 Aoiyama was a tall task for him today. These two couldn't get in sync at the tachi-ai, and Osunaarashi came out the worse for wear as Aoiyama immediately pounded him backwards with the hissing tsuppari. Osunaarashi sorta regrouped, but you could see that he couldn't put significant weight on his right leg, and so his counter attack was reduced to these ugly, wild girl slaps that of course had no effect as Aoiyama easily rushed in and pulled the Ejyptian down hataki-komi style. Both rikishi end the day at 7-5 and should pick up kachi-koshi.

As for Osunaarashi's injury, I think there's been a bit of confusion because the injury has been reported to be at the base of his leg (ashi no tsukune). Well, the base of one's leg is actually where it meets the torso, not down in the foot area, and so that's why Osunaarashi has taping so high up on his thigh. I actually had this exact injury last fall that I suffered playing volleyball. In my case, it was my left leg, and I injured it on the front row trying to plant my foot as I went up to swing. The injury was nagging, but it wasn't something that kept me from continuing to play. It was tough to get any leverage though on that front row whether I was swinging or whether I was going up to block, and I can only imagine how tough it would be to try and defend myself against a dude weighing 180 kilos trying to rip my head off. I'm rooting for Osunaarashi to get that final win due to his sheer grit.

M11 Tokushoryu picked up his eighth win today striking hard against M5 Chiyootori and going for the immediate offensive pulldown. I don't mind this move because it's set up with a hard tachi-ai, and I'm sure Chiyootori (8-4) either let up a bit or was hung over after celebrating his kachi-koshi the night before.

M12 Chiyomaru and M6 Takekaze felt each other out (as opposed to up) from the tachi-ai hoping for the cheap pull, but with neither dude on offense, it resulted in a stalemate. Finally, Chiyomaru did what he should have done from the tachi-ai and blazed forward shoving Takekaze out with authority using his nifty oshi attack. It's Chiyomaru's turn to hit the bottle tonight at 8-4 while Takekaze should still get his at 7-5.

As much as I enjoy watching M15 Takanoiwa fight, it was nice to see M6 Aminishiki just pick him apart today using his long arms to keep the Mongolian completely away from the belt, and then timing a perfect lunge for the outer grip, which he used to drag Takanoiwa clear outta the ring in just a matter of seconds. Aminishiki improves to 7-5 with the win while Takanoiwa will live with it at 8-4.

M7 Chiyotairyu continues to impress as long as the word "hiki" is not part of the equation. Today he was balls to the wall again battering M13 Jokoryu back so hard and fast that Jokoryu was nearly able to counter at the edge as Chiyotairyu created so much distance due to his power. Jokoryu tried to slip left at the edge and grab Chiyotairyu's belt to assist him out of the ring first, but by the time Chiyotairyu stepped out, Jokoryu was well beyond the plane of the dohyo--not just the tawara, so it was an easy call in favor of Chiyotairyu, who incredibly finds himself at 7-5 after that horrific start. Jokoryu's 6-6.

M8 Kyokutenho picked up kachi-koshi today in a migi-yotsu bout against M14 Azumaryu (5-7) where the Chauffeur enjoyed the left outer grip. This was a fairly methodical force-out win as Kyokutenho looks to fight well past the age of 40.

Finally, let's end with M8 Takarafuji, who is one of the few hira-maku rikishi who actually has the balls to go chest to chest with M9 Gagamaru in a straight up belt fight. Today the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu, but T-Fooj demanded and got the right outer grip. As he began a methodical force-out charge, Gagamaru attempted a nifty counter tsuki-otoshi with the right hand that really woke Takarafuji up, and he wasted no time from there committing on a belt throw that twisted Gagamaru around 180 degrees setting up the easy manlove pushout in the end. I loved everything about Takarafuji's sumo today as he moves to 7-5 while Gagamaru is outta room at 5-7.

Martin makes a rare but welcome return tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
Howdy, neighborini! It may help to check the results online. Plus, Araibira now has a nice quick recap of the bouts (see today's action here), which saves me from having to plow through all details and instead pick out the interesting bits.

Before we get started, I just need to answer Kane's question from the end of his Day 10 report. We all win, baby. We all win.

The Mongolian Triumvirate

Entering Day 11, we are already down to three contenders for the cup. Hakuho, naturally. Then comes Harumafuji, who may be starting to put something together here after a rather weak four-basho stretch from Haru through Aki last year. And now our theoretical Yokozuna candidate Kakuryu. Having read the reports so far, you know why it's theoretical. I'll just add that I heard the Day 9(?) color commentator (Mainoumi, I think) talk about how Kakuryu is not doing his brand of sumo. This is nothing new if you're reading Mike's reports, as Kak has been backpedaling and all over the place, but it means that the media and the Association are making it clear that a promotion is not in the cards this time.

And they are smart to send a clear signal, lest Hak and HowDo get any ideas about helping out their countryman too much right now, at what would be the wrong time. Not that I think those two are so dumb -- not one, not two, but THREE red and blue and red flags representing the top rank in Japan's national sport at the same time? Yeeekers, Sneekers. It does mean that we can expect this to all come down to Day 15 and that a sitting Yokozuna will win out. I'd guess that HowDo may yet drop a bout, in which case a HowDo win and subsequent loss in the playoff might be the likely outcome. In any case, I'm not optimistic for a clean finish, so keep your eyeballs (and other balls ... like, basketballs, and Chiyomarus) tuned to Sumotalk for Mike's analysis.

I do wonder, though, whether Kakuryu really could put together 15 days of glorious forward-moving sumo and bank 13-14 wins every basho if he just wanted to. Would he really dominate guys who are solid on the mawashi and bigger and stronger? Kise has dominated Kak pretty consistently and Geeku holds a career edge on Kak, including four of the last six bouts. Okinoumi has won his last three against the Ozeki. Meanwhile, Kakuryu dominates over smaller opponents, going 15-0 against Takekaze and 8-0 over Shohozan, for example. Also, at 28 years old, Kak is just five months younger than Hakuho and a year younger than HowDo. He's not going to get stronger. Will he develop more moves or technique that push him to the top? I would guess not. I suspect that he moves backwards because he has to -- the competition is too strong for him to consistently drive out with a full frontal attack.

And I don't think he's just taking a step back, either, at least not to the extent that Mike seems to suggest. There are BIG, BIG rewards for being Yokozuna. If he could do it, really on his own, he would just go for it and take the big prize. Good for the sport only matters so much compared to good for me.

As for his sumo today? Kak faced off against Tochiohzan, against whom he had a 16-15 record coming into the bout. Oh Snap is just about 10 kg heavier than Kak and is good at getting inside position, where Kak's skills may not be as useful. Today, the Sekiwake indeed got that inside position after a slappy tachi-ai, at which point the Ozeki backpedaled and slapped him down before any belt action could occur. Kakuryu remains in contention at 9-1, while Oh Snap has most of his hard bouts out of the way and could turn 5-6 into at kachi-koshi pretty easily.

I'll finish this section with a short recap of the bouts of the two more likely contenders. Harumafuji got off to a quick start against Kisenosato, driving the Ozeki back with a pushing attack. Kise spun to his right, getting the Yokozuna off balance a bit, but HowDo quickly recovered and re-started his pushing, also mixing in a quick slap-down attempt between hits. The Kid couldn't keep up with the activity level, and HowDo (11-0) committed more fully to a hataki-komi that brought his opponent (8-3) down. Nothing to say about Kise -- he's where he belongs, more or less.

As for the other Yokozuna, The Apex Predator of Sumo faced some delicious-looking prey in Sekiwake Goeido and devoured him quickly. At the tachi-ai, both men got right inside position, but Goeido had slightly better position and drove forward. So Hakuho quickly shifts into koto-nage mode on Goeido's right arm, swung his partner 'round, and then let go so as to shove him out. Carna-licious. Goeido's still happy with his 8-3 mark.

Young Guns, a.k.a. the Endoh Section

So, I managed to not start a sumo report with Endoh, but we gotta cover it because that's what all the fans want. Right?

Hype or not, the kid has some skills. We didn't have a Day 5 report, but did you see that escape at the edge over Kisenosato? Holy shit! You never see a guy just standing in the ring doing nothing while his opponent jumps out. I think he tapped Kise on the arm on his way out, and that's it. Impressive timing and agility to move at just the right moment.

A few days ago, the color commentator did a nice breakdown of the Day 8 bout between Endoh and Osunaarashi (quick aside: really too bad that the Egyptian got hurt. He's also a great story for sumo). He pointed out that Endoh had great ring sense to not try for a right outer grip, because Big Sand (we've got to call him that, right? Sandman would be obvious if this were boxing, but it ain't) already had a strong grip with the outer right and would gain a powerful double grip if Endoh didn't stay away. Sure enough, Endoh could trust in his ability to counter at the edge, which he did beautifully, in part by keeping his own grip up to the last second.

That said, the problem I see so far is that Endoh NEEDS to counter so often to win. He's really good at it, and it shows real sumo talent, but he's cut from a very different cloth than the typical fast riser (like Mr. Big Sand -- a strong guy who has a chance to learn more on the job, as it were). It's no sure thing that he'll be able to develop enough power for a forward-moving attack to become his mainstay diet, with the counters at the edge as a particularly potent spice. If he doesn't, it's hard to see how he could do anything but disappoint the enormous amount of hype. It's very fortunate that he seems to have the mental makeup to deal with it all in stride.

All that said, today's Endoh match did feature some forward-moving sumo from the M1 against Komusubi Toyonoshima. It was a straightforward tsuppari affair, with Endoh ending a little back-and-forth by getting some good hand position on Tugboat's chest and moving him back and out to go to 5-6. Toyo (4-7) needs to win out for the KK.

I'm out of Sumo-writing time, so just a few more things. The two rookies have looked like they belong in Makunouchi. Terunofuji is only 4-7 so far, but has a sumo body and good fundamentals. Chiyomaru is 7-4 and moves well for being so round.

Satoyama's Day 8 win over Gagamaru was epic. I love the David and Goliath part of sumo and enjoy watching the little guys find a way, any way, to pick up wins against the 200 kg behemoths. Unfortunately, I don't think the Slimy Potato can stick around the division.

Koto-o-shit is in trouble much faster than I thought would happen. I guess that when you lose it, you just lose it. It was fun to root for the guy back when he went full bore. I guess a proper obituary will be necessary soon.

Day 10 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
Osaka fans seem to lean kinda towards the home team (more like homeland team). These days with the Mongolians wiping the turf with anyone from Japan it must feel like being from New York and watching the Boston Red Sox beat your beloved Yankees into the dirt every frikkin' time!

And to have guys hyped into the stratosphere for two months and then knocked back to earth by their own lack of (fill in the blank) has gotta be like finally getting to see your favorite celebrity in person and they're in a bad mood!

A report or two ago Mike explained the reasons for the cool response the Osaka crowd has been throwing at Kakuryu's performance. And as I mentioned a week ago, this kinda thing must wreak havoc with Kak's sense of reality. I know the Ozeki is used to working in the shadows, but dayum, the lack of interest in his sparkling sumo skill set is deafening. I get the whole "root for what you grew up with" but geez looeez…Not like it's a big deal for the guy or anything…just a Yokozuna run!!!

But alas I know that nothing I write or say will get the Sumo Association to make any changes to their beloved indigenous sport…

And I often forget that we as gaijin won't ever quite understand the ins and outs of ancient cultures that are not our own.

But hey…I dig this sport like waking up next to the right set of (again fill in the blank)! So let's stop waxing the short hairs 'cause Haru Basho 2014 Day 10 has finally arrived like a souped up road bike!...let's grab our cheap shades, steel toed boots, leather gloves and leather jackets and start pedaling!

M14 Masunoyama (4-5) is starting to remind me of an uber-orbicular Yoshikaze. It's easy to understand why…you can almost see the oxygen tank gauge sliding down as soon as his bouts begin…so as soon as the party begins he wisely picks up the buffet table and just throws it at his dance partner.

This being the case, describing his match would require way too much ink (Mike said he wants to cut costs on office materials) so lets just say Juryo mainstay Asasekiryu (5-5) was befuddled by a prolonged deluge of lunch meats, finger cakes and waffles and succumbed to a breathless kime-dashi by the great Swami Spaldeenee (5-5).

Color commentator Mainoumi said Satoyama is skilled at the shite-nage but he needs more neck strength and I say we can all use a little more of whatever he was saying there….

The ever short Satoyama wiggled his way to Makuuchi last basho and now it seems he may be half-piking his way back to Juryo. Everything went right (in Satoimo's alternate sumo dimension) against M10 Mongolian, Terunofuji. Slimy Potato got his head dug in right around belt level and worked some kinda moro-zashi forcing his opponent to stand up straight and grab the back of his belt with both hands. When Terunofuji would attempt okuri-nage to toss the little guy outta the ring, Sato would spread his legs and drag his feet along the clay. Finally, Terunofuji (3-7) worked the persistent Satoyama (3-7) down for a well earned uwate-nage win.

M8 Takarafuji got the jump off the line against M12 Chiyomaru and was literally halfway across the shikiri-sen before his unusually small faced foe had time to react.

Chiyo did recover well (mostly because Takarafuji chose to stand up straight) and greeted his opponent with a half decent nodowa. Fuji was somehow able to use his chest to shove Chiyomaru (who chose not to grab any belt) back and eventually out of bounds. Strange bout that left Takarafuji at a symmetrical 5-5 and Chiyomaru at 6-4.

M7 Chiyotairyu worked hard working M15 Takanoiwa back hard delaying the Mongolian's hard fought kachi-koshi with sound, forward moving power sumo (hard). That Chiyotairyu…I tell ya these kids today! Chiyo is unnecessarily 5-5 while Takanoiwa sits at 7-3.

M11 Osunaarashi withdrew from the tournament with an ankle injury he suffered during his loss to Endoh. His oyakata said he doesn't want to pressure him but although the doctor suggested he wait a week Osu still may return to the Haru basho being so close to an important kachi-koshi. M5 Chiyootori gets the 7-3 default win and him achieving kachi koshi or double digit wins this basho can only be good for sumo. Kokonoe heya is a big deal and the two new Chiyo kids are making some welcome noise.

Injured M10 Myogiryu took his sweet time getting into his crouch and that made M4 Yoshikaze wait even longer while he bounced and stared at everyone's favorite wired wonderboy. Monster Drink finally had enough, bitch shoved Myo and glared at him with great disdain. He didn't even do the apologetic bow and karate chop that we've all grown to love so very much.

But no matta, they got it right on the do over and Yoshi shoved Myogiryu off the hill with a potent blend of strong tachi-ai and some momentum charged tsuppari attack. Yoshi, at 7-3, approaches kachi-koshi while Myogi falls to 4-6 and let's hope he heals up 'cos he's way below his normal performance level.

M1 Endoh (4-5), who has already been graced with some hefty kensho (50 by day 9) has been tossed around and rolled off of the dohyo a lot this basho. I'm sure some out there are beginning to doubt his abilities after getting clobbered so much at the Jo'i Bar and Grille.

Is he a pretender to the throne? I'm gonna wait and a see how the year plays out and in the meantime enjoy watching the "kid" find his place in the red sun.

Stepping up on the knoll on this night I'm sure he was hoping to pull off some kinda sumpin' if for no other reason than to grab some of that kensho dough that tumescently wealthy fans are throwing at him. Evidently Sekiwake Tochiohzan (also 4-5) was thinkin' the same thing.

They met each other hard and low at the tachi-ai and both men felt equally solid impact as they stood up straight in tandem and then got busy. Now Endoh was unable to gain migi-yotsu and Tochiohzan was similarly unable to grab hidari-yotsu as a potential stalemate seem probable.

As if they hired the same choreographer, they each started to work their opponent's upper body and the erratic Sekiwake locked up Endoh's armpits, started to twist him back and forth and the two rikishi finally fell off the dohyo together like overweight synchronized swimmers. I swear if they'd crossed the rope at the same time it would have been a perfect performance but alas Endoh messed up the whole thing and went out first.

I hope the slightly richer Tochiohzan (5-5) at least tipped the now 4-6 Endoh.

Sekiwake Goeido injected henka into the stream of stellar wins he's pulled off this basho and M2 Okinoumi kinda said "Awww maaaannn... just forget it!". Goeido grabbed Oki's belt, spun him around and worked him back. As he walked Okinoumi into the loser's circle I felt like I was already there to greet him. Goeido rockets to kachi-koshi (8-2) and stays within striking distance of the basho as Okinoumi canoes his way down stream to an early make-koshi.

It's safe to say that the faltering M4 Ikioi (3-6) does NOT have the rep of a henka meister like say Takekaze. So I'm gonna say that an injury may be the reason he stepped out of the way of Mr. Weak Tachi-ai himself, Ozeki Kisenosato (7-2). Kise recovered quickly and pursued Iki Shuffle as the suddenly action paused mid ring.

The two men kinda leaned against each other's chests for a bit and Kise then easily walked / belly bumped his man backwards and off the dohyo. Other than a brief belt grip (hidari-yotsu) and then release by Ikioi not much took place in the way of strategy after the initial henka. Kisenosato bags kachi-koshi and stays in the yusho hunt while Ikioi falls to 4-6.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku (5-4) needs some rehab. He starts each basho off kinda sorta healthy but mid-basho he appears to be in a lot of pain. He and M3 Takayasu (3-6) barreled into each other at the gate but neither man gave an inch. Koto started working his trademark belly bump technique (gaburi-yori) and did move Takayasu back towards the line but tweren't like it used to be.

After the initial charge, Taka wasn't moved by Kotoshogiku's repeated attempts to shove his way to a win. Takayasu made no bones about what he wanted and after his third sukui-nage effort he finally tossed the aching Ozeki to floor. Takayasu improves to healthy 4-6 while Kotoshogiku needs someone to kiss his boo boos at 5-5. He was really favoring his right arm after the loss so lets hope he gets healed up soon.

Komusubi and honest sumo athlete, Toyonoshima (4-5) won the tachi-ai getting solid inside grip on Ozeki Kakuryu's (8-1) torso but Kak went into this potent extra level we rarely get to see and violently shook off his opponent. Kak suddenly gained a secure outside migi-yotsu and a strong inside hold of Toyo's torso and shoved him hard off the dohyo for a rocking' yori-kiri vic. Compare this to his somewhat casual loss to Okinoumi. Mike's had this Kakuryu ((9-1) pegged for a while and no telling' what kinda damage he could do if he was full bore 24/7.

Yokozuna Hakuho (10-0) picked up the tissue paper that is Sekiwake Kotooshu (1-9) and blew him to the ground with what looked like a demonstration of correct uwate-nage kimari-te.

Good natured Yokozuna Harumafuji (10-0) exercised some aggressive nodowa / tsuppari / bitch slaps to quickly shove the always smiling Komusubi Shohozan (4-6) out of the winner's circle. Harumafuji brought to mind that Colombian coke dealer in Scarface as he gave Shoho a F. U. chest bump long after the bell just to further endear himself to a loyal and adoring Japanese sumo public!

I tell ya…this second Monday spot is a comfy seat to be in…I have the benefit of a weeks worth of sumo talk veterans thoughts and insights in my databank…the rikishi and announcers have shown their cards and I know I got a truckload of basho ahead of me! Yeah baby…sweet!

Let's just hope the sumo titans offers us some real surprises as the Haru contest rumbles forward...and speaking of contests…I wonder who won this classic battle…

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
One aspect that made former Yokozuna Asashoryu so great was that he was never run down from behind to give up the yusho. In other words, if at any point he was the sole leader of a basho, he took the yusho without fail. And as great as Asashoryu as, Hakuho has been even better continuing on that legacy of never being run down from behind.  It wouldn't surprise me if Harumafuji was run down eventually in his career, but it won't happen to Hakuho in his prime, so as we kick off week 2, the yusho is already in the bag for one of the Yokozuna, which means that Kakuryu's run is over (not that anyone took it seriously to begin with) and the probability of a Japanese rikishi capturing the yusho ended before we even hit the weekend (first weekend or middle weekend...take your pick). Since I want to instill a ray of hope in all of you, however, I am going to extend my official leaderboard down to the two-loss rikishi just so we can all feel good about having some Japanese rikishi on the board.

With that said, as we entered day 9 the leaderboard shook out like this:

8-0: Hakuho, Harumafuji
7-1: Kakuryu, Osunaarashi
6-2: Kisenosato, Goeido, Takekaze, Takanoiwa

Let's start from the top and work our way down beginning with the leaderboard, which means first up his Yokozuna Hakuho who entertained Sekiwake Tochiohzan. Tochiohzan actually shaded left and swiped at Hakuho's right arm at the tachi-ai denying him the early right inside position, but Hakuho squared back up so quickly and this time got Tochiohzan in moro-zashi sticking the fork in his foe at that instant rendering the subsequent yori-kiri academic. I've still yet to detect a bead of sweat on Hakuho's body as he moves to a comfortable 9-0 while Tochiohzan falls to 4-5.

Yokozuna Harumafuji used a right nodowa at the tachi-ai pushing Sekiwake Kotooshu back to the edge, and as the Sekiwake leaned back forward to try and stave off the choke hold, the Yokozuna shifted gears to his right and yanked/slapped Kotooshu down by the right arm and shoulder for a win even easier than Hakuho's. Harumafuji is cruising as well at 9-0 and whatever happened to those bum ankles of his? Kotooshu's make-koshi becomes official, and I don't see how he doesn't retire before the end of the basho.

With both of our undefeated rikishi safely through (yes, I did type that with a straight face), let's move to the one-loss rikishi starting with Ozeki Kakuryu who gained the immediate right outer grip from the tachi-ai against M3 Takayasu. This was one of those bouts where the outer grip was so wide open that you have to grab it, but Kakuryu next needed to establish an inside presence before he attacked. With Takayasu standing a bit sideways, the Ozeki never could mount a full frontal charge, so he tried a dashi-nage and suso-harai in quick succession, and while neither of those moves felled Takayasu, they did throw him off balance enough to where the Kak firmly got to the inside as well and was able to force his opponent back and across the straw. Kakuryu clinches kachi-koshi at 8-1 while Takayasu (3-6) was largely a prop in this one.

M11 Osunaarashi got a taste of a rikishi higher up in the ranks for the second day in a row with M6 Takekaze, and the veteran's style really plays right into Osunaarashi's hands since the Ejyptian doesn't come head first out of the gate and is largely henka proof. After an ugly tachi-ai from both rikishi, Osunaarashi had a clear path to the left inside and right outer grip, but he opted to just try and bludgeon Takekaze down with a pull maneuver. When he struck out the first time, he tried it again after some movement and then a third time, but you get into a strictly pull affair with a veteran dude who has made a living off of pull sumo, and the momentum shifts to the older guy, and Takekaze showed why exploiting Osunaarashi's green sumo and shoving him out in the end. Don't look now but Takekaze has pulled himself even with Osunaarashi at 7-2!

Moving to the two-loss rikishi on the day, Ozeki Kisenosato faced fellow Ozeki Kotoshogiku in a pretty good clash of yotsu-zumo. Kotoshogiku jumped out of the gate with left inside, but the Kid dug in well, and neither could grab that clinching outer grip, so after about 20 seconds, Kisenosato went for a left inner belt throw that knocked the Geeku off balance and all the way over to the edge where he would finish him off straight way with the force-out win. Kisenosato improves to 7-2 while Kotoshogiku falls to a precarious 5-4 considering his competition the rest of the way.

The most anticipated bout of the day for the domestic fans was Sekiwake Goeido vs. M1 Endoh. Even the NHK announcers were speculating whether all the buzz in the arena prior to the bout was for Endoh or the hometown favorite, Goeido. The Sekiwake shaded left at the tachi-ai and came with a left hari-te that connected harmlessly at the side of Endoh's head, and so with Goeido moving to Endoh's right, Elvis showed off one of the greatest moves I've ever seen in sumo (or not) spinning 360 degrees to his left...the opposite way that Goeido was moving! Endoh ended up facing the center of the ring near the edge after his useless pirouette, and Goeido was right there to hammer the final nail in the coffin with some shoves to the chest sending Endoh sliding down the side of the dohyo on his back. I think even the Japanese fans could tell this bout was fake, especially after watching the replays. With Goeido moving to his left, the obvious reaction from Endoh is to turn to his right in an effort to stay square with his opponent and get the right arm to the inside, something he could have easily done if he wanted to compete in this bout, but he made the decision to give the hometown boy the glory, and I can't really blame him. Win or lose...kachi-koshi or make-koshi, Endoh is still the biggest story in sumo, so there was zero harm done in giving up this bout. The end result is Goeido's improving to 7-2 and staying on the leaderboard while Endoh should be able to overcome his 4-5.

Our final two-loss rikishi was M15 Takanoiwa who used a right kachi-age to keep M13 Jokoryu upright and away from Takanoiwa's belt, and with Jokoryu trying to get back in close, Takanoiwa snuck into moro-zashi, forced Jokoryu (4-5) back to the edge, and shoved him out for good with a few paws to the chest. At 7-2, Takanoiwa should be paired with a few dance partners higher up the ranks, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do. Remember how he schooled Endoh last basho?

With the dust settled surrounding our leaders, this is how the leaderboard shapes up now:

9-0: Hakuho, Harumafuji
8-1: Kakuryu
7-2: Kisenosato, Goeido, Takekaze, Osunaarashi, Takanoiwa

In other bouts of interest, Komusubi Toyonoshima was caught by the long arms of Tamawashi, and the Komusubi never could get a good sniff of Tamawashi's belt (oof...can you imagine?). Frustrated, Toyonoshima (4-5) moved laterally to shake things up, but The Mawashi was on his every move turning Tugboat around and easily scoring the okuri-dashi win in the end. Tamawashi is now 2-7 if you need him!

Komusubi Shohozan forced his bout with M2 Okinoumi into hidari-yotsu and then stayed low keeping his hips back and away from an Okinoumi outer grip. Okinoumi seemed content with letting his partner lead, and so Shohozan sprung a right kote-nage throw that yanked Okinoumi (2-7) all the way over to the edge setting up the oshi-dashi for Shohozan (4-5).

I think the Kokonoe-beya musta held a family council last night after their horrible performance over the weekend because all three rikishi came out today and won their bouts. First up was M5 Chiyootori who drove with his legs from the tachi-ai against M2 Tochinowaka pressuring T-Wok to go for a counter pull, and when he did, Chiyootori was on the move like stink to bait forcing Tochinowaka (2-7) out for the easy win. Chiyootori gets back on track at 6-3.

M7 Toyohibiki used a right nodowa from the tachi-ai against M3 Kaisei and never relented until he needed the right hand to execute the final push-out with Kaisei straddling the rope. Total domination for Toyohibiki who improves to 3-6 while Kaisei has been just plain listless at 1-8.

When M7 Chiyotairyu's sumo includes de-ashi and doesn't contain a nonsensical pull, the outcome is usually devastating for his opponent. Today's victim was M4 Ikioi, and I'm baffled why Chiyotairyu doesn't do this day in and day out. 4-5 is still underachieving for Chiyotairyu while Ikioi falls to the same record.

M9 Gagamaru jumped the gun against M5 Aoiyama and knew it, but just as he let up to reload, Aoiyama charged forward never having touched his left fist to the dirt, and the result was the immediate force-out win for Aoiyama before Gagamaru could even utter WTF? He glared at the chief judge as he should have, but the referee and judges were all lazy in this one as Gagamaru got jobbed by the false start that was never called. I'm not saying Gagamaru (3-6) was going to win this one, but when the referee and judges fail to do their job, he has a legitimate beef. Aoiyama skates to 6-3 with the gift.

It's been hard to figure out how injured M10 Myogiryu is, but I'm sure he's not 100%. Still, if you know that M6 Aminishiki is not going to charge hard, why not take it to him yourself? And that's exactly what Myogiryu did using a right nodowa to send Aminishiki back near the hay bales, and as Shneaky looked to duck back towards the center of the ring, Myogiryu gladly assisted him with a reverse pull that sent Aminishiki to the other side of the dohyo where Myogiryu easily pushed him across for good. Both gentlemen end the day at 4-5.

Getting to our final Kokonoe rikishi, M12 Chiyomaru greeted M8 Kyokutenho with two hands to the throat followed by a quick pull. It was a dangerous tactic against an experienced guy like Tenho, but it worked today as Kyokutenho just stumbled forward and down to the clay. I thought a potent Chiyomaru oshi attack could have kept his older foe away from the belt today, but Chiyomaru will take the win and his 6-3 record. Kyokutenho falls to the same mark.

M9 Kitataiki is clearly injured this basho. His left hamstring is heavily taped, and you can just see him wilt as soon as he's forced to put any pressure on the stump. Today in his migi gappuri clash with M15 Tenkaiho, all Tenkai the Hutt had to do was put his weight on him and Kitataiki collapsed down and across the straw. Both combatants leave the dohyo 3-6.

M10 Terunofuji got lazy and mounted a quick charge against M16 Kagamioh before he really had his opponent secured. Teru's left inside was so light that as he fruitlessly plowed straight ahead, Kagamioh (3-6) had more than enough room to move left and execute the perfect tsuki-otoshi counter move at the edge. Terunofuji is now on the brink at 2-7.

You cannot beat M16 Satoyama if your feet are not moving, and even M12 Sadanofuji figured that out driving his legs and letting his tsuppari attack force Satoyama off balance and back near the straw. There was just no escape for Imo who was pulverized by the heretofore winless Sadanofuji (1-8). Satoyama (3-6) had a hard luck finish to his basho in January, but his shtick is obviously not working here in Osaka.

And finally, M3 Tokitenku gained moro-zashi against M14 Masunoyama who managed to maki-kae with the left, but Tokitenku's now right outer grip had a similar effect, and so the Mongolian kept Masunoyama in close and in the center of the ring tiring him out for about 15 seconds before Masunoyama just crumbled from exhaustion. Smart play by Tokitenku who didn't allow Masunoyama to counter and just bided his time knowing his opponent would run outta air. And that he did falling to a 4-5 record.

Right on schedule, Kane spells me tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The day 8 broadcast kicked off with a documentary about the former perennial Sekiwake, Hasegawa. The focus was on the 1972 Haru basho where Hasegawa captured his first career yusho while ranked at Sekiwake for the 15th basho in a row. On day 9, he lost a tough contest to then M4 Kaiketsu but managed to stay in the yusho race where he defeated Sekiwake Wajima on senshuraku to set up a yusho kettei-sen with none other than Kaiketsu. The day 9 bout and the kettei-sen were identical, and Kaiketsu tried the same soto-gake move that worked for him on day 9, but this time Hasegawa was ready for it and made his yori-kiri move before Kaiketsu could really get established. The result was a close bout, but the gunbai and yusho went to Hasegawa.

As I watched the documentary and things started popping out like perennial Sekiwake...first career yusho...wild and crazy Haru basho...I was like "where have I heard all of this before?" but fortunately they didn't tie all of this into Goeido in order to suggest that he might be on the brink of accomplishing something big. Of course, they didn't need to tie it to Goeido because everyone watching could easily make the connection themselves. NHK and the Sumo Association were not setting the fans up for a wild and crazy finish, but I believe they were giving the fans hope. Anything that can encourage the domestic fans to just hang in there a little bit longer can and will be hyped.

Interestingly, in 1972 six different rikishi took the yusho that year: an M5, two different Sekiwake, an M4 (Takamiyama), an Ozeki, and the Yokozuna at the time, Kitanofuji. As I watched some of the sumo from dudes like Hasegawa, Kaiketsu, Wajima, etc...it was all so powerful and legit. To have rikishi strong enough to yusho throughout the jo'i is an indication of just how difficult the banzuke was. When I began watching sumo full time in '94, the banzuke was very similar. You actually feared rikishi ranked between M1 and M5 as they could defeat anyone above them on any given day. Now, however, it feels as if they have to struggle just to fill out the Komusubi rank, and even then, the Komusubi constantly get their asses kicked and contribute nothing to the basho. The same can largely be said for the Sekiwake rank and what say ye of the Ozeki? Sumo doesn't need a Japanese hero to come and save the sport; they need a host of young guys who can produce powerful sumo each basho and give us tournaments like the 1972 Haru basho.

With that said, let's get to the day's bouts starting with our leaderboard that shaped up like this at the start of the day:

7-0: Hakuho, Harumafuji, Osunaarashi
6-1: Kakuryu, Goeido

The penultimate bout featured Yokozuna Hakuho vs. M3 Takayasu, and the Yokozuna controlled the bout as expected from the start easily gaining the right inside position. Takayasu complied on the other side, and the two dug in both reaching for the left outer. At this point, Hakuho took his sweet time similar to a cat who has caught the mouse and then keeps him alive just to play with him before getting bored and going for the kill. Hakuho showed no urgency, and as the bout wore on, the roar of the crowd increased, which meant that the fans were getting their money's worth. Hakuho tried a few maki-kae attempts, and while they didn't work, Takayasu's inability to capitalize shows you just how done in he was. After about 20 seconds, Hakuho finally grabbed the left outer grip and dumped the M3 to the clay in short order. Despite the length of the bout, this was yet another stroll through the park for Hakuho as he moves to 8-0. Takayasu dug in well but still comes up short at 3-5.

In order to keep pace, Yokozuna Harumafuji needed to dispatch of M3 Kaisei, and he did so in less than two seconds shading left at the tachi-ai, grabbing the cheap outer grip, and sending Kaisei down with an easy peasy Japanesey uwate-nage. Harumafuji has show us a few henka this basho, but it doesn't matter. He'll kick Kaisei's ass every day this way until Tuesday, so whether he does it with a few choke holds or a lazy henka, it doesn't matter. He's 8-0 and making a statement that the yusho will come down to the two Yokozuna. Kaisei falls to 1-7 for his troubles.

With both Yokozuna safely in at 8-0, let's move to the next undefeated, M11 Osunaarashi who climbed way up the charts today to fight M1 Endoh. Osunaarashi was high again today at the tachi-ai gifting Endoh the left inside, but he used his own left well to keep Endoh upright on the other side and deny him the outside grip. Osunaarashi's length gave him a stifling right outer grip early on, and so the contest was established: Osunaarashi with the upper hand and Endoh needing a way to wriggle out of the mess. Both dudes dug in valiantly, but after about 12 seconds Osunaarashi made his move forcing Endoh to the edge with the right outer grip, but at the tawara Endoh spun right pushing into Osunaarashi's left side managing to force the Ejyptian down to the clay tsuki-otoshi style an instant before Endoh crashed own himself. This one was so close that half of the audience didn't know who won, but when they signaled the gunbai in favor of Endoh, the place erupted as expected.

This was a good example of how Osunaarashi will have to hone his sumo skills in order to compete higher up on the banzuke. I'm gonna say right now that the only guy on the board stronger than him is Hakuho, and so if he can polish up his tachi-ai and learn to fight a little bit lower, he's capable of doing some severe damage in the division. Osunaarashi drops to 7-1 with the loss while Endoh has even stevened his record at 4-4, and despite his average record, the rest of the basho is going to focus on Endoh milestones like going above .500, kachi-koshi, double-digit wins, and ultimately a special prize if he can win 9 or 10.

The one-loss rikishi faced each other today with Ozeki Kakuryu taking on Sekiwake Goeido, and similarly to his bout on day 1 against Endoh, Kakuryu was wide open at the tachi-ai and not moving forward with his legs at all. After the two crashed off of each other, Kakuryu focused solely on retreat/pull sumo, but Goeido was still no match for him, and so the Ozeki spun him off balance and won by tsuki-dashi in the end. Yes, it would have been convenient to have Goeido win this bout and keep himself in the yusho race mathematically, but I think Kakuryu gave him enough as it was with that tachi-ai and those pull tactics. If Goeido was actually fighting at a yusho-worthy level, he'da won this bout easily. As it stands, Kakuryu moves to 7-1 while Goeido falls to 6-2.

So, as we wrap up the leaderboard on day 8, it now looks like this:

8-0: Hakuho, Harumafuji
7-1: Kakuryu, Osunaarashi

With nothing but furries left in the race, it gives the media all the more reason to focus the attention on Endoh and the little hurdles he clears, and so that what we're going to get all throughout week 2.

In other bouts of interest, Komusubi Shohozan henka'd to his right against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, and before the Ozeki could truly square back up, Shohozan assumed moro-zashi, spun away from a Kotoshogiku yori attempt, and won with a left scoop throw near the edge. It's an Ozeki scalp on paper, but it was obtained by dirty pool as Shohozan sheepishly moves to 3-5 while the Geeku falls to 5-3.

Ozeki Kisenosato was wide open at the tachi-ai as usual, but M2 Tochinowaka couldn't take advantage, so the two settled into a routine migi-yotsu contest where the Kid eventually got the right outer grip and worked Bruised Lee over and out yori-kiri style. There really nothing to say about this one...just commenting on it out of respect for the Ozeki rank. Kisenosato improves to 6-2 but took himself outta this basho early. Tochinowaka is 2-6.

I think the odds are fiddy-fiddy that this is Sekiwake Kotooshu's final basho, and you hate to see a guy go out so poorly. Today against Komusubi Toyonoshima, Tugboat came in high at the tachi-ai leaving himself vulnerable, but the Sekiwake could do nothing except move right and try a useless kote-nage throw with the right hand. Toyonoshima didn't even have moro-zashi but with his foe drifting right applying no pressure whatsoever, the Komusubi just bodied Kotooshu across the straw for good. This was far too easy as Toyonoshima moves to 4-4 while Kotooshu falls to 1-7. Chances are good that he'll withdraw from the basho before getting his ass handed to him by the Mongolians.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan looked good against M4 Yoshikaze using a bruising tachi-ai that gained him the left inside, and Cafe just didn't have anywhere to escape except for back, but the Sekiwake caught him near the rope and pushed him out with easy moving to 4-4 in the process. Oh has dropped too many bouts too early because he's got the guns coming in week two. As for Yoshikaze, he sits on a comfortable 5-3 mark.

M2 Okinoumi was a bit early at the tachi-ai, and I think he hesitated a bit after that not sure if it would be called back because he was completely overpowered by M1 Tamawashi's tsuppari attack in a matter of seconds. Doesn't matter at this point as Okinoumi falls to 2-6 while The Mawashi picks up his first win at 1-7.

I feel bad for rookie M10 Terunofuji who nearly had his elbow yanked out of joint on day 2 at the hands of a Tokushoryu henka. I've actually seen this dude fight a bit in Juryo, and he is not himself since being greased early on, but he still gave M4 Ikioi all he could handle in their migi-yotsu contest today. Wasn't meant to be, however, as Ikioi worked hard for his yori-kiri win moving to 4-4 while Terunofuji falls to 2-6.

We haven't had a hisser like M5 Aoiyama in the division since Tosanoumi, and today he took full advantage of a half-assed M9 Kitataiki charge, and once Aoiyama realized that Kitataiki wasn't coming forward, he hissed his way forward with his powerful tsuppari attack earning the tsuki-dashi win in seconds as he improves to 5-3. Kitataiki is the opposite at 3-5 and looks dinged up to me this basho.

M5 Chiyootori looked hesitant again today against M6 Takekaze offering a weak tachi-ai that Takekaze (6-2) easily exploited by pulling the youngster forward and slapping him down. Not sure if Chiyootori was expecting a henka, but he had no de-ashi today and paid the price falling to 5-3.

M11 Tokushoryu cooled off a bit today after a decent tachi-ai where he actually moved forward and baited M6 Aminishiki into a pull, but Tokushoryu (5-3) couldn't capitalize, and his answer was a pull maneuver himself that Aminishiki (4-4) has seen plenty of in his career, and he knew exactly what to do when it came pouncing forward for the oshi-dashi win.

M7 Chiyotairyu continues to struggle, and I know he beat Sadanofuji (0-8) today, but he did it by hiki-otoshi. You have a guy like Sadanofuji who is largely useless this basho and nothing but a big target; yet, you opt for a pull? I mean, it worked due to his opponent, but what does it say about Chiyotairyu's mental make-up? So much potential here going to waste as Chiyotairyu limps forward to 3-5 while Sadanofuji is still an o'fer.

M14 Masunoyama was far too relaxed at the tachi-ai allowing M8 Kyokutenho the left inside and solid right outer grip, and once the Chauffeur had his bearings, it was a swift yori-kiri. Not sure what Masunoyama was thinking today as he falls to 4-4 while Kyokutenho continues to cruise at 6-2.

M15 Takanoiwa started with tsuppari to wisely keep M8 Takarafuji away from the belt, and Takarafuji failed to ever get in close as Takanoiwa never stayed put and finally got the left inside allowing him to pounce and barely shove Takarafuji (4-4) out before he stepped out himself. Takanoiwa is quietly putting together a good basho at 6-2, and he's a possible Ginosho candidate if he can win 10.

M16 Satoyama valiantly struck forward against M9 Gagamaru and then got the hell outta there circling the ring before getting his left arm to the inside where he somehow stayed alive until he could grab the front right grip. Once obtained, Imo applied the pressure and the game was on as the two went for a nage-no-uchi-ai with Satoyama throwing with the left inside and Gagamaru the right kote-nage. Both survived, but it allowed Satoyama to get in closer and on round two, he used his right leg at the inside of Gagamaru's left stump to throw him over and down for good. It was great to hear the Osaka faithful going crazy during this bout as Satoyama ekes forward to 3-5 while Gagamaru falls to the same mark.

M12 Chiyomaru abandoned his tsuppari for the second day in a row keeping his arms wide open at the tachi-ai and just giving M10 Myogiryu moro-zashi. Part of me wonders if this tactic was on purpose, but regardless, a guy who has seen plenty of action among the jo'i isn't going to blow that opportunity, and this one wasn't even close as Myogiryu moves to 3-5 while Chiyomaru still has room to work at 5-3.

And finally, J2 Homa sho am sweet by clinching kachi-koshi staying low with his arms extended against M16 Kagamioh. Homasho baited Kagamioh into enough pulls to where he finally got moro-zashi in the end forcing out his gal for an 8-0 mark. Homasho brings 10 times the excitement to the division compared to Kagamioh (2-6), so it was a welcome victory.

Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
My favorite part about the weekend broadcasts are the guests they bring into the booth to take advantage of the larger weekend audience, and today's guest was Hidekazu Akai, a popular boxer back in the day from Osaka who holds the record for 11 straight bouts where he knocked out his opponent. Long since retired, the dude is currently an actor and a television talent, so it's a good example of how NHK is playing every angle to try and prop up the sport...as they should. I was a bit surprised by the first question out of Ota Announcer's mouth because it didn't include the word "Endoh." Rather, he asked Akai-san why he liked sumo (the intensity of a bout from start to finish) and who his favorite rikishi was (former Ozeki Daikirin).

Akai was flanked on either side by NHK's Ota announcer and former Yokozuna Chiyonofuji, and when they introduced the former great, they showed clips of his first ever yusho way back in 1981 where he defeated Kitanoumi in a yusho kettei-sen. These flashbacks are some of my favorite parts of the broadcast, and the reason is largely due to the electricity in the arena and shots of the crowd packed shoulder to shoulder...two elements that we just don't see anymore unfortunately. The Sumo Association is well aware of this, and so they're attempting to set the stage for a semi-revival by constantly hyping Endoh. In order to create these memorable moments, it just can't be the result of the bout. Rather, it has to be a rikishi who can create the moment with worthy sumo...something a Japanese rikishi has been unable to do since the likes of former Ozeki Kaio, Chiyotaikai, and Tochiazuma. So while I think they're taking things a bit too far with the hype of Endoh, I get why it has to be done.

Speaking of chores we can't overlook, let's get to the day 7 bouts starting with bouts of interest from the hiramaku.

I think it's safe to say that rikishi have figgered M16 Satoyama out. Imo actually got moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M15 Takanoiwa, but the Mongolian just pinched in tight from the outside and wasted no time yanking Satoimo over and out. The guys that are beating Satoyama (2-5) know that they have to take it to the smaller rikishi from the start. The guys who lose are content to just stand there and wait.  Takanoiwa improves to 5-2 with the win.

M12 Sadanofuji fell to 0-7 after a lengthy contest of ozumo against M14 Azumaryu. The problem with Sadanofuji is he's aligning his sumo to his opponent and not trusting in his own attack. Either that or his problem is that he's...well...Sadanofuji.  Today in a bout that lasted about a minute, Sadanofuji was content to get into a belt fight...with a Mongolian rikishi...and he paid the price in the end as Azumaryu (3-4) felled him with an inside belt throw.

M11 Osunaarashi continued his hot start against M14 Masunoyama, but he's not doing it with truly sound sumo. Getting away with the strength of a grizzly bear down this low is one thing, but seeing success with it higher up the banzuke will be difficult. Today, Osunaarashi was way too high as he usually is at the tachi-ai, and fortunately for him, Masunoyama was unable to nudge him back with his tsuppari attack, so about three seconds in, the Ejyptian got the left arm to the inside, stood Masunoyama (4-3) fully upright, and then pushed him over forcefully with a right hand at the side of Masunoyama's shoulder. This was a powerful win that earned the tsuki-dashi kimari-te, but Osunaarashi's tachi-ai won't fly higher in the ranks. He draws Endoh tomorrow in what should be another great contest of strength vs. technique.

M13 Jokoryu was cooled off a bit by M8 Takarafuji in a classic belt fight where both rikishi had the left inside position (hidari-yotsu) before Takarafuji gained the upper hand...literally...grabbing the right uwate, and once secured, the yori-kiri was swift and decisive as both combatants end the day at 4-3.

I was really interested to hear what Chiyonofuji had to say about his three rikishi in the division, so we start with M7 Chiyotairyu who looked to overpower an ailing M10 Myogiryu. Chiyotairyu came out of the gate fast with good de-ashi knocking Myogiryu back a full step, but he immediately went for a quick pull, and as soon as he did that, he found himself backpedaling. Myogiryu wasn't exactly onto him like white to rice, so when Chiyotairyu mounted his second attack, Myogiryu just stepped to the side and easily pulled the M7 down in the process. Chiyonofuji expectedly pointed out the stupid pull maneuver early on, and I don't know why he doesn't drill it into his prodigy. You can point to an unnecessary pull as the cause of the majority of losses suffered by Chiyotairyu who falls to 2-5, the same mark as Myogiryu.

I was hoping M12 Chiyomaru would turn the tables for what's fast becoming my favorite stable, the Kokonoe-beya, but M7 Toyohibiki had other plans storming into Chiyomaru with both hands to the neck and then an oshi attack aided by another dumb pull from the Kokonoe prodigy that had Maru pushed back and down in a flash. As for the comments from the oyakata, Chiyonofuji said that Chiyomaru (5-2) has about as much shoving power as any rikishi, but his strategy to go for a quick pull was senseless. After a horrible 0-5 start, Toyohibiki has sorta gotten back on track at 2-5.

Before I move on, prior to the last bout, Chiyonofuji gave great insight into the two brothers, Chiyomaru and his younger brother Chiyootori. He said that Chiyomaru hates to do keiko and never works hard, but he always seems to do well at the hon-basho, something that puzzles his stable master. Chiyootori, on the other hand, is the more diligent of the two brothers, and it has shown by his rapid ascent up the banzuke. I could sit and listen to the former greats all day candidly give insights into the sport. Great stuff.

I think a little bit too much is being made of M8 Kyokutenho's quick start despite his age. His success these days has a lot more to do with the weak banzuke than it does his actually ability. The dude is crafty and still knows how to beat a passive and dumb rikishi, but M5 Aoiyama put his ability in a bit more perspective today. When you think of Aoiyama's sumo, the first thing that comes to mind is someone who stands upright and waits for his opponent to charge so he can spring the pull trap. Today against Kyokutenho, however, Aoiyama knew what he was dealing with and charged hard outta the gate getting the left arm to the inside, and he never stopped driving with his legs until Tenho was pushed back and out in mere seconds. If only Aoiyama approached every bout with this much passion... Regardless, he moves to 4-3 with the win while Kyokutenho falls to 5-2.

0-2 on the day, M5 Chiyootori provided the final chance to give his stable master a win on the day with him providing color in the booth, but M9 Gagamaru proved to be too powerful. Chiyootori was hesitant in his charge largely standing upright and aligning his feet producing nothing but a big ole target for Gagamaru to shove. And the simultaneous shoves came that were so powerful they knocked Chiyootori back near the straw from the center of the ring, and there was just nowhere to run as Gagamaru was on his gal in a flash and pushed his opponent out for the sweet oshi-dashi win that only lacked the expressions of "BIF!" and "POW!" to highlight the landed punches. Chiyonofuji mentioned that Chiyootori still lacks sufficient power, which was a bit of a surprise to Ota Announcer, but when you think about it, Chiyootori's best trait is his persistence, not a superior tachi-ai. Chiyootori falls to 5-2 with the loss, and I have to wonder if the Kokonoe boys knew that their stable master was in the booth today and so were extra nervous hoping to impress. All three of them were frankly off of their game and made silly mistakes that took them out of the bout from the first second. Too bad because I have a mancrush on all three of them.

I was hoping that M2 Okinoumi would make another surge towards the sanyaku this basho, but giving up moro-zashi to M4 Yoshikaze a second into your bout isn't going to get it done. Cafe knew exactly what to do with the grip forcing Okinoumi back in two seconds improving to 5-2. Okinoumi falls to 2-5 and can't afford to get worked in this manner. It's an example of how Okinoumi rarely sets anything up from the tachi-ai despite his big frame.

In the sanyaku ranks, Sekiwake Tochiohzan settled for the hidari-yotsu contest against Komusubi Shohozan, but instead of going for moro-zashi or the right outer grip, he went for a stupid kata-sukashi pull that had little effect on his opponent. Luckily, Shohozan doesn't actually redefine great sumo, and so the two hooked back up into the same hidari-yotsu position. And once again, instead of going for a forward move, Tochiohzan went for a pull, and this time Shohozan got him scoring a quick pushout without having set anything up himself. Stupid sumo from Tochiohzan who falls to 3-4 while Shohozan checks in a a paltry 2-5.

Sekiwake Kotooshu had no plan today against M1 Endoh, and so Endoh put both hands at the Bulgarian's neck at the tachi-ai and just yanked him down to the dirt in a second or two. I had no problem with the pull move here because Endoh does not want to get into a straight up belt fight with Kotooshu, but this wasn't sumo to rave about. Kotooshu came in way too high again at the tachi-ai setting the table, but credit Endoh for recognizing this and acting accordingly. Just like that Endoh now stands at 3-4 with much easier competition waiting for him in week 2. Course, I don't know how it can get much weaker than the hapless Kotooshu at 1-6. We'll find out if Osunaarashi is for real tomorrow or whether this recent success is due to his current rank on the banzuke.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato reached for the early right outer belt grip against Komusubi Toyonoshima, who easily gained moro-zashi on the wide open Ozeki, but instead of driving his legs forward, it looked to me as if Toyonoshima just stood there and allowed Kisenosato to throw him over and down with a left kote-nage. I don't know why Kisenosato would need this win today, but it just didn't look natural to me as Kisenosato improves to 5-2 while Toyonoshima will gladly settle for 3-4.

Sekiwake Goeido charged hard and straight into Ozeki Kotoshogiku, which was the first red flag in the bout, and as the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu, Goeido spun his opponent around a half turn before just dumping him to the clay with a left sukui-nage throw. This was way too easy, and the persistence that Kotoshogiku displayed against Endoh in a mirror bout was nowhere to be seen. That Goeido is out to a 6-1 start in his hometown of Osaka shouldn't be a surprise to anyone while Kotoshogiku falls to 5-2.

There was a bit of a disturbance in the force prior to the next bout as a section of fans were actually whooping it up for...M2 Tochinowaka? I think I was more surprised by the fact that a rikishi with foreign blood in his veins was getting this kind of a reaction from Japanese fans, but there is a large contingent of Japanese-Korean people in the Osaka area.  Facing Ozeki Kakuryu who came in like a wrecking ball, the two immediately hooked up in the gappuri hidari-yotsu position and then began the most awesome display of twerking I've ever seen atop the dohyo. Back and forth they went at the edge taking turns shoving their crotches into the other person so much so that I heard even Robyn Thicke and Miley Cyrus inquired about joining the Association. In the end, of course the Kak won out as the Ozeki moves to 6-1 with the yori-kiri win while Tochinowaka falls to 2-5. Not only does Kakuryu keep his tsuna-tori hopes alive, but I happened to watch this bout with my wife, and we're both excited to try out a few new things we learned today in the bedroom.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Harumafuji caught M3 Takayasu with a sweet right nodowa and a few shoves that turned the M3 sideways, but after grabbing the right outer grip at the back of Takayasu's belt, the Yokozuna went for a suso-harai move with the right leg that was so sloppily executed, it actually created separation between the two rikishi. Takayasu attempted to tsuppari his way into something, but Harumafuji ducked in low, secured moro-zashi, and then ran Takayasu unnecessarily off of the dohyo and into about the fourth row. It's sumo like this that saddles Harumafuji with a bad reputation among the domestic fans, and it's not totally undeserved. This was going a bit too far, but Harumafuji is still 7-0 at the end of the day while Takayasu falls to 3-4.

Finally, Yokozuna Hakuho dined on his usual meal consisting of the right inside position and left outer grip, and while M3 Kaisei (1-6) actually used his long arm to grab a left outer of his own, it didn't matter as Hakuho dumped him with a left belt throw a few seconds in. I still don't think Hakuho has showered after any of his bouts it's been that easy as he matches Harumafuji's 7-0 start.

With day 8, we get our first glimpse of the leaderboard as we set up week two of this fairly interesting basho. The dominance of the three Mongolians is so obvious, but there are plenty of other storylines to keep us watching and the Japanese media occupied. Back again tomorrow.

Day 6 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
One of my favorite sayings goes something like "Discretion, not procrastination, is the better part of valor". Preparing for today's report, I was searching the interwebz for material on a pet theory I've been entertaining lately, i.e. that motivation, the broad term, is linked to testosterone levels, because, you know, as another saying goes, "Success is only as big as your drive" (and I honestly can't remember whether this one was coming from a psychologist, a golfer or an IT hardware salesman). Inevitably, I got sidetracked and ended up reading SIX articles on the reasons for female infidelity in relationships. As it turns out, behind all the "power game" bullshit you'll read in Cosmopolitan columns, it essentially comes down to means and opportunity, not motive, and that still seems counterintuitive, but not if you really think about it (it's pretty much the same for males as well) – you see a guy/girl you like, the opportunity presents itself, you don't need a motive to follow through, you need a damn good one NOT to. Most of the time, the reason to not do it is risking your current relationship (and judging from the statistics, that one isn't too solid either). And, if you were wondering, no, I'm not really going anywhere with this, because the initial problem was how testosterone levels link to motivation – they do, but only if that motivation is to get laid – the more juice you got running through you, the more cat you'll find yourself wanting and chasing. So I guess testosterone indirectly leads to better overall success, because women are high on the priority list of most males. And to all feminists and LGBT activists or any PC's (yeah, it can function as a noun if I want it to) out there who've noticed how all this is written from the point of view of the heterosexual male, the lot of you can go suck an egg – this article is about sumo wrestlers and you're obviously on the wrong page, so go ‘way already.

But seriously, where am I going with this? Today's rant was sparked by the current domination of the few over the many in the few sports I'm following and I'm somewhat intrigued by this aspect (the ghost of Sigmund Freud lurking in everyone might be tempted to say there are good subconscious reasons for this, like wanting to emulate the dominators in order to usurp my father's position of power and stuff, but I assure you there's no such motive, as nature and tobacco already took care of dad for good). However, I permanently find myself thinking domination isn't as surprising as most would think. A small edge most of the time makes the difference between victory and defeat, and I was fortunate enough to experience this sumo-wise first hand, in a few mock sumo matches with another guy, about as big as I am, slightly stronger, with similar practical experience (i.e. close to none) but no theoretical knowledge other than common sense. To my surprise, I got my arse handed to me pretty badly, except a couple of matches when I could employ theoretical subtleties gleaned over years of careful scrutiny (i.e. a morozashi and one komatasukui, or reaching down and grabbing the opponent's inner thigh, lifting him off balance). Other than that, I could hardly move him. Now, you can probably imagine what the outcome would have been if he'd also been familiar with the sport, at least on a theoretical level. A lot of my lifetime was spent with the belief (which I'm now starting to seriously doubt) that at pro levels mental strength is really what makes the difference. In a way, I guess it is, but sound technique and strength seem to me a lot more important right now, and mental strength usually makes the difference if there isn't a significant gap in these above (and by significant, I mean as little as 5%, in whichever scale you want to use).

You might wonder what got into me all of a sudden with the long intro and all – it's kind of a burden I'm starting to feel, with Clancy and most of the other old school Sumotalk writers gone (in fact, I'm pretty sure the only current writer who's been with Sumotalk longer than me is Mike – Kenji might contradict that directly with a report, but I'm not holding my breath). So that kind of pressure can get to a guy – aside from the obvious problem which has been oozing from my reports for at least a couple of years now, i.e. that I'm not into it nearly as much as I used to be.

With that out of the way, let us gently make our way to some action. M14 Azumaryu greeted veteran Asasekiryu who was visiting from Juryo. Sexy won the battle at the tachi-ai when he got the left outside and denied his younger and less experienced foe any mawashi grip of his own. Yori-kiri was a mere formality from that point on, and Asasekiryu improves to 3-3 and will look to take Azumaryu's spot, as the other Mongol falls to 2-4.

Jōkōryu looks more jō and kō than joke this tournament, as he improved to 4-2 with a solid win against rather diminutive Mongolian Kagamioh (2-4), who was overwhelmed from the tachi-ai and could only muster token resistance in delaying the inevitable.

Makuuchi newcomer Chiyomaru, who may or may not be related to Chiyootori (same family name, written with the same kanji, and hailing from the same stable, Kokonoe), looked great so far this basho and won his 5th in a bout against Satoyama which reminded me of Mainoumi with his very low, squatting charge. However, Chiyomaru's huge, round belly proved a little too much to handle for the little guy, who was quickly demolished by oshi-dashi by the adequately named Maru (it means round, if you're wondering). The two Chiyos are definitely showing a lot of promise and it probably helps sumo as a whole they're not Mongolian. Oh, Satoyama falls to 2-4 with the loss and looks headed to Juryo.

Tenkaiho won the duel of the disenfranchised, gaining moro-zashi quickly and finishing off Sadanofuji faster than you can say "Tenkaiho got his first win in 6 tries" (ok, that's not too fast, I guess). Sadanofuji is still an 0fer.

On the opposite end of the win-loss spectrum, Osunaarashi survived a half-assed henka attempt by Mongolian Takanoiwa and regrouped, catching the evading trickster with a perfectly executed kote-nage to improve to 6-0. The Rock falls to 4-2.

Myogiryu's troubles don't seem to be coming to an end any time soon, and it's becoming pretty clear he's still injured. Today he fell to 1-5 after having Masunoyama of all people turn his back on him. Myogiryu hit hard at the initial charge, stopping the big man's momentum and gaining a right outer, which he sacrificed to great effect, but somehow could not finish the guy off, even after getting behind him for a split second, so Masunoyama recovered and got an arm inside, winning with a throw which seemed more lucky and surprising than desperate. Masunoyama improves to 4-2.

Kyokutenho is still looking pretty good at almost 40 years of age, improving to 5-1 with a win over Tokushoryu showcasing his superior technique. Tenho lost the tachi-ai, relinquishing a right outside, but quickly canceled that advantage by getting the arm deep under his foe's pit. Tokushoryu kept trying, but without the mawashi to rely on, Tenho had no trouble manhandling him into submission at his feet. Tokushoryu is at 4-2 despite the loss.

Mongolian rookie Terunofuji slumped to a 2-4 start in the division after he got a taste of Toyohibiki's killed tachi-ai. The whiz kid, who debuted in May 2011 and has only suffered two make-koshi since, in mid-Makushita, was on the back foot the whole time and could not really get any sort of offensive initiative, ending up pushed out of the dohyo in a couple of seconds' time. He'll learn in time, though, and with all the lack of interest and excitement in sumo lately, I can already tell it'll be extremely interesting in the not so far future to watch him duke it out with the likes of Osunaarashi, the Chiyo brothers, Endo or Tatsu as Ozeki or above.

Chiyotairyu kept Kitataiki well away from any mawashi grip throughout their bout, snaring the pulldown after a few tentative shoves. It worked like a charm and Kitataiki could only watch powerlessly as the ground was closing in and his opponent was retreating out of the way. Both guys are an irrelevant 2-4.

Takekaze seems to have hit upon a good recipe for dealing with sluggish East Euro types, which consists of hitting very hard at the tachi-ai, then keeping the lugs off balance with a series of pushes to the side. Gagamaru was particularly powerless against this technique, and Takekaze wasted little time in sealing the deal by oshi-dashi, improving to 4-2 and sending his large foe down to 2-4 in the process.

Chiyootori soars to 5-1 as well with a hard-earned win against Takarafuji, whom he deftly kept away from his belt despite losing the momentum at the tachi-ai. Takarafuji came pretty close to winning at some point, working Otori to the edge, but he recovered and finished the job by more oshi-dashi after surviving some evasive maneuvers in the end. Like I said above, it'll be interesting to see this guy's career develop, if he manages to stay away from the injuries which have, so far, plagued his career. Lottery (I'm too lazy to check if anyone nicknamed him before, so apologies if this isn't original) is a lackluster 3-3.

Ikioi finally got a 2nd win to kill off a 4-strong losing streak by pushing out Aminishiki despite the latter's half-assed pulls and slaps. Sneaky falls to 3-3 and isn't looking too sharp.

Takayasu bullied his way into moro-zashi vs. Aoiyama with a courageous tachi-ai and managed to win by yori-kiri quickly and convincingly, despite actually losing the inside grip on the right side. Both guys are right on the .500 mark.

Both Endo and Tamawashi had been fed a steady diet of Ozeki and Yokozuna for the past 5 days, so it must've been a relief to face each other. It was Endo who came out on top in the end, brushing off a moro-te tachi-ai from the Mongolian and grabbing the nigh insurmountable double mawashi grip. Despite the finish being yet another seemingly uneventful oshi-dashi, the damage was done down the stretch with a well-timed dashi-nage by Endo, who records his 2nd win in as many days. Despite being crushed like a bug under an iron heel against the very top guys, I'm still looking forward to seeing this guy develop. Tamawashi's 0-6, on the other hand, leaves me completely flaccid and I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish 2-13 or thereabouts.

Toyonoshima laughed off Shohozan's more bark than bite tsuppari and pushed the smaller guy out in about three seconds to record his 3rd win against a san'yaku opponent this fair basho. Shohozan is 1-5 with his lone shiro-boshi coming against Kotonoshow.

Speaking of whom, the one word I can think about when looking at his dismal 1-5 record, with four of those losses being straight yori-kiri, is "retirement". But I'll give the guy a break and hope maybe, just maybe, he's somehow gonna recover from his ever-accumulating injuries and maybe survive around the division for a few more years. I'm not holding my breath, though. Today's tormentor was Goeido who used nothing but straight domination and a solid right under the pit to deny the big Bulgarian any sort of offensive position (i.e. a left uwate). The end was a matter of time, and Goeido improves to 5-1.

Kotoshogiku used similar tactics against the similarly taller Okinoumi, but he had to work a lot harder and for a moment I almost thought he could lose. Okinoumi was definitely the more determined wrestler at the initial charge, driving the bigger Geek back in the process of fishing for the preferred right outside, but the tables were turned on him after continually being denied. Kotoshogiku ended up using his superior mass to belly his silenced foe out for the 5th win. Okinoumi falls to an honorable 2-4, having faced all the Ozeki and Yokozuna, with his win over an in-form Kakuryu standing out.

Speaking of the Kak, he capitalized on Kaisei's lack of speed to demand a quick migi-yotsu position right from the tachi-ai and ended it faster than you can say make-koshi, which Kaisei is pretty sure to get. Kakuryu is the last of the bunch of guys with 5 wins and could potentially play a role in the outcome of the basho (i.e. he might upset Harumafuji and force a playoff or something like that).

Kisenosato was outwitted at the tachi-ai by an opponent he should NEVER lose to, when the slippery Yoshikaze exposed Sato's lack of sharpness by wriggling his way into a decisive double inside which he immediately used to throw the Yokozuna wannabe onto his back. Both guys share a 4-2 record, but that doesn't mean both records are good – Kisenosato's is actually abysmal.

On the opposite of the sharpness spectrum sits Yokozuna Hakuho, who was so precise in his charge that Tochinowaka soon found himself in no man's land and was so off balance Hakuho deployed a one-handed left uwate-nage and made it look easy. Bruised Lee (why wasn't he called this sooner?! He sure gets thrown around a lot) falls to 2-4.

Last and arguably least, Harumafuji henka'd a potentially dangerous opponent in Tochiohzan, and despite there being some token contact, it was about 3 orders of magnitude below anything resembling Yokozuna sumo. Nevertheless, Ex-Ama stays perfect with the dubious win and must be having an eye on yet another yusho.

One look at the leader board screams yusho #29 for Hakuho, with only him, Harumafuji and upstart Osunaarashi at 6-0, and a bunch of other guys at 5-1 (i.e. already hopelessly out of it). Sansho watch will be interesting this time, and I'm pretty sure Chiyomaru can get a Fighting Spirit Prize. Also, I'm guessing Osunaarashi has the NSK pretty spooked, because he's already being paired with jo'i on day 8 (Endo) and I'm pretty sure he'll start getting san'yaku guys if he wins that one.

I'll be back on day 13, most likely, but in the meantime you'd best be getting ready for a heavy dose of more Mike, as we seem to be heavily understaffed this basho.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
At the end of day 3, the most prominent headline in the news was "Endoh fails to break Musoyama's record for fastest kin-boshi ever." On day 2, they showed the Akebono- Musoyama bout from day 4 of the 2004 Hatsu basho where Musoyama toppled the Yokozuna after just seven basho and four days in the sport. Well, the 2014 Haru basho marks Endoh's seventh basho in the sport, and when he wasn't able to beat Harumafuji on day 2, the last hope for him to break the record was beating Hakuho yesterday, something that had zero percent chance of happening. And so all of the media outlets lamented that Endoh was unable to establish the new record, which got me thinking about the two points I'll lead off with today.

First, isn't it interesting that Endoh is being hyped for things he almost accomplishes? Whether it's beating Kakuryu or setting a new record for whatever, the biggest story is still that Endoh almost did it. I almost got Jessica Simpson's phone number back in the day, and I almost invented Facebook first but that Zuckerberg fellow beat me to it. It's so dangerous to hype Endoh to the point where the biggest news of the day is what he almost accomplished because there are so many other positives about the basho being overlooked. For example, Chiyootori. Why is it that Kane and I are the only ones hyping this guy? I'll bet Chiyootori reaches the sanyaku before Endoh, but don't worry, Endoh will almost beat him to it. We can all see the potential in Endoh, and that's why he's getting all of this hype, but let's celebrate him once he accomplishes something, not areas where he fails.

Second, I'm glad that Musoyama was mentioned the last few days because it got me thinking about the two rikishi (Musoyama and Endoh) and how they compare. Like Endoh, Musoyama entered sumo out of college, and like Endoh, Musoyama fought in the Makuuchi division before they could tie his hair into a knot. Unlike Endoh, Musoyama rose up a much tougher banzuke, and unlike Endoh, Musoyama made an impact from the jo'i as soon as he got there. He quickly became my favorite rikishi because he had it all physically. He had a trademark tsuppari attack, and if that didn't work right away, he was still a bitch at the belt. I loved everything about him, and knew he was my new mancrush after watching him just one basho, but he had a serious flaw: he was mentally weak. After the 2004 Aki basho when Musoyama went 13-2 taking the jun-yusho (how long will it take Endoh to get to that same point?), he was on a Japanese TV variety show, and they were asking him yes/no questions. He was holding two signs made from popsicle sticks and paper, and one had an O on it for "yes" and the other had an X for "no."

They'd ask him questions, and then he'd hold up the sign and give the answer. Well, one of the questions was "can you become a Yokozuna in the next two years?" and Musoyama's answer without hesitation was "no." I mean, no thinking about it, no turning his head as if to ponder, no explanation of how difficult it would be...just a quick and simple "no." I can't remember ever being so disappointed in an athlete, but it was the first indication of how mentally weak he was. The first time Musoyama was up for Ozeki promotion...I believe it was Kyushu 2004...he started out 0-4 and ended up withdrawing with some phantom injury. The dude was one of the most talented rikishi I've ever seen but didn't have the mental strength to truly become one of the greatest.

Anyway, as I compared both rikishi in my mind, Musoyama was a better rikishi than Endoh hands down. The upside to Endoh is that he's mentally tougher ("shin") than the former Ozeki, but in terms of "gi" and "tai," it's not even close. Fortunately, Endoh doesn't have to work against the same banzuke as Musoyama, but he's got a long way to go before he becomes a dominant rikishi. In terms of the current Japanese rikishi...sure, he'll be one of the best, but you just can't help notice foreigners like Terunofuji and Osunaarashi and Sakigake who are the next generation of gaijin, and it will be something like 5 quality foreigners against 1 quality Japanese rikishi. It's just too tough too compete against those odds; just ask either of the two Japanese Ozeki now. My concern is that this overhyping of Endoh is just going to lead to disappointment, the same disappointment manifest in Kisenosato and Goeido's multiple runs at prestigious ranks that ended up short.

Okay, enough of that. Let's turn our attention to the day 4 bouts and see if Endoh almost won again!

It was great to see the Ho-ma Show visiting from Juryo, and he struck M15 Tenkaiho hard and then drifted right never letting Tenkaiho get his footing. Homa Sho Was Sweet as he slapped his larger opponent down via hataki-komi improving to 4-0 while Tenkaiho falls to 0-4.

M14 Azumaryu was way too relaxed against M16 Satoyama allowing Imo the left inside, and as soon as the shorter rikishi grabbed the right frontal, he flipped Ryu with ease. The cardinal rule when fighting Satoyama is don't just stand there waiting for Satoyama (2-2) to do his thang. That's exactly what Azumaryu (1-3) did, and it's why his stays in Makuuchi will be short.

M13 Jokoryu earned moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and immediately began his force-out charge against M14 Masunoyama, and while Masunoyama maki-kae'd with the left, he was already back pedaling, so Jokoryu kept pressing forward with the right outer while slapping Masu's left away before toppling him yori-taoshi style in a matter of seconds. Great sumo from Jokoryu who improves to 3-1 while Masunoyama orbits to the same mark.

M12 Chiyomaru was a split second late at the tachi-ai, but he still caught M16 Kagamioh by the neck with both hands and just threw him to the side like an old gnawed-up bone. Chiyomaru's 3-1 if you need him (and you do!) while Kagamioh is hapless at 1-3.

M11 Tokushoryu didn't henka for once and grabbed the early right kote-nage against M15 Takanoiwa never relenting until he had Takanoiwa hurled down to his first loss leaving both dudes at 3-1.

M12 Sadanofuji pressed the action first with his tsuppari attack against M10 Terunofuji, but the rookie didn't panic and ultimately worked the bout to hidari-yotsu so while Sadanofuji still pressed on, Terunofuji countered beautifully with a shitate-nage, and after a lengthy stalemate, Terunofuji rammed his left knee into Sada's right thigh and pushed him back from there for the excellent yori-kiri win. This did not look like a rookie the way he showed patience and countered, and despite his 2-2 record, this kids' gonna be great. Unlike Sadanofuji who falls to 0-4.

M9 Gagamaru smelled blood as he should have using the quick tsuppari attack against M11 Osunaarashi, but his feet weren't along for the ride, so when Osunaarashi went for an ill-advised pull, Yubabamaru didn't capitalize. Gagamaru still came forward, but Osunaarashi moved left and dragged Gaga the Hutt down with a left outer as he tiptoed near the tawara. Gagamaru has to win this bout after that start, but that's why he's 1-3 while Osunaarashi shines at 4-0.

M10 Myogiryu got moro-zashi against M8 Takarafuji, but it was too high and shallow, so Takarafuji pinched in well from the outside and didn't hesitate in throwing mYogiBear down with a left kote-nage. At 1-3 you'd have to say that Myogiryu is underachieving even with his injury. Takarafuji is a quiet 3-1.

M6 Aminishiki struck swiftly against M8 Kyokutenho and cheated right grabbing the right outer in the process and swinging Tenho down before the 39 year-old could get his footing. Great strategy from AminiShneaky as he moves to 2-2 while Tenho suffers his first loss.

M6 Takekaze wriggled into moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M9 Kitataiki, and while he's dumb, he ain't dumb enough to abandon moro-zashi, and so Takekaze immediately forced Kitataiki back for the swift and decisive win. Takekaze improves to 3-1 which puts him on the fast track for a jo'i appearance in May...just what we don't need. Kitataiki is 1-3.

M5 Chiyootori stood his ground at the tachi-ai trading tsuppari with M7 Toyohibiki, and as soon as Toyohibiki lurched forward, Otori stepped aside and let him belly flop to the dirt. It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but Chiyootori (3-1) is so collected on the dohyo that it's a shame he isn't receiving more hype. Toyohibiki is a disastrous 0-4.

Speaking of disastrous, M7 Chiyotairyu engaged in a hurried tsuppari-ai against M5 Aoiyama with no one really connecting. As he is wont to do, Chiyotairyu panicked and rushed his charge allowing Aoiyama (3-1) to pull him down barely as he kept his foot on the tawara. The difference here was the length of Aoiyama's arms keeping Chiyotairyu (1-3) from really getting in deep and really connecting.

M4 Ikioi fiddled with moro-zashi while M3 Kaisei just took him back quickly with the left kote-nage grip keeping him tight with the other arm. In a desperate flurry at the edge, Kaisei finally got the right inside and the yori-kiri was simple at that point. So much for the hometown hero making any noise as Ikioi falls to 1-3 while Kaisei picks up his first win.

M3 Takayasu made a few mistakes namely keeping his hands high at the start and during the bout, but he survived a bout so wild against M4 Yoshikaze that I won't waste the bandwidth describing it. Suffice it to say that once Takayasu settled down and finally grabbed the left inside position, he was able to set up Cafe for the kime-dashi win. Both dudes end the day at 2-2.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan was up way too high against Komusubi Toyonoshima and actually had a chance at moro-zashi, but Toyonoshima slipped to the right getting that arm to the inside before maki-kae'ing with the left, and the Sekiwake was done at that point as the Komusubi scores another impressive win leaving both gentlemen at 2-2.

I've noticed a bit of a disturbing trend this basho from NHK, which is they show two or three bouts a day from a camera angle off in the corner of the Shomen-West side. I mean, if I'm going to attend an event and I have my first choice of seats, I'm picking the seat front and center to the action, not off to one side in the corner. I can't tell anything that's going on, and I don't get what's so attractive about this camera angle. Speaking of things unattractive, Sekiwake Goeido's sumo was off-centered again where he committed early to a right kote-nage grip and evasive maneuver against Komusubi Shohozan, and while Shohozan (0-4) almost made him pay for his retreating ways, almost only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and rooting for Endoh, so the end result was a tottari in favor of Goeido who's perfect on paper at 4-0.

M1 Tamawashi used a left nodowa and then dug his head in tight (atama wo tsukeru) against Ozeki Kisenosato, and with the Ozeki on his heels, Tamawashi pulled the trigger on a right kote-nage that sent the Ozeki to the brink, but Tamawashi's foot slipped beyond the tawara in the process scarping the dirt and ending the bout. It took quite a few replays for them to determine a kimari-te but ended up giving the Ozeki yori-kiri in the end. Isami-ashi was probably the correct call as Kisenosato moves to 4-0 while Tamawashi is still winless.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku connected on a headbutt standing M1 Endoh upright and setting up the deep left inside position for the Geeku. Endoh evaded laterally (mawari-komu) well looking for an opening to counter with a sukui-nage or tsuki-otoshi, but the Ozeki kept his left hand planted firmly in Endoh's chest staying square with his opponent and pushing him out in about four seconds. I thought this was good sumo from both parties, but it's clear how Endoh is in over his head this high up against these veteran rikishi who have been molded for years. The sliver lining in all of this is Endoh's presence here provides for at least one bout at the end of the day that can be hyped even if Elvis keeps coming up on the short end of things. Kotoshogiku improves to 3-1 while Endoh is of course looking for his first win.

Both Ozeki Kakuryu and Sekiwake Kotooshu came in low at the tachi-ai butting heads with Kotooshu using an extended right kachi-age to keep Kakuryu at bay, but when the former Ozeki couldn't get inside, he stood upright giving Kakuryu the simple left inside and right outer grip to boot, and that Kak's not gonna fumble that gift away moving to 3-1 with the yori-kiri win while Kotooshu falls to 1-3.

Yokozuna Hakuho (4-0) secured the early right inside and left outer against M2 Okinoumi (2-2), and that spells b-a-l-l-g-a-m-e.

In the final bout of the day, Yokozuna Harumafuji used a nodowa against M2 Tochinowaka followed by a shaky pull, but Tochinowaka (1-3) was lost and couldn't capitalize. Once HowDo gained the more stable left inside position with the righter outer cherry on top, the yori-kiri was swift and academic. At 4-0, it looks like this basho is going to come down to both Yokozuna in the end, and with Osunaarashi the only hiramaku dude at 4-0, we'll likely see him paired with some jo'i rikishi down the stretch.

I'm on the road tomorrow for a baseball tournament, so the day 5 comments will be brief.

Day 3 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
Hinamatsuri (雛祭り Hina-matsuri), also called Doll's Day or Girls' Day, is a special day in Japan. Hinamatsuri traces its origins to an ancient Japanese custom called hina-nagashi (雛流し, lit. "doll floating"), in which straw hina dolls are set afloat on a boat and sent down a river to the sea, supposedly taking troubles or bad spirits with them.

A rather attractive Japanese girl happened to be watching last night's broadcast with me (yes Japanese females DO roam free in the U.S. and some will on occasion wander into my place…I keep a bowl of natto on rice at my doorstep just in case) and as soon as the event started, she shook her head, "They're talking about Endoh AGAIN?!". She also noted that all the footage is of him getting his ass beat (she didn't say "ass"). As I pondered her comments (among other things) I felt like we were watching the beginning of a "feel good" Hollywood movie…you know where the young, dashing, gifted athlete gets his butt kicked all over the room at the start but somehow learns a hard lesson and finds his way to the championship - queue any Survivor song….ahhhhh YES!

But she was right, when all the unabashed Endoh hype pouring from the NHK Haru Sumo broadcast is buttressed against Kakuryu's stunning pre-bout keiko session record against Elvis (63-3) one begins to wonder "What the deuce?".

Is the disparity between the upper echelon sumo athletes and the (in this case gifted) lower ranked rikishi THAT wide? Is Elvis The Great Off White Hope or not?

Then I thought about the road to glory athletes must travel in the sport of tennis. What it's like for even the gods of Wimbledon to come up through the ranks. Certainly, they all showed a great wealth of promise early on in their careers and upon entering the pro ranks may have had flashes of brilliance that indicated a potential top 10 status. But when they played against the elite of their sport (oh how they felt honored to be on the court with their idols)…well the defeats they suffered were stunning. First round love, love and love…pack your bags son you'll be watching the rest of the U.S. Open on the telly.

But soon, after being sent back to play against the lower ranked mortals, their bodies, their minds worked on a different, previously undiscovered level. They felt quicker, stronger, sharper having stepped into that elite zone reserved for only the best. Their "embarrassing" losses didn't discourage them for long…they licked their wounds and got to work, hungering for another shot at that seemingly unstoppable number 1 seed.

This is just the way of it…and it shed some light on Endoh's hard lessons and also on why the Mongolian butchers let him in to their lair for a glimpse of what it's like in the slaughterhouse. Stepping on to the dohyo, Endoh knew how King Leonidas felt when he first faced off with Xerxes' army.

Despite Kitanofuji's assertion that in truth, Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu wanted to see how to beat Endoh, I believe as Mike has stated, they wanted him to walk with the giants down a speedier road to…that Japanese girl looked over my shoulder and just laughed - "You're starting your report with Endoh too!" - (OK I better get down to it…that explains my opening sentence…didn't want her to be right).

Let's get it on Sumo loving brothers and sisters…Haru Basho 2014 - Day 3!

Up first was the man of the giant salt toss himself, Asahisho and a motivated Mr. I Promise I'll Do Better This Basho, Takanoiwa. Both men had something to prove as Taka had previously demonstrated a less than stellar debut and needs badly to establish himself as a Makuuchi mainstay if for no other reason than he has the assets to become one! Asahisho, on the other hand, has to justify the pound of salt he throws every night so as not to seem like the salt vampire from the original Star Trek.

At the tachi-ai Asahisho was determined to get a hold of some inner belt while Takanoiwa seemed content to wrap his arms around his opponents torso possibly seeking a maki-otoshi throw down. Takanoiwa found himself at the tokudawara as Saltine dug in and started working his way to a yori-kiri victory. This is where the bout both turned and got kinda sloppy. Takanoiwa muscled Asahisho off balance by twisting his upper body and then spun the two rikishi towards the center of the dohyo. Taka brought some effective tsuppari but had trouble sealing the deal until his foe finally ran out of gas. Taka chucked him down for a tsuki-otoshi and a 3-0 record while Asahisho returns to Juryo for a gallon of Gatorade.

Next up, new kid Kagamioh (0-2) stepped up against big man Tenkaiho (0-2) and showed everyone how its done. Kagamioh yotsu-zumo'ed his opponent hard and heavy…although he was a tad upright at the tachi-ai he survived Tenkaiho's initial charge, grabbed inner and outer belt, lifted his heavy man and then displayed strong footwork and impressive upper body strength as he chugged him out for a sweet yori-taoshi victory and a 1-2 record. Tenkaiho (0-3) fell awkwardly on his right knee so let's hope he's ok.

Masunoyama (2-0) mos def needs a good basho. Maybe he's been injured (he seems to grab some body part at the end of every loss) but the Round Kid has been on the downslide since he won the hearts of sumo fans that crave a touch of Takamisakari's charismatic eccentricity. Tonight he faced off against the inconsistent but solid mongoru rikishi, Azumaryu (1-1).

At the gun, Azza-madda-you (thanks Clancy) bounced off Spalding like a pebble striking a basketball but not far enough to leave Masunoyama's orbit. Azumaryu quickly grabbed a solid right outer mawashi grip and repeatedly attempted uwate-nage but alas the planet's had evidently lined up in his rotund opponent's favor. Much to the delight of his fans (pictured below), Spalding kicked Azu's right leg from behind and sent him sprawling for a crafty soto-gake win and a spiffy 3-0 tally.

Right before the next bout the NHK broadcast treated us with a pie chart displaying the frequency of Mainoumi's winning kimari-te. Shitate-nage was employed the most (114) as Mainoumi often used the momentum and weight of his opponents to his advantage.

Just then another diminutive and uber motivated rikishi, Satoyama (1-1) brought his quirky "whatever it takes except henka" style up against Jokoryu (1-1). What kimari-te will the little taro root put to use was the question here but alas, something was off at the tachi-ai. The timing, the feel…hard to say but it was extremely lazy for both men. No matta was called and that's not gonna favor "el slimo potato" one bit. Satoimo met the much larger Joker upright and was immediately shoved backwards into the expensive seats. Jokoryu (2-1) will take the win and here's to hoping Satoyama gets to do his thing more often than not this basho. He can be fun to watch.

The debonair young beast, Osunaarashi (2-0) has got his attitude locked down and I do believe he'll be up in everyone's face in the coming months. He has size, strength, not afraid to mix it up, he likes to clock his opponents HARD and he shows signs of improvement every basho. With little hype people are sensing he's gonna make some noise and it's time someone shakes things up around here (if he ups his game after a round of jo'i matches he could make things interesting).

After what appears to be a minor knee injury (Mike pointed this out on day 2) he hunkered down against the cool new (and tubby) rikishi, Chiyomaru (2-0). Once again, Osu stood up straight at the tachi-ai. He's actually almost upright before the two men even meet, placing his head and shoulders above his opponent and in the words of Consigliari Wesemann - "Hey thats sheza no good ay"..

Tubby Tompkins drove in low, shoved the upstart Egyptian fully upright and began avigorous tsuppari onslaught and right here is where I dig this Osunaarashi dude. When push comes to shove, Osu will turn thug on his opponent and he started nailing Chiyomaru with a series of startling shots to the head. Where his debut counterpart (Endoh) is a tactician and demonstrates sweet sumo technique, Osunaarashi gets medieval on his opponent's ass if they get him riled up. They could both benefit some by drawing from each others handbooks.

Once Osunaarashi "woke up", he worked Chiyo around the dohyo and eventually Osu (3-0) spun his man around, crouched, grabbed mawashi and okuri-dashi'ed Tubby Tompkins (2-1) out of bounds.

M10 Myogiryu (0-2) looked agile for the first time in a while against Kitataiki (1-1). At the gate M. Yogisan turned Mr. K. sideways and stayed low whilst he drove his nemesis to a quick and easy vic. Oshi-dashi was the correct call and lets hope Myogiryu (1-2) is tarted to gain some wellness percentage points.

Something seemed a bit odd about M-8 Kyokutenho's (2-0) match with M7 Chiyotairyu (1-1). At the tachi-ai Kyokutenho grabbed moro-zashi (inner left / outer right) while Chi Pet didn't once seem to be interested in his trademark tsuppari. He then fell asleep and held on while the veteran favorite slid him back and out. Standard yori-kiri win for Kyoku (3-0) while Chiyo (1-2) gets the WTF award.

Sekiwake Goeido (2-0) is standing tall in front of his hometown crowd. And well he should since he's been dispatching his foes with ease and a slight tinge of pure jock attitude thrown in for good measure. And on this night as he stepped onto the dohyo to dance with faltering Komusubi Toyonoshima (1-1) he, no doubt, was hungry for the 3-0 slam dunk.

Goeido, struck the Tugboat with a solid right shoulder at the tachi-ai. Toyo stood up straight and well kinda stopped doing very much in the way of answering his opponent's attack. He did choose to grab Goeido's triceps instead of the mawashi but then kinda froze up. Before long, Goeido (3-0) had his shoulder in Toyonoshima's armpit (note Toyo's leg position in the second photo) and he somehow twisted the fatter dude down and around for a shitate-nage something or other. Let's hear it for Goeido as he feels gifted at 3-0 and Toyonoshima says "What you lookin' at?"

New Sekiwake Kotooshu (1-1) appears to have lost a little weight. Maybe this was why mainstay Sekiwake Tochiohzan (1-1) was able to forego the belt, hook his biceps under Oshu's armpits and stroll him off the dohyo with ease. As of late, Kotooshu fights the way he looked that night after Asashoryu sent him onto queer street with a thundering tachi-ai to the Bulgarian's brain shell. (if Clancy's reading this - No, not that street in Manhattan)

Ozeki Kakuryu (2-0) has his ups and downs each basho. There's brilliantly virile style to his best sumo and its a joy to watch when it happens. On the other hand there are times he just seems to winging it almost as if his heart isn't into the match and I believe Mike's got this behavior pegged. Mongolian dominance doesn't help the cause so he knows he's gonna drop a few and that may in fact be what we saw last night.

Now don't get me wrong…M-2 Okinoumi (1-1) can do damage when he's fired up and yup, he came at Kak hard. As soon as he sensed weakness from his opponent, Oki pursued him hard and Kakuryu's only answer was to try a bevy of half realized techniques all the while backing up and eventually windmilling off the dohyo. This is the same guy that spanked Endo 63 times in 3 days? Either way you see it, both men stand at 2-1.

I like Ozeki Kisenosato (2-0) this basho. Without all the Yokozuna pressure swirling around his head he's showing some serious nad. With a new attitude and recently laundered mawashi Kise drove hard at the tachi-ai, got a serious belt hold on Komusubi Shohozan (0-2) and pulled him in so tight he locked the grumpy kid's arms like a morbidly obese python. Kise walked the strangle held Shazaam to a yori-taoshi win and flattened him for good measure. Shohozan is at an expected 0-3 and Kise proudly struts a legit earned 3-0 tally.

Yokozuna Harumafuji (2-0) seems all biz this go around and the Mongol Kings always release the dogs on the lower ranked fellow countrymen…so it didn't bode well for the ever dapper M1 Tamawashi (0-2). Haru showed off his best tachi-ai and hit Tama so hard he saw stars. Harumafuji pounced on Tamawashi's brief synaptic shutdown and pulled his head into the dirt. Hataki-komi rocks the house! Tama staggers at 0-3 and Haru drinks his blood from a boot at 3-0.

M-1 Endoh (0-2) had met up with Hakuho (2-0) before. It was always gonna be a hard lesson for Endoh…and when you practice with sumo's supreme beings, if the Yokozuna cares, he'll make it extra painful. I remember seeing footage of Asa slapping a young Hakuho in the face yelling at him to work harder. Asa cared about his Mongol brother.

So yes, this night WAS the Haru basho…the Makuuchi "big show"…and yeah he's gonna be competing for a win on the big stage against true royalty. But it was equally in part an initiation. A rite of passage if you will for Elvis to put his past accomplishments aside, leave his counterparts behind and (if he wants it) get real.

Hakuho chose not to work the new superstar too hard. Didn't go for that death knell belt grip. Instead he targeted a quick hari-te to Endoh's bruised face and as Elvis attempted some kind of belt grip, the Dai Yokozuna pushed down hard on his head. Once Endoh was turned around Hakuho finished him off with an easy shove for the okuri-taoshi win.

Its been rough couple weeks for Endoh. But I won't shed a tear cause he's getting the opportunity of a lifetime and the brilliance of his future is truly in his hands.

And speaking of hands let me give you all something to get busy with while you wait for sumo talk's next foray into whats proving to be a sweet basho!!! Rock on!

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Welcome to day 2 where I'm officially announcing the sale of the domain sumotalk.com in favor of endotalk.com or endoandthegang.com...I just need to figure out which way the Association is going to move with the rebranding of their product. From the bell today, Ota Announcer and the former Takanonami (Otowa-oyakata) couldn't start talking about Endoh fast enough showing his close bout from yesterday against Kakuryu and interviews with the dude prior to the basho. Even the prime minister who was set to give a speech today on the eve of the earthquake/tsunami disaster from a few years ago waited until the end of the sumo broadcast that was running late before he walked to the podium. I could tell they were rushing things when they showed half a replay from Hakuho's bout...you know...that guy on the cusp of becoming the greatest of all time, and then we didn't get any replays of the final bout of the day, the Endoh - Harumafuji matchup, and as soon as NHK cut away from the venue in Osaka, they went to the live feed of where the PM was about to deliver his speech, and perfectly on queue, Abe-san walked out as soon as Elvis had left the building.

Prime Minister Abe taking a back seat to Endoh? The coverage and hype surrounding this dude is unprecedented and simply incredible, and while Endoh is a guy who can handle the pressure mentally even at this young age, what do you say we dial back just a bit of the hype until he...I don't know...actually wins something? It's really getting out of control, but if this is what it takes to bring fannies back into the seats, then so be it. In case you weren't aware, there were actually 20 other bouts fought today besides the Endoh - Harumafuji matchup, so let's touch on each of them working our way in chronological order.

Visiting J1 Tamaasuka got the immediate left inside against M16 Kagamioh from the tachi-ai and drove straight forward anchoring Kagamioh in place with a right hand pressed in firmly into his foe's side. As has usually been the case the last two basho, Kagamioh (0-2) had no answer and was forced out straightway.

M15 Takanoiwa secured the left inside position and right outer grip from the tachi-ai allowing him to body back M15 Tenkaiho from the gate, and while Tenkai the Hutt avoided immediate defeat as Takanoiwa slipped off of his outer grip, Tenkaiho did nothing about it, and so Takanoiwa quickly reassumed the right outer and pressed his foe back to the straw. The second time proved to be a charm as Takanoiwa scored the yori-taoshi win falling on top of his opponent in the process which was akin to diving on a bean bag chair in the TV room. Takanoiwa is 2-0 if you need him while Tenkaiho is winless.

It was M14 Masunoyama's turn to solve the M16 Satoyama puzzle today, and he did it to perfection charging hard at the tachi-ai and getting the left to the inside, and before Satoimo could really burrow in, Masunoyama just kept driving his feet forcing Satoyama to react. The problem was he was in no position to do so and tried to wriggle out backwards and grasp for an ippon-zeoi throw, but it would never develop as Masunoyama crushed him down to the dirt in about two seconds. When rikishi stand around against Satoyama (1-1), it only gives him time to sneak in deeper and plan his attack, but Masunoyama ((2-0) completely took him out of his element today.

M14 Azumaryu briefly flirted with the left inside grip at the tachi-ai, but M12 Chiyomaru used another straight forward oshi attack pushing Azumaryu (1-1) away from the belt before plowing straight into him leading with the tsuppari as he went. This was so decisive they awarded Chiyomaru (2-0) the tsuki-dashi kimari-te, and if a guy will just stick to sound sumo basics like this, it will work wonders in the division.

M12 Sadanofuji (0-2) came with dual tsuppari up high but no de-ashi allowing M13 Jokoryu (1-1) to slip into the inside left, and from this point, the yotsu guy will win every time as exhibited by Jokoryu's force-out victory.

In the most compelling matchup of the first half bouts, M11 Osunaarashi used a right kachi-age that clobbered M10 Myogiryu in the face and set up the early right inside position denying Myogiryu the moro-zashi that he needed to compete, and before Myogiryu could muster plan B, Osunaarashi had the left outer grip and dispatched the former Sekiwake with ease with an outer belt throw. As Myogiryu fell, he hit inwardly into Osunaarashi's right knee, and the Ejyptian looked to be in some pain as he got back up and stepped off of the dohyo, so let's see how he comes out tomorrow. Despite that fluke hit to his leg, Osunaarashi was phenomenal in this one as he moves to 2-0. Myogiryu falls to 0-2 and shouldn't give up just yet. He's faced the two toughest guys around him the first two days, and sound sumo basics should secure him eight wins even if he is still injured (likely).

M11 Tokushoryu henka'd to his left and yanked M10 Terunofuji (1-1) over and out with a kote-nage that likely did some damage to the rookie's arm. I had forgotten just how big of a scaredy cat Tokushoryu (1-1) can be, but henka'ing a rookie? Are you serious? I think Tokushoryu has replaced Tokitenku as the leader on my official shitlist, and it seems the dude is of the mindset that he can't win unless he henkas. Hopefully Terunofuji can fight tomorrow because he's got a lot to offer the division.

M9 Kitataiki, who has his left thigh heavily taped this basho, grabbed the early left inside position against M8 Takarafuji, but Fuji stood his ground chest to chest with his opponent, and Kitataiki (1-1) seemed flustered after a few seconds because he went for an unnecessary maki-kae with the right arm that failed miserably and resulted in the easy force-out win for Takarafuji (1-1).

M8 Kyokutenho managed the left inside against M9 Gagamaru, but the position was shallow allowing Gagamaru to burrow his head and press forward. Pushed to the brink, Kyokutenho somehow managed to escape to his right dragging Gagamaru down in the process before his left heel touched out behind the tawara. A mono-ii was called for where it was correctly determined that Kyokutenho's heel did not touch out, and I wonder if Gagamaru (0-2) thought his opponent was already outta the ring because he should have never let the 39 year-old Tenho back into this one. Kyokutenho skates to a 2-0 start.

M7 Toyohibiki offered a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai against M6 Aminishiki, but there was insufficient footwork behind the attack, and Aminishiki wasn't pressed that upright, so at the edge, Shneaky had the wherewithal to push sideways at Toyohibiki's right side and send the Hutt down at the edge. You actually get a picture of the bout today since it marked Aminishiki's 1,170th appearance in the division putting him 10th place all time in terms of longevity.

M7 Takekaze henka'd to his left and even though M7 Chiyotairyu survived, his thrust attempts now came from up high allowing Takekaze to worm out of them and force Tairyu to give chase. Chiyotairyu always looked to be in a position to mount a charge, but with your feet out of sync from the start, he was done in by the crafty Takekaze (2-0) who evaded just enough to pull Chiyotairyu off balance and push him out. While I despise the tachi-ai henka, Chiyotairyu's gotta be able to solve this one today as he falls to 1-1.

M4 Yoshikaze jumped the gun a split second before M5 Chiyootori put both fists down, but watching real time it looked as if Chiyootori was late, and so no false start was called. Yoshikaze literally jumped his foe before the newbie was even out of his crouch, and with Chiyootori stumbling forward, Yoshikaze grabbed him by the back of the belt and spun him out before he could counter with anything. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

M5 Aoiyama head butted M4 Ikioi in the lower right jaw from the tachi-ai causing him to see stars, and even though Ikioi stayed upright on pure instinct, Aoiyama tsuppari'ed him back and down in about two seconds flat. Ikioi got up slowly and still looked woozy as he walked back down the hana-michi as both rikishi finish the day at 1-1.

M3 Takayasu opened with a wild tsuppari attack as M2 Tochinowaka just swiped upright at his extended arms knocking Takayasu over in an uneventful three seconds. You really need to grab someone by the throat and push them back, not just go wildly through the motions with bad footwork. Takayasu starts out 0-2 with the loss while Tochinowaka (1-1) wins yet another but simply taking what was given to him by his opponent instead of just going out there and kicking ass.

In the Sekiwake ranks, Goeido hooked up with M3 Kaisei in the gappuri migi-yotsu position that saw Kaisei gradually press Goeido to the edge, but Goeido used a few gaburi moves and a right knee into Kaisei's left thigh to keep him at bay until he could turn the tables with a counter right inside throw that felled the Brasilian to the clay. I thought Kaisei shoulda gone for the right outer throw near the edge and not those fruitless force-out attempts, but I suspect he's eating well tonight on Goeido's dime. From the straight up gappuri yotsu position, the larger guy rarely gets thrown down at the edge by an inner belt throw unless it's a nage-no-uchi-ai.

M2 Okinoumi implemented an effective right kachi-age from the tachi-ai that thoroughly kept Sekiwake Kotooshu from establishing the inside on the left, and Okinoumi seized the momentum using his own left inside position to force Kotooshu over and out before the Bulgarian could even get established. It's moments like these that still give me hope in regards to Okinoumi (1-1), but then again, Kotooshu (1-1) has been sleepwalking his way through tournaments the last few years.

Ozeki Kakuryu led with a right kachi-age and series of thrusts into Komusubi Shohozan's face methodically driving him back, and when Shohozan tried to duck back into the bout, Kakuryu shifted gears and just pulled him forward and down. Another hataki-komi win for the Yokozuna hopeful, but Kakuryu's job this basho is not to impress. Shohozan falls to 0-2.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan ran circles around Ozeki Kisenosato striking him with the right shoulder and then offering a quick pull that threw the Ozeki off balance and gave Tochiohzan moro-zashi, but instead of just driving the Ozeki back, Tochiohzan seemed to fiddle with getting his arms just right, and in the process, Kisenosato escaped left and slapped Tochiohzan down for the surprise counter win. As I look at my initial notes just after watching the bout, I can't help but notice my final comment, "I thought it was fake." Regardless, Kisenosato is off to a nice 2-0 start while Tochiohzan is 1-1.

Komusubi Toyonoshima was quick at the tachi-ai gaining the early left inside grip, and as Ozeki Kotoshogiku tried to fight off the inside right on the other side and deny moro-zashi, Toyonoshima just kept pumping his legs driving Kotoshogiku to the edge and across before the Ozeki could even counter. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1 and if healthcare.gov is wondering where all of their patches went, take a look at Kotoshogiku's body.

Yokozuna Hakuho got the right inside as M1 Tamawashi moved left throwing the Yokozuna a bit of a change-up, but Hakuho never let go of that early right belt grip and used it to drag Tamawashi (0-2) across and down near the dohyo edge. Hakuho was never in trouble here even though it was a very unstable bout. Hakuho moves to 2-0 and must now decide how to handle Endoh on day 3.

And speaking of Endoh, the most anticipated bout of the day of course featured him against Yokozuna Harumafuji, who reportedly came into the basho dinged up, so were things set up for Endoh's first career kin-boshi? Early on in the broadcast, NHK took us on a journey down memory lane showing Musoyama's very first kin-boshi against Yokozuna Akebono at the 2004 Hatsu just in case, but it wasn't meant to be as Harumafuji came with the quick moro-te-zuki that drove Endoh back fast, so the youngster evaded to his right in an attempt to throw the Yokozuna off, but Harumafuji caught him with a right inside scoop throw that did the trick in about two seconds flat.

Endoh just couldn't keep up with the Yokozuna's speed, but credit him for at least having the sense to back his way out of that moro-te-zuki. Takanonami praised Endoh after the bout saying it wasn't bad sumo, and I agree. Sure, the evasive retreat didn't work, but at least he had the sense to try. The simple facta the matter is that the Mongolians are two steps ahead of him right now, but that will change over time, and Endoh will end up beating these guys straight up in the end. Some may read my comments and think, "well, why don't they let Endoh win at least one bout just to make it more exciting?" and the answer is if you set that precedent too soon, Endoh has to defend it from here on out...something he can't do. Just look at how well Kisenosato and Goeido have handled these premature runs to Yokozuna and Ozeki respectively. Neither of those guys were even close to Yokozuna/Ozeki material, and they fail so badly because they can't take the pressure mentally knowing that they don't live up physically. Keep the bouts against Endoh close; give him one out of every four or five; and wait until he's truly ready to keep himself among the jo'i all on his own.

Today was a bit anti-climactic since the final bout of the day appeared so lopsided in comparison to day 1, and tomorrow Endoh draws Yokozuna Hakuho which won't be pretty, but at least we have Kane coming to the rescue armed with his kettle corn and PhotoShop.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
NHK began the day 1 broadcast with a close-up of the man-in on-rei banners hanging from the ceiling of the venue indicating a sell-out for the day, and the first words out of Sanbe Announcer's mouth were, "Last year's Haru basho had 10 sell-outs, so how far can they take it this basho?" This lead-in was indicative of the Sumo Association's agenda, which is to exhaust every avenue in order to bring fans back to the sport, and as we learned pre-basho, the main engine for this movement is the constant hyping of Endoh. NHK was very careful, however, to properly go by rank down the banzuke and show interviews from Hakuho and Harumafuji first, Kakuryu and Kisenosato second, and then finally get to the hype of Endoh. If the M1 can get on some sort of a run, 11 plus sell-outs could be possible.

Overall, day 1 was a solid day of sumo, so let's get right to the action starting from the bottom where M16 Satoyama ducked in low getting the left inside forcing J1 Kyokushuho to unravel the little ball of fur. The Mongolian used his left briefly to deny Satoyama the belt, but the moment he went for a neck hold with the left, Satoyama got the right frontal grip and immediately twisted Kyokushuho over and down shita-te-hineri style. I'm finding that I'm actually enjoying Satoyama's bouts now, and my reasoning is that you know what he's going to bring, and so let's see if his opponent has the game to solve it. If you had a guy who constantly henka'd to his left...well, it wouldn't be a henka anymore as long as you knew what was coming, and Satoyama has become a feisty barometer of rikishi this low on the banzuke. Good start for Satoimo.

M15 Takanoiwa used a seldom seen thrust attack immediately driving M16 Kagamioh back and down into a heap at the ring's edge. More than a killer attack from TakanoEwok, I think this was just Kagamioh displaying a horrible tachi-ai and no counter sumo ability.

M14 Masunoyama got the left arm inside against M15 Tenkaiho and immediately began bodying back to the edge. TenkaiSlow went for a few counter kote-nage throws with the right arm but slipped erratically out of both, and next thing you knew Masunoyama picked up the easy yori-kiri win.

M14 Azumaryu and M13 Jokoryu hooked up in the hidari-yotsu contest where Azumaryu maintained the right outer grip and thus the advantage. Jokoryu tried to move and counter with a few left scoop throws, but Azumaryu pinned him against the edge in the end and tripped him over with the his right thigh placed behind Jokoryu's left.

If Masunoyama looked a little bit deflated today, it was because Makuuchi rookie, M12 Chiyomaru, redefined what it means to be round. And not only does he have a sweet belly, but he displayed excellent sumo today smothering M12 Sadanofuji's tsuppari attempts with shoves of his own while driving his legs...and that belly straight into his foe. Sadanofuji lasted about three seconds giving the rookie the impressive oshi-dashi debut. You rarely see a rookie come into his first bout so relaxed and able to dictate the pace, so major props to Chiyomaru with the emphasis on maru.

M11 Osaunaarashi was up high at the tachi-ai against M11 Tokushoryu who looked to mount a charge leading with the inside left, but the Ejyptian stood his ground well, seized the right outer grip, and then easily turned the tables on his gal driving Tokushoryu back across two thirds of the dohyo and out for the yori-kiri win. Two points in this one: 1) Tokushoryu's inability to do more after that tachi-ai and position shows why he's a bottom feeder in the division. 2) Osunaarashi will be eaten alive if he continues to stay that high at the tachi-ai higher up the ranks.

M10 Myogiryu looked to get off to a hot start against rookie M10 Terunofuji today, but the former Sekiwake had just a bit too much tape on his right knee and right ankle for my liking. As expected, Myogiryu did gain moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against his larger foe, but Terunofuji showed great presence to shake it off with a left kote-nage throw, and while Myogiryu managed to keep both arms to the inside, Terunofuji hugged him in tight pinching hard against the outside in the kime position, so with Myogiryu upright and no leverage whatsoever, Terunofuji just yanked him sideways and forced him down across the straw via kime-dashi. Myogiryu landed gingerly to the dohyo and looked to be covering for that right leg, so maybe he hasn't fully recovered from his injury. Regardless, Terunofuji showed great ring presence for a rookie, and you can already see the potential in this guy.

M9 Kitataiki looked to avoid a straight-up yotsu fight against M9 Gagamaru sliding to his left after the tachi-ai, but Gagamaru was able to get his left arm to the inside to keep his gal in close. Gagamaru actually pressed the action first, but instead of a right outer grip, he led with his right arm gripping the outside of Kitataiki's left, and that enabled Kitataiki to counter with a right outer of his own and show why that outer grip is so important in order to mount and attack. Already pressed up against the edge, Kitataiki had nowhere to go but laterally so he slipped to his right and pulled Gagamaru along for the ride with that stubborn outer grip scoring the uwate-nage win in the process. Wasn't pretty, but Kitataiki'll take it.

M8 Kyokutenho has definitely lost a step, but remember, he's been fighting close to the jo'i for years, so get him down in the middle of the pack, and his yotsu skills will still be effective. Case in point was his hidari-yotsu contest against M8 Takarafuji where Kyokutenho's length enabled him to grab the key right outer grip, which he used to drive Takarafuji back near the edge. When T-Fooj began to show some resistance, Kyokutenho switched gears and used the right outer to throw his foe back towards the center of the ring scoring the nifty uwate-nage win. Fish in a barrel for Kyokutenho who looks as if he can go at least another year as long as he's ranked this low.

As expected, M7 Chiyotairyu looked to be in his comfort zone down in the mid-Maegashira ranks as he just blasted M7 Toyohibiki back from the tachi-ai and scored the tsuki-dashi win with a once, twice, three times a lady thrust attack. No going gaga over Chiyotairyu until he does this five ranks higher.

M6 Aminishiki was upright at the tachi-ai allowing M6 Takekaze to connect on a brilliant left shove to his side forcing Aminishiki off balance near the ropes. As he regained his footing and looked to charge back into the center of the ring, the matador Takekaze just stepped to the side as the crowd yelled "Olé !" and slapped the back of Aminishiki's left shoulder sending him out of the dohyo okuri-dashi style.

M5 Chiyootori remains unfazed fighting at this level where he met up with M5 Aoiyama who came out with his usual tsuppari attack that lacked committed de-ashi. Chiyootori was determined to get to the inside and so he hunkered down and stayed on the move just enough to frustrate Aoiyama and disable him to really connect on a thrust. While Chiyootori's tenacity and fearlessness were impressive, Aoiyama never did commit to a strong thrusting attack, so after about eight seconds of Aoiyama's thrusting and Chiyootori's defense, the younger Otori timed a perfect evasive maneuver pulling the off balance Aoiyama down to the dirt. Chiyootori could have easily played his counter pull card a second in, but credit him for standing his ground and forcing his opponent to try and beat him straight up. So much upside to this kid as we will continue to see.

M4 Ikioi knew that M4 Yoshikaze was incapable of beating him with a straight-forward attack, and so he charged cautiously leading with the right shoulder, and the moment Yoshikaze put both hands up high in an effort to pull, Ikioi pounced and had his gal pushed back and out in two seconds flat. This was largely a matter of Yoshikaze having no business fighting at this level.

In the Sekiwake ranks, Tochiohzan charged hard getting the right arm to the inside against M3 Takayasu who looked content to just stand there and do nothing. With Oh enjoying the forward momentum, he simply bodied Takayasu back and out leading with the right inside and a left hand so close to the front of Takayasu's belt, it had the same effect has moro-zashi. Tochiohzan was unchallenged in this one and must win these bouts if he wants to entertain thoughts of Ozeki promotion.

Sekiwake Kotooshu grabbed the left frontal grip against M3 Kaisei that turned out to be an outer, and when you have a grip in so tight that's on the outside pinching the opponent's arm to the inside rendering it useless, you are in full command of the bout. All the Bulgarian needed now was the right inside to mount his attack and Kaisei had no answer. The one thing Kaisei does have is bulk, and so he attempted to stand his ground at the edge, but Kotooshu shifted gears and dumped the Brasilian over with that left outer secured from the tachi-ai.

Sekiwake Goeido charged hard getting the quick right outer grip followed by the left inside, and M2 Tochinowaka should have welcomed this position as he maintained a right outer grip of his own, but he opted to do nothing with his left arm keeping it up against Goeido's armpit but never attempting to raise the Sekiwake upright. I don't know if this was intentional on his part or if it was just Tochinowaka being Tochinowaka, but T-Wok's lack of pressure allowed Goeido to strike first, and he did so by stepping out right and throwing/dragging Tochinowaka down with his outer grip. Likely mukiryoku sumo here from Tochinowaka, but it's hard to always tell with him since he's unintentionally mukiryoku more often than not.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato actually displayed a formidable tachi-ai against M2 Okinoumi pushing his left arm up into Okinoumi's right and keeping the taller Okinoumi upright while the Ozeki saddled in close leading with the left. With the two no chest to chest leaning in on each other, it was a matter of who would grab the right outer first, and it was the Ozeki who offered a belly shove that got Okinoumi upright just enough to where he seized the right outer grip and ultimately the bout scoring the uwate-nage in the end after Okinoumi tried to resist. This was actually the best sumo we've seen from Kisenosato in a long time, but it helps when you fight a passive guy like Okinoumi.

M1 Tamawashi's tsuppari attack against Ozeki Kotoshogiku was busy but ineffective allowing Kotoshogiku to easily stay square with his foe and stand his ground until he saw an opening. Said opening came in about five seconds in the form of a left arm to the inside, and once secure, Kotoshogiku didn't even need the right hand as he bodying Tamawashi back and across with little argument.

Up next was the match everyone was waiting for featuring Ozeki Kakuryu and M1 Endoh, and it couldn't have played out any better. Ozeki Kakuryu charged straight into his opponent driving the crown of his head into Endoh's forehead drawing blood, and in the process Kakuryu went for and got the right outer grip, but the Ozeki wasn't driving forward with his legs and instead opted to create separation by moving out right. Endoh actually had both hands in tsuppari fashion at the base of Kakuryu's neck, but if those tsuppari are effective, Kakuryu gets driven upright or back...not to the side. With Kakuryu having created separation by moving right on his own, he looked vulnerable, but he was in complete control...for the most part. After delivering a right hari-te to Endoh's face, the youngster actually connected on a left tsuki that sent Kakuryu back to the edge and with the Ozeki upright and looking vulnerable, Endoh went for the oshi-dashi kill. It wasn't meant to be, however, as Kakuryu waxed off Endoh's extended left and then pulled the M1 down by the shoulder as he tip-toed the tawara.

Oh so close...on the surface. I spent an entire paragraph in my pre-basho report discussing how Endoh's bouts with the three Mongolians could be close despite the ass kicking he took in the keiko ring, and this was exactly what I was referring to. First, Kakuryu had no de-ashi from the tachi-ai. Second, he went for the outer grip without the inside position. Third, he created separation by moving right with no action required on the part of Endoh. Yes, Endoh's hands were at the Ozeki's neck, but if those shoves have any effect, Kakuryu is moved upright or back...not out right. That Endoh connected on that left shove made this bout look close, but even as Kakuryu just stood there at the edge waiting for Endoh's charge, he was in complete control and simply toyed with his opponent. Feel free to disagree with me, but this bout was not close. There wasn't single thing that Endoh did that dictated the pace. If you think that Endoh "almost won," how did he do it? What moves did he use to set it all up? Absolutely nothing. Yes, he connected on that one left sideways shove, but if he was dictating the pace (i.e. moving forward), the Ozeki would have been toast. That Kakuryu had to wait for Endoh's final shove attempt is an indication that Endoh was along for the ride, not in control.

That this bout appeared close is where everybody wins. When you're desperate, "almost" at least gives you hope moving forward, and so now Endoh has already established that he can fight at this level and that he can hang with the Mongolians when absolutely nothing from the keiko ring prior to the basho indicated this. Having Endoh bleed was just a cherry on top, and NHK milked it heavily following Endoh down the hana-michi and out into the halls of the venue with blood streaming down his face and looking like a comlete badass.  And that's all you can ask for at this point. Hope.

Up next was Yokozuna Harumafuji who used a wicked left nodowa and de-ashi to drive Komusubi Toyonoshima straight back, but the Yokozuna didn't have a hold on his opponent, and so Toyonoshima was able to slip into moro-zashi at the edge turning this into a contest. Harumafuji only had a kubi-nage attempt at this point to survive, but he showed his brilliance setting up the throw by working his right leg to the inside of Toyonoshima's left getting him off balance and tipping him over to the dohyo a split second before Harumafuji landed on top of his dome and somersaulted over. Wasn't pretty, but Harumafuji picks up his first winna the basho. Up tomorrow is Endoh, and I would not be surprised to see the youngster come away with a kin-boshi, not because he is going to school the Yokozuna but just because.

Capping off the day was Yokozuna Hakuho who slammed his left arm hard into Komusubi Shohozan knocking him upright, and I thought Shohozan actually did well to think of countering with a kote-nage throw wrapped around Hakuho's extended left arm, but before that could even develop, the grizzly bear Hakuho was bodying into Shohozan so fast that he was completely off balance and sent outta the ring oshi-dashi style in just a few seconds.

I really thought it was a good day of sumo. Both rookies won and looked good doing it. Satoyama picked up a win...Chiyotairyu and Kisenosato both looked good, and then Endoh of course "almost" beat Kakuryu. Judging from the start it's going to be an entertaining basho, which is exactly what the sport needs.

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