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Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9

Senshuraku Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It was clear by the end of day 12 after Hakuho stepped aside for Kotooshu that he was dropping out of the yusho race, and while two Japanese rikishi in Kisenosato and Takayasu were still in the hunt mathematically, the basho was over. I was a bit surprised that this was even published, but the last hour of today's NHK broadcast drew an average rating of 13.7%, which is an indication that even the Japanese public knew there was little to watch on the tournament's final day. At the conclusion of Matt's day 14, he said not to let the other writers get you down, and while I appreciate his optimism, I don't think the other writers are playing contrarian and looking for ways to find fault with the Sumo Association. I think we're just painting an honest picture of where the sport finds itself, and the perceived negativity comes across because the Sumo Association finds itself in dire straits.

That 13.7 is a horrible number, and it would have been a lot worse if they had published the rating for the entire broadcast and not just the final hour. On the surface, the number one issue with sumo right now is the inability of a Japanese rikishi to challenge for the yusho, but the root of the problem is that the sport is having to compromise its results greatly in order to give the appearance that the Japanese rikishi at least have a chance. In the end, you have hon-basho that just don't make sense when you step back and analyze it with a rational mind. I agree with Matt that we will continue to have interesting storylines throughout the year, but at what price?

Let's get to the senshuraku action starting with the kore-yori-sanyaku bouts, and if you've ever wondered what "senshuraku" means in Japanese, a loose translation would be "let's get in as many fake bouts as possible since it's the final day." First up was an Ozeki duel between Kakuryu and Kotoshogiku where the latter came in with a 7-7 record meaning he needed to defeat the feisty Kakuryu in order to secure kachi-koshi. Even the purist of sumo fans who think that all of the action in the ring is straight up knew the end results of this one. The bout began where Ozeki Kakuryu had a clear path to the inside with the left against Kotoshogiku, and there's no doubt he could have secured the right inside position as well giving him moro-zashi, but the Kak pulled out and began retreating slowly enough to let the Geeku catch him with a left outer grip and the deep right inside position to boot. Kakuryu made it look respectable going for a half-assed right inside belt throw that nearly threw Kotoshogiku off balance for good, so he repented quickly of that and went through the motions of two maki-kae attempts with the right arm, the second of which enabled Kotoshogiku to finally force the Kak out for good.

This was clearly a favor thrown Kotoshogiku's way to enable him to secure kachi-koshi because Kakuryu is the third best rikishi on the banzuke right now. I know the numbers don't bear that out, but sumo has become one huge paradox in terms of actual results and the actual ability of the rikishi. I also think that if Kakuryu had come into the day at 7-7 along with Kotoshogiku, he still woulda taken the bullet and let Kotoshogiku win anyway. Regardless, Kotoshogiku fans can now breathe a sigh of relief as both fellas end the tourney at 8-7.

Next up, Ozeki Kisenosato exhibited one of his best tachi-ai of the basho against fellow Ozeki Kotooshu using a sharp right arm into the Bulgarian's neck leading to the secure left inside position, but he wasn't driving forward with the legs, and so Kotooshu just reached around and grabbed the right outer grip with ease. Kisenosato reached for and nearly got a right outer himself, but it took just a slight wrenching of Kotooshu's hips to break off the Kid's right outer, and from there, it was Kotooshu who executed the sound de-ashi setting up the easy right-handed belt throw and picking up a whole wad of cash in the process from the two dozen or so kensho marched around the ring. Once again, Kisenosato fails to put together a complete bout and loses a close one in the process leaving both rikishi at 10-5.

While there were several storylines heading into the day, the biggest was would Harumafuji defeat Hakuho and secure his first zensho yusho performance as a Yokozuna? Another way to rephrase that questions is "would Hakuho throw the bout in Harumafuji's favor?" and it was clear from the tachi-ai that the answer was yes. Hakuho struck hard with his oft-seen kachi-age with the right arm, but he immediately pulled back his de-ashi at this point and opened himself up for the easy moro-zashi on the part of Harumafuji. With Harumafuji burrowing in having obtained the two insides, there was no urgency on Hakuho's part to counter with a kote-nage throw or an attempted maki-kae, and so Harumafuji dispatched of the dai-Yokozuna in about 10 seconds via yori-kiri. There's really nothing to break down in this bout, and I thought Mainoumi said it best when he commented afterwards, "the impression I got from this bout was just how easily Hakuho gave up moro-zashi from the tachi-ai." Amen brother, amen.

If you hadn't watched the last four tournaments and someone came up to you today and said, "a certain rikishi took three of the last four basho with perfect 15-0 records...who am I talking about?" the only answer would be Hakuho. Yet, the correct answer is really Harumafuji. On one hand, it's hard to argue with pure statistics, but on the other hand, the actual sumo we're seeing in the ring doesn't equate to those numbers. For example, no one is afraid of Harumafuji, his sumo hasn't gotten any better over that span, and Hakuho certainly hasn't digressed, and yet it is now recorded in the history books.

Let me put it to you another way. In the history of modern sumo, there have only been two rikishi who have been able to take three zensho yusho in the span of four basho: Hakuho and Harumafuji. Chiyonofuji couldn't do it, Asashoryu never did it, Kitanoumi couldn't do it, and not even the late Taiho accomplished the feat. So does this mean that Harumafuji is now in the conversation of "who were the greatest rikishi all time?" Are we now witnessing the Harumafuji era?

I mean, those two questions are just laughable, and yet, this paradox is occurring before our very eyes. It's the same kind of paradox we witnessed with the Ozeki duel today featuring Kotoshogiku and Kakuryu. Both rikishi ended the tournament with 8-7 records, and Kotoshogiku even defeated Kakuryu in a "hotly contested" bout today, but if you take a step back and examine the sumo of those two Ozeki, they're not even comparable. And the same is true about Hakuho and Harumafuji. You can't even compare the two in the ring, but this is the kind of results we will continue to see as Hakuho is asked to step back and lower the bar.

I love it...Sekiwake Goeido hasn't gone for the belt in like a week, but needing that last win for his kachi-koshi against M6 Tochinoshin, he somehow becomes a changed man and charges straight into Tochinoshin's girth. Goeido still had no de-ashi in this bout that turned quickly to a gappuri migi-yotsu contest meaning both rikishi had right inside and left outside belt grips. In this position, the larger rikishi usually wins, but Tochinoshin didn't attempt a single offensive maneuver. Goeido eventually drove him back to the edge where an utchari was wide open for Tochinoshin that would've worked, but the Georgian instead just made it look close as Goeido leaned into him for the yori-taoshi win.

After the bout, Mainoumi commented how it was important that Goeido protect his rank of Sekiwake, and that statement was actually an unintentional double entendre. It just looks bad when you start the year off hyping a guy for Ozeki as the media did and then watch him suffer a make-koshi with horrible sumo, and so Tochinoshin (9-6) understood his place today and made sure that Goeido at least ended the festivities with eight wins. As Simon says, "good lad."

Sekiwake Baruto nearly blew his kachi-koshi bid against M5 Ikioi after grabbing the left outer from the tachi-ai while Ikioi could only counter with the right inside, but this bout was a perfect example of why I'm always stressing the de-ashi. With Baruto's left leg severely hampered by an injury, the Estonian just couldn't pull the trigger on an effective outer belt throw, and the result was an ugly nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge that saw Ikioi actually pull the former Ozeki down with a counter inside belt throw where Baruto put his right hand down first as both rikishi crashed to the dirt. Ikioi was correctly declared the winner by the referee, but they called a mono-ii and said both guys hit at the same time. I actually think they did Baruto a favor in this one. Yeah, I know he's a foreigner, but he's a former Ozeki, and it was close enough that I think they decided to call a redo out of respect for all that Baruto has accomplished up to this point.

In the do-over, it was a carbon copy tachi-ai with Baruto getting the left outer grip, but Ikioi wouldn't go easy countering with another right inside throw that got the Estonian off balance to the point where he gave up moro-zashi, but Ikioi wasn't low enough to do anything with it, and so Baruto was able to force his foe back across the straw in the end. Bart had to work like hell for it, but he scored his eight wins...barely, and I must admit that I underestimated Ikioi prior to the basho. Dude has really matured and gotten better with each basho, and I sense that Ikioi's got some confidence in his attack now. I was impressed with him in January probably more than any other rikishi in terms of exceeding my expectations.

M7 Takayasu is clearly ready for the big time, and how do I know? He saw his opponent, Komusubi Tochiohzan, come into the day with a 7-7 record, and so he exhibited his worst tachi-ai of the basho using no de-ashi and keeping his hands high and to the outside the entire time. This one woulda been over earlier except Tochiohzan completely whiffed on his first pull attempt, but the second one came soon enough sending Takayasu from the middle of the ring all the way over to the edge. Allow me to just comment on a hataki-komi win in general. In a bout where both guys are trying to win, the rikishi who gets slapped down hits the dirt near the spot where the slapdown took place. A rikishi who is deferring to his opponent, rolls across half the dohyo making it look more dramatic as we saw with Aminishiki earlier on in the basho. It's unfortunate that Takayasu wasn't able to come out in this one with the same fire he had against Baruto, but as I mentioned earlier, he's ready for the big time. His 12-3 record and Kantosho are reward enough for now, and Tochiohzan (8-7) owes the dude in Osaka.

M2 Kyokutenho stayed up high and kept his arms near Komusubi Shohozan's head the entire way, a senseless tachi-ai for a guy whose trying to win his bout, and so Shohozan just bulldozed the Chauffeur back and out for the easy oshi-dashi win. Both dudes end the tourney at 4-11.

M6 Aoiyama fell just short of his kachi-koshi against M1 Aminishiki today in a wild bout that saw Aoiyama chase Shneaky around and around the ring trying to connect on a lethal tsuppari, but Aoiyama's legs just couldn't keep up, and Aminishiki finally managed to pull Aoiyama out of the ring with a tug at his extended left arm. Normally when a guy has kachi-koshi coming into the day as Aminishiki had, he will defer to a 7-7 rikishi, but I think in this one Aminishiki spotted Aoiyama (7-8) with a bedroll of his own wrapped around the left leg and thought, "hey that's my gig! There'll be no mercy for you today." At 9-6, Aminishiki will assume the Komusubi rank vacated by Shohozan.

And finally, I'll end the day with M8 Chiyotairyu who just pulverized M1 Myogiryu choking the former Sekiwake at the tachi-ai with the right hand and then yanking him down with a swipe at the left arm all in a second flat. Of all the Japanese rikishi on the banzuke, I think Chiyotairyu has the most potential, but he's gotta get over his penchant for pull sumo. It worked today against Myogiryu thanks to his overwhelming tachi-ai, but it won't work consistently especially as he continues to rise up the ranks. He ends the basho at 10-5 meaning he'll fight among the jo'i in Haru while Myogiryu suffers a painful loss dropping him to 7-8. Dude had a Shukunsho there for the taking but simply got this ass kicked today.

Just after the bout, it was announced on NHK that Takamisakari would hold a press conference later on in the day to announce his retirement from sumo as an active rikishi. They actually showed a replay of his bout where his opponent obviously let him win, the same thing that happened with Miyabiyama today. It's just the Japanese way to let these guys retire with a win in their final bout, so don't get your panties in a wad when we point it out.

I haven't decided whether or not to do a post-basho report. We'll just see what thoughts run through my noggin in the days after the basho and whether or not I think they're insightful enough to use in a report, but it's clear from this first tournament that sumo will not be changing directions any time soon.

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Day 14 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
Well, this is my first time on Sumotalk to announce the official winner. Not gloating, but I called it on day six -- Hakuho would drop one to an Ozeki in need to give Harumafuji the clear path to victory. I can say it's not gloating because I think I was almost wrong. How was I almost wrong? Because I went back and looked at the Day 13 HowDo-Kise bout, and it looks to me like Harumafuji did not want to win (and therefore didn't want to win the whole tsuna). The more I watch it, the more sure I am.

First of all, look at the body of work that Harumafuji put together on Day 1-12. He was timing everything perfectly, moving with focus and intent, and really taking it his opponents with a variety of techniques. His Day 12 slap down of Kotoshogiku was powered by a strong tachi-ai and confident technique. But Day 13? Start with an uninspired tachi-ai, move on to see total refusal to grab at Kise's belt with his left even though he doesn't even have to reach two centimeters for it, and then watch a slap down attempt that is not properly setup by a solid forward attack. He's totally trying to emulate the technique of his senpai Hakuho from Day 12 (See Mike's report below). And Kise totally fails to get any kind of push to get HowDo out. Like, totally, dude. So sad, and you can see that sadness in Harumafuji's face. That is not the face of a man who is pumped up about get win number 13 and have a chance to close it out in Day 14. That is a face of masked disappointment, of opportunity lost. Total bummer.

So, what kind of affect did that have on today's matches? Well, starting at the top, we get a straight-up battle between the tournament leader, lossless HowDo, and the dangerous Kakuryu. After some initial thrusting, the Yokozuna did what he does best today, using his speed to turn a mostly even situation into a deep and low inside position with two solid grips, right hand inside and left out. Kak was left with an okay inside right grip, but his left arm couldn't reach the mawashi with HowDo's hips back. After that, it was mostly academic, with Kakuryu fending off the first charge but without a sufficient answer for the second one.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, we can crown the yusho winner. Harumafuji's sumo depends so much on timing, technique, and focus that it's hardly a surprise that he went 9-6 in November. With time to concentrate and having gotten a butt burn from the YDC, he comes out this time with gusto and earned himself another Emperor's cup. Yes, he got some help from Hak taking that step back, but Harumafuji had to hold up his end and did so in fine form.

I wish I could confidently predict a straight up battle tomorrow in the musubi-no-ichiban. And I'm hopeful, as there is nothing much to get in the way. Unfortunately, our Mongolian Yokozuna-tachi have proven that they like to put on a show for the fans, so it may be silly season out there (like in the Aki finale). Or, Harumafuji may walk right into a yotsu battle in a completely even position, which all but guarantees a win for Hakuho. Yes, I know it sounds crazy -- Hak obviously doesn't need the help -- but if somebody thinks that 13-2 is low enough for a healthy Yokozuna, then HowDo might not be trying his hardest to get a more advantageous position to battle from. We'll find out soon enough.

Speaking of the other Yokozuna, Hak took on Kisenosato and clearly had no intention of losing today. Maybe he was pissed that Kise couldn't take what HowDo tried to hand to him on Day 13. In any case, Hak was aggressive and went after the Ozeki at the tachi-ai. Kise was moving backwards and, in doing his best to keep the Yokozuna off of his belt, managed to use his left hand to push up into Hakuho's right arm pit and shift him off balance for a split second. Hakuho stepped back and to the side, and just then Kisenosato thought it would be a good idea to slap Hak in the face. Maybe not such a good idea after all, as Hakuho turned up the heat on his own tsuppari, got himself inside of Kise's defenses and easily yorikiri'd the Ozeki out. The Kid drops to 10-4, which is more like where he belongs.

Other Bouts of Note

I don't want to take all night on this report, so I'll keep the rest pretty short.

Kotooshu faced the one-legged Baruto today. Without being at full speed, it's really hard to stay low and charge hard, so Baruto's worst tendencies are doubly bad this basho. Today again, he just came in too high at the tachi-ai and without any serious force. And say what you will about Kotooshu, the man knows what to do with an advantageous position and two good grips on the mawashi. I think that Baruto has more good sumo in him. Assuming that his injury heals, he's going to make things awkward for the YDC with lots of double-digit basho and permanent Sekiwake status, since I doubt that they want to re-promote him. But we'll see.

I would skip the Geeku bout, but there's some obligation with Ozeki. At 6-7, he's lucky to draw Aran and for Aran to walk into a mawashi fight, since Kotoshogiku is better at that. Humpy hump to get to 7-7. Oh, and no attacking after the tachi-ai nor any evasion at the edge by Aran, so you can guess as well as I can how much was in the envelope in his locker. Aran does suffer a make-koshi with the loss, but I've never sensed ambition in him to rise above the high Maegashira ranks.

Goeido blew it today against Takayasu. The former Oz-runner charged in lower and harder than the Jun-Yusho contender, but didn't get a good grip on the hairy man (he's got plenty there to grab something!). He also charged a bit too high, making it possible for Takayasu to swing him down to the ground near the edge. Prizes for Takayasu, now 12-2. Goeido may get some help tomorrow at 7-7.

Shohozan looked more like himself in his fast-moving attack to beat Kaisei. But only his third win.

Once upon a time, this commentator wrote in this space that Ikioi didn't belong in the division. Well, a KK from M5 says that maybe he does. I was still totally right at the time, but this incarnation of Ikioi is moving quickly and with purpose out there. It's not smooth and not particularly powerful, but he picks up wins. Won't save him from demolition if he goes 9-6 and moves into M1-M2 territory, though.

Nice kata-sukashi (shoulder grab and pull down) by Aminishiki to pick up the KK from M1 over Toyohibiki.

Legend Chiyonofuji (formerly known as, now Kokonoe Oyakata) got to watch from the announcer's booth as his own heya's youngster Chiyotairyu took out Kotoyuki with a big two-handed push to the chest at the edge. Whomp! Into the third row! One for the Wolf!

I'll end this report with the second to last match, and likely last win, for Miyabiyama in the top division. He faced 4-10 J3 Satoyama in the slowest tsuppari battle in modern sumo history. They really, truly appeared to be underwater. After it all went down, it was one more hataki-komi for the road, folks.

That's it! Enjoy the last day and don't let the other writers get you down. There will be interesting happenings in sumo this year. They might not be what we really want from the sport, but it won't be without storylines. And surely a few good matches along the way.

Mike Wraps it all up tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I'm going to start the day off by discussing J12 Takamisakari who suffered his eighth strait loss today (by tsuki-dashi no less) meaning his demotion from the Juryo ranks is imminent as soon as they rework the Haru basho banzuke next Wednesday. After it was clear that Goeido was not up to snuff, the number one story the Japanese media has been covering this basho is the plight of Takamisakari, and today the final nail was driven into his fighting career's coffin. If the Sumo Association plays it right, however, I don't think this is devastating at all. A celebrity such as Takamisakari can and should be used as an oyakata for much more than playing security guard on a cheap folding chair in one of the hana-michi.

First, how many people actually watch Takamisakari fight in the Juryo ranks? The arena still isn't even close to half full when he fights, which is why that dude the other day was able to get close enough to harass him ringside as he waited to be called up to the dohyo. As for the television audience, very few Japanese people are tuning into that BS2 broadcast that starts at 1 PM (if they still start it that early...I don't know), and the main NHK channel probably doesn't start their broadcast until Takamisakari's done fighting. So, the only real exposure that Takamisakari gets is through the print media.

If the Sumo Association was smart, they'd sit Takamisakari's ass down in that mukou-joumen chair or even bring him into the booth to provide color for 8-10 days of the broadcasts. Nobody ever watched Takamisakari for his sumo...ever. They only watched him because he's a huge geek, and he talks like a Japanese version of Forrest Gump. So, if you put him on that two hour broadcast and just let him be Takamisakari, you would get ratings through the roof, and that's a guarantee. I was watching the broadcast the other day and they had Tamanoi-oyakata (former Tochiazuma) showcasing the Sumo Association's website. He pulled up a page with that big yellow bird and even got in the plug "you can buy tickets from this website too!" was the most boring piece I've ever seen.

The Sumo Association needs to stop wasting their time on such fruitless marketing efforts and use their number one asset, Takamisakari, to bring viewers back to the broadcast. I used to salivate for a 30 second Takamisakari kachi-koshi interview, so just imagine the gold we'd discover if they let him loose for two hours. Andreas was unfortunately correct in his comments yesterday that it's going to be a long 2013 - 2020 for sumo, but they absolutely have an ace up their sleeve if they use Takamisakari correctly.

Okay, let's get to the day's bouts starting with Hakuho vs. Kotooshu. Hopefully Sumotalk has you all paranoid enough that you saw this bout unfold and then questioned it because this was yaocho all the way. Hakuho got the right arm to the inside from the tachi-ai, and he had the left arm to the inside as well that gave him the clear path to moro-zashi, but he pulled that left arm back along with his de-ashi and went for a senseless pull, and so Kotooshu, who grabbed a left outer grip from the tachi-ai, just forced the Yokozuna back and across the straw in mere seconds. If you watched the replays when they showed the reverse angle, you could totally see Hakuho pull that left arm back, and then when you add that to his lack of de-ashi and meaningless pull, it adds up to the Yokozuna allowing Kotooshu the win. I took a pic with my cell phone of the reverse angle where you can see Hakuho's left to the inside, and this occurred while he already has the right arm to the inside, so had he wanted to, he could have defeated Kotooshu in mere seconds himself from the moro-zashi position.

As to why Hakuho would drop this bout, I can think of several scenarios. First, his intention is to lose to Kisenosato, and so this makes Hakuho look more vulnerable and ripe for the taking. Second, after all the guff that Harumafuji took following his 9-6 performance in Kyushu, this is his way of stepping back and allowing Harumafuji a clear path to the yusho. And third, I'm convinced that Hakuho is only allowed to get to yusho #30, and so the fewer he can pile up now, the longer he can extend his career. Whatever the reason for Hakuho's decision today, he clearly threw the bout sending him to a 10-2 record while Kotooshu's kachi-koshi prospects look much brighter at 7-5.

That leads us to the day's final bout featuring Yokozuna Harumafuji vs. Ozeki Kotoshogiku, and this wasn't even a contest as the Yokozuna struck with a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai and then quickly slapped the hapless Ozeki down to the dirt less than two seconds in. Like Goeido in many of his losses this basho, an Ozeki should not lose in this fashion. Kotoshogiku is running on fumes as he falls to 6-6 while Harumafuji skates to 12-0 and will take the yusho. Perhaps Hakuho sent Kisenosato a message today saying, "if you can beat Harumafuji straight up tomorrow, I'll let you take me down on day 14, and then I'll beat Harumafuji on senshuraku, and both of you will be tied at the end giving you a shot in the playoff." So let me reiterate: Harumafuji will take the yusho unless he lets Kisenosato best him tomorrow, something I do not see happening.

As for Ozeki Kisenosato, he defeated fellow Ozeki Kakuryu in a bout where the Kak deferred to the native Japanese rikishi by keeping his feet aligned at the tachi-ai and going for the right outer grip as opposed to establishing the inside position first. The result was Kisenosato with the solid left inside position, and he knew what to do from there driving Kakuryu back to the edge and across. Kakuryu tried to make it look close as he attempted an upper body counter meaning he moved to the side in an effort to push Kisenosato down, but if you look at Kakuryu's feet, he steps outside of the ring as he's making this counter move ensuring that Kisenosato would win the bout. With the victory, Kisenosato improves to 10-2, and I've already laid out the only scenario whereby he can yusho. Kakuryu falls to a comfortable 8-4.

Sekiwake Baruto is a man on a mission, and the only thing he needed to do today against M2 Toyonoshima was to get an arm to the inside. Didn't matter how deep...only that he denied Toyonoshima moro-zashi. He actually did it with a hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the right hand and getting the left arm inside, and as Toyonoshima tried to wrench away, Baruto eventually caught him with the right outer grip, and from there it was curtains as Baruto dominated yet again to improve to 7-5. The competition is only going to get easier, and Estonians have reason to be optimistic regarding his return to the Ozeki ranks. I know I'm rooting for that as he improves to 7-5 while Toyonoshima's make-koshi becomes official at 4-8.

Can things get any worse for Sekiwake Goeido? I mean, this is just getting embarrassing and shame on the Sumo Association for putting this pressure on the kid. Today against Aminishiki, the M1 led with a moro-te-zuki at the tachi-ai and Goeido's only answer was to slap lamely downward at Aminishiki's extended arms. At this point, Aminishiki was driving forward and Goeido's only path was backwards where he tried another feeble slap attempt at Shneaky's arms, but thankfully Aminishiki put him out of his misery shortly thereafter with a potent shove that was ruled tsuki-dashi. Mainoumi commented, "we saw the worst of everything Goeido had to offer in that one," and he wasn't kidding. Goeido made no effort at the tachi-ai, he looked afraid again today, he couldn't back pedal fast enough, and he didn't even try and dig in or counter. This was another pathetic performance from Goeido, and we are getting the perfect glimpse of his mental makeup...and it ain't pretty. Both rikishi finish the day at 6-6, and I hate it when I feel sorry for rikishi.

About the only rikishi performing worse than Goeido is Komusubi Shohozan, but since Special Dark didn't receive the pre-basho hype, his ugliness has largely gone overlooked. Today against M3 Toyohibiki, he gave up the immediate left inside position to the Hutt without even trying to tsuppari, and so Toyohibiki said thank you very much and pulled his gal in tight so their chests were aligned as they like to say in sumo. From this position, the heavier rikishi will always win, and that was the case today as Toyohibiki just drove the Komusubi back and out picking up his third win in the process. Shohozan falls to 2-10, and I can only wonder if he didn't buy his sanyaku promotion last basho.

Komusubi Tochiohzan finally got some revenge on M2 Kyokutenho, but it's too bad he came into the day at 5-6 because nothing was on the line in this one. Well, Tochiohzan's kachi-koshi bid is still in the balance, but you know what I mean. Today he quickly gained moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and looked a lot more comfortable driving Kyokutenho back...probably because nothing was on the line. Tenho sorta countered with a left kote-nage near the edge, but he was simply overpowered by the younger Tochiohzan, so props to Oh who improves to 6-6 and has a great shot at kachi-koshi now. Kyokutenho falls to 3-9, and something tells me he's going to follow the course of Miyabiyama this year.

In the Maegashira ranks, I suppose we should start with M7 Takayasu who hoped to keep pace with Kisenosato (and Hakuho) by challenging M15 Tochinowaka to a duel. Takayasu used tsuppari and good de-ashi to keep Tochinowaka at bay and upright and then surprised him with a pull of T-Wok's left arm. As soon as Tochinowaka recovered, Takayasu used tsuppari to knock him up high again before shifting gears and scoring the fairly easy win with a pull-down. Takayasu's aggressiveness and Tochinowaka's passiveness led to the end result here. Takayasu moves to 10-2 with the win while Tochinowaka is still safe at 8-4.

In the best-fought bout of the day, M1 Myogiryu got the deep right inside from the tachi-ai and had such good positioning that he was able maki-kae for moro-zashi. M6 Tochinoshin maki-kae'd right back turning the bout to hidari-yotsu, and from here, Myogiryu's brilliant technique took over as he grabbed the deep right outer grip and kept his body at the perfect angle to keep Tochinoshin from grabbing an outer of his own. From here, Myogiryu finished off his bidness improving to 7-5 in the process. Tochinoshin is still content at 8-4.

In a bout featuring two slow white guys, M6 Aoiyama lived up to that moniker with sloth-like tsuppari that had no effect on M3 Kaisei. Aoiyama (6-6) got impatient about five seconds in and went for a stupid pull, and that was all Kaisei (5-7) needed score the oshi-dashi win.

M4 Aran doesn't have the best technique, but his arms are long enough that he was able to keep M8 Yoshikaze at bay and away from the inside. Yoshikaze did try, but Aran (6-6) was looking pull from the beginning and slapped Yoshikaze (5-7) down without much effort.

M4 Gagamaru and M7 Masunoyama engaged in a fierce tsuppari-fest, but Masunoyama's limbs just weren't long enough to get inside to have any effect, and so Gagamaru picked up a much-need oshi-dashi win moving to 4-8. This basho can't end soon enough for 3-9 Masunoyama.

M5 Ikioi kept his improbable kachi-koshi hopes alive after taking advantage of M9 Takekaze's stupid kubi-nage move early on scoring the force out win, which moves him to 6-6. Takekaze's make-koshi fate is sealed with the loss as he drops to 4-8.

One thing I can't figure out is what M8 Chiyotairyu is thinking. Some days he looks so awful, but then he turns it around for seemingly no reason just as he did today against M14 Shotenro using quick de-ashi and a few sharp shoves for the wham bam thank you ma'am win. There's so much potential in this rikishi that it's frustrating to watch him wallow in the mid-Maegashira ranks. Both rikishi end the day at 7-5.

And finally, let me end with M10 Kitataiki who is completely out-thinking himself to the extent that he's even got me confused now. Today against M12 Tamawashi, Kitataiki acted like he fights from the Sadogatake-beya using the worst stall tactics we've seen the entire basho...against Tamawashi!! It was clear at this point that Kitataiki's head was not in the bout, and it showed as his hips were too high as they say throughout the bout providing the easy push-out target for The Mawashi. Any guy who resorts to stall tactics is telling you right there that he's lost confidence in himself. Both brethren now sit on 6-6 records.

Looking ahead tomorrow at the yusho race, Takayasu (10-2) has too tall'a task in Baruto; Hakuho (10-2) should beat Kakuryu; and that leaves 12-0 Harumafuji against 10-2 Kisenosato. Harumafuji could theoretically win the yusho tomorrow, but he'll likely have to wait until Saturday.

Matt splains tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
Everyone knows how annoying it is, when people are making excessive use of the phrase "everyone knows how its is" or its ugly stepbrother "don't you hate it when". In 98% of all cases the intention is simply fraudulent. In the spirit of this, let's have a look on something that everyone knows: Don't you hate it when it is clear already now that the years 2013-2020 will be very tough for sumo as a whole? Everyone knows how it is when you try to promote native hopes to Ozeki, but your plot fails because the guys just don't have it. Don't we all share the experience that the foreigners steal our Emperor's Cups? Lastly, we all know how tough it is to come up with a Sumotalk report, if ultra-short notice contingencies have kept you from starting it before the next day's events have already passed. And in these moments, don't you hate it when your cat has eaten the paper, while North-Korea's most recent nuclear test has EMPed all your hard drives? See what I mean?

Thus, instead of a report an insight:

(The creator of this pearl allows non-commercial usage but asks to indicate his site, which is . If you are interested in science, computers or life you will love it. Buy his t-shirts.)

Stay brave, my friends, the end is nigh.

Or was it the night's end?

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
This basho has really come down to the two Yokozuna and no one else. Kisenosato is attempting to keep things close standing just two off of the pace, and technically he still controls his own destiny, but the only drama left for the Hatsu basho is will it be Hakuho or Harumafuji on senshuraku, and will Baruto be able to win out in order to regain the Ozeki rank? Goeido has also got to essentially win out if the Sumo Association wants to keep this silly Ozeki talk going regarding the Father, but the problem there is Goeido has to do two-thirds of the work on his own, and he's showing that he isn't capable of doing it. Looks like for now that the hopes of Japan ride on Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku's shoulders, and don't look now but Takamisakari lost yet again to fall to 3-7. The way this tournament has progressed, it's going to be a long year for the Sumo Association.

Now that we're two thirds of the way through the basho, let's start this nonsense from the top and then work our way down, which means Yokozuna Harumafuji and Sekiwake Baruto are our first combatants. Harumafuji stepped out left a bit to grab the cheap outer grip while Baruto decided to go forward full throttle. The result was what looked like a tachi-ai henka, but Harumafuji made sufficient contact before stepping left. Baruto just couldn't put on the brakes as the Yokozuna easily escorted him out from behind, and the fact that Baruto couldn't recover is a sign that his wheels are rusting. The result is Harumafuji moving to 10-0 while Baruto falls to 5-5 and must win out in order to re-establish himself as an Ozeki. It's not impossible, but the last remaining rikishi he wants to see under these circumstances is Myogiryu, his day 11 opponent. If Baruto can overcome Myogiryu, I think he's got a great shot to win out.

The marquee matchup featured Yokozuna Hakuho vs. Sekiwake Goeido, but this one was a bigger dud than a firecracker that's been soaking in a pale of water. Hakuho was very casual at the tachi-ai getting his preferred right arm to the inside followed up with a left outer grip, but he wasn't driving with his legs in order to at least give Goeido the chance to put up a fight. It wouldn't happen, however, as Goeido looked scared to me and wanted no part of the Yokozuna, and so after a moment or two, Hakuho pivoted to the side and dragged Goeido across the ring and out picking up his easiest win of the basho.

If you go back and watch Hakuho's performance against Baruto yesterday, you'll notice just how quickly he was into his opponent's chest and marched him out. It was so swift that Hakuho barely had time to grab the outer grip before he had bodied Baruto beyond the straw, and the majority of Hakuho's bouts are like this. That same urgency was lacking today, however, as Hakuho clearly tried to let Goeido at least help his cause by putting up a struggle, but the Sekiwake stood there like a frightened child, and so the Yokozuna dispatched of him without breaking a sweat. I thought this bout was a great example of Hakuho's brilliance in the ring, his ability to read the situation, and then react on a dime. He knows that the Sumo Association is hyping Goeido, and he knows how bad it would have looked if he had murdered him in a second and half, and so he at least wanted to give the appearance that Goeido was putting up a fight. Problem was Goeido choked in every way possible and didn't even try to engage the Yokozuna. Goeido just doesn't have it, and today was a perfect example as he now falls to 5-5 while Hakuho moves to 9-1 making that senshuraku bout even more enticing.

Ozeki Kakuryu filleted M3 Kaisei by using the inside right position to stand the Brasilian up before wrenching his way into a left frontal grip that was an outer to boot, and so from there it was pick your poison. The Kak decided to go easy and dashi-nage Kaisei to the dirt a few seconds in. I think Kakuryu's sumo is my favorite to watch these days as he moves to 7-3 while Kaisei is hanging in there at 4-6.

M2 Kyokutenho stepped out left to grab the cheap uwate, and while he did get it, Ozeki Kotooshu reacted with surprising speed squaring himself up quickly with the Chauffeur and securing his own right inside and left outside position. From there it was simply a matter of age as the Ozeki easily overpowered Kyokutenho back and out for the yori-kiri win. Kotooshu is a casual 6-4 while Tenho falls to 3-7, and I think this is the first basho where I've seen signs of Kyokutenho's age catching up to him.

If all foreigners were banned from sumo, today's Kisenosato - Kotoshogiku matchup would've been the final bout of the tournament. It turned out to be a pretty good bout with both rikishi getting the left arms to the inside with no outer grip, and so as the two Ozeki leaned hard into each other's chests, the contest was on to see who would get the right outer grip first. The Geeku tried to gaburi his way into the grip, but he doesn't quite have the lower body strength that he used to and those crocodile arms weren't helping him either, so while he did come close and get an A for effort, it wasn't to be. On the flip side, Kisenosato showed great patience and stood his ground waiting for his countryman to exert enough energy, and once Kotoshogiku was frustrated enough with his ineffective offense, he switched gears going for a left scoop throw. There wasn't much muscle behind the throw, however, and Kisenosato pounced taking advantage of his compromised opponent, grabbing that elusive left outer, and marching Kotoshogiku back across the straw for his kachi-koshi at 8-2. I wouldn't describe this bout as o-zumo (grand sumo), but it wasn't bad. Kotoshogiku falls to 6-4 for his efforts.

M1 Aminishiki easily absorbed Komusubi Shohozan's tsuppari attack working his way to the inside with the left before pivoting and pushing down at Special Dark's shoulder with the right. This was too easy as Shneaky picks up the tsuki-otoshi win moving to 4-6 while Shohozan's make-koshi becomes official at 2-8. Shohozan isn't setting anything up at the tachi-ai, and if he can't get his larger foes off balance, he's...toast.

Komusubi Tochiohzan was late in his kachi-age with the right hand, and so M1 Myogiryu snuck into the moro-zashi position and forced his foe back and out in a matter of seconds. Nothing more to see other than speed won out in this one as Myogiryu steps ever close to a Shukunsho at 6-4 while Tochiohzan falls back to 4-6.

Like an elephant afraid of a mouse, M4 Gagamaru just can't get it together when facing M2 Toyonoshima. Lord Gaga was timid from the tachi-ai giving Toyonoshima moro-zashi, and the Georgian had no answer with which to counter, and so Toyonoshima (4-6) essentially just bullied him around and out of the ring with a final shove in the end. Gagamaru has looked awful this basho as he falls to 3-7.

I was amused at how it looked as if neither M6 Aoiyama or M4 Aran trusted each other in a bout that saw both come forward cautiously suspecting shenanigans when in the end it turned out to be a pretty straight up fight where Aran's left outer grip proved the difference in this migi-yotsu contest. One reason I deplore the tachi-ai henka is because it makes guys timid when they think it might be coming. Both Eastern Euros finish the day at 5-5.

It's always fascinating to watch a guy lose his confidence over a few days during the basho, and that's what's happened to M10 Kitataiki who resorted to a henka of M5 Ikioi of all rikishi! Problem was, Kitataiki didn't even have confidence in his henka, and so Ikioi read it to perfection, got the right inside, and then cornered Kitataiki against the edge before throwing his arse back into the center of the ring with a scoop throw. Kitataiki has truly fallen and can't get up at 5-5 while Ikioi inches back at 4-6.

I would have liked to have seen M6 Tochinoshin go hard at the tachi-ai, especially against a guy like M11 Wakanosato, but I see Shin working here...why risk allowing Wakanosato the inside position when you know he can't defeat you any other way? Tochinoshin didn't want any part of Wakanosato's belt from the tachi-ai, and then Wakanosato couldn't fight his way to the inside due to Shin's length, and so both guys just sorta stood there like two kids afraid to ask a girl to dance. In the end Tochinoshin (7-3) finally baited Wakanosato (3-7) into a pull-down, but this was ugly sumo from the start.

I think M7 Masunoyama is just plain frustrated this basho, especially after being henka'd by Tokitenku yesterday, and so he took it all out on M13 Daidough today with a tachi-ai henka of his own moving to the left. The move was slow and readable, but Daido still wasn't able to recover as he was slapped down to the dirt in short order. Compare the way Daido fell in this one to Aminishiki rolling off the dohyo yesterday from the same position and same kimari-te against Tochiohzan. Anyway, both dudes end the day at 3-7.

If the sumo Association is really nervous about a guy taking the yusho from deep within the Maegashira ranks, they'll start pairing him with sanyaku rikishi about now, but I don't think anyone has taken Takarafuji seriously this basho, and so he was paired up with M7 Takayasu today to see if he could continue his momentum. Both men used quick slaps to the face from the tachi-ai before settling into the hidari-yotsu position, and as is usually the case, it was now just a matter of who would grab the outer grip first. Takayasu got it and promptly forced Takarafuji back to the straw, but he wouldn't go easy using the raised rope to his advantage, and so Takayasu turned the tables by throwing Takarafuji down towards the center of the ring with a nifty belt throw ending Takarafuji's "run" nearly as soon as it began. Both guys end the day at 8-2 and are likely in the running for a Kantosho.

M8 Chiyotairyu used a right nodowa from the tachi-ai that stood M15 Tochinowaka straight up, but he followed that up with a stupid back pedal. T-Wok was all over that move likes flies to turd gaining the left inside position that lead to an eventual moro-zashi and the relatively easy force-out win. Chiyotairyu has got to get it into his thick skull that he can't win going backwards against a rikishi with any sorta game. He should have blasted Tochinowaka back after that tachi-ai, but he's in his funk and won't recover until next basho. Tochinowaka picks up a quiet kachi-koshi at 8-2 while Chiyotairyu is just making this difficult on himself at 5-5.

The last person you want to use stall tactics against at the tachi-ai is M9 Tokitenku because it gives him more time to think about monkeyshines. But that's exactly what M14 Shotenro did, and so after forcing both guys to reload, Tokitenku expectedly henka'd to left scoring the cheap win with an easy pull down. Fact'a the matter is, if a veteran feels slighted at the tachi-ai, he'll do this, and I don't fault Tokitenku (6-4) for his poor sumo today. Shotenro prolly wants this one back at 7-3.

And finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the day's first bout where both J2 Sagatsukasa and M15 Kotoyuki simultaneously henka'd to their right at the tachi-ai!! It's a rare treat when we see this, but the sumo that comes afterwards sure isn't. Kotoyuki panicked at the failed attempt and charged forward recklessly allowing Stripe to easily evade at the edge and push his foe out from (the) behind. You can tell Sagatsukasa's been in this position before as he improves to 6-4 while Kotoyuki falls to 4-6.

Herr Kungl returns tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The death of Taiho over the weekend has become the biggest story of the basho so far and will continue to grab most of the headlines until his remains are cremated and his bones placed in the grave. Secondary to the news about Taiho was probably a tie between two rikishi: Goeido and Takamisakari. The result of Takamisakari's bouts have been reported so far each day of the tournament, and I've seen pictures of his bouts on the wires as much as any other rikishi including the Yokozuna. I've already talked at length about the way Goeido is being hyped as a possible Ozeki, so I won't delve further into that now, but allow me to comment on why the attention being thrown Takamisakari's way is so important.

Dude's currently ranked at Juryo 12 meaning he has to win seven bouts this basho or be demoted from Juryo. If he's demoted from Juryo, he'll likely retire since I doubt he's got enough gas in the tank to make it back up to that division. But has anyone stepped back to think why so much attention is being given to a washed up 36 year-old hanging on for dear life in a division that no one really cares about anyway? The reason is because Takamisakari is a celebrity. He's a Japanese rikishi that people love and can relate to, and I think he's still the most popular rikishi on the banzuke among the Japanese public. He's a person that the Sumo Association can use to market their sport more than any other guy, and so it's a huge story to the media because they know that a Takamisakari headline will be read before any others.

Currently, Takamisakari is in the midst of heavy drama because after a 3-1 start, he's dropped his last five bouts putting him at 3-6 and in grave danger of being demoted for good. I mean, I couldn't even tell you whose in the lead right now in the Juryo division, and I don't care. Nobody cares. The only reason I know all this about Takamisakari is because I continue to read the headlines just like everyone else. The whole reason I even bring this up is to point out how desperately sumo needs a Japanese rikishi that the people can relate to and grow to love. Kisenosato's personality is too harsh, and Kotoshogiku is simply too boring. A movement is in place right now to hype Goeido, especially prior to Osaka, which is Goeido's home basho, but Goeido has shown us nothing that indicates he can become an endearing figure to the Japanese fans. It's really a difficult situation that the Association finds itself in, and the best they can do is to continue to try and promote those story lines that will most capture the attention of the public.

On that note, let's cover every single bout today, just because, starting with M13 Asahisho who dictated the pace of his bout with M15 Tochinowaka by using tsuppari from the tachi-ai to move his man this way and that. The problem was, however, that Asahisho's arms are so short, and he had to reach way up high since Tochinowaka is one of the taller guys in the division, and so due to that extension, Asahisho's shoves didn't have enough effect, and so Tochinowaka was eventually able to catch his gal, pull her in close, and then show Asahisho (3-6) the door via yori-kiri. Tochinowaka moves to 7-2 with the win, but he lacks aggression that would help him succeed higher up.

M13 Daido welcomed J1 Daikiho, Hakuho's stable mate, in a bout that went to migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai, but the key here was Daidough's grabbing the left outer grip first, and he wasted no time in using it to drag his Juryo foe clear outta the dohyo from the center of the ring with a nice dashi-nage. Daido is just 3-6 while Daikiho falls to 4-5, and if you're a Makuuchi hopeful who gets worked by Daido in this manner, you've got more to work on in keiko.

You had to know at some point that someone was going to take a dive against M16 Miyabiyama, and M12 Tamawashi graciously accepted that role today. The Mawashi ruled this one from the start using tsuppari to totally drive the Hutt back near the edge, and then all of a sudden Tamawashi halted his forward momentum, aligned his feet, and waited for the counter pull, which did come. Just the way that Tamawashi fell to the dohyo touching down with both palms yet still staying on his feet is as clear of a sign as yaocho as you can get. Hopefully Tamawashi was compensated as he falls to 3-6 while Miyabiyama bought himself a bit of dignity here. Miyabiyama was seen crying after that bout as he waited to deliver the chikara-mizu to the next combatant, and I think those tears were more of a realization that is career is over rather than tears of joy.

Another guy whose close to retirement is M11 Wakanosato who has lost a lot of his lateral movement of late. This allowed M15 Kotoyuki to just bulldoze right through him on his way to a sweet oshi-dashi win. Kotoyuki has somehow managed to claw back to 4-5 but that's largely due to fighting weaker opponents like Wakanosato who falls to 3-6.

M10 Okinoumi forced the bout to hidari yotsu from the tachi-ai, which was good since he's better at the belt than M14 Shotenro, but he attempted to stubbornly get the right inside as well that would have given him moro-zashi. It didn't work, however, and he basically walked right into the kime position for his opponent, and so Shotenro disposed of him in short order via what else...the kime-dashi technique. Okinoumi (5-4) needs to make it a full-on belt contest and go for the outer grip, not monkey around with a position that isn't there. Great defense from Shotenro who moves to 7-2.

M16 Tamaasuka came oh so close in a hidari yotsu contest from tachi-ai against M9 Tokitenku that saw Tamaasuka grab the right outer, but it was only on one fold of the mawashi, and so his yori-kiri attempt was rebuffed as soon as Tenku could brace himself against the straw. With Tamaasuka's strength expended as fast as a 14 year-old boy...oh wait...with Tamaasuka tired out, Tokitenku mounted a strong counter charge that turned the tables and saw Tamaasuka forced out instead. This was nigh unto snatching defeat from jaws of victory for Tamaasuka who falls to 3-6 while Tokitenku moves to 5-4.

M14 Takarafuji moved left just enough at the tachi-ai in order to grab a kote-nage on that side, and M8 Chiyotairyu failed to watch his opponent sufficiently as he did it, so the result was Chiyotairyu trying to put on the brakes, while Takarafuji grabbed the quick ko-te position and used it to push Chiyotairyu to the side of the dohyo before he knew what hit him. Before Chiyotairyu could compose himself, the Fooj forced him out.  This win wasn't cheap at all from Takarafuji who moves to 8-1; the issue is that Chiyotairyu's gotta do a better job of keeping his eyes on his opponent. He falls to 5-4 in a bout he should have dominated. Takarafuji actually finds himself among NHK's leaderboard tied at one loss with Hakuho, but soon enough he'll wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and then remember that he's Takarafuji.

M12 Sadanofuji dictated the pace early in his bout against M7 Takayasu, but Sadanofuji had no de-ashi behind the attack, and so Takayasu had the capacity to execute a brilliant kaina with his right that knocked Sadanofuji upright and into a vulnerable position. From there, Takayasu seized the deep inside position with the left and a righter outer grip, and while Takayasu struggled a bit bullying his taller opponent around chest to chest, he got'im in the end with a shweet belt throw that moved him to 7-2. Sadanofuji's quick start has vanished to a 5-4 record.

M11 Fujiazuma looked to take it to M6 Aoiyama with a tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai, but it just wasn't enough as Aoiyama watched his opponent closely and finagled his right hand under Fujiazuma's left arm pit.  Pulling his opponent down by the shoulder, he also pushed down at the back of Fujiazuma's head with the left hand twisting him off balance and sending him to the dirt. This was a pretty straight forward win for Aoiyama, but the men in black thought they saw some funny bidness with Aoiyama's fingers supposedly intertwined with Fujiazuma's mage, and so they called for a mono-ii. Replays showed that Aoiyama legally pushed down on Fujiazuma's head, and at the very end with his man down, Aoiyama's pinky finger got stuck in Fujiazuma's mage as he tried to pull it away, but they still disqualified Aoiyama and declared Fujiazuma the winner. Even the guys in the booth for NHK were saying that no hair pulling went on, and Aoiyama was totally robbed in this one. I think this was simply a case of laziness and incompetence on the part of the judges, both sitting ringside and in the video booth. Both fellas end the day at 5-4 but Aoiyama was jobbed.

M6 Tochinoshin officially cooled off M10 Kitataiki in their migi-yotsu bout that saw Shin grab the firm left outer grip. Chest to chest, Kitataiki couldn't do anything, and so this was a straightforward win for Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin is an M6 mainstay these days, and so if Kitataiki (5-4) can't beat him chest to chest, he doesn't have any bidness even flirting with the sanyaku.

M4 Aran henka'd to his right against M7 Masunoyama and taking advantage of someone whose a bit disabled like that is akin to bullying someone in a wheelchair. Hope you're proud Aran (5-4) but don't think we can't see that camel toe through your mawashi. Masunoyama falls to 2-7 and can't seem to catch a break.

M9 Takekaze jumped the gun just a bit at the tachi-ai, but with the speed of a brontosaurus, M4 Gagamaru came out of his crouch and the bout was on. Takekaze attempted to get his left arm to the inside, but Lord Gaga stayed so low there was no room for Takekaze's stub to penetrate. I don't know why he persisted and didn't go for a pull down of Gagamaru, and so Takekaze (2-7) played a pile of dirt as Gagamaru (3-6) bulldozed him back and out with some nice shoves.

M8 Yoshikaze briefly had moro-zashi at the tachi-ai against M3 Toyohibiki but gave up too soon and tried to back pedal out of it going for a pull. That was all Toyohibiki needed as he used his stubs to drive forward and push Cafe out for the win...his first of the basho coincidentally, so I wonder if Yoshikaze (3-6) was playing nice.

M2 Kyokutenho watched M5 Ikioi walk into a left outer grip, pivoted to the outside, and then used Ikioi's ikioi against him to throw him down via uwate-nage in one fell swoop. It was fun to watch Tenho school the youngster today as both dudes end up at 3-6. Kids!

Komusubi Shohozan's tsuppari attack this basho has needed some Viagra, so while he did lead with the shoves, M1 Myogiryu was able to slowly back away and then time a pull down for the win. There's no sense in Myogiryu going balls to wall when he knows he can exploit a weak attack as he did today. Myogi Bear moves to 5-4 with the win while Shohozan's palms down tachi-ai won't get him much past his 2-7 record.

In the day's most obvious yaocho, Komusubi Tochiohzan looked to employ a moro-tezuki (two hands to the throat) tachi-ai, but before he could even attempt a pull, Aminishiki just dove forward and rolled to the edge of the dohyo with absolutely no pull attempt from Oh. Okay, let me correct that. Tochiohzan did attempt a pull but it was in an effort to catch up to Aminishiki who had apparently heard someone yell "Fire!" and was thus stopping, dropping, and rolling clear outta the dohyo. As NHK showed the replays, the dive was even more obvious, and I paused the feed from the overhead view the instant before Aminishiki dove forward taking a pic with my cell phone. There's no way that a hand to the side of the face coulda sent Ami into that roll. Why here and why now? I don't know, but Tochiohzan moves to 4-5 with the freebie while Aminishiki is fine with his 3-6.

As long as we're talking about yaocho, Ozeki Kotoshogiku attempted to grab the left outer from tachi-ai stepping out a bit, but before he could get it, M3 Kaisei just fell to the dirt a half second in. Like the bout that preceded it, there was nothing that the winner did that caused the fall. Kotoshogiku moves to 6-3 and needs every win he can get with the two Yokozuna lurking. Kaisei could afford the drop at 4-5.

In my favorite bout of the day, Ozeki Kakuryu settled into a migi-yotsu contest with fellow Ozeki, Kotooshu, but the Bulgarian has no sense of urgency and sloppily allowed moro-zashi. Kakuryu is such a great fighter, and I love watching his subtle moves, especially when he fights larger opponents. Today, instead of a straightforward chest to chest attack that has some risk of Kotooshu (5-4) countering at the edge with his length, the Kak drove his left shoulder into Kotooshu's upper chest keeping him totally upright and high off balance. From there, it was easy peasy as Kakuryu scored the easy yori-kiri win moving to 6-3. It was a similar bout to his contest against Baruto on Saturday. Kakuryu went for the immediate force-out in that one sensing that Baruto wasn't at full strength, but when the Estonian rebuffed him, it forced Kakuryu to realign himself and get the Sekiwake up high before he mounted the attack that secured him the win. It's these subtleties in Kakuryu's sumo that I love watching, and so when I see him perform numbnutted sumo as he did yesterday, it's obvious that he's throwing the bout.

Ozeki Kisenosato won his bout against M2 Toyonoshima by denying Tugboat moro-zashi. He did it by simply securing his left arm to the inside rendering Toyonoshima's attempts at moro-zashi fruitless. After Toyonoshima expended a bit of energy going on the offensive, Kisenosato grabbed the right outer grip and forced his opponent back and across without argument. When Kisenosato doesn't get his ass kicked at the tachi-ai, his sumo really is beautiful once he grabs the outer grip. The problem is he doesn't know how to set this up from the tachi-ai, and I suppose if he hasn't figured it out now, he never will. In the meantime he's 7-2 while Toyonoshima falls to 6-3.

How bout that Ozeki candidate, Goeido?! It's a real issue for sumo when the hottest Japanese rikishi on the board is named Takarafuji. While I haven't talked to Kenji about it, I'm sure one of the reasons he lost interest in sumo the last few years is because there's no substance at the top of the banzuke once you get below the rank of Yokozuna. The Ozeki collectively are a joke compared to the Ozeki that we cut our teeth on. And then the sanyaku is a revolving door of average rikishi. Where are the Akinoshimas or the Tosanoumis or even the Wakanosatos of the mid-aughties? They just don't exist, especially among the Japanese rikishi, and so when the Sumo Association tries to spoon-feed us these watered down rikishi and pass them off as Ozeki, we can see it for what it really is.

Anyway, a legitimate Ozeki candidate does not let a lightweight rikishi like Yokozuna Harumafuji keep him away from the belt with defensive tsuppari. A legitimate Ozeki candidate does not flap his arms around like a wind-up rubber duckie looking for a desperate pull. And finally, a legitimate Ozeki candidate does not go down that easily to a simple hataki-komi attempt. And I'm not saying this to pile on Goeido; it's not his fault. I just think there are more effective ways to try and market sumo to the masses, but I've rehashed those takes for years now. In the End (a sweet Linkin Park tune), Harumafuji is your leader at 9-0 while Goeido falls to 5-4.

We will find out tomorrow if this basho is heading for a legitimate finish or whether not it's going to be totally watered down as Goeido faces Hakuho. As it stands now, there is absolutely no way that Goeido is capable of beating Hakuho on his own. I don't suspect any foul play tomorrow, but if Goeido wins the fix will be in, and Harumafuji will run away with this thing at 15-0. Hopefully Hakuho steam rolls through the rest of the competition and then faces off with Harumafuji on senshuraku for all the marbles since nobody else is even fighting at a jun-yusho level.

And speaking of steamrolling the competition, that's exactly what Yokozuna Hakuho did today against an injured Sekiwake Baruto demanding the right inside from the tachi-ai and having his opponent bodied out before he really did get a secure left outer grip. It's just text book sumo, and if Kisenosato could learn this tachi-ai (he's capable of it), he would not only be a legitimate Ozeki, but he could challenge for the Yokozuna rank due to the watered down banzuke. That's a big if, though. Getting back to the day's final bout, Hakuho moves to 8-1 and controls his own destiny. Baruto falls to 5-4 and will lose to Harumafuji tomorrow meaning he must go 5-0 the final five days in order to return to the Ozeki ranks. The Estonian has actually picked up speed as the basho has progressed, and I say at this point it's fiddy-fiddy on his finishing 10-5.

Our best looking reporter is up tomorrow, so you won't want to miss that.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well, yesterday was a sad Japanese day for the Japanese here in Japan, as word came that the second member of The Big Three, the great Taihou, had passed on. From humble beginnings as a choanoflagellate 900 million years ago, Taihou rose up to dominate the post-war sumo world, kicking ass and chewing bubble gum (when it was in stock) throughout the 60s (the DECADE, not HIS 60s--dude wasnt THAT strong). Using a lethal combination of muscle, bone, skin, and keratin, he ran roughshod over his opponents, finishing his career as the all-time yusho leader with 32.

His death (after the passing of Omelet in 2006) leaves but one remaining member of the so-called Big Three. When contacted, Giant had this to say: "I am deeply saddened by the loss of my good friend, restaurateur, and fellow legend Taihou. It was a shock to lose Tamagoyaki in 2006, cause dude was CRAZY delicious, and to lose so soon another of our illustrious triumvirate pains me deeply. He was a good egg." Kyojin then walked away, a wistful smile on his lips at the thought of his unintentionally clever joke.

Many people dont know this, but like the famous Lincoln-Kennedy coincidences (both men breathed through their nose, both men wiped with their left, both men had to live their entire lives plagued by an annoying mole--though its been argued by some historians that Ted Kennedy cannot technically be considered a mole), Taihou, the 48th Yokozuna, has some things in common with the 48th President of the United States. Both played baseball at Cal Tech, both survived the sinking of the Lusitania, and both went on to star as one of Fonzies sidekicks. Im tellin ya, you cant make this shit up!

Takarafuji evidently did NOT enjoy his one basho exile to Juryo, cause he is rasslin like man on fire this tourney. Today he presented to Tamawashi a strong and unyielding chest to pound on like the Greeks at the walls of Troy. The W12 was unable to budge the stalwartly built W14 (185cm 164kg), and after letting the Mongolian horse around for few moments, Taka-chan moved in close and got an underarm. The Mawashi resisted being thrown, so Takarafuji just straight-armed him out with a shove to the chest that put his foe, ungainly, onto his back at the foot of the MIB. One more day of awesomeness and he will be sitting pretty with KK after Day 9 feeling like this.

Shotenro started out like his countryman Tamawashi had, but unlike him was able to get an inside left belt vs. Kitataiki. Kitataiki countered by nicely clamping down on it with his right arm, and after shaking and breaking the grip, charged forward. But Shotenro, the Big Shot, with naught now but rib flesh to grip, showed he has a left arm that could lift a Yugo by flinging all 154 kilos of the E10 around and down and out, as my Irish grandmother used to say, like a sack o pahtaytahs!

Okinoumi was much the aggressor at tachi-ai vs. Tochinowaka, and this translated into the lower and better inside position and an outside right belt. Tochinowaka fought valiantly to regain the edge, but Okinoumi used excellent leg work, keeping his hips low and back while maintaining balance, and eventually employed that right hand belt to worry and lift the E15 out. Both these men ought to be sanyaku regulars, so Im hoping their decent records at this stage show they are ready for bigger and better things in 2013.

I felt that the tsuki-hiza decision in the Wakanosato-Chiyotairyu bout was a bit unfair, as Wakanosato seemed to be very much involved in sending The Whelp down to the clay. His left hand was locked into the W8s armpit, and appeared to help drag him down. Nonetheless, Croconosato gets a 3rd win to wrap those stumpy arms around.

After getting screwed in a three-way with a big white guy and the MIB on Day One, Takayasu was taking no chances today vs. another large, pasty furrener in Tochinoshin. Using his long arms he essentially throttled the Private from the word "hajime," never letting him sniff an inside and barely a forward lean. Being driven out in such a dominating manner makes me wonder if The Private is not going the way of his superior officer and countryman, Corporal Kokkai.

Toyohibiki snatched defeat from the jaws of victory today as he took back Kyokutenho like an NFL tackle sled. But it was the spider welcoming the fly as The Chauffer adroitly used his right arm under The Nikibis pit to swing him down at the straw. As a nod to the general theme of this basho, namely long gone contributors re-appearing (Kenji, Martin), Ill describe each mans record a la Simon Siddall. Kyokutenho is an overly dry haddock at 2-6, while winless Toyohibiki takes his luncheon meats from the left bin!

Myogiryu evened his record by holding off a hard pressing Aran at tachi-ai, then wining a wild back and forth back of the head pulldown battle between the two.

Baruto centered Aminishiki and hammered him twice, sending him out with little fanfair (not a misspelling; it wasnt fair to the fans--get it?!!)

After realizing his small advantage gained at the tachi-ai was rapidly disappearing, Kotooshu (5-3) went for the retreating pulldown. It didnt work, but he was lucky that Tochiohzan was unable to fully check his fomo (forward momentum), and with his back to the Bulgarian could do nothing but get pushed out to his 5th loss.

Kakuryu gambled it all on shoulder sumo, using nothing but his arms, in this case to numbnuttedly swipe at the back of Goeidos head, hoping the Sekiwake would, I dont know, fall down? Eschewing a single attempt at moving to the either side after realizing the Father was not going to oblige and was going to charge ahead, the Ozeki was easily run back and out. Were not going to see much dumber sumo from Kakuryu than this.

Special Dark was unable to use his golden ticket for win number three as he got wonkad by Kisenosato. Though Shohozan secured an inside left belt and something of an outside right, Kisenosatos arms were just too long, and he used similar grips to muscle the smaller man out via yori-kiri.

Ya know, I re-watched a few of these bouts on YouTube courtesy of the dedicated Araibira, who has the taste to just show the bout and not pontificate (though by demonstrating that taste also shows hed prolly be fun to listen to), and most of the clips are about 45 seconds long. On occasion one is longer, 1:30 or 2:00. Sadly, its usually because of false starts or judges conferences, and not because there are any good long bouts these days, as one of our ST writers mentioned this past week.

Toyonoshima took one for Team Sumo as he got the two-handed inside moro-zashi position while being bulled back to the edge by Kotoshogiku. As the Ozeki started pushing on his face, Tugboat completely ignored the wide open belt grips, instead keeping both his arms high and mostly immobile on Geekus shoulders. Once the Ozeki stepped back and turned to the side, Toyonoshima simply ran forward and let himself be thrown down. Either that, or he forgot hes one of the best belt fighters in all of sumo.

Hakuho got an immediate outside left belt and swung down Kaisei with ease. The Yokozunas Day 3 debacle seems well behind him, and his fellow Yokozuna is sitting pretty and looking Yokozunaesque, eh? Ill keep my fingers crossed both win out and meet on Day 15 (when I cannot be reporting due to my annual participation in my islands ekiden relay race) for all the marbles.

In the final tilt, Harumafuji used a strong face and chest shoving attack to keep Gagantuan Gagamaru from coming inside. After sloughing off the Yokozunas defensive offense, the Lord came forward and was met by a pull on his hand and a slip to the side that brought him to his tatas. Nothing at all wrong with HowDo wining like this, cause hes small and he set it up by showing tremendous strength in holding off the heaviest guy in the division with perfectly placed shoves.

Finally, I googldimaged Ross Mihara and found the picture at right, so its rather obvious that Matt and I home in on different KINDS of photos when googlimaging.

Also, when I googled "Matt Walsh" THIS came up, so make of it what you will.

See you in March in my adopted hometown Osaka!


Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
There are precious few who watch sumo wrestling for what it is: a bunch of near-naked, fat men wrestling on a clay ring, in front of an audience and an old guy dressed in colorful robes, then there's the bulk of fandom, if it may so be called, who sees it as an oddity and an occasion to go out and maybe eat and drink, and, finally, there's those who have a rooting interest (there have also been rumors of certain scientifically inclined German folks who watch sumo as a social phenomenon, or for the sake of using complex mathematical formulae to accurately predict bout outcomes, but who is to believe such tall tales?). For sure, anyone who watches sumo does it for a combination of those three things above, and even the ratio might be subject to change over time, but if you take down a guy's (read: person – I don't want to be politically incorrect) main reason for watching he'll probably do it a lot less.

Of those three things, only one is really prone to changing. Now, if you're a white guy with an internet connection and Asashoryu is banned for being too good and in-your-face, boo-effin'-hoo. But if you're a Japanese guy and your boys get pummeled into submission basho in and basho out... then it IS a big deal. Until that problem gets fixed, the sport's popularity will only get worse – may as well start writing reports on why your mother's toys can also be named Buzz and Woody.

Kotoyuki looked like he had a chance vs. Jokoryu, but his initial rush was easily stopped at the edge, and the tables were quickly turned. It looks like these two will swap places come next basho.

And while we're on the topic of rooting interests, what is it that attracts people to some rikishi, but not to others? Well... gimmicks for one. For example, Asahisho throws salt with the best of them. His sumo, however, isn't equally impressive. Today (I should really say yesterday, because I'm watching day 8 live as I write this) he was outmaneuvered at the edge by Tamaasuka and easily pushed out from there. Both dregs are now 3-4.

Sadanofuji was robbed of a fair tachi-ai when Shotenro jumped him, but the Mongol failed to capitalize, as the fatter Japanese withstood his linear and uninspired charge, and then simply turned it around for the boring push-out. Both guys are OK at 5-2.

Two more Fujis duked it out in the next one, but the bigger one was outsmarted at the edge by the more agile other after pushing said other back easily. Don't look now, but Takarafuji is actually on the leader board at 6-1. Fujiazuma is in trouble at 3-4.

Tochinowaka also boasts a shiny 6-1, but his sumo this basho was easily better. Today's affair with Wakanosato was neither close, nor complicated, as the old man simply wasn't strong enough or agile enough to withstand his foe's charge. Croc falls to 2-5 and I dare say retirement is looming.

Speaking of which, Miyabiyama might actually beat him to it, as he went 7 for 7 with a humiliating okuri-dashi loss vs. Takekaze. I'd even be tempted to say that someone in the association is hinting at intai, as Takekaze is ranked M9. While we're here, I'm a bit intrigued by the whole "Ex-Ozeki shouldn't fight in Juryo" debate, and not by the Japanese way of seeing it, you know, honor, unwritten rules and other obscure stuff like that, but because some foreigners fail to see the real circumstances in THIS particular case, i.e. that The Fatman wants to go on not because he's desperately clinging to his paycheck, but because he just likes doing sumo. It's no secret for a lot of people that Miyabiyama has a LOT of money. Enfin...

One of the better bouts of the day involved Tokitenku and Daido. They got the tachi-ai right as early as the third try, and Daido looked like he was in control after getting the left uwate and denying Tenku one of his own. The Mongol, however, survived with only an inside grip by the skin of his teeth and took his chance when it came, after a short pause in the center of the ring, in the form of a sudden twisting throw that was a beauty to behold. Daido falls to a dangerous 1-6 and has looked like utter crap. Tokitenku is 3-4. While we're here, I don't remember this being mentioned before, but Tokitenku's synchronization problems are all the more ironic as he has the kanji for "time" in his name.

Tamawashi outmuscled Masunoyama and pushed him around, but the fat man proved surprisingly agile and evaded to the right to pull his Mongol down. There was a problem, though, as Masunoyama's fingers grabbed some hair along the way, and a mono-ii was promptly called for, eventually giving it to Tamawashi. Masunoyama slumps to 2-5, while Mawashi is slightly better at 3-4.

Takayasu looked like he was in trouble from the start, relinquishing a double grip to Kitataiki, who pressed forward quickly, but Takayasu kept his wits about him and pulled a desperation inside throw at the edge that left Kitataiki in frustrated bewilderment. Both men share decent 5-2 records.

Yoshikaze earned the win with his bread and butter sumo, fiddling around with some tsuppari long enough to get the bigger Aoiyama to make his move forward, then nimbly evading at the edge. It looked deceptively easy, but Yoshikaze stops the rot at 2-5. Aoiyama is still above .500.

Tochinoshin and Okinoumi produced a very entertaining yotsu fest, with Shin grabbing the early uwate on the left and Okinoumi eventually countering with moro-zashi. From the advantageous position, Okinoumi pushed his man to the edge, but Shin resisted well thanks to his now double uwate, and hoisted his helpless foe clean off his feet and over the tawara behind. The Georgian improves to 5-2, while Okinoumi falls to 4-3.

Ikioi was partially the victim of a slippery dohyo in his hataki-komi loss to Chiyotairyu, as the bigger man stood him upright at the tachi-ai, forcing him to dig in. Not much to report here, except that Chiyotairyu improves to 5-2 and Ikioi is doing fairly well for his M5 rank with 3-4.

Toyonoshima was fearing a henka and charged cautiously, allowing Aran to keep him away from the inside position. There's wasn't, however, much else Aran was able to do, and Toyonoshima pressed the action quickly and ended the bout with a run of the mill oshi-dashi. Both men are 3-4, but their respective opponents are poles apart.

Myogiryu improves to 3-4 himself after surviving a pushing duel with Aminishiki. The sneaky one realized he wasn't gonna go anywhere pushing forward, so he tried backpedaling, but Myogiryu didn't fall for it (he almost never does) and duly ended it with oshi-dashi. Aminishiki falls to the same mark after victimizing a few Ozeki.

Speaking of victimizing, Baruto improved his record against Tochiohzan to 15-1 after a straightforward push-out. I have no idea just what Oh was trying to do there, but the laws of physics dictate there's no way he can beat Baruto straight up in a pushing game. The Ex-Ozeki improves to 4-3 and maintains an outside chance for re-promotion. Not.

Kakuryu welcomed his favorite patsy, Kyokutenho, with a frontal mawashi grip and denied the taller Ex-Mongolian any uwate. It was just a matter of time and taste from there, as Kak chose to trip his retreating foe instead of work all the way to yori-kiri. Kakuryu improves to 5-2, whereas Tenho (1-6) will be happy in safer regions in Haru.

Kisenosato got Goeido good at the tachi-ai and pushed him right back. As soon as he dug in at the edge, Kisenosato felled him with a well-timed pull. Goeido cools off at 4-3 while Kisenosato improves to 5-2.

To some surprise, Shohozan dominated Ozeki Kotoshogiku from the very beginning, keeping his larger foe at bay and pushing continuously. At the edge, Giku was able to muster a grip, but it wasn't very solid, so Cheetos was able to counter with a superb kote-nage when his back was against the wall. As an interesting aside, they first called it ami-uchi, but later changed that call. If you're curious about how a real ami-uchi looks like, here's a good example from the master of kimari-te himself.

Kotooshu used his long arms to grab onto Gagamaru's front of the mawashi and spill him to the dirt when he was leaning forward too much. It hardly gets easier than this. Lord Gaga falls to 2-5, while Kotooshu resurfaces at 4-3.

Harumafuji took care of business in equally efficient manner, keeping Kaisei off balance with a stiff nodowa, then maneuvering swiftly to get behind him and shove him out. 7-0 and par for the course for the sophomore Yokozuna, but let's see what's in store for him in week 2. It's too early to speculate, but something tells me he might suddenly start losing to Japanese rikishi. Kaisei is a surprising 4-3, thanks to beating everyone ranked below him.

Finally, Hakuho looked a bit cautious, opting to simply absorb Toyohibiki's charge and see where it goes from there. Toyohibiki certainly wasn't going anywhere, so Hakuho took his time in taking the uwate, but did take it in the end, and flipped Nikibi over like the giant pancake he is. Hakuho stays one behind Ex-Ama, and Hibiki is an expected 0-7.

So this is about it. Normally, I'd say this tournament is the Yokozunas' to lose, but who knows what plans the MIB might have? Clancy is up tomorrow to maybe explain.

Day 6 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
First Half Bouts
So, this is whomping a deceased equine, but getting matched with Miyabiyama (now 0-6) this basho is like a sugar junkie walking into a three year-old's birthday party. Easy pickings, but try not to make him cry. I'd question why MiFlobby wants to keep going in Juryo, but I guess I would be reluctant to turn down a paycheck, too. Sadanofuji probably scheduled some extra keiko for the exercise after his oshi-dashi win to move to 4-2.

Tochinowaka keeps doing his thing now that he's apparently over his apparent injury. He lost the tachi-ai, as usual, and then followed up by bullying Tamawashi out with his big sumo body. Pretty sure that Waka Waka (5-1) is getting a special prize this time, especially since we know he can hold his own against the higher ranks that he'll be served up if he can win the next three or three out of four. Tamawashi needed a better plan to keep from dropping to 2-4.

I'll comment on Shotenro-Fujiazuma just because Big Shot is theoretically in the hunt (now 5-1). A well-timed tsuki-otoshi slap down was the winning move after a decent start with his thrusting attack. Not championship stuff, but Fujiazuma did end up leaning too far forward, so that's what he gets (3-3).

That was followed by the monster battle between a perfect 5-0 rikishi (Kitataiki) and a single loss rikishi (Takarafuji). Okay, so perhaps not quite "monster". Elephantine? Big? Larger than average? I'll go with "larger than average for Day 6". Kitataiki should be the better belt fighter and should have the advantage in a pretty straight-up mawashi battle. But he couldn't get the grip he wanted and after some adjusting and re-positioning, it still wasn't right. So by the time Kitataiki was finished and ready to charge, Takarafuji had gotten so sick of waiting (and gotten his own decent grips) that he found a moment where he had the better position and immediately turned the tide to walk the formerly undefeated man out. Both dudes at 5-1.

So I was listening to the English broadcast, featuring Clancy's favorite man in the whole world -- Ross Mihara -- ... whoa ... time out. I google for Ross Mihara and this comes up.  I mean, Rule 34 (if it exists, there is porn of it) and all, but still. Anyway, Clancy's favorite sumo porn star, Ross, did a great job of pointing out that there was some real suspense in the Asahisho-Takekaze bout. Asahisho is "jumpy" AND he jumped the gun at the tachi-ai. Will Takekaze henka? I was on the edge of my seat! (OK, I was on the whole seat, but that includes the edge, right?) Well, I would have lost money if my betting buddy was sitting there next to me, because the windy one played it straight and used the "surprise attack" to get in a quick shove at the tachi-ai. But Asahisho proceeded to get inside after warding off that initial attack and quickly blast Takekaze out of the ring for his 5th loss. Morning Man at 3-3.

Amazing to see Wakanosato getting any wins at this level (2 so far) -- especially when he can be so completely dominated by Yoshikaze. Starbuck came in fast with the tsuppari, found an easy moro-zashi wait for him, and ended the dance quickly for his first win.

Chiyotairyu has looked pretty good this basho, but he looked like a rikishi who doesn't trust his sumo today. The Lil' Pup had a sharp tachi-ai, knocking Oki back a step, but had too much emphasis on the face and not the chest. Worse, he followed it up with a weak slap down attempt. Instead of falling down, Okinoumi used his opponent's chest to break his fall, resulting in Tairyu flying back and totally off the dohyo. I hope the (literal) pain in his ass reminds Chiyotairyu (4-2) to keep moving forward. Oki at 4-2.

Surprising to this commentator to see Aoiyama (4-2) pick up an envelope in his win against Tokitenku (2-4) and the same for Ikioi (3-3) over Masunoyama (2-4). I'm too lazy to try to find out, but I always wonder who gives these out during random middle card matches. Actually, if you've got a few hundred to blow and get tired of coke and hookers, it's a pretty cool way to support your favorite guy. Giving one to a Yokozuna match is like giving water to the ocean. But throw one at a Masunoyama match and maybe it's actually noticed.


Although Mr. Mihara was talking about the top of the banzuke at the halftime break, it looks like the powers that be spent some dough upgrading the stadium. There is a sign displaying the kimari-te in hiragana. A multi-thousand dollar investment there. High times for sumo!

A typical Gagamaru-littler man match today, where the littler man role was played with gusto by Takayasu. Takayasu went right at the big man with quick tsuppari, only to lose major ground with just a single push from Gaga's big paw. One more moved the match to the tawara, where Takayasu (following our Gaga-littler man script) shifted to his right and gained the positional advantage that he quickly used to get the win by yori-kiri (4-2). Lordy lordy Gaga at 2-4.

The battle of two muscley white guys was next. Clancy, contain yourself! Aran and Tochinoshin quickly got into a belt fight, which favors Tochinoshin except that Aran had a lower position. Nevertheless, No Shine decided to go for offense and attempted to move his man toward the edge. Big mistake, as it let Aran use his leverage and belly to hoist the Georgian into the air -- you don't usually see tree-trunk legs dangling like that -- and put him down on the tawara. From there, the Russian (3-3) was able to lean on No Shine (4-2) to get him out.

Toyonoshima looked pretty good today against Aminishiki. I'm running out of time to comment, but it's worth watching.

Pseudo-Ozeki candidate Goeido came out firing against Tochiohzan! Well, firing slap down attempts, at least. Pretty lame for an Oz runner. Tochiohzan rather typically attempted a slap down of his own to little affect besides separation. When they reconnected, both men got a belt grip. Looks like Oh's was better though, as he quickly guided Goeido (4-2) out of the ring to read .500.

I like Toyohibiki, but he's a rank too high for his own good right now, fighting amongst the big boys. Today, he hammered Kisenosato at the tachi-ai, knocking him back two big steps. But he should have been thrusting with extended arms instead of allowing his body to get in tight to the Ozeki, where Kise likes it. Kise kept shifting and moving until he could grab first a right outer and then a left inside grip. And with that, he put the brakes on Hibiki's charge and reversed direction for the yori-kiri win (4-2). Hibiki is at least being aggressive and moving forward, but remains winless.

The match of the day goes to Myogiryu-Kotoshogiku. Geeku started things off with an interesting twist by grabbing an arm bar on Myogi Bear's right arm at the tachi-ai while using his own right to push up and back on Myogiryu's chin. Seems like it must have been a designed move and I wonder if Myogi doesn't have a tendency that was picked up on tape. Anyway, Geeku soon switched tactics with his right arm, blocking a mawashi grip from Myogiryu's left by grabbing the left arm, and we had this strange position that lasted most of the rest of the match. After a little more moving around and a failed slap down attempt by Geeku, Myogiryu decided that he didn't need a grip and would force the action forward. That was his mistake, because Humpty Hump was able to get him off balance and then push him down via an unusual-looking sukui-nage. Geeku is 4-2, while M1 Myogiryu is still in the hunt for a promotion back into the sanyaku at 2-4 and having faced his toughest foes.

Kotooshu got moro-zashi against Kaisei. Enough said, except that Oshu's only 3-3, while Kaisei's 4-2.

Kakuryu met a one-legged Baruto today in an ugly match. Baruto with a slow, uninspired tachi-ai equals Kak with moro-zashi. And Kak was in too deep for Baruto to get any kime action, so Kak takes his time to work into a maximum leverage position and bullies the big Estonian out and to his third loss. The road to 10 now has no room for error -- very interested to see how this plays out. Kakuryu at 4-2.

If I didn't know better, I'd say that Kyokutenho went for double outside grips today against Hakuho. His left was certainly waaaay outside. With his right, he actually tried to go inside, but Hak used the inside right on Kyokutenho's armpit to push the uber-veteran off balance leaning right, giving Hak a chance to get moro-zashi. From there, you surely know the outcome. Hak at one loss, Kyokutenho at one win.

Shohozan was both outmuscled and outquicked by Harumafuji -- not a winning formula. Big tachi-ai hit from the second-basho Yokozuna, reset and recharge to get moro-zashi and end it super fast. Make that superfast -- no time for a space. How-do was kind enough to keep his man on the dohyo.

I would say that this is How-do's "turn" at the Emperor's Cup, if you will, and the Yokozuna-tachi will want to restore Harumafuji's good graces with the YDC after that 9-6 mess last time. Harumafuji needs to continue to do his part, but Hak already has one loss and may eat one more if any of the Ozeki need the help (which seems likely with these poor starts).

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Here's a question out of left field that I will ask in order to start off my day 5 comments: why won't the Sumo Association issue press credentials to foreign media outlets? It would stand to reason that the more press sumo received, the more interest they could generate in the sport, which would ultimately translate into more revenue for them, so why does the Association refuse to let foreign media outlets cover their sport? This answer is the same as why a foreigner wouldn't be touted to run a Japanese company and why a foreigner isn't given authority in a Japanese company to make tough business decisions and why a foreigner at a Japanese company is never in control of a budget: foreigners can't be trusted. And it's not that foreigners would steal the money or drive the company into bankruptcy; rather, foreigners don't understand the Japanese way.

Funny thing is, many foreigners do understand the Japanese way, and I am one of them, and so it's extremely easy for me to read the Japanese people and know what they are thinking and why they do the things they do without it being spelled out. So getting back to my initial question about why foreign media outlets aren't granted press credentials to cover sumo, they aren't invited because they can't be trusted to conform to the Japanese way of covering things, which means cooperating with the Sumo Association's established agenda. I've pointed out in the past certain words or phrases that all of the media uses to refer to certain incidents or scandals, and a good example is "kyushi mondai" that was used to describe the death by torture of a 17 year-old sumo prodigy from the Tokitsukaze-beya. "Sudden death problem," the direct translation of kyushi mondai, sounds a lot more dumbed down than "torture to death," "negligent homicide," or "second degree murder," and so all of the media outlets played along and used the term to soften the blow because that is the Japanese way: cooperate.

It's also the same reason why the yaocho scandal wasn't reported until nine months after media outlets first obtained hard evidence of bout fixing as part of their investigation into the gambling scandal. Two severe scandals back to back would have crushed the Sumo Association, and so the media agreed to space them apart by nearly a year in order to lessen the blow. I mean, did anyone happen to notice that it wasn't a single news outlet that broke the yaocho story? They all ran it together at the same time reporting the same information. Once one understands how the Japanese media works, it's then easy to see the messages that the sumo Association wants to feed to the general public through them.

The whole reason I even bring this up is because I continue to see clues nearly on a daily basis in the media that forecast the direction the Sumo Association is trying to steer the sport or that include comments from sumo officials that indicate what's on their minds. For example, the media pointed out after day 4 that all of the Ozeki were beaten on the same day. Andreas, a foreigner, failed to mention this fact in his day 4 report, and even I failed to realize that all of the Ozeki lost until I read the Japanese dailies the next morning because we both understand that the Ozeki have collectively sucked for years now, and so it's not really news when all of them happen to get their asses kicked on the same day. The Japanese media, however, all led with this story Thursday morning and then sought out various sumo officials for comment. The quote that I found most enlightening came from former Ozeki Wakashimazu and current Matsugane-oyakata who said, "It puts us in a bad spot when Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku can't keep up with the yusho race." (Sports Hochi, Jan. 17, 7:03 AM)  Why mention just those two?

The reason it puts the Sumo Association in a bad spot is because they've invested two years in those two yayhoos, and the only thing they've been able to accomplish is assisted Ozeki runs while in the mean time, two different foreigners took yusho, another one earned the Ozeki rank all on his own, and one of the three made it to Yokozuna! So of course the Sumo Association is frustrated when the two Japanese Ozeki don't measure up to expectations, and I thought it was funny that he mentioned them by name. The comment is just so revealing on multiple levels, and the timing of that quote couldn't be better because I was prepared to start my day 5 comments off with a review of Miyabiyama's failed Ozeki run back in 2006 and then pose the question "what would the Association give to have another run like that now from a Japanese rikishi?" If you rewind back to 2006, you'll remember that Miyabiyama posted 34 wins over three basho from the sanyaku. Despite those 34 wins, Miyabiyama was denied promotion to Ozeki, and they said no again the next basho after another double-digit performance.

The reason for the denial was the Sumo Association had an agenda then, and promoting Miyabiyama to Ozeki did not fit it. Revenues for the Association were in steep decline, and it was around the time when they finally had to admit in their annual fiscal reports that they were actually losing money. As long as we're on the subject, ever wonder why those fiscal year-end reports aren't made public now? The whole point is that the Sumo Association always has an agenda, and they use the media in order to subtly promote it.  I've been preaching for several years now that you can get a glimpse into that agenda if you only know where to look, and Sumotalk is largely successful because we don't just accept and rehash what's being reported in the Japanese media; we read between the lines of the media reports and then piece that together with anomalies we see in the ring. The runs to Ozeki by Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato were not a surprise then, and Goeido's current Ozeki run is as predictable as ever, but I'll wait to touch on today's coordinated headlines in the media regarding that later.

Let's get to the bouts starting with the hard-luck M16, Miyabiyama, who welcomed J3 Wakakoyu to the dance. Miyabiyama simply can't move any more. He can't move forward, and he can't move laterally, so there's nothing there to set up an attack, and there's no way to escape an onslaught from his foe, so it was no wonder that Wakakoyu bullied him out of the ring in about three seconds with a series of tsuppari. Miyabiyama falls to 0-5 while Wakakoyu ekes forward to 2-3. Probably the most surprising aspect of this bout was the lack of any kensho banners.

M15 Kotoyuki reminds me a lot of his day 5 opponent, M13 Asahisho. Both rikishi picked up wins in their Makuuchi debut but then struggled rest of the next week to get anything going. Asahisho has finally seemed to secure his footing in the division, so it was no wonder that his experience won out in this straight-arm tsuppari affair that saw Asahisho move left and swipe the rookie down to the clay a few seconds in. Asahisho moves to 2-3 while Kotoyuki has only been able to solve Miyabiyama at 1-4.

M12 Sadanofuji used a stiff right nodowa into M15 Tochinowaka's throat keeping him upright and uncomfortably off balance. T-Wok made no real effort to fight this off, and so Sadanofuji (3-2) methodically worked him over to the edge and pushed him out from there. Tochinowaka suffers his first loss at 4-1, and he simply needs to be more aggressive.

M7 Masunoyama's a lot like a 14 year-old boy his first time with a girl. He's got about two seconds of spurt in him, and then he just goes limp from there. So against M10 Kitataiki, Masunoyama gained the upper hand from the tachi-ai with a few tsuppari, but Kitataiki survived to a count of two, got his left arm on the inside, and forced Masunoyama over to the edge where he finished him off with a shove to the chest. Kitataiki's 5-0 if ya need him while Masunoyama drops to 2-3.

When M8 Chiyotairyu moves forward, good things happen, and that was exactly the case today against M7 Takayasu starting from the tachi-ai where Tairyu jammed his left shoulder right into Takayasu's face, and it looked to me that Takayasu blacked out for just an instant because he sort of leaned forward into his opponent while Chiyotairyu stepped left and let him fall face forward to the dohyo giving him a light shove for good measure. Takayasu (3-2) may have had his wits about him the whole time, but Chiyotairyu moved to 4-1 thanks to that crushing tachi-ai.

M6 Tochinoshin needs to be a little bit more cautious against M9 Tokitenku. Tenku has looked awful this basho and Tochinoshin has been red hot, so he's gotta know that Tokitenku isn't going to look for a fair fight. It apparently slipped Tochinoshin's mind as he charged forward like a bat out of hell only to run himself straight outta the dohyo as Tokitenku (2-3) classlessly henka'd to his left. Just great Tokitenku, just great. Tochinoshin falls to 4-1 after getting greased, and this was easily a bout that could have been called back as a false start on Tenku.

I thought M6 Aoiyama looked injured yesterday against Gagamaru, and my suspicions were confirmed today after he got worked by M5 Ikioi, who got moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and drove Aoiyama (3-2) straight back and out with little resistance. Ikioi has done well to even be at 2-3 at this point.

M3 Kaisei is quietly having a good basho as he took advantage of a non-committed M4 Gagamaru, who forced the bout to hidari-yotsu and began driving Kaisei back from the tachi-ai, but he just didn't have any oomph to his charge, so Kaisei was easily able to move to his right and dump Gagamaru over and down via tsuki-otoshi. Kaisei's 4-1 and technically in the jo'i, so major props to him. Gagamaru is slowly gagging at 2-3.

M4 Aran played the brute squad today against M2 Kyokutenho using a right nodowa to keep Tenho upright followed by a resounding left outer grip. Aran meant bidness today as Kyokutenho (1-4) tried to wrench out of the grip even threatening an inside leg trip at one point, but Aran's positioning and strength were too much to overcome as the Russian scored the solid yori-kiri win in about five seconds. Aran's position today was a carbon copy of his position against Ikioi on day 2, so why did he attack so fiercely today and just stand there like a bump on a log for Ikioi on day 2? I have my theories on the anomaly, but regardless of that, Aran moves to 2-3 with the good win.

When I first saw Komusubi Shohozan's maize mawashi this basho, I just rolled my eyes. If you're going to come out in a bright mawashi like that, you at least need to back it up on the dohyo with some game. Today against Sekiwake Baruto, Shohozan got moro-zashi from the tachi-ai but would have had more success chest bumping a brick wall as Baruto reached over the top, grabbed the back of the maize mawashi with the left hand, and swung Shohozan out with ease illustrating just how far Shohozan has yet to go in this league. Good win for the Estonian who moves to 3-2, but you gotta remember, he ain't beating either of the two Yokozuna, so he essentially has four losses already. Shohozan falls to 1-4 and looks more like Asanowaka so far.

If you're a serious Ozeki, you gotta do more against M1 Aminishiki than just run into him creating the same effect as if you just headbutted a teppo pole. Aminishiki easily rebuffed the blow, moved to his left, and shoved the Ozeki to the dirt in two seconds flat. Both rikishi end the day at 3-2, and no wonder Wakashimazu is frustrated. You spend a year or more hyping a guy and then turn him loose in a legitimate bout, and he does that.

Sekiwake Goeido demanded the right inside position against Ozeki Kotooshu from the tachi-ai as the Bulgarian responded with a left outer grip, but the Father's positioning was too good and he wasted no time burrowing in tight and using his right leg to the inside of Kotooshu's left thigh to assist in a scoop throw with that same right arm sending the Ozeki down across the edge of the dohyo in spectacular fashion. Kotooshu didn't go easy, however, and dragged the Sekiwake down with that left grip of his own, and replays showed that Goeido's left hand actually touched down first, but by this point, the Ozeki was completely across the straw and would touch down a millisecond later. No mono-ii was called, and I didn't think there needed to be one as Goeido dominated this start to finish.

If anyone's counting (I know we're not), that's seven straight victories over an Ozeki for Goeido. And how do I know this? The media is doing their part to trump it up. I even saw one headline that declared Goeido an Ozeki Killer! To us foreign fans, it doesn't feel like Goeido is on a tear because he isn't. The Ozeki are collectively weak, and some of those seven bouts were handed to him (see Andreas' comments yesterday). Today's win looked legit, but how can a guy on a tear get his ass handed to him on day 2 by Toyonoshima? It's all a moot point, though, because as long as the media is able to butter up the Japanese public and create the perception that Goeido is worthy of the Ozeki rank, then they've done their job. Now, Goeido still has work to do on his own, but I can already see the Haru basho headlines, "Goeido clinches promotion to Ozeki in front of hometown fans!"

Ozeki Kakuryu used a perfect nodowa at the tachi-ai to keep M2 Toyonoshima away from the inside, and when Toyonoshima can't establish anything in close, he's a sitting duck. Kakuryu showed that today by using his superior speed and under-rated tsuppari attack to drive Toyonoshima over and out tsuki-dashi style. The Kak moves to 3-2 and is just minding his P's and Q's while Toyonoshima, the Goeido Killer, falls to 1-4.

After his legitimate kin-boshi on day 3, M1 Myogiryu looked to continue his momentum against Ozeki Kisenosato in a hidari-yotsu contest that saw the Ozeki deny his foe moro-zashi by keeping his left arm in tight and bending his body over in that direction to further shut down any hope of dual insides for the M1. As Myogiryu realized he couldn't get moro-zashi, he began moving laterally in a circular fashion (called mawari-komi) in an attempt to create some sort of opening, but his movements were half-assed allowing the experienced Ozeki to force him upright in the end and push him across the straw for good. A bit of a let down for Myogiryu as he falls to 2-3 while Kisenosato kinda rights the ship at 3-2, but I'm not sure how fired up Myogiryu was for this one from the get-go.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Harumafuji head butted M3 Toyohibiki hard as they came out of their stance, and like the Chiyotairyu - Takayasu bout earlier, I think the Hutt saw stars in this one as the Yokozuna just dragged him down by the belt in a second or two. Not that the 0-5 Toyohibiki had a chance anyway, but Harumafuji will take this 5-0 start after the negative press he received following Kyushu.

And finally, Yokozuna Hakuho looked for the right inside (something he got lazy with against Myogiryu) against Komusubi Tochiohzan at the tachi-ai, and Tochiohzan probably knew what was coming because he quickly moved left and tried to pull the Yokozuna off balance. This move actually worked a few basho ago when Tochiohzan "defeated" Hakuho, but it was the Yokozuna's intent to win today, and so he recovered quickly and took advantage of his compromised opponent getting moro-zashi that set up the inevitable force-out. Hakuho was never in danger as he scoots to 4-1 while Tochiohzan is cooling a bit at 2-3.

It's been kind of nice having most of the fellas around this basho and hearing everyone's opinions. That trend continues tomorrow when Matt unveils his latest rhymes.

Day 4 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
It is the year 2013, and I congratulate all of you who made it this far, generally and also in terms of sumo enthusiasm. Over the last few years, the January basho doesn't stand so much for "beginnings", "openings" or "initials" -- with the exception of Baruto's first yusho this time last year. Quite the opposite. With the closure of Hatsu basho 2013 we will celebrate several anniversaries no-one really likes to be reminded about. Two years ago after Hatsu, the yaocho bomb went off. Three years ago after Hatsu, Asashoryu was seen to the exit. Seven years ago, Tochiazuma was the last Japanese rikishi to hold the fish. Ten years ago after Hatsu, Takonohana -- the last active Japanese Yokozuna -- called it a career.

Personally, I feel troubled to feel troubled. Why's that? See, my comparatively young interest in sumo started to become more than an infrequent casual glance just about when Hakuho made it to Ozeki. So do I, personally miss Japanese champions or grand-champions? Most likely not. My biggest grief with sumo is still Asashoryu's unjustified two basho ban for attending a children charity event (which reads: for being a foreigner and too successful). Painful revelation: Less because of the injustice as such, rather because I got robbed of two extra basho with action from the man. Here, I admit it. My very own fandom is driven by personnel and plot.

Of which there is hardly anything noteworthy to report.

The personnel is what it is. We have a slightly younger crew than pre-yaocho scandal. We have Heisei-born New Hopes. We see the next generation of Western furries, veterans turning to vegetables and former New Hopes to didn't-quite-make-it veterans. As much as I was advertising "the other view" over the last couple of basho, the one that didn't focus almost solely on (supposed) yaocho, but instead gave credit to the potential of the newest faces, as much have I been sobering up of late. Impatience is the keyword here. I'm longing for the exiting new kid storming through the ranks to victory and glory. Instead I have to watch wasted potential and force-promoted mediocrity (I'll let you fill in the names). I have to witness Baruto -- a legitimate Ozeki -- to leave his rank, quite possibly for good. And I have to admit that there is nothing much on the horizon.

The last couple of obvious or covert attempts at orchestrating the plot in order to please the Japanese public have either miserably failed (Kyokutenho yusho) or are continuing to backfire with machine gun ROF (Kisenosato's and Kotoshogiku's performance). New Yokozuna? The excitement barely made it through the 9-6. Baruto's quest for regaining Ozekihood? A non-topic. Chiyotairyu, Masunoyama, Jokoryu? Move on. Myogiryu? Pending. Goeido's pre-Ozrun-run? Give me a break.

Forgive me. I'm going through the moves here. (Which is, I guess, OK on a Day 4.)

The clash of Komusubi saw an in-form Tochi- meet tan man Shohozan who has decided to boldly celebrate his newly achieved sanyaku status with a golden mawashi. I usually cannot stand such things, but it really fits to the guy, so I'm fine. The bout between the two turned out to be rather intense right from the start. Tochiohzan sought a grip with some determination but was denied by his counterpart's excellent shoves and somewhat innovative footwork. In the end, Tochiohzan's inability to stabilize the bout turned out to be inferior to Shohozan's strong forward momentum. A noteworthy oshi-dashi by a wrestler who performs better at this level than he theoretically should.

On the day following his first career kin-boshi my money was not on Myogiryu. You know, I expected him to be out boozing and whoring all night etc. But then again I should listen to myself once in a while. In the past I claimed that the Maegashira would turn up fresh and unimpressed every new day, independently of stupid losses and such. It seems that this truth can also be applied for positive events. Kotooshu -- who starts to look alarmingly old for his 29 years -- couldn't get any advantage out of a semi-decent tachi-ai, because Myogiryu managed to place a perfect hand to his throat. In a quick and very Hakuho-ish flow-motion Myogiryu retreated in a circle motion, neatly unbalancing the Ozeki and setting him up for an easy while not very attractive hataki-komi win. Kotooshu is a little bit like Kyokutenho on a higher level. Staying in the game, avoiding injuries, getting a salary. Myogiryu starts to impress me with his ever improving mastery of the tachi-ai.

Who else than the Yokozuna can claim that they are in their comfort zone when meeting with Ozeki. Well, his name is Aminishiki, who should be on the cover of any textbook concerned with clever sumo. Today, he faced Kakuryu who starts to transform his habit of mediocre Sanyaku-hood into a habit of mediocre Ozeki-hood. That and the slippery dohyo spelled doom for him. Unable to get a grip after tachi-ai, the Ozeki was just about to engage in some Plan B slapfest when the combination of Aminishiki's tactical abilities together with the surface's refusal to come to grips send the Mongolian kneeling four seconds into the bout. Kakuryu is clearly underachieving and a prime new candidate for paycheck Ozeki-hood. Aminishiki is just himself, which adds a lot of color to the sport.

Baruto's left knee is so banged up, he can use the leg for barely anything other than standing on it. This means that he is totally dependent on getting a left inside as any other grip or combination seems to be too much strain on the mauled leg. Not surprisingly at all, Mr. Grab-me-how-you-need-it-babe Kisenosato, allowed him exactly this grip, so we could thankfully watch an interesting bout. With much effort Kisenosato tried to force out the Sekiwake in traditional belly humping yori-kiri style, always answered by Baruto's brave (and rather painful to watch) shitate-nage counters that avoided any pressure on the injured leg in a way that spelled "former Ozeki". After a short mid-dohyo skirmish that saw Baruto trapped between hope and despair, Kisenosato mustered enough energy for one final drive. At the edge, though, Baruto used his immense upper body strength to shift the Ozeki past him in a move that would be called sukui-nage but looked like a hybrid between shitate-nage and utchari. Anyway, Sekiwake Baruto's old rank is history, which is a big blow to the top level quality. Kisenosato needs to mature another five years before he can achieve anything at this level legitimately.

Ozeki-in-the-making Goeido met made-man Kotoshogiku in a somewhat farcical bout that saw a decent enough tachi-ai, followed by a suspiciously easy loss of grip and footing on Kotoshogiku's part. Look, I really don't see dodgy stuff everywhere, but the Geek's blind charge from a superior position against a grip-less, more upright, evading opponent, these are the things when I think "Hmm..." Nothing to write home about. In the land of Ozekis Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku, Goeido would make an excellent addition.

After blowing his tachi-ai in yesterday's bout against Myogiryu, Hakuho concentrated on denying Toyonoshima any ambitions in relation to a double-inside grip. From this point of view, the Yokozuna's style can be described as cautious, maybe overly cautious. Having neutralized the Maegashira in this way, Hakuho started to shift gears, driving his helpless opponent to the edge and disposed of him with a decent extra shove that will be a topic to no-one except some foreigners in forums on the internet. Hakuho has successfully cultivated some erratic quirks to his erstwhile meditative sumo, which I guess is good news for everyone else.

Harumafuji had a little scare against fellow Mongolian Kyokutenho when he slipped with his right foot two seconds in the bout. The pictures are not clear, but he might have touch the clay with either his knee, his lower leg or the outside of his foot. Anyway, this will be a topic to no-one except some foreigners in forums on the internet. Recovering brilliantly, the Yokozuna managed to turn around his aite with a quick and powerful looking move, setting him up for a dynamic rush to the ropes, which failed to turn up. Thus, Kyokutenho ran out of real estate giving Harumafuji the fourth win in as many days. On track.

Mike should preach this time tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
I'm back.....and feeling like a lost puppy with many a rikishi name I'm unable to read anymore. Unfortunately I lost interest in the sport to the extent that I pretty much have ignored it for the last couple years. But it's time to jump back in so I'll try to contribute at least once or twice per basho in 2013 and at least act like I know what I'm talking about again. Sorry to have caused more reporting burden to the guys who have stepped up to keep Sumo Talk alive and well!

As for day 3, I'll warm back up to the sport by touching on 10 bouts, 3 in the first half and 7 in the second. First up was an appropriate wake up call to a rusty sumo fan. When I saw the shikona "Tochinowaka", I figured I'd ease back in with an old familiar face. When I saw the image of the M15 youngster on the dohyo, I thought "who's this kid?" (hold your laughs, Mike and Clancy). My sumo memory must be going, because I don't remember "Tochinowaka" looking like that. Anyway, this version of Tochinowaka apparently went 13-2 in Juryo last basho and has maku-uchi joii experience. It looked that way as he handled M13 Daido (0-3) pretty easily by staying low, securing moro-zashi and relatively easy yori-kiri win to go 3-0.

Next I figured I'd try to comment on a match-up of 2-0 fast starters in which I recognize neither name. M8 Chiyotairyu vs. M6 Aoiyama (or is that Aogiyama, either way I see that he is a burly foreigner). I see here that Tairyu must be a protégé of our old friend Chiyotaikai as he looks like a wannabe from Taikai's early years (plus the lamb chomps). I say early years because I saw no cheap pulling techniques with the kid, just refreshing straightforward oshi-zumo. In contrast to this is Aoiyama, who must be one of the heaviest guys around but who also must sport one of the wimpiest games. This was a mono-ii where Aoi was pushed to the edge but tried a desperation hataki-komi to pull out victory from the jaws of defeat. He was successful as the replay showed Tairyu's hand hit before Aoi's foot, making the latter 3-0 while Tairyu falls to 2-1. I'm told Aoi has won his three bouts by tsuki-otoshi, hataki-komi and hataki-komi. I've watched less than 30 minutes of sumo in 2 years and I've already identified my red headed step child. Chiyotaikai, sorry for all those years of abuse. May you be set free and all the wrath now fall on this big, wimpy foreigner.

I must admit I was previously made aware of the interesting story of M7 Masunoyama, so I was excited to see him. He was matched up against M6 Tochinoshin who was 2-0 coming in. I see that the guy with a breathing problem is relatively small but top heavy. Interesting. He also has a nice tachi-ai as he burst into Tochi guns ablaze. But it was like hitting a wall, as Tochi got inside with the left and deftly used an ottsuke from the right to force out Masu with ease. Masu falls to 1-2 but I'll still root for him without making fun.

As the second half emerged I start to see more familiar faces. It was weird seeing Baruto as a Sekiwake, and even more weird seeing him look so lost and weak. This guy needs 10 to get back to Ozeki? Well, it ain't looking good from these eyes, as counterpart Sekiwake Goeido (2-1) slipped to the left and dumped him via okuri-dashi like it was a walk in the park. Baruto is already 1-2 and can only lose 3 more the rest of the way. Looks like it may be a long basho for him.

Next I'm introduced to another young phenom, Shohozan. He's matched up against Kakuryu who was the only Ozeki / Yokozuna who had lost already. If it hadn't been for the special interview and press that Shohozan gets, I wouldn't have know that this guy was good. Kaku (2-1) started with a left hari-te, then moved to the right for a ho-hum tsuki-otoshi. So Shohozan (0-3) is one to see. So far I'm not seeing it, but he does look like a spark plug so I'm sure he's better than this.

Komusubi Tochiohzan gets my vote for best sumo of the day as he took it to Kisenosato (2-1) with a low center of gravity, standing up the Ozeki and keeping him on the defensive the whole way. He stuck close not allowing space. Yori-kiri and 2-1 with both wins against Ozeki. This guy hasn't missed a beat in my absence.

Also not missing a beat is M3 Toyohibiki with his imposing bullish tachi-ai followed by a maladroit follow-through. He took Kotoshogiku (3-0) to the edge in predictable fashion, but then fell on his face when The Giku offers an 11th hour twist that wasn't anything special. OK, maybe I haven't lost all the goings-on in sumo.

I barely recognize M1 Aminishiki. This guy has gotten huge. Do you remember him when he came up from Juryo? He was tiny. I mean almost Mainoumi tiny. Now as a grizzled vet he looks like a rikishi of average weight and size. He's still got some mojo apparently as he hit Kotooshu solidly, followed by a hataki-komi that worked to pick up his first win. Kotooshu falls to 2-1 and looks uninspired.

And finally for the Yokozuna. I'm told Harumafuji is coming off a disappointing 9-6 Shin-Yokozuna campaign. I wouldn't have known it by today's sumo. He overcame a game M2 Toyonoshima in exciting fashion. Haruma still has all his signature speed and feisty hari-te that I remember. Toyo defended his consistent pressure well however, to the delight of the crowd. Eventually, Haruma toppled Toyo with a soto-gake outside leg hook to stay unblemished at 3-0. Toyo falls to 1-2. This was a good bout to watch.

The musubi was Hakuho, just like I remember, but the outcome wasn't. Another young phenom apparently, M1 Myogiryu, took it to the Yokozuna and I'm served up flying zabuton my first day back into sumo. Previously 0-5 against Hakuho, Myogi secured his first kin-boshi in impressive fashion with a strong tachi-ai and not letting Hakuho get inside. It was a perfectly executed oshi-dashi, and one that Hakuho looked like he underestimated. Myogi picks up his first win to go 1-2 while Haku suffers his first defeat to go 2-1.

Now that I've written this I feel right back at home. Three days are in the books for 2013 and we've only got 2 jo'i left undefeated, followed by 5 in hira-maku for 7 rikishi still with no losses. But it's still early. I've got plenty of time yet to learn all these new names.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I was a bit uneasy heading into today's report because the sumo broadcast for my satellite feed here in the States wasn't scheduled to start until 5:00 PM Japan time meaning I'd only get the last half of the broadcast. To make up for it, the bozos at TVJapan decided to pre-empt sumo another 15 minutes so they could show a brief documentary on digging for wild yams in the mountainsides of Japan (I wish I was making this up). By the time the broadcast actually started, it was in the middle of the Kaisei - Toyohibiki bout meaning I'd get a total of eight bouts today. I wasn't bummed as much about missing the earlier bouts as I was missing the day 2 NHK broadcast with their special New Year's format.

Because today was a holiday in Japan (Seijin no Hi, or coming of age day), NHK and the Association held the broadcast from a special room in the Kokugikan as they do every year on this day. They always invite a guest unrelated to sumo, and then the NHK announcer, a prominent oyakata, and the guest carry on candid conversations about sumo, the rikishi, the direction the sport is heading, etc. They also conduct rikishi interviews in the same room with the three panelists asking them questions. It's such a great format mostly because the NHK announcer follows the script to a T, so it gives you a glimpse into the Association's agenda with their planted questions for the guest panelist.

Today's lineup included Shirasaki Announcer from NHK, Hakkaku-oyakata (the former Yokozuna Hokutoumi), and guest panelist Shinpei Asai, a well-known photographer in Japan whose claim to fame was documenting the Beatles when they first visited Japan. Asai is a guy that I see on various shows, and he was a great pick, especially following last year's guest disaster, Demon Kogure Kakka, the washed up shock metal dude whose comments were simply off base and completely biased last year. Anyway, I'll construct today's report in the order that I watched the broadcast meaning I'll start with Kaisei - Toyohibiki, go through to the final bout of the day, and then I'll hit on various lower-ranked bouts that I watched on YouTube.

M3 Toyohibiki led with a right nodowa at the tachi-ai, but he had no de-ashi fueling the attack, and so M3 Kaisei played along for one step back before quickly moving to the side and spilling the Hutt to he dirt with a nice tsuki-otoshi move using the right hand. Had Toyohibiki been driving hard with the legs, he would have had better balance and wouldn't have made things so easy for his opponent. Props to Kaisei for remaining calm as he picked up his first win while Toyohibiki is 0-2.

Sumo's new desperation darling, Sekiwake Goeido, gave up moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M2 Toyonoshima, and then made no effort to shake the hold or counter. It was puzzling sumo because Toyonoshima's force-out was completely linear, and I think if someone wanted to counter, they would at least dig and and try a a few desperation counter moves. I mean, how often have we seen an ill-advised kubi-nage attempt from the Father? Nothing would come today, however, in the bout that lasted maybe three seconds and saw each rikishi finish the day at 1-1. It's just a very puzzling bout, and it makes me wonder if Goeido just gave up after the tachi-ai, or if he owed Toyonoshima something.

Speaking of puzzling sumo, when was the last time Ozeki Kisenosato got moro-zashi from the tachi-ai? That was indeed the case today against M2 Kyokutenho, which tells me the Chauffeur's tachi-ai was half-assed. Tenho did manage to get his left arm to the inside, but he stayed way too high the entire way allowing Kisenosato to score the boring yori-kiri win. Just like the bout before, there was no attempt to counter from Kyokutenho, who falls to 0-2 and gave his day 1 bout to Kotoshogiku as Clancy implied. Kyokutenho knows where his bread is buttered, and for a 38 year-old guy, he has very few miles on his body. The reason is because he's the master of doing just enough to keep himself in the division in order to keep those paychecks coming. As for Kisenosato, he scoots to 2-0 facing little resistance from his first two opponents, which I believe was by design.

At this point in the broadcast, they broke away from the dohyo and focused strictly on our three panelists. The conversation that ensued was fascinating, and it pains me that I missed the previous 90 minutes of dialog. Shirasaki Announcer first asked Hokutoumi about Kisenosato, and his reply was that Kisenosato has settled into his role nicely as an Ozeki. He then mentioned that the next step is Yokozuna, and he committed what I'd call a Freudian slip by saying, "we the oyakata...I mean everyone has high hopes for someone else to rise up."

As if on cue, Shirasaki Announcer said, "We haven't seen a Japanese Yokozuna since Takanohana, and then it's been a very long time since a Japanese rikishi took the yusho...and that's not to say we're not rooting for the foreign rikishi as well." He then turned to the photographer and said, "Who do you have high hopes for right now?"

Do I even need to say what the answer was?

Asai went by th book and explained how Goeido's sumo is so interesting and that even when he loses there's a reason for it. Shirasaki Announcer didn't skip a beat next asking Hokutoumi, "well sometimes you can't always do your own sumo, right?" to which the oyakata responded in the affirmative. The dudes were trying to cover for Goeido's embarrassing loss today by going on about how you can't always do your own sumo because sometimes you have to defend against the other guy's sumo too. Whatever. I just found it comical how these three were following the exact narrative that has been delivered from the release of the banzuke, and it pains me that I wasn't able to hear the first 90 minutes of the broadcast.  I also think Hokutoumi said "we the oyakata" because it's the higher ups in the Association who are racking their brains trying to figure out how they can restore the Japanese rikishi to their former glory.

Moving right along, the most compelling matchup by far today was the Ozeki duel between Baruto and Kotoshogiku, two high-ranking dudes who are both on their last leg. Kotoshogiku seized the momentum gaining moro-zashi from the tachi-ai while Baruto did little to dig in. I'm not sure if Baruto's legs prevented him from countering or what, but all he did was grab the back of the Geeku's belt over the top allowing the Ozeki to score the easy force-out win. Ho hum as Kotoshogiku moves to 2-0 while Baruto falls to 1-1. There has been such little effort these first two days that I don't know what to think of most of these bouts in the last 30 minutes.

Komusubi Shohozan fired a few tsuppari volleys into Ozeki Kotooshu's neck and upper body keeping him upright, but there was no lower body behind the attack, and so while the Ozeki wasn't able to get inside and grab the belt, he had plenty of room to maneuver stepping back quickly and swiping down at the extended Shohozan in the process. Kotooshu managed to touch the Komusubi's belt as he fell drawing the kimari-te uwate-nage, but this was sloppy sumo from both parties. Kotooshu moves to 2-0 while Shohozan's so called powerful tsuki attack has been nowhere to be found. I get it that he's faced a Yokozuna and Ozeki the first two days, but his tsuppari attack right now is what I'd call impotent.

In yet another curious bout of sumo the latter half of the day, Ozeki Kakuryu stayed upright at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Tochiohzan offering a quick pull that conveniently sent the Kak into reverse. Making no attempt to move laterally, Kakuryu proved the easy target near the edge, and so Tochiohzan stuck a stiff paw into his chest and sent him outta the ring with some oomph. Trust me, Kakuryu does not get done this way at the hands of Tochiohzan if he's trying. Both dudes end the day at 1-1 while Tochiohzan was shuttled into the broadcast room to explain how he masterfully dismantled an Ozeki.

Yokozuna Hakuho used a hari-zashi tachi-ai against M2 Aminishiki slapping with the right and also getting the right arm to the inside. His left outer wasn't too shabby either coming close enough to the front of the mawashi that Ami didn't have a pot to piss in. The Yokozuna dictated this one throughout dragging the M2 to the side and off balance before sending him to the dohyo floor with a nice throw. Hakuho is just toying with these guys early on as he moves to 2-0 while Aminishiki falls to his second loss in has many days.

The final bout of the day saw Yokozuna Harumafuji adjust nicely to M1 Myogiryu's charging way to low. With his head down and looking at the sand, it was easy pickins as the Yokozuna stepped back and slapped mYogiBear to the dirt catching his hand in the Bear's belt in the process. Yeah, you want to see a Yokozuna win moving forward, but you gotta take what's given to you, and that's exactly what Harumafuji did today. Pretty bland way to end the day, but then the sumo so far as been bland at best. Harumafuji is repenting quickly from his 9-6 last basho with this 2-0 start while Myogiryu continues to struggle at 0-2.

Let's head back down the charts and hit on bouts that stood out to me for one reason or the other starting with M5 Ikioi vs. M4 Aran. From the tachi-ai, Aran grabbed the firm left outer grip and got his right arm on the inside of Ikioi's left denying his foe an outer on that side and then promptly...just stood there. Without making a single move despite the overwhelming position, Aran allowed Ikioi to attempt a few inside belt throws before finally toppling the Russian for good about twenty seconds in tripping Aran's left leg with his right as he executed a picture perfect inside belt throw. The throw itself was spectacular, but there's no way it should have been that easy. That Aran made no effort to force his opponent back or execute a throw of his own despite the superior position tells me that the bout was fixed. For what reason, I don't know, but if I just made a quick 5gr by losing a bout of sumo, I'da probably had a grin on my face even bigger than Aran (0-2) did as he quickly picked himself up off the mat. Ikioi picks up his first win.

M4 Gagamaru ducked down too low against M6 Tochinoshin in their migi-yotsu contest, and so the Private wasted no time stepping out left and dumping Lord Gaga to the dirt with a dashi-nage throw from that left outer grip obtained at the tachi-ai. Not sure what Gagamaru was thinking here as he falls to 1-1. Shin is 2-0.

M6 Aoiyama blasted M7 Masunoyama back from the starting lines with a right kachi-age that sent him to the edge, but sometimes you can create too much separation between you and your opponent. Masunoyama looked to recover by grabbing Aoiyama's belt with the left hand, but Aoiyama backed out of it pulling Masunoyama to the dirt. The key here is that Masunoyama (1-1) never did stabilize himself after losing the tachi-ai, and it cost him in the end. Aoiyama skates to a 2-0 start.

M9 Tokitenku got his ass handed to him at the tachi-ai by M10 Kitataiki who just blew into the Mongolian with moro-zashi and had him forced back and out in one fell swoop. Tokitenku was shaking his right wrist afterwards, but I don't quite think that was the issue here today. How about showing some effort at the tachi-ai and not standing straight up? Kitataiki'll take that any day of the week as he moves to 2-0 while Tenku is a listless 0-2.

M10 Okinoumi looks injured to me. Today against M11 Fujiazuma he slammed Fuji back with a right kachi-age but couldn't capitalize. It was as if his feet were stuck in mud as the two hooked up in the hidari-yotsu contest that saw Fujiazuma grab a firm right outer grip as Okinoumi was unable to get anything going. If you watch Okinoumi's footwork in this one, there just isn't any drive or grind as he tried to dig in on defense. Regardless, Fujiazuma scored the win leaving both fellas at 1-1.

M15 Kotoyuki looked to capitalize on his good start yesterday by driving a paw into M14 Takarafuji's throat from the tachi-ai, but it looked to me as if Kotoyuki lost confidence in his ability to drive his foe straight back. Someone shoulda reminded him that his opponent was Takarafuji. As Kotoyuki relented in his footwork, Takarafuji forced him back the other way where the rookie panicked and let himself get pushed to the dirt in wild fashion. This really looked like Juryo to me with neither guy fighting from the ground up. Both are 1-1.

Today's M15 Tochinowaka - M16 Tamaasuka bout was more a case of just how bad Tamaasuka is at this level rather than Tochinowaka blazing his way down the comeback trail. Tamaasuka managed his left arm tight and high into Tochinowaka's armpit, but he just couldn't do anything with it. Tochinowaka sputtered himself but at least moved his feet forward, and that small momentum was all it took to knock Tamaasuka back to the edge and down onto his arse without Tochinowaka really employing any sorta tactic. Tochinowaka moves to 2-0 by default but needs to bring is tomorrow or he'll lose. I still can't figure out how Tamaasuka is 1-1.

And finally, Juryo 1 Daikiho picked up his first win of the tourney against the hapless M16 Miyabiyama lowering his head into the Hutt's torso and swiping down at Miyabiyama's arms as he attempted a few lame tsuppari. With the Sheriff completely neutralized after little effort, Daikiho just bulldozed his way into his foe sending Miyabiyama to his second loss in as many days. Daikiho moves to 1-1, and with Hakuho as his sparring partner every basho, you know he'll be ready for Makuuchi in the spring.

The bouts I didn't mention were pretty straightforward, so you can just YouTube them to see the action. It still kills me that I missed 75 minutes of the broadcast because you can glean so much of the narrative from a format like today's, but from the overall lack of fighting spirit witnessed these two days, I'm afraid there will plenty of shenanigans down the road.

If you're already tired of my crying wolf, come back tomorrow where we really go old school with a pleasant and much awaited surprise.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hello and welcome to yet another fun filled year of sumo reporting here at Sumotalk. I will be asking Mike to post MY new mugshot as soon as the police send me a copy.

As some of you may know, in Japan on the morning of Jan. 1, many people eat a soup called "o-zoni." Sounds Italian but its about as Japanese as food gets. Its white miso and various winter vegetables heated to piping hot, to which is added a urinal cake sized mochi cake. Mochi is rice that has been pounded until it is very firm and chewy. Placed into a soup it slowly melts, and when you try to eat it it stretches into a ropy mass of throat clogging fun. Each year a few toothless oldsters gag to death on this grub. Its so common that after the New Year holidays are finished, people (and by people I mean "I") will ask, "So, did you hear how many elderly got taken out by o-zoni this time?"

One interesting aspect to this tradition is the rumor that some Japanese secretly hope to die, if they have to die, choking on o-zoni. Its not quite "sword in your hand, on to Valhalla" level intense, but it still piques. I mean, they know going in its going to make them gag, and just might kill them, and yet they still tuck into it. Crazy, huh?

If you dont know what any of this has to do with the Hatsu basho, you obviously have never tried writing a daily report. Rimshot!

First bout had Tamaasuka taking on Jokoryu. Jokoryu got an inside left belt, Tama-chan the outside right, and Jokoryu looked to have the edge, but Tamaasukas superior strength allowed him to control the tempo, and he was able to force the Jokerman out after a spirited yotsu fight. Tamaasuka is actually the smaller rikishi, but he had much better leg movement here to move to 1-0 and remain firmly atop the leaderboard.

In what may well turn out to be Miyabiyamas final Makuuchi basho, newcomer Kotoyuki made him look as old as he must feel by using the exact same shoving and slapping tsuppari attack that Miflobby himself used to such wonderful effect for so many years. The huge eyed former Ozeki was clubbed out in no time flat and looked weaker than a seal pup.

Takarafuji got a quick inside left belt, but this allowed the larger Tochinowaka to get a firm outer right belt. With this he worked his foe back and out for a good first win. Like Mike mentioned, Tochinowaka could do very well down here, if his 13-2 in Juryo last basho means hes truly back from his bad times.

Shotenro and Asahisho were unable to awaken former Ozeki and now MIB Dejima from his ringside nap as Big Shot took all his frantically slapping and jumping foe could muster and drove him out with aplomb in seconds.

Tamawashi held up a hard charging Daido, locking down with his left to prevent Daido from getting an inside right. As Tamawashi retreated he turned his hips and moved a fraction to his right, leaving Daido with nothing to push on and off balance just long enough for Tamawashi to move forward and ram him out. A good bout to watch as an example of how a man advancing and seemingly in control can lose when his opponent has smarts and timing.

Fujiazumas pushing attack was working fine vs. Sadanofuji, but once Sadanofuji stalled that at the edge, Fujiazuma decided to go yotsu and grabbed the belt. The belt is not his game, and now chest to chest Sadanofuji was able to swing him around and out.

After bouncing back up from Juryo in March, 36 year-old Wakanosato has been treading water with a few 8-7, one 7-8, and a 5-10. This basho hes at W11 and was facing a much younger Okinoumi today. After resisting Okinoumis charge and successfully slapping away his attempts at grabbing a belt, the former Sekiwake mainstay drove his foe back and looked like he might win. Okinoumi held strong and moved forward, and Wakanosato used this momentum to try and push down on Okinoumis head and swing him around and down, but he didnt have enough power to finish the move. From this point Okinoumi was able to drive forward into the now off balance Wakanosato and run him out. He lost but showed much more spirit than the similarly aged Miyabiyama.

Takekaze trotted out his typical hyakkin sumo vs. Kitataiki, jumping to the side at tachi-ai hoping for the cheap win. Didn’t happen as Kitataiki kept his balance and moved away. When they came together a second time Takekaze seemed to have the advantage, but Kitataiki was slippery, duckin and dodgin, and was finally able to get up and under Takekaze, grab the front of his belt, and push him out.

Tokitenku began with a huge slap to Chiyotairyus mug and came forward fast, but the W8 was able to slide back enough and slap down on Tokis forearms so that the Mongolian fell to his palms.

As Dejima watched a pillbug walk across his foot, Yoshikaze and Masunoyama had a feisty slapfest. Yoshikaze was sent in retreat, skirting the edge and slipping away, but as he came forward his leg just buckled, and Roberto was heard to shout, "No Masu!" They called it hataki-komi, but it wasnt. It was more "hatakimoi."

Final bout of the first half had Aoiyama taking on Takayasu. Much powerful slapping and shoving led to both men getting belt grips and moving to a yotsu stalemate in the center. The crowd began applauding, as they are wont to do after a high energy start turns into a chest-to-chest battle of two tried giants leaning against each other in the center of the dohyo. But kudos to Takayasu, he decided not to play the waiting game and immediately drove forward. With his back to the ropes, Aoiyama attempted a swing throw but Takayasu held on and pressed forward with a solid front left belt grip. As he dragged Aoiyama down, the Bulgarian was able to keep his feet in the ring long enough to have Takayasu crash out first. The MIB talked about it at length:
Guy 1: "You eat o-zoni this year?"
Guy 2: "Does a wooden horse have a hickory dick?"
Guy 3: "My wife bought a nice buri. 7 kilos."
Guy 4: "What about this horse?"
Guy 2: "STFU."
Guy 1: "Almost choked."
Guy 4: "The horse?"
Guy 3: "Fat white guy won. Break!"

Osakas own Ikioi was manhandled by Georgias own Tochinoshin, who got an outside left belt and used it almost exclusively to drive his opponent back and out with little fanfare.

Aran stood up at tachi-ai and waited for Gagamaru to come forth and do battle. The Round Mound of Renown did just that, taking the Russian back the edge and grabbing a strong inside right belt. Aran got his own belt, outside left, and they stalemated back to center (cue applause). Aran forced the action, driving Gagamaru back, but the Georgian lifted the Bouncer up and set him back down. Still Aran came on, taking Gagamaru all the way to the edge. But once again The Lord held his own, and crucially got close enough to add an outside left to his inside right. With these grips he proceeded to carry Aran back across the ring. Aran did the tippytoe resistance at the edge, earning even more applause for showing his nads (cause this kind of protest could lead to Gagamaru, who weighs slightly less than the city of Bruges, falling on to you as you crash out onto your back). Luckily for Aran there was no such drama, just a slight push off the dohyo. Decent bout.

All eyes on Sekiwake Baruto as he took on potential rogue elephant Toyohibiki. The former Ozeki smartly denied the Hutt a double inside pushing attack, lifting up on Toyohibikis right arm and stalling his advance. Once set, it looked like there might be a protracted battle, but Baruto yanked his foe forward and then slung him down with a nice uwate-nage. Wearing Aminishikis bedroll on his left leg, Id have thought The Biomass would have much more difficulty pulling off such a move, even though the pivot was on his right. Could it be a ruse? Probably not, after having to pull out of the last two basho.

Both Goeido and Kaisei got inside/outside grips from the start, but Goeido won after fending off a lift and push by the Brasilian and twisting him out with a walking your drunken buddy home underarm throw.

Kotoshogiku ran through Kyokutenho like the former Mongolian was all that was standing between him and a plate of ribs. Im sure hes been put on notice that 8-7sarent going to cut it this year.

In a travesty of a blown call, Toyonoshima brought down Kotooshu as the Ozeki charged forward across the dohyo with his head down, but the gyoji pointed his gumbai to Kotooshu and there was no review, even though it looked as if Kotooshu touched down before Tugboat stepped out. The crowd waited without applauding for the no-brainer MIB conference that never came, and then gave the Bulgarian a tepid courtesy clap. Not his fault as the MIB blew this one. C'est la guerre.

Myogiryu blasted Kakuryu back to the tawara, but the Ozeki managed to snag an inside right belt in all the confusion. With this grip, he was able to move ahead, then set himself briefly, pivot and swing down the W1. A technically nice final throw, though the Kak was in danger for most of this short bout.

Aminishiki brought it at tachi-ai, pushing hard into Kisenosatos neck, but he didn’t follow it up with any leg power, and the Ozeki was able to brush it off and slam Shneaky curiously easily with one shove to the dirt. Another leg giving out maybe?

After showing he has the strength to hit Harumafuji and knock him back, Tochiohzan let the Yokozuna in close, and then panicked and let him have the moro-zashi by trying to retreat and pull down. Strange strategy for a guy who looked to be more than holding his own. HowDo then ran him across the ring and out.

Finally, Hakuho pummeled Shohozan with a furious attack. After starting so far back he was almost on the zabuton, the Yokozuna came forward and held up Special Darks elbow, getting him off balance and allowing Hakuho to several opportunities to hammer away at his chest, neck, head, etc. Shohozan literally crumpled to the clay.

So Day One in the 2012 Hatsu basho had exactly zero upsets. Day Two ought to be a little more exciting, cause really, how long can Baruto hold up, and Kotooshu isnt going to always benefit from lazy MIB, and Harumafuji has Myogiryu, who kicked his ass in Kyushu.

See you again sometime this basho. Sorry I wasnt such a ballbuster today. Im a little tired from a race yesterday and some good drinking with my buddy last night.









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