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Day 1

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

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Unlike Martin, who has recently publicly eschewed intros (a euphemism for "doesnt care about his readership"), I will not go directly into bout breakdown, but instead pose a question: Is it being well fed that engenders the fierce loyalty sumo wrestlers show to their oyakata and the sport in general? Think about it. When do you most lovingly disposed toward your wife (or mommy, in Martins case)? Answer: When she has just fed you a great meal (and again, in Martins case, brought it down to your cellar "apartment" so you didnt have to come upstairs and miss any of the Babylon 5 marathon being shown on Romanian state tv). In fact, I would go so far as to say that food, or rather the providing of quality sustenance, is at least as good a definition of love as any other. If nothing else the Sumos are very well fed. No amount of abuse from the oyakata, or backbreaking, stinking work on behalf of their senpai, or crushingly rough practice sessions with men twice their size changes the fact that they are going to eat later, and eat well. Just throwing it out there, a lil body/mind gestalt thingy.

Speaking of mind/body, I wouldnt mind getting to know the body of the chick in the Day 14 photo of Hakuho touching the doh!yo as Harumafuji gives him the bums rush. I dont mean to be a pig, but Ive bedded more JPese women than you can shake a reasonably lengthy, decently girthy stick at, and Im here to tell ya, that lady watching HowDo get robbed is hotter than miso soup. Highlight of the basho for a horndog like yours truly. Course, this being Fukuoka, good chance Arbo been there, done that. Mark used to send me a photo of every twist he dallied with before the Wild called and he up and moved to Afreaka, so I spent this basho scanning the crowds and comparing gals they alighted on to the photos. By last count Ive spotted seventeen women in the audience I can be reasonably certain volunteered for snake handling duty at the ReMarkArbo reptile farm and café.

So from that action I will proceed to the action, an exciting bout wherein a particular rikishi was gunning for, well um, for PRIDE, yeah, thats it, pride. As most of you know, the PTB (special prize for those who figure out that acronym) decided that Kisenosato had already done enough, including but not limited to being born Japanese, to warrant Ozeki promotion regardless of whether he reached the unwritten mark of thirty-three wins over one half year, and this information became public knowledge before the bouts began. (Lucky for him Tochinowaka employed that rarest of moves at tachi-ai in their Day 14 bout, namely trying to snag Kises belt with the BACK of his hand.)

Now one could hardly be considered daft in speculating that this turn of events might drain any potension (potential tension) from the fight, but one would be so very wrong, because contrary to logic, the fact that there WAS no promotion on the line made it much more likely there WOULD be a battle. Why that is is obvious. If The Kid had needed this win, Geeku would have run to the nearest phone booth (and not in order to change in to his Superman costume). As it was, both men were free to go all out, Kotoshogiku for Ozeki pride, and Kisenosato to try and justify his promotion, and ergo no one had to dial it in like Andreas on Day 4.

Course, that doesnt mean the bout was exciting or anything. After spending his time in the hana-michi slapping his body and doing that bizarre tongue move he does (where he looks likes a yawning tortoise), Kisenosato took to the clay and promptly misfired on his tachi-ai. After they re-set for another tachi-ai, he came in hard but ineffectively, getting hammered back by the Ozeki. He slipped to the side in hopes of getting around and behind, but Geeku stayed on him, driving him back into a desperation move at the ropes. Geeku had left his feet behind, so as he toppled to the ground he grabbed Kisenosato thigh and lunged, and the Kid was unable to keep his feet from touching down a fraction of a second before Geekus entire form went boom on the dirt.

Considering the lopsided rivalry these two have, the outcome was no surprise. Japan now has its two Ozeki, both men who managed to defeat Hakuho during their Ozeki bids. If that doesnt sound grand enough, consider that Hakuho is 391-44 in the last five full years, 435 matches (minus Osaka 2011). For perspective, Baruto lost 24 bouts this year alone, Harumafuji 27, and Kotooshu a staggering 43! And we all know that a decent number of those losses by Hakuho were examples of him showing deference to the order of things (losing to Asa in playoffs and Kaio when he needed it or to guys who needed a Yokozuna scalp on their Ozeki bid resume). For those of you who want to fit me with a conspiracy dunce cap, remember that one, sumo itself has admitted yaocho exists (and what self governing body is going to admit the totality or the extent of its secrets?) and two, Hakuho is the guy who lost on Jan 22nd, 2010 and not again until Nov 15th, 2010. So, yeah, dude is unfathomably powerful.

And now to make myself look like a total jackass, Ill tell you how the Yokozuna got his ass kicked today by Baruto. Hakuho got in quickly enough, grabbing the front belt mae-mawashi, but for some reason he decided he didnt like this grip and tried to pull some kind of maki-kae, which only allowed Baruto to knock him backward. At this point Kublai reached out and got a left hand outside belt, but as he moved forward he left his feet behind him and slipped ungainly to the clay. Yes, Hakuho loses and it looks like slapstick. Again.

How he could lose in such an ugly, un-Hakuho manner is anyones guess, but mine would be he was either was using the opportunity to try out some new moves against the Biomass and they didnt work, or he knows he lost yesterday to HowDo, felt that a zensho would be tainted, and so went half-heartedly at it. He already had the yusho, so there was really nothing at stake for him. He will unquestionably set the all-time zensho, perfect 15-0 record in the future, so that wasnt a concern. What I didnt see was the Ozeki doing anything that would cause the Yokozuna to act like Harumafuji.

At any rate, Baruto was one happy camper, as well he should be. To finish 11-4 after being 1-3 is some kind of accomplishment, even for an Ozeki. What I wouldnt give to see this Manchild step up in 2012 and regularly challenge Hakuho for the yusho. Hell, if he does maybe Mario will come crawling, asking for his old job back. Mike has told me privately no way, not even if he pays us to write (but I suspect Mike, who never met a nickel he didnt love and is distantly related to Eugene Krabs, would give in if the Fantastic Captain Kadastik were to start chucking kroons at us).

It is claimed by some that half of life is just showing up. If thats the case, Fukuoka is in need of an iron lung. Did you SEE the age of the crowd around the ring on Day 14? Most of those people are still pissed about Hiroshima because it caused their retirement parties to be cancelled.

Unable to entertain us with superlative sumo, Kotooshu did the next best thing today by fending off a concerted throat attack from Harumafuji, chasing his foe across the ring and just balls out launching the two of them into the seats. This is the kind of ending that fans love, myself included. Both fellas eke out their kachi-koshi, and maybe its time for a change of the Bulgarian guard.

Because avast, ya landlubbers, twas a rare meeting of special prize winners when AhoyYama (11-4) barged in to Wakakoyu (12-3), who held the titanic E16 at bay despite the head of steam he was under. Evidently he did not like the cut of the larger mans jib, for he yanked his spanker mast away and with no support, AhoyYamas topsail came a tumbling down as he floundered to the deck. 23-7 final tally between the two of them, who were part of a general feeding frenzy down in the lower Maegashira this tourney, where we also had two 9-6s and three 10-5s.

I was playing Wii Super Mario while watching the matches, and it seems I missed several good ones, including Myogiryu losing to Fujiazuma by kote-nage, damn I wish I had seen that one. On the flip side, I took down that huge Koopa Dragon thing on the final stage of level 8, saving the princess.

Shohozan took all the shoving and pulling Takekaze could muster, and when he had spent himself, the Dark Knight swooped in and shoved him out emphatically to match his foe with a 10-5 record.

The only 7-7 battle of the day gave us Yoshikaze leaping to the side, but the subterfuge want unrewarded as Daido recovered and slapped him down for his 8-7. Oh what tangled webs we weave, eh Starbuck?

Can I just say that I love Werner Herzog?

Whatever happened to the fisticated Goeido (Cooleido) who used to bring such thrills to the dohyo? Hes gone sour, thats what. Today Lemoneido gave up moro-zashi early on and getting driven to the edge by Aminishiki. While he did manage to admirably force the action back to center, his twisting throw attempt succeeded in throwing only himself down to his make-koshi eighth loss. Dudes sumo is need of some repair: Firsteido.

Freaky stat of the basho had to be that Miyabiyama was promoted to Ozeki BEFORE Kaio. Course Kaio kept his rank for a tad longer, but still, goes to show how young Flobby was when he made Ozeki. With an entire fortnight at M6, the Sheriff fattened up on lesser lights this time out, topping it today with a textbook push/pull down of Homasho, who was too injured this time out to be as steady as he normally is. Flobby gets nuttin for his troubles, even though he beat Wakakoyu. I suppose had he defeated Aoiyama yesterday theyd have given him the prize, but that "former Ozeki" moniker has made it unfairly tough on Miyabi his entire career. You do recall this mans 2006, dont you, when he won 34 over three basho from Komusubi and Sekiwake, and 33 over three from Sekiwake, and yet was denied re-promotion on both occasions? One of the truly great assbangings the NSK has ever given. Dude worked for four years to get back to that position, and I dont recall them even meeting to discuss it.

Easiest thing you can do to help stay thin? Chew your food until its pulp in your mouth.

Kitataiki needed his eighth win and got it vs. Toyonoshima, who uncharacteristically had no answer for the Norsemans pushing sumo. How does Tugboat dust off Baruto with such aplomb and then lose this one?

Tochinowaka came in looking for what would have been a stupendous KK in his joi debut, but he made the mistake of thinking too much, assuming the gyoji was going to stop the ill-timed tachi-ai. He didnt and Kakuryu came on full bore with a high shoving attack. I wouldnt exactly call it a choke, but what else you gonna do when youve got Kak in your throat? Mike was right that Tochis Day 13 loss to a despicable AminiShneaky henka cost him the special prize he could have received for beating HowDo and Geeku (and also the deference he showed Kisenosato yesterday).

Well, its more than twenty-four hours after the sumos ended, and Ive got The Ladykillers waiting to be viewed (the Sellers/Guinness original), and my wife is heading to bed and she seems to be dawdling just enough to make me wonder if I follow and play my cards right...

Ill be back no doubt in 2012, if only to be here when the Earth cracks in half and the Mayan gods return to cut out hearts and whatever it is they do. May yall have a festive and homey year end. This is 2011, over and out.

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
You guys know how much I've hated intros lately, so let's dip, nay, delve, nay, immerse into the action already.

I only watched the Hakuho-Harumafuji bout in a low-res YouTube clip, but even in that it was pretty clear that Hak put his hand down way before any of Ama touched the ground (or broke the dohyo plane, for that matter), and it also was pretty clear that the hand on the ground was directly caused by the smaller man's desperation throw. Clancy duly pointed out that Asashoryu, in his day, would have been called back for a mono-ii (and the decision probably reversed), but this time they gave it to Hak no questions asked. Surely enough, Hakuho was the aggressor from the very beginning, but not even that rule justifies the absence of at least a rewind of the video tape. Hakuho improves to 14-0 with the dubious win, while Ex-Ama falls to a totally uneventful 8-6.

Despite their lack of long-term perspective and general mental fortitude, Baruto and Kotooshu usually provide an eyeful for the hardcore yotsu fan. No exception today as the two settled in the center of the ring after Baruto tried to bully the Bulgarian out using tsuppari, with Kotooshu getting the advantageous left outer grip, but Baruto mitigating that advantage by having a solid right inside and the slightly lower stance (how's THAT for unusual?). As usually, the big man from the Balkans was the first to initiate an attack, trying to lift his much heavier foe upright and actually driving him back a step or two, but Baruto stayed sharp, got out of the way and yanked Kotooshu down with a head-pulling shitate-nage as good as you'll ever see. Score the 10th win for the Biomass while Kotooshu falls to the same mark as Harumafuji above and will face him tomorrow in the conclusion of the Great Festival of Irrelevance.

New Ozeki Kotoshogiku stopped his four bout losing streak with a solid win against giant slayer Toyonoshima, keeping his left arm tight around his body and denying his stubby foe moro-zashi. The Tugboat eventually managed to get it, but at that time it was too little, too late, as he was already being bullied over the tawara. The Geeku improves to 10-4 with the win, while Toyonoshima cools down to 9-5.

Ozeki wannabe Kakuryu lost a bout he shouldn't have against Goeido, opting to stick to pushing and thrusting throughout. I'm not saying it was a tactical mistake, given the Kak's significant previous success using this approach, but the Father was wide open for a deadly mawashi grip at least a couple of times. Live by the sword, die by the sword – Kakuryu kept pushing, Goeido kept evading and somehow landed a miraculously successful ottsuke which sent Kakuryu critically off balance and turned him into an easy oshi-dashi target. Taking a quick look at Fishy's scorecard this basho, you'll notice that all his losses have been to genki rikishi--a solid Geeku, a motivated Kisenosato, the invincible Hak and the...well, uh, giant Baruto--and Goeido. The unexpected loss puts a big dent into Kakuryu's Ozeki run as he falls to 9-5. And don't look now, but, despite his utterly terrible sumo, Goeido is on the brink of scoring kachi-koshi from the jo'i.

Kisenosato (10-4) kept his Ozeki hopes alive by keeping the lengthy Tochinowaka upright and away from the mawashi with big thrusts to his upper body and face. Lee will have to somehow defeat Kakuryu tomorrow if he wants a kachi-koshi in his jo'i debut. Easier said than done. Kisenosato will need to defeat the highly motivated (arf) Kotoshogiku (10-4) tomorrow to meet the minimum 33 wins over 3 basho promotion requirements. If one could bet on sumo matches, this is one bet I'd definitely take.

Gagamaru stuck to the basics, keeping a low stance against Homasho and being on the offensive throughout, but was burned at the edge by the more experienced opponent. In an all too visible display of frustration, Lord Gaga (2-12) showed he's aware he isn't yet ready for the sharks. Homasho recovers ever so slightly after his disastrous 1-10 start and is now on a 3 bout winning streak (wow).

Probably knowing veteran Kyokutenho would go for the left uwate from the start, Okinoumi only worried about also getting the inside grip on the other side. He made it look easy and then escorted his compromised foe out even faster, getting his 6th win of the basho. Tenho hits double digit losses (oh, the surprise).

In a rare display of ambition, Aran (3-11 now) bested Tochinoshin (an abysmal 1-13) in a straight up migi-yotsu contest. The really interesting aspect of this bout is that it's an Aran win not involving pulling.

I don't remember ever seeing Sagatsukasa fight after the naka-iri, but he got a hostile welcome from Yoshikaze, who henka'd to his left, going for the cheap hataki-komi. While the move didn't quite work, it got its evil perpetrator enough of an advantage so that he could get to the side of his unsuspecting foe and have his way with him with an insurmountable right uwate. Sagatsukasa falls to an expected 5-9, while Yoshikaze gets his chance at kachi-koshi on senshuraku.

Myogiryu soared to 10-4 with a trademark railroad sumo win against Kitataiki, probably ensuring his Kantosho in the process. Kitataiki is now walking on the razor's edge and he ain't the favorite tomorrow vs. Toyonoshima.

When the heck did Miyabiyama win 10 this basho? It certainly wasn't today, as he was bested at his own game by newbster Aoiyama (from Bulgaria), who wouldn't fall for the old Fatman's push-pull game and pulled him down instead. 11-3 in his Makuuchi debut means the yogurt eater is very likely to get a prize. Miyabiyama is looking forward to getting big ass handed to him by the jo'i next basho.

Aminishiki briefly showed Matsutani who the veteran is, pushing him all the way back to the tawara after a slower start, but when he misfired on one of his thrusts, Oscar's homie punished him immediately by dragging him out by the back of the mawashi. It took a long mono-ii to set the record straight, but eventually justice was served. Aminishiki (8-6) couldn't care less. Shohozan boasts a worthy 9-5.

Takekaze showed his best sumo this basho (which isn't saying much), charging straight and forcing his way into a double inside, easily dispatching his opponent. Then again, his opponent was Daido, so it had to 've been easy. The fat Kaze improves to 10-4 with the win and (shudder) might get a special prize. Daido falls to a dangerous 7-7.

Tokitenku got his 6th win with the second keta-guri of the basho. One has to appreciate the skill and timing required to pull off the move, and props to Tenku for that. Then again, you need a henka to set it up, so I'm always glad when it fails. Oh, his opponent? Tsurugidake falls to his 10th loss and will be back to Juryo where he belongs.

Takarafuji fell to the same mark after being thoroughly out-sumo'ed by younger Takayasu, who took moro-zashi early and eventually finished him off with a beltless scoop throw. Takayasu has a good chance to make it 9-6 tomorrow. Takarafuji... well, he has a chance to get more than 4 wins in Makuuchi (and he'll be back to Juryo afterwards anyway).

Wakakoyu scored his 11th win with (you guessed it) another pull. Kaisei fell onto his belly as well as his 9th loss, guaranteeing he will also fall to Juryo next year. First comes shock, then resignation, then oblivion--I think I'll eventually get over the prize Wakakoyu will win (ugh).

There isn't much worth mentioning left (and, to be honest, I'm actually surprised I found as much as I did), except maybe some speculation on Kisenosato's Ozeki promotion. Just as I was writing the paragraph above I read somewhere that the NSK might promote the Kid no matter the result of today's bout. Be that the case or not, I still think Kotoshogiku won't go out 100%, despite being the odds on favorite.

The prizes are a complicated mess (at least for me) this time, but if I had a word in it I'd give Kantosho to the two debutants Aoiyama and Myogiryu and the Ginosho to a worthy Toyonoshima. Of course, everyone knows the MIB are driven by their own obscure forces, so I won't be surprised to see some of the guys above screwed out of their prizes in favor of the likes of Wakakoyu and Takekaze.

Clancy will sift through the gory remains of the basho tomorrow. See y'all next year.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
After the Nagoya basho, several parties probably the least of which was the Yokozuna Deliberation Council announced in the press that they had observed each bout of the tournament, and they were satisfied that the sport was now free of yaocho. It was a ridiculous statement because it was painfully obvious that yaocho still was occurring starting with Yokozuna Hakuho allowing a couple of Japanese Ozeki candidates to defeat him. Now that Kotoshogiku has achieved the Ozeki rank meaning Japan at least has a presence again in the sport's elite ranks, things have settled down now, and I think it's safe to say that the Kyushu basho was free of yaocho. Okay, there may have been some insignificant shenanigans going on, so let me rephrase that statement and say that this is the first basho in a long time--perhaps a year--where Hakuho hasn't lost on purpose to any rikishi. When Hakuho does fight straight up giving us a fair view of where each rikishi stands ability-wise, we can see that the norm is a yusho for the Yokozuna by at least three bouts. And that's just by day 13. There is still a great chance that the three-loss rikishi will still lose the final two days, so the difference could increase to four bouts by the tournament's end. As Clancy suggested in his day 10 report, I hope that this is the start of another run from Hakuho where he goes all out in an attempt to break the 69 bout consecutive win streak again. I know that yusho races are exciting, but I also like my sumo straight up and would love to see Hakuho entirely rewrite the record books.

I'll try and keep this report brief so I can save some takes for a post-basho report, so let's start from the top with Yokozuna Hakuho facing Ozeki Kotooshu. With no two-loss rikishi beneath him, Hakuho could seal the yusho deal with a win over Kotooshu. Could? Who am I trying to fool? Let me rephrase that and explain how Hakuho did capture his career 21st yusho. After trading shoves from the tachi-ai, the two rikishi settled into the migi-yotsu position where Hakuho enjoyed the left outer grip. The Yokozuna took his sweet time and actually allowed the Ozeki to wrench his hips and cut off the outer grip, but just when you though Kotooshu had new life, he raised his right arm to high gifting Hakuho moro-zashi. It was a done deal at this point although Hakuho took a lot of time gathering his wits and ensuring that he would make no mistake. Finally, in the center of the ring, the Yokozuna started with a shitate-dashi-nage where he pulled the Yokozuna sideways by the belt, but he ended up actually dumping Kotooshu to the dirt with a straight-forward inner belt throw. It looked pretty cool on tape, but it wasn't that fancy of move. Hakuho dragged first then threw second. Regardless, he dominated the Ozeki even though he took a lot of time to do so. At 13-0, Hakuho picked up career yusho 21 and was never threatened throughout the fortnight. As for Kotooshu, he falls to 8-5, but what does he care? He has his Ozeki paycheck for at least two more basho.

After the yusho, the next significant story line coming in was the Ozeki run by Sekiwake Kisenosato. Is it just me, or does this current "Ozeki run" feel like a date with a one-legged woman? The Kid has not been outstanding the entire basho, and how many wins has he had where he escaped by the skin of his teeth? That wouldn't happen today against Baruto where the two rikishi hooked up in the gappuri hidari-yotsu position meaning both guys had left inside belt grips and right outers. The problem was that Kisenosato's outer grip was just on one fold of the mawashi, and every time he tried to make a move, it only raised him up a smidge higher and allowed Baruto to burrow in deeper. It was just like being in gotta move but every time you do it only gets worse. Kisenosato gave it a valiant effort, but in the end, he really had no outer grip and was up so high that Baruto scored the eventual yori-kiri win. Both rikishi end the day at 9-4, and while Kisenosato still has a good shot to reach 11 wins, this has not been a basho worthy of an Ozeki. It will be very interesting to see what happens if he does finish 11-4 because he doesn't deserve the rank after his performance in Kyushu.

Is Ozeki Kotoshogiku only good for about 10 or so bouts per basho? It seems like he frequently enjoys fast starts only to falter significantly in the second week. Today against Ozeki Harumafuji, he gave up moro-zashi faster and easier than an Ozeki should, and while the Geeku did react to his predicament by going for a quick kote-nage counter throw with the right arm, Harumafuji was in too deep and used the opportunity to throw his foe down with his left inside belt grip. This wasn't even close as Harumafuji can rest easier now at 8-5 while Kotoshogiku falls to 9-4. And speaking of the Geeku, as an Ozeki he's going to get an easier schedule the first half of the basho, so week 2 is definitely not the time to start getting tired as the competition heats up.

Sekiwake Kakuryu made short work of M1 Okinoumi getting the left frontal belt grip followed by the right outer, and before Okinoumi get even get set to counter, the Kak had him backpedaling towards the straw. The loss sends Okinoumi to 5-8, and with so many other guys around him with just 1 or 2 wins, you'd have to say that Okinoumi underachieved a bit in Kyushu. Kakuryu shoots to 9-4 and shouldn't dink around these last few days since he's technically creating another run to Ozeki.

Komusubi Toyonoshima secured moro-zashi with ease against M3 GAGamaru, and while I will credit Gagamaru with actually trying to counter with a right kote-nage throw, he was carved up like a turducket as Toyonoshima forced him back and out. Look at the Komusubi moving to 9-4 with another precise win while Gagsalot falls to 2-11.

M3 Aran henka'd to his left against Komusubi Homasho, but it was so lame not to mention slow that Homasho easily survived the move. Sill, with Aran having the upper hand due to his trickery, he continued to monkey around with his arms high as he looked for another pull attempt, and so Homasho was able to survive and eventually shove the Russian out of the ring. Aran didn't once go for the belt in this one even though he had Homasho turned to the side and in a vulnerable position. Horrible sumo from the Bride who falls to 2-11 while Homasho will surely get his money back on this mail order at 3-10.

Took 13 days, but M1 Goeido finally showed us good sumo against M2 Kyokutenho. The Father charged hard grabbing the deep left inside belt grip, and even though Kyokutenho countered with the right outer grip, Goeido used his belly to force Kyokutenho up on the tips of his toes setting him up for a really nice yori-kiri win. Goeido does stay alive in the kachi-koshi/Komusubi hunt at 6-7, and if he fights like this the last two days, there's no reason why he couldn't do it. Kyokutenho was simply schooled as he falls to 4-9.

M2 Tochinoshin's feet were aligned at the tachi-ai allowing M5 Kitataiki to grab the quick outer grip with the left arm, and he wasted no time driving the Private back. Tochinoshin fished for the sufficient right inside position to counter, but he never got it allowing Kitataiki to force him down at the edge of the ring for the upset win. Kitataiki moves to 7-6 with the nice win while Tochinoshin falls to an unbelievable 1-12.

M6 Aminishiki wisely used a henka to his right at the tachi-ai against M4 Tochinowaka. I say wisely because he would have gotten his ass kicked otherwise. Tochinowaka recovered, however, and tried to get inside, but he just couldn't get proper footing as a sagari (those long strings that hang from the front of the belt) had fallen in the ring, and Aminishiki was forcing Tochinowaka to cross the sagari in order to attack. You could tell Tochinowaka was aware of the obstacle, and Aminishiki to his credit was smart enough to always circle so that the sagari was in between him and his opponent. In the end, Tochinowaka leaned way too far over the sagari to try and get inside, and Aminishiki was able to pull him down for the win. Aminishiki picks up kachi-koshi with the win while Tochinowaka falls to 7-6. I was quite amused by this bout even though Tochinowaka was clearly hindered by the sagari, and as crazy as it sounds, that could have been the difference in Tochinowaka's getting a special prize. Go figure.

M11 Myogiryu wasn't intimidated a bit fighting an M5 in Yoshikaze, and I realize that Yoshikaze doesn't exactly cause his opponent to quiver in his boots, but a rookie fighting this high usually has jitters. The rookie seized momentum with his usual pile driver tachi-ai, but Yoshikaze was desperate not to lose using wild tsuppari to try and keep Myogiryu at bay. When that tactic didn't work, he next went for a pull down in frustration, but what makes Myogiryu so awesome is that he always fights forward, and the M11 capitalized in this one with an oshi-dashi win. Vets absolutely hate to get shown up by a rookie, but Myogiryu is that good as he moves to 9-4. Yoshikaze falls to 6-7.

M6 Miyabiyama picked up his 10th win using a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai followed by a sudden reverse pulldown to send M11 Toyohibiki (8-5) to the dirt in short order. If Miyabiyama wins out and finishes at 12-3, you kinda hafta give him a special prize, but he really hasn't beaten anyone nor done anything impressive.

M7 Takekaze henka'd to his left against M15 Sadanofuji and was able to push the compromised rookie out for the quick and dirty win. He moves to 9-4 in the process, but he's henka'd in at least two thirds of his bout. This guy is deplorable while Sadanofuji still has two days to win one at 7-6.

Seems like every time I report I'm talking about how high M8 Takayasu is in his attack. Today against M14 Kaisei it worked out since Kaisei is so tall, but it's a bad habit for the youngster who picked up the methodical oshi-dashi win. Takayasu moves closer at 7-6 while Kaisei falls to 5-8.

M9 Wakakoyu stayed in the running for a special prize by defeating M15 Shohozan. The Wookie used a hairy left paw to Matutano's throat from the tachi-ai, and as Shohozan tried to shake it off and get forward momentum, Wakakoyu slapped him down for the win. It's not the greatest sumo, and everyone should know what's coming from Wakakoyu, but it works and has earned the Wookie a 10-3 record.

M16 Tsurugidake came with a tsuppari attack against M10 Fujiazuma, but his shoves were used to set up a pull attempt, and that's just not sound sumo. Fujiazuma was able to capitalize with a nice oshi-dashi win sending Tsurugi to a 4-9 record while keeping his own kk hopes alive at 6-7.

And finally, M16 Aoiyama is in great position to pick up a special prize at 10-3 after using a casual oshi attack against M17 Kimurayama. Yes, Aoiyama won, but the problem with fighting such weak guys is that your mind tricks you to think the same, half-assed sumo will work higher in the division. Watch Aoiyama struggle in January.

All that's left the final two days are rikishi jockeying for position on January's banzuke and then the special prizes. If I was awarding the prizes, there'd be no Shukunsho, I'd give the Ginosho to Tochinowaka, and then the Kantosho to Myogiryu. I realize that Aoiyama is one better than Ryu at this point, but Myogiryu is fighting much higher in the ranks and has faced far better competition.

Martin twirls his bow tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Oscar Gutiérrez reporting)
My prologue won't be as "artistic" as Andreas', as knowledgeable as Mike's or as witty as Clancy. More like as simple as Martin's, let's go on with the action, you'll have enough diversion (word that in Spanish means fun, but I'm taking the English meaning, you'll know why; the fun part, well, I don't know, I suppose it is, I simply write what I feel like and they keep telling me to write them reports so I guess it's fun to some people, you know, like this paragraph I write my thoughts as they come out of my brain, so prepare yourselves for a rally).

After the parade of the skirts and some guys sweeping (is this a girly sport or what?) we had Yoshiazuma, who is looking like a Juryo Yokozuna, against Kimurayama, who should be named just that if only for not disgracing the maku-no-uchi division with his presence ever more. Kimurayama henka'd at the tachi-ai, put his hand on Yoshiazuma's throat and waited for the big man to over commit to let him fall to his face. Yoshi didn't rush, and simply waited for a chance to grab the mawashi and escort Kim out without a fight (nothing new, this is why I hate Kimurayama). These men will trade divisions but I'm guessing the universe doesn't really care.

Kaisei and Sadanofuji played a game of chess, the Brazilian trying to push under his opponent's armpits, and the rookie going for the throat to raise his rival. Sadanofuji won this game and got a lower stance and a good left outside grip. As much as Kaisei is strong, Sadanofuji is no lightweight and slowly but surely walked the bigger man out of the dohyo. Good fundamentals by Sadanofuji, who is one win away from kachi-koshi. Kaisei's one loss away from make-koshi and is showing that 10-5 and kanto-sho two bashos ago was a bit of a fluke. Don't get me wrong, I think he can be a Maegashira mainstay but he has some learning to do still.

Excuse me if I don't get thrilled when two already make-koshi anti-mawashi rikishi meet. Let's just say Tamawashi was leading the charge and proof of his abysmal basho is that the chubby man in front of him slipped out of his way with time to spare, letting the Mongolian fall to his face. 4 wins for Tsurugidake (that would be the chubby man), only 3 for Tamawashi, the Juryo division is getting sooooo exciting for the next basho.

Personal favorite Myogiryu went to the school today. He deployed his usual sharp tachi-ai to the water line as a good kamikaze, but my friend Matutano managed to stop the leak. Myogiryu, featuring a left inside grip tried an uncalled-for kubi-hineri, which should be out of desperation, and not a go-to move. Matutano then played well his cards and threatening to get an outside grip he managed to get an inside one. This was the difference, as when Myogiryu went full throttle for a frontal charge without an outside grip, Cheetos could keep him close enough to get one of his own and using his opponent's momentum, threw him to the clay in a spectacular uwate-nage, getting his kachi-koshi, well done. Myogiryu already had his, but says bye-bye to the kanto-sho.

I was fully expecting a henka from mono-win Kokkai, but he lead with a forearm blast that caught actually henka-ing Sagatsukasa by surprise. Still, the cockroaches are famous for being able to survive a nuclear explosion (apart from dying from starvation when you cut their heads off, fun fact of the day). Kokkai tried to frighten Sagatsukasa by chasing him around the tawara like a bully, but the bald man's bread-and-butter is slipping out of bigger opponent's ways and he also slipped out of make-koshi's way, at least for now.

I don't really like Takayasu's slappy sumo. Yes, I said slappy and not sloppy, I'm entitled to invent one word every report. Today he turned red the secretary's face, so I assume he didn't get his mail or the secretary didn't make the reservations for that fancy restaurant, or whatever. I myself prefer to go Don Draper on them...I'm drifting again, where was I? Oh, yes, the secretary was so beaten up, (s)he had no response when Takayasu grabbed his chastity belt and spun him to the clay in a rare but correctly called uwate-hineri. Takayasu evens his record, make-koshi for the secretary, but he still has chances to not go down to Juryo, so expect some henkas.

Tokitenku and Takarafuji had a lengthy affair. Sad eyes Takarafuji featured a left uwate from the beginning and as long as you don't concede an inside position on the other side, that's a dominating position. Takarafuji tried to make use of it forcing the issue, but Tokitenku is no stranger to the art of surviving. Then, Toki slowly slipped his left hand on the inside and wasn't going to be dominated anymore. Knowing he could not settle for that, Takarafuji went for the desperate throw, but Tokitenku was already in control and reversed the throw without the need for a belt grip. 5-7 for Toki, whom I'm willing to name Stevens, cause no matter where he is in the banzuke, his record will eventually even out. Ninth loss for Takarafuji, who will grace the Juryo ranks next year.

The feeling of Takekaze being exposed is refreshing as the sea breeze. Ahoy-yama, the Bulgarian pirate, resisted the initial charge and didn't let Takekaze on the inside. A couple of shoves raised Takekaze (if that's even possible) and he was cannon fodder for a nice oshi-dashi win. Arrrr, ninth grog and the kanto-sho booty on sight. Takekaze is already kachi-koshi if anybody cares.

Next up, somebody toyed with Dildo in an encounter that featured heavy bandage. Only a vowel and that would be your usual internet stuff. Anyway, Aminishiki did as he pleased going back and forth and decided to improve his kimari-te résumé adding an uwate-dashi-nage to it. 7-5 for him and 6-6 for the loser.

Wakakoyu and Miyabiyama next, had hiki-otoshi or hataki-komi all written over it. Master Flobby did a horrible henka that left him on the tawara completely lost, but as a good Padawan, Koyu instead of going for the oshi-dashi used the power of the force to try to lure his rival into falling on his generous belly. The battle that ensued is only understandable for those who know the ways of the (pulling) force. As you're probably not an expert, I will tell you that the master prevailed by hiki-otoshi and got to an equal record than his Padawan, 9-3.

Fujiazuma has a good tachi-ai. That coupled with a generous belly means he can stay Maegashira for as long as he wants or his knees hold. Today he ran over Kitataiki until he was stopped by the tawara (that must be some kind of police officer if I go on with the metaphor, mmm, I think I'm watching too much House). My inner voice is telling me something…driftiiiiiiiing…. Ermm, Kitataiki stopped just in time, managed to get some belt grips and destroyed the opposition subsequently, having to shove him off finally as Fujiazuma refused to leave. Kitataiki is even, while Fujiazuma is one loss away from make-koshi.

Yoshikaze came out alive of the tachi-ai against Toyohibiki without having to henka. Good for him. He managed to circle away, but Hibiki charged again and Yoshikaze didn't have control of the bout or his opponent's mawashi for what it's worth. Toyohibiki literally ran over him in spectacular fashion but the men in black decided that Yoshi's utchari throw was worthy of a mono-ii. Gunbai-dori of course (the initial decision stands), Toyohibiki gets kachi-koshi and Yoshikaze evens his record.

Wonderkid Tochinowaka stayed tight at the tachi-ai (I'm sure watching his heya-mate Tochiohzan's success has something to do with that). Okinoumi, with his arms forced on the outside couldn't get the grips on the belt he was hoping for. Still, he stood his ground and didn't leave without a fight. Tochinowaka was consistent on his effort and smothered Okinoumi who tried to escape dancing on the tawara, but it wasn't meant to be. 7-5 for Tochinowaka on his debut in the jo'i ; 5-7 for Okinoumi from M1 with the top 8 guys already kachi-koshi (ok, only 7-5 for Harumafuji, spoiler alert) is a helluva result.

Aran, panic mode completely ON, made that horrible leaping henka trying to push his rival on the back. Shame on Goeido for falling for it. Second win for the Russian, Goeido will have to win out if he wants a Komusubi slot.
Toyonoshima achieved moro-zashi and drove Kyokutenho straight out getting kachi-koshi and inflicting make-koshi on Kyokutenho. Sekiwake? Possibly.

With a 2-20 record between the two next rikishi, a henka was on the books, and if you have some European guy fighting...Still, Homasho couldn't capitalize on that and the bout settled on a gappuri-migi-yotsu battle. Good for Tochinoshin you may think. Think again, because his head's only use is supporting the mage. He tried to "Baruto" (yes, it's a verbe) Homasho from the center of the dohyo and he ended up with his back against the wall. He then tried the utchari lifting Homasho, but he fell out on his back first. To my surprise, Tochinoshin was given as the winner by the man with the mirror (as my cousin says, I have to apologise for my last report, I told "a friend of mine" and he bugged me again and again with not recognising him as family, when I think it was a compliment calling him a friend, cause family you don't choose but friends…Carlos Sainz mode ON again). Anyway, the men in black overturned it and rightly so, giving Homasho his second win in his debut as Komusubi.

Next up, I watched Gagamaru's unmistakable figure on the right of the screen and I saw a smaller figure on the left that I assumed was Toyonoshima. Is he fighting again and Kyokutenho's one was a warm-up? No, it was freaking Kisenosato, but that's how small he looked to me compared to Lord Gaga. Well, Lord Gaga simply crushed Kisenosato at the tachi-ai and I saw his Ozeki hopes hanging on Baruto and Giku throwing themselves to the ground (good old Barutocopter, always hilarious). Still, Kise survived Gaga's attempts to belly him out (and he had to dance really well to avoid that big belly) and when Gagamaru switched gears and tried the shitate-nage, Kise stayed with him and Gaga's momentum turned against his own knees, that buckled under that kind of pressure. 2-10 for Gaga, more or less expected, but it's being a learning experience for him. 9-3 for the Ozeki hopeful, not exactly shining.

Ozeki Kotooshu being already kachi-koshi is all you need to know about the next one (CTRL+C). Kakuryu went for the throat and when Kotooshu tried to get some belt grips, the slippery Mongolian got out of the way and won easily. It was not Kotooshu throwing it right away, it was simply he had nothing to win, while his rival had something to fight for. 8-4 for Kakuryu is what's expected from him.

Ozeki Baruto being already…(CTRL+V). Harumafuji waltzed into moro-zashi and threw the biomass for the easy yori-taoshi. 7-5 with the completely unexpected win.

Kotoshogiku, aka the Hakuho killer, almost ran into a mae-mitsu grip at the tachi-ai. Of course, the Yokozuna reacted to that because Giku is already an Ozeki. Hakuho controlled his rival with his grizzly paws, got a nice left hand grip and didn't even need an uwate to throw the humping Ozeki to the dirt, a kote-nage did the job. 12-0, Hakuho is already dormie if I'm allowed the golf vocabulary. 9-3 for Giku, who did well in his first Ozeki basho (and I says "did" coz it ain't matters anymour).

I assume Mike is the one conveniently forgetting your Sadanofuijs tomorrow. Last, as I started with some Spanish vocabulary, let me add another fun fact: Terminator's famous farewell words are dubbed "Sayonara, baby" in Spanish. I absolutely loathe dubbing. So, hasta la vista.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
With the yusho in the bag for Hakuho, let me digress a bit before we get to the bouts and talk about Asashoryu's surprise appearance at the Kokusai Center on Monday. As each new detail emerges, I can't help but smile at the former Yokozuna's behavior and the reactions it created in the media. In short, Asashoryu's missteps on Monday were as follows: he entered through the main door reserved only for Association officials; he didn't have a ticket to get in; he entered the shitaku-beya (dressing room) even though non-sumo people are prohibited access; and he took a front row seat in the masu-seki. I happened to report on day 9 and had no idea that Asashoryu had entered the building. The reason of course was that NHK failed to mention he was there or put the camera directly on him. And trust me, they knew he was there. For each broadcast, NHK has veteran reporters stationed in each hana-michi, and then there's an extra guy on hand for interviews. There is no way that someone of Asashoryu's stature could roam around the back halls of the venue and then walk out of the East hana-michi (slapping Kisenosato on the rear-end in the process) without being noticed. I would love to have been wired into the headset of the guy at NHK producing the day's broadcast so I could have heard the conversation about whether or not to acknowledge Asashoryu.

I just have to laugh at the whole situation because nothing has changed between Asashoryu and the Sumo Association. They disrespect him, and he returns the favor whenever possible. And of course the media makes a bigger issue out of it than is warranted. Anyway, the crux of the issue is something that I blogged about several times when Asashoryu was forced to retire, but it's interesting to raise the question: is the Sumo Association better off now without Asashoryu? If your answer to the question is yes, I'd be interested to hear objective evidence to support such a stance. Ticket sales are way down; viewers are way down; fan interest is way down; income is way down; and serious scandals are way up. Asashoryu was such a lightening rod for scrutiny and abuse from the media as well as the Sumo Association, that once he rode off into the sunset, the media needed somewhere else to turn. And that somewhere else was the darker side of sumo resulting in a plethora of juicy scandals the 20 months since Asa's retirement. Anyway, it was good to see Asashoryu do as he pleased on Monday, and of course no one had to wherewithal to stop him...just like during his career as an active rikishi.

And speaking of unstoppable, Yokozuna Hakuho clinched the yusho today with a win over Sekiwake Kisenosato. Just as Clancy predicted, Hakuho is done throwing away bouts for the time being, and it's time for him to re-establish his dominance and put together another run of consecutive wins and yusho. He used a kachi-age tachi-ai with the right arm today, something he hasn't used in awhile because no one can deny him the inside position anyway. His forearm caught Kisenosato up high drawing blood from his nose, but the Kid was unfazed and put up a decent fight smartly using tsuppari to try and knock the Yokozuna off balance. But Hakuho's defense was solid, and he moved well so that Kisenosato never could land a sharp punch. In the process, Hakuho worked his right arm to the inside and scored the yori-kiri win from there moving to 11-0. Kisenosato falls to 8-3 but is still in good shape in terms of getting 11 wins. My take regarding this Ozeki run is the same I had for Kotoshogiku last basho. Kisenosato's close, but I still don't think he's quite Ozeki material, and he's definitely not fighting at the level of a true Ozeki this basho.

Both Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku have benefited from a lethargic upper-Maegashira. As I was writing my pre-basho report, I initially penciled Kotoshogiku in for 10 or 11 wins, but as I reached the upper Maegashira, there were so many solid rikishi that I downgraded Kotoshogiku to 9 wins. However, no one has delivered whatsoever from the jo'i. Homasho's injured, Goeido's a head case, Tochinoshin is useless, and Gagamaru is just taking up a lot of space. I think that was manifest today as Ozeki Kotoshogiku ran into a brick wall in M4 Tochinowaka who used a right kachi-age tachi-ai to completely halt the Ozeki in his tracks. The two ended up in the hidari-yotsu position, but Kotoshogiku just spun his wheels in the middle of the ring while Tochinowaka laughed the attack off easily holding his ground. After a few seconds, Tochinowaka moved to his left quickly and slapped Kotoshogiku down by the left shoulder with ease. Kotoshogiku falls to a costly second loss in terms of the yusho race, and after he loses to Hakuho tomorrow, there will only be three loss rikishi who matter with Hakuho standing unblemished. With Harumafuji coming up on Friday and Kisenosato after that, the Geeku will do well to finish with 10 wins after his hot start. As for Tochinowaka, he improves to 6-5 and reminds me more and more of Hakuho.  As a side note, I incorrectly identified Tochinowaka as being of Chinese descent in my day 9 report.  His father, born in Japan, is of Korean descent, and his mother is Korean.  Thanks to Ross Mihara for pointing that out to me, and like the ineffable Johnny Cochrane always said:

 "When Ross is correct, you can't object."

Ozeki Kotooshu was a bit too casual against Komusubi Homasho, and it nearly cost him as the two hooked up in the migi-yotsu position. With the Ozeki taking his time, Homasho went for the immediate force-out and nearly got it. A healthy Homasho puts Kotooshu in the first row, but the Bulgarian dug in sufficiently, and Homasho was spent after that do-or-die charge. The kimari-te was yori-kiri as Kotooshu officially sheds his kadoban status at 8-3 while Homasho falls to 1-10.

Ozeki Baruto grabbed the right frontal grip against M3 Gagamaru and need I say more? Lord Gaga was so lost he had no idea how to belly up and stand his ground, so Baruto just pushed at Gagamaru's right side with the left and spun him down with that frontal belt grip on the other side for the shitate-hineri win. Baruto has won seven straight to move to 8-3 while Gagamaru is way overmatched at 2-9. Remember last basho how Gagamaru actually beat Baruto? His daily beatings this basho have just sucked the life right out of him. It's one reason why I'm opposed to a guy taking the yusho from down deep in the Maegashira division. It hasn't happened in over 10 years thanks to two dominant Yokozuna, but this is the same Gagamaru as last basho. The difference is he's being forced to face the best guys in the sport day in and day out, which takes an incredible toll mentally.

Ozeki Harumafuji and Sekiwake Kakuryu were even steven at the tachi-ai with Kakuryu employing the left inside position while Harumafuji tried to push his opponent back with shoves. The Kak quickly changed his ways, however, and fired back with a left hand into Harumafuji's jaw that turned the Ozeki to the side and then completely around setting up the rather easy okuri-dashi win for the Kak who shoots to 7-4. At 6-5, Harumafuji's back is against the wall, which doesn't bode well for his upcoming opponents. We'll see the same urgency going forward that we saw from the Ozeki on Monday against Kisenosato.

I thought it was a great move for Tochinoshin to grab the left frontal belt against Komusubi Toyonoshima because it eliminates the chance of Toyonoshima getting moro-zashi, but credit the Komusubi for using a tsuppari attack to prevent Shin from getting in close. Tochinoshin persisted, though, maintaining that frontal grip, but when he ducked in low to try and force is way in, the wily veteran seized the opportunity and scored the rare hataki-komi win. Great sumo from both parties, but Toyonoshima is so mentally fit right now that it's propelled him to his 7-4 record. Tochinoshin has had enough of the jo'i and can no longer contribute at this level.

M1 Okinoumi survived a right paw to the chin at the tachi-ai from M3 Aran because the Russian's attack remained high from the start. All Okinoumi needed to do was counter with a few shoves of his own to easily get the Bride off balance and he did just that scoring a rather easy oshi-dashi win. At 5-6, he's in a great position to kachi-koshi while Aran is a horrifying 1-10.

I thought M1 Goeido delivered his best sumo of the basho today against a non-existent M4 Tochiohzan. If it was like this everyday for the Father, he'd finish at least 13-2 because you know he'd find some boneheaded way to lose. Nevertheless, he's 5-6 as well and has an outside shot at kachi-koshi. Tochiohzan finishes his tournament with five wins.

M5 Kitataiki and M2 Kyokutenho hooked up in a yotsu affair from the tachi-ai, but as Kyokutenho tried to press with his left outer grip, his hand slipped off the belt rendering him defenseless, even for Kitataiki who drove the Chauffeur out for the force-out win and 5-6 record. Kyokutenho falls to 4-7 with the mishap.

M5 Yoshikaze and M10 Fujiazuma traded false starts, and by the second one, Fujiazuma was a bit rattled, especially after Mihogaseki-oyakata reprimanded the two from the head judge's seat. When they finally did get it right, the veteran Yoshikaze took full advantage seizing moro-zashi and forcing Fujiazuma (5-6) back and across without argument to move to 6-5.

M10 Kokkai redefined the term lame with a tachi-ai henka to his right that was so poorly executed that M6 Aminishiki wasn't even sneaky as he got the left arm on the inside and escorted the hapless Georgian out in no time. Ami moves to 6-5 while Kokkai is our fourth 1-10 rikishi.

M6 Miyabiyama picked up his kachi-koshi today albeit with an unsavory tachi-ai henka to his left against M12 Daido. The move wasn't much better than Kokkai's, but Daido failed to capitalize, and the Sheriff eventually restored order to the dohyo with a boring push out win. I don't know how they labeled this one tsuki-dashi. Daid'oh! falls to 6-5.

M7 Takekaze picked up a kachi-koshi of his own with an easy oshi-dashi victory over M14 Takarafuji (3-8). When Takekaze is able to push you straight back and out from the tachi-ai, it's time to rethink a few things.

M8 Takayasu was high again in his oshi attack against M12 Sagatsukasa, but the latter hasn't had that roach like quality to him this basho, so even though Takayasu was fundamentally unsound, he still scored the methodical oshi-dashi win improving to 5-6. Go figure as Sagatsukasa falls to 4-7.

Examining our rookies, M15 Sadanofuji knew that M9 Wakakoyu was going to eventually go for a pull down, and so instead of just charging hard into the Wookie, he was tentative and cautious. The two did trade some shoves, but Wakakoyu got him in the end with you guessed it, a pull down. Wakakoyu moves to 9-2? Are you serious? Sadanofuji is still alive and well at 6-5.

M11 Toyohibiki's girth was too much for M16 Tsurugidake to handle at the tachi-ai, and after the two traded a few shoves, the Nikibi said enough of this nonsense, and actually forced the bout to yotsu-zumo before escorting his gal back and out in mere seconds. Toyohibiki is 7-4 if ya need him while Tsurugidake makes make-koshi official at 3-8.

It couldn't have gotten any easier for M11 Myogiryu who picked up kachi-koshi today against M17 Kimurayama who failed to henka and then immediately put his hands up high as if to pull. He'd never get the chance as Myogiryu was onto him like stink to bait shoving the hapless Kim (3-8) back and out for the wham bam thank you ma'am win.

And finally, M16 Aoiyama was a bit lazy at the tachi-ai (what's new?) allowing M15 Shohozan moro-zashi from the start, but Aoiyama showed his strength needing only one kote-nage attempt with the left arm wrapped around Shohozan's right to sling him down to the dirt. Bad start, good finish for Aoiyama who picks up kachi-koshi with the win. Shohozan's right there, though, at 7-4 so no worries.

Oscar does my bidding tomorrow.

Day 10 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Reading his Day 9 report, I was struck once again by how well Mixmaster Mikenstein knows sports. Dude doesnt even need to know the results to be able to tell you what went down. I should mention that Im not referring to sumo, but to the fact that as I read his final line, I just happened at the precise moment to be tearing off one of my toenails! No lie. I LedOL.

Yokothuna Hakuho (thorry, my computer has a bit of a lithp today) has become Asashoryu to Kakuryus Kotomitsuki. Like the barging former Grand Champion, he seems to find a way, basho in and basho out, to make an otherwise studly rikishi look like a leettle girl. To say he nullified the Kaks tachi-ai charge would be like saying Oscar takes his time eating lunch. Forcing his Kak upright, Kublai kept his hips low, low, low to the ground, and his legs spread wide like a tart. After a lovely little spin, he quickly slow danced his countryman back and out. The key to Hakuhos truly unbeatable sumo, apart from his strength and speed and ring sense, is his ability to implement that most basic sumo move, keeping your legs open while you crush your foe forward, preventing him from escaping to the right or left while at the same time denying him the chance to knock you off balance. All the rikishi try to do this, but Hakuho is king, keeping them splayed like a dancing turkey (which concludes the only reference to the US holiday youll get from me today).

I failed to predict the Yokozuna going 15-0 in my Day One, but I meant to, cause I didnt and dont see him throwing or gifting shit in this final basho of the year. And once sumo (and by extension racist Japan) has its two young and hung JPese Ozeki next January, look for Hakuho to pour it on run the goddamned table in 2012. Unless he is under contract to do whatever it takes next year as well to keep sumo interesting, then who knows?

He wont be facing any quandaries about what to do with Kisenosato on Day 11 as the Kid made a miraculous comeback vs. 1-9 Tochinoshin. Yes, No Shine has lost his luster, but hes still big and strong, and after securing a belt grip from tachi-ai, he looked to be in position to drive. Kisenosato got his own belt grip, but Tochinoshins mawashi was looser than a broken guitar string, so the Sekiwake had no leverage. Yet somehow the Kid managed to use his grip on No Shines headband (which is what it had become) to get a second, more secure belt grip that allowed him to resist the M2s meek throwing attempt and yori-kiri him back and out.

Kisenosato has but Hakuho and Baruto left among the giants, and since its a lock hes Ozeki with 11, there should be no need for Hak to let up when they meet tomorrow. To make myself clear, the Yokozuna is going to kill Kisenosato.

Im sure many of us think that the JPese are ultra-serious about sumo, and that unlike fisticated furreners, they dont really see any humor in big fat guys getting pummeled and rolled, but it just aint so. Lots of fans in the stands today were laughing when Harumafuji played the role of pitbull to Gagamarus postman, getting in low and tugging the living shit out of the mawashi until the Butterball (damn, and I said no more Thanksgiving references!) got his round mound of renown flung down to the ground.

In the big Ozeki matchup, Baruto could not deny Kotoshogiku the inside position, but that’s good cause he didnt want to! Using his height advantage, the Estonian latched on to an over-the-shoulder outside right belt. Geeku sensed this was bad and tried to instigate his type of belly up sumo, but moving the Biomass presents, how do you say, uh, problems. The rookie knew now that his perfect record was going down, as he too was likely to be doing, and once Baruto snatched a left hand belt grip, there was no where to go but back and out for the now 9-1 Geeku. Baruto, along with HowDo yesterday, are playing well, as Mike said they would on Day 6, the spoiler role.

Tochinowaka tried to rebound after his impressive loss to Hakuho on Day 9 by manning up on flaky Ozeki Kotooshu, but the Bulgarian was having none of it, snatching a rock solid left belt grip and never relenting, constantly yanking and shoving with it, so that while Tochinowaka was able to survive for a time, he did not at one time have a sniff of an opening. The force out win takes the Ozeki to the brink of kachi-koshi, which means something as hell be demoted if he doesnt win a minimum of eight.

What can I, a mere mortal, say about Homasho that hasnt already been pointed out by his Holiness the Dope? Dude is injured and it showed as he atypically let Kyokutenho wrap him up, pull back, and throw him down like he was some...thing to throw down. (By the way, Im using "dope" in the "Aw, man, that is so dope!" way.)

Aran had no answer for Toyonoshima, despite the odd, forearm leading tachi-ai from the Tokitsukaze man and the slight henka by Mor...I mean, Aran. Tugboat moved in quicker than a homeless brother-in-law, eventually lifting the Russian off his feet and out. The look on Arans face was classic. Even he himself cannot understand how he doesnt, with a body like that, kick ass in this shitty little Asian sport.

But for a clue, Aran could look to the Toyohibiki/Aoiyama bout. The huge Bulgarian was 7-2, rolling along and looking good. Then he met the Pimple, who popped him at the tachi-ai and blew him out like a birthday candle, albeit a week late. The difference between the soundness of Toyohibikis sumo and Aoiyamas is stark, and underlies the difference between being raised in sumo in Japan and coming to it later like Aoiyama. As has been pointed out on ST many times, it really does take years to have the basics ingrained into your muscle memory.

In a day with many dohyo chats by the MIB, Goeido got a second chance after he and Okinoumi tumbled out simultaneously in a wild finish. In the rematch, Goeido left nothing to chance as he grabbed the bigger mans belt and executed a textbook uwatenage throw. At 4-6, Goeido has fought every "name" on the board and could still get a KK if he stays focused and does his brand of sumo, one day at a time. Aigo gozasu.

Wakakoyu reached eight wins by resisting Tochiohzan long enough for the M4 to injure his right foot. Suddenly unable to even place it on the dirt, Oh Snap looked like a three legged dog and ergo was easy push out fodder for M9. Wouldnt be surprised to find he goes kyujo on Day 11.

Yoshikaze ripped a page from his stablemate Takekaze, jumping to the side at tachi-ai vs. the bearded Georgian Kokkai to grab the cheapie. Course, Kokkai is everyones fool this time out at 1-9.

Miyabiyama went to 7-3 by setting up Klaisei with some pushing, only to shift gears and pull him down. One thing I like when the big guys do this kind of sumo is that the foe knows its coming, but whats he gonna do? It has the ring of inevitability to it.

Speaking of The Man Who Wasnt There, henka loving Takekaze came in full bore for a change, but Myogiryu was the stronger man, keeping Takekaze centered and going back. As he made his final push, Takekaze slapped his hands away and spun, but Mr. Myogi had remembered to bring his feet along, and so was able to stay upright long enough for his foe to step out before he himself crashed down. Their was a MIB meet-and-greet, but they stayed with the gyojis call of a Myogiryu win (though it looked like he touched down first to me on replay). It was funny to hear the NHK guys laugh about Takanohana oyakatas tendency to simply announce which wrestler the MIB chose, and not explain their rationale. Also interesting was Mainoumi stating that Myogiryu has a tachi-ai stance similar to Hakuhos.

Well, today is Labor Day in Japan, and the kids are home (and bugging me) and Im still tuckered out from my marathon on Sunday. 3:41. Eh, it is what it is. Ill take it for being forty-five years old. Ill be back on Day 15 to wrap er up, and Mike will be here on Day 11 to post a pic of Hakuho planking Kisenosato. Wyrd!

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Let's start off the day by examining sumo's big three prior to the Mongolian invasion as measured by the most hallowed record in all of sumo, career yusho. Prior to Asashoryu, the top three rikishi all time were 1) Taiho at 32, 2) Chiyonofuji at 31, and 3) Kitanoumi at 24. Takanohana entered hallowed ground himself after picking up career yusho number 20 eventually ending with 22 total championships, and I make mention of him since he also enters into the equation of where I want to take this discussion. If we look at the responsibilities given to these four within the Association after their retirement, it would look like this:

Takanohana - Current director on the board (riji)
Kitanoumi - Former director on the board (riji), former multiple term commissioner (rijicho), and current official (yakuin-taigu)
Chiyonofuji - Former director on the board (riji) and current official (yakuin-taigu)
Taiho - Former curator of the Ryogoku Kokugikan Museum

Chiyonofuji was a shoe-in to succeed Kitanoumi as commissioner, but both he and Kitanoumi resigned from the board after that string of scandals that included marijuana, gambling, ties to the yakuza, yaocho, and the death of Tokitaizan by physical abuse and torture from his stable mates. Though both resigned their posts as elected directors, they still wield the same power and influence as one of three officials that work alongside the board of directors. Takanohana will likely succeed Hanaregoma as the next commissioner, and even if he isn't the next commish, he will surely hold the title sooner rather than lately. So the question that any rational mind would consider is what about Taiho, the best of them all? What sort of status did he have in the Association after retirement?

Taiho was a difficult case for the Sumo Association to handle after his retirement. He was the greatest rikishi of all time, but he had this one little issue holding him back that resulted in his never holding a prestigious position within the Sumo Association: his father was a Ukrainian, which meant that Taiho didn't have pure Japanese blood.

The entire reason I even bring this up is because Japan has their "next" fighting in the Makuuchi division at the Kyushu basho, and his name isn't Kisenosato or Kotoshogiku. Unfortunately, the only person giving him any run in the Japanese media is Mainoumi when he offers commentary on the daily broadcasts because like Taiho, sumo's "next" doesn't have pure blood running through his veins even though he was born in Japan and is Japanese in every way.

Apologies to Martin for not ending my comments here and actually talking sumo in my report, but let's get right to the final bout of the day featuring Japan's soon to be best rikishi, M4 Tochinowaka, taking on Yokozuna Hakuho, the first time these two would meet. I was curious to see how Tochinowaka would react in this situation considering he was fighting thee man in the final bout of the day, but the kid wasn't intimidated in the least crashing into the Yokozuna at the tachi-ai, ensuring he got a right arm inside, and then putting Hakuho on the defensive a bit immediately going for an inside throw with the right arm. Hakuho easily survived the attempt shoring up his own position by seizing the left outer grip, but I guarantee you the youngster had the Yokozuna's full attention at this point. Seemingly unfazed, Tochinowaka reloaded and went for another right inside throw, and once again, Hakuho easily staved off the attack and used the shift in momentum to offer a counter attack of his own, which came in the form of dragging Tochinowaka off balance with the left outer grip and then eventually throwing him down to the dohyo with the same grip, but Tochinowaka made a statement in this bout and forced Hakuho to use his entire arsenal to keep from being thrown.

Hakuho was never in serious trouble here, but he put up as much effort as I've seen since he and Baruto used to get into those mammoth gappuri-yotsu contests. If you compare the way that Tochinowaka approached his first ever meeting with the Yokozuna to other recent guys like Gagamaru or Wakakoyu or Tochinoshin or Okinoumi, there is no comparison. Those guys knew they were going to get their asses kicked and didn't even put up a fight. Tochinowaka, however, approached the bout as if he could actually win the damn thing. I haven't seen such mental fortitude from a big, young rikishi since...well, since Hakuho. It's obvious that I'm totally geeked on this guy, but today was further proof that Tochinowaka is ready for the big time. It's just unfortunate that the Japanese public can't get excited about him because his last name reeks of Chinese descent. With the win, Hakuho moves to 9-0, but don't be surprised if he seeks Tochinowaka out for keiko soon. Yokozuna understand their threats, and they want to make sure they know as much about their sumo as possible. As for Tochinowaka, he falls to 5-4, but his record this basho is inconsequential. He has clearly shown that he has it.

Let's move next to our other undefeated rikishi in Ozeki Kotoshogiku, who made a huge mistake today against the easiest opponent he'll face in Kyushu, M5 Kitataiki. Kotoshogiku exhibited a solid tachi-ai yet again allowing him to gain the left inside position, and as he has done all basho, he immediately proceeded with his yori-kiri charge. Kitataiki was on his heels for sure, but Kotoshogiku's mistake was that he failed to grab the right outer grip before committing himself on his charge, so Kitataiki was able to squirm away at the edge and push in and down at Kotoshogiku's side sending the Ozeki down to the dohyo at the edge before Kitataiki hit. The gunbai went to the Ozeki, and the referee correctly saw that Kitataiki's right foot had stepped out before Kotoshogiku hit the dirt, but watching it live and from the shomen angle, I couldn't see Kitataiki step out. Replays showed that the Ozeki was the winner, but this was way too close for comfort. Kotoshogiku wouldn't have come away with a win against any other rikishi he's faced had he made the same mistake he committed today, and so if Sadogatake-oyakata is on top of things, he will remind his prodigy to go for the kill after obtaining the outer grip. Even Hakuho will rarely commit on the kill of his prey without an outer grip, so we'll see if Kotoshogiku learned anything from today's bout that sent him to a stellar 9-0 record while Kitataiki falls to 3-6.

Sekiwake Kisenosato was just one back coming into the day where he was matched up against Ozeki Harumafuji. With the tachi-ai being so critical to successful sumo, Kisenosato whiffed again today at the charge, and this time he paid for it. Harumafuji shot out of his crouch like a cannon catching the Kid square in the throat with the right hand and latching onto the front of the Sekiwake's belt with the left. HowDo's left was actually on the outside, but he had moro-zashi for all intents and purposes with his right arm on the inside as well. Kisenosato countered well considering the circumstances with a long left outer grip over the top of the Ozeki and a semi sideways stance that let Harumafuji know an outer belt throw was in the cards. Ducked down low, the Ozeki attempted a soto-gake leg trip, but Kisenosato fought it off with an outer belt throw attempt. When the dust settled, both rikishi were in the same position, and this time Harumafuji went for an ashi-tori move to throw the Sekiwake off balance, and while Kisenosato was able to escape, he was now on the run just a bit allowing Harumafuji to get to the side of him and lift up at his leg komata-sukui style tripping Kisenosato down by freshly grabbing the Sekiwake's leg from the inside. You could almost hear a collective groan as Kisenosato fell to 7-2, but after two bad days of sumo, it just wouldn't be right to see him at 8-1. Kisenosato has flat out gotten his ass kicked at the tachi-ai the last two days, and he hasn't even fought the dangerous Ozeki nor Hakuho. Now, I have my suspicions that Kotoshogiku and Hakuho won't go all out, but you have to sit back and ask yourself: does Kisenosato look like an Ozeki this basho? I could argue both sides and say yes...compared to the lame Ozeki we've seen the last few years, Kisenosato is every bit as good. But on the other hand, compared to the standards set by great Ozeki of the past, he isn't quite there. Harumafuji breathes a bit easier at 5-4.

An interesting bout with no yusho implications was the Ozeki Baruto - Sekiwake Kakuryu matchup, which featured Baruto beginning to come out of his funk and Kakuryu slowing up just a bit as the competition has vastly improved. Kakuryu won the tachi-ai and gained the early moro-zashi, but Baruto as he was being backed up countered with a left kote-nage throw that neutralized the potent Kak. The Sekiwake still maintained moro-zashi, but now it was much lighter with Baruto pressing close with the right arm draped around Kakuryu's left arm, and the Ozeki's right arm wrapped around the Kak's neck threatening kubi-nage, a move that's hard to pull off, but a move you don't want to be on the other side of when Baruto's your opponent. With Kakuryu neutralized for the most part by Baruto's size, the Ozeki quickly latched onto Kakuryu's belt with the left hand and hoisted the Mongolian clear in the air and launched him beyond the straw for his second tsuri-dashi win in as many days. This was entertaining stuff from both guys if not a meaningless bout as both reside now at 6-3, and I don't know that I've ever seen anyone lifted off the ground as high as Kakuryu was today.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kotooshu was out of synch and late at the tachi-ai against M4 Tochiohzan, and it cost him dearly as Tochiohzan seized moro-zashi and drove the Ozeki back and across the straw without argument. It seems like I've been pointing out all basho how rikishi are losing due to bad tachi-ai but for good reason. Kotooshu falls to 6-4 with the loss and surely will find those last two victories, but as the competition heats up, he can't afford to drop anymore bouts due to silly mistakes. Tochiohzan improves to 5-4 with the shukun win.

Komusubi Toyonoshima succeeded in gaining the right inside position against M1 Goeido, and for the second day in a row Goeido gifted his opponent moro-zashi by taking an arm from the inside up to his opponent's head to threaten a pull. Some threat as Toyonoshima answered the backwards maki-kae by forcing Goeido quickly back and then shoving him down at the edge for the easy oshi-taoshi win. Toyonoshima improves to 5-4 with the win and the competition will continue to decline the rest of the way. As for Goeido, he lost his first three, won his next three, and has now lost his last three ending at (hold on, let me do the math on my fingers)...a 3-6 record! I'm an emotional girl for sure, but watching Goeido's sumo really makes me want to cry.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Homasho is injured no doubt about it. Coming off of last basho, I think I enjoyed watching Homasho and Okinoumi perform the most, and the two really were equals. So to see them fight today, the contrast was very noticeable. Homasho's tachi-ai was so weak and he could do nothing but slowly circle to his left never really pressing into his opponent, so Okinoumi used his left inside position to easily keep pace with Homie and force him beyond the straw and down with hardly a fight. After the bout I looked at the parts of Homasho's body bandaged up, and his left thumb was taped heavily, and then he had vertical tape running down his lower back. The way Homasho acted in the ring today, it's definitely his lower back. Just last week I was in a volleyball tournament, and during the very first game I went up for a block and came down funny wrenching my lower back in the process. I could still play and go through the motions, but I was prolly only 50%. Against jo'i competition, an injured Homasho is useless as indicated by his 1-8 record. Okinoumi will likely take over Homasho's spot at 5-4 with easier guys to come.

I thoroughly enjoy a gappuri yotsu contest even when the combatants are the M2's Kyokutenho and Tochinoshin. Today both grapped right inners and left outers from the tachi-ai, but Kyokutenho pressed first and managed to raise Tochinoshin slightly up higher, and that's all it took because the next time Kyokutenho mounted a charge, Tochinoshin's only answer was to use the tawara to prolong the inevitable. Good force-out win for the Chauffeur who ekes forward to 3-6 while Tochinoshin suffers make-koshi at 1-8.

The M3's butt heads today as well with Aran exhibiting a weak and cautious tachi-ai against Gagamaru, but Gagamaru wasn't exactly moving forward either, probably out of fear of a henka, so the two ended up hunkered low in the grapplin' position where rikishi touch heads and put hands on each other's shoulders. Before they could really get settled in, though, Aran slipped to the side and easily slapped Gagamaru down picking up his first win in the process. Lord Gaga ain't much better at 2-7.

I normally wouldn't comment on the M8 Takayasu - M5 Yoshikaze matchup, but when someone draws blood, it's pretty cool. Takayasu was the perpetrator firing tsuppari squarely into Yoshikaze's face drawing blood from his nose, and you could tell Yoshikaze was pissed because he battled back and slipped inside so tight he was able to turn Takayasu around 180 degrees and assume the brokeback position. As was his right to do after taking a few punches to the face, Yoshikaze rushed Takayasu beyond the edge and then sent him into the second row at least. We'll have to see if there's a bit of a rivalry brewing between these two moving forward. Both end up at 4-5 on the day.

I agree with Martin that M9 Wakakoyu goes to the moro-tezuki well too often, and today was a good example as M6 Aminishiki read the tachi-ai, avoided the neck pushes, and then pushed the stumbling Wakakoyu down in a second flat. Ami moves to 5-4 with the win while the one trick pony joins Kisenosato on the leaderboard at 7-2.

M6 Miyabiyama knew he wouldn't get blown off the starting lines by M10 Kokkai, so he was very cautious in his tsuppari attack timing the first pull opportunity when it come and slapping the White Knight down with ease. Miyabiyama is a quiet 6-3 while Kokkai's likely on his way to Juryo for the new year.

M7 Tokitenku was hellbent to make at least one victim go down with the keta-guri, and today was the day for M10 Fujiazuma who fell to 4-5 while Tenku is just 3-6.

If I had any respect for Takekaze, I would have commented on him earlier, but his 7-1 start is compliments of his henka ways and nothing else. Today, Takekaze went straightforward and simply got his ass kicked by M11 Toyohibiki who met his opponent straight on with his usual shoves and had him dispatched in mere seconds. Takekaze falls to 7-2 and hopefully out of the running for a special prize. The Nikibi moves to 5-4.

M11 Myogiryu was an instant late in his tachi-ai, and it made all the difference against M16 Aoiyama. With no momentum from the charge, Myogiryu was caught fishing for moro-zashi but made no impact whatsoever into Aoiyama's body and was slapped down in short order. Aoiyama one-ups his fellow rookie at 7-2.

Rookie M15 Sadanofuji was high at the tachi-ai, and his body was wide open as well enabling M12 Daido to secure the right inside position and knock Sadanofuji back off balance to where he slapped him down by the shoulder from there. Both dudes are 5-4.

Continuing on with the rookies, M16 Tsurugidake picked up a rare win with a straight-up oshi-dashi win over M12 Sagatsukasa. I would have thought Sagatsukasa would win this one, but he looked lethargic as Tsurugidake pushed him around and out. Both guys are 3-6.

M14 Kaisei's tachi-ai was so lazy that M15 Shohozan easily slipped into moro-zashi dumping his taller opponent there with an inner belt throw. Shohozan is 6-3 if ya need him while Kaisei is 5-4.

And finally, former Yokozuna Asashoryu made good on his promise to one day return as a regular fan and watch the bouts while drinking a bottle of beer.  Dressed in a gray suit and tie, Asashoryu sat just in front of Hakata's ugly step sisters otherwise known ad geisha and took in the day 9 bouts (don't ask me how he was able to find an empty seat).  Prior to settling in, he waltzed into the dressing room to talk with his former peeps despite the fact that only sumo officials are allowed inside.  Recently retired Tamanoshima (Nishiiwa-oyakata) was guarding the dressing room and tried to stop Asashoryu from entering, but the legendary Yokozuna just brushed him off and walked right past him...sorta like he did throughout his entire career.

Clancy spells me tomorrow sans a few toenails.

Day 8 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The biggest happening on day 8 occurred a few kilometers west of the Kokusai Center where Fukuoka's baseball team, the Softbank Hawks, defeated the Chunichi Dragons to clinch the Japan Series yusho. It was a tough series that went the full seven games with Fukuoka prevailing 3-0 in the final game. Since I consider Fukuoka my home in Japan, it was fun to watch the various news shows and see the elation that swept over the city at large. I mention this because sumo has taken a back seat to baseball the first week, so now it's hopefully time for the Fukuokans to channel their energy from baseball to sumo, especially with hometown Kotoshogiku off to such a hot start.

For today's broadcast, they had Kaio and Chiyotaikai in the booth offering color commentary alongside of Sanbe Announcer from NHK. As we waited for the Makuuchi bouts to begin, NHK showed former clips of Kaio and Chiyotaikai fighting each other and then other major bouts from both rikishi such as Kaio defeating Asashoryu on senshuraku of the 2004 Kyushu basho. I noticed that when they showed each bout, my kids would inevitably look up from what they were doing to watch. I watch sumo in front of them all the time, and they are mostly disinterested in it, but whenever they show flashback bouts, they always watch intently. I realized today that they aren't necessarily drawn to the bouts themselves, but they can hear the crowd going crazy, and it draws in their attention.

And I think the Kyushu basho has the potential to become such a basho the final week. What draws fan interest to the sport is actual excitement atop the dohyo, especially when the featured rikishi are guys the fans can easily get behind. With Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku out to their quick starts and the seats finally getting filled in the Kokusai Center, Japan finally has two rikishi who are legitimate candidates in the yusho race. It also doesn't suck that starting day 8, the upper echelon rikishi (Sekiwake on up) start fighting each other, so let's hope for some semblance of a battle for the yusho, something the Japanese fans could really get behind.

The biggest matchup of the day featured Sekiwake Kisenosato against nemesis Ozeki Kotooshu, a rikishi whom Kisenosato can't beat in a yotsu contest. I was hoping that Kisenosato would realize this and actually fend off the Ozeki with a tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai; instead, he just stood there with both arms stretched to the size giving Kotooshu the easy moro-zashi position. I think Kotooshu was even surprised at how wide open Kisenosato was, so he immediately lurched forward in an effort to send the Sekiwake into the first row. Thanks to the Ozeki's carelessness and sloppy footwork, Kisenosato was able to evade to his left at the edge and just send Kotooshu down to the dirt with a slight push of the elbow as Kisenosato kept his left foot on the tawara and right foot in the air long enough for Kotooshu to hit the deck. The problem was Kisenosato's body was beyond the tawara, and by the time the Ozeki crashed to the dirt, Kisenosato's right foot has already broken the plane of the dohyo as he set his right foot on the arena floor.

They had to call a mono-ii in this one, but with the referee ruling in favor of Kisenosato, the men in black didn't even budge. This bout was so close--and so one-sided for Kotooshu, half of me is baffled that they didn't review this, but the other half of me completely understands why they didn't. I guess they never define what constitutes a rikishi being "dead" in the air even though he technically hasn't touched out for times such as this. In the days of Asashoryu, the calls never went his way whether he was the aggressor or the one trying to keep his foot from hitting anything. I don't like the subjective nature of bouts like this, but I understand that the ruling will always favor the Sumo Association's current agenda. And for Kotooshu fans who are pissed, on one hand you have a right to be, but on the other, your boy has GOT to finish Kisenosato off after getting that sort of inside position. That it was even close is Kotooshu's fault. After the dust settled, Kisenosato moved to 7-1 while Kotooshu fell to 6-2.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kotoshogiku received his biggest test of the basho against Sekiwake Kakuryu...on paper. But this wasn't close as Kotoshogiku executed the best tachi-ai I think we've seen from him slamming his head into the Kak's upper torso and then securing the left arm deep on the inside. That quickly set up a right outer grip, which enabled the Geeku to force the Kak back in seconds and then spill him to the dirt with a nifty right belt throw. I've been clear the last few basho that Kotoshogiku's run to Ozeki was orchestrated and aided, but dude is fighting like a true Ozeki here in Kyushu. His sumo has been perfect, and it begins with his tachi-ai. Nothing but praise for the new Ozeki who has already surpassed the other Ozeki in the whoopass department. Kotoshogiku is a cool 8-0 while Kakuryu ain't too shabby himself at 6-2.

Yokozuna Hakuho used his effective kachi-age tachi-ai ramming his right forearm into M3 Gagamaru's neck, and the move was so potent the Yokozuna thought he could pull down his opponent straightway. Gagamaru did survive the quick pull attempt, but Hakuho's left arm was already on the inside and launching a scoop throw that would spell Gagamaru's doom. As I mentioned on day 6, it will be interesting to see if we see the same precision sumo from Hakuho against Kisenosato or Kotoshogiku, but he has been flawless the first eight days winning each bout with ease. Gagamaru falls to 2-6 and is understandably lost against such fierce competition.

Ozeki Baruto and M3 Aran quickly hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Baruto has the right outer grip while Aran's cupboard was bare on the other side. Baruto flirted with a tsuri-dashi a few seconds in, and while the Bride resisted at first, the second time was a charm as Baruto hoisted Aran higher than he's been since partying with former rikishi Roho and Hakurozan. This was a spectacular tsuri-dashi win as Baruto walked Aran out from the center of the ring moving to 5-3 in the process. Aran suffers make-koshi at 0-8.

Ozeki Harumafuji made quick work of M2 Tochinoshin using his usual neck shove at the tachi-ai followed by effective tsuppari that never let Shin get close to the belt. Took about three seconds for Harumafuji to score the oshi-dashi win and even his record at 4-4. Tochinoshin falls to 1-7 and while he usually give Harumafuji fits, he isn't sufficiently prepared this basho. No wonder he was clubbed so bad today.

In the Komusubi ranks, Homasho picked up his first win striking M1 Goeido hard and leaving the Father with nothing but a right outer grip that he really had to stretch in order to maintain thank to a deep inside belt grip from Homasho. As Homasho used his height advantage to press the action, Goeido gifted him moro-zashi by stupidly bringing his right arm up to the back of Homie's head as if to execute a pull. Dumb move as Homasho seized moro-zashi and had Goeido pushed back and across in no time. At 1-7, Homasho hasn't shown the fighting spirit to actually run off seven more wins, but he'll make it respectable in the end. At 3-5, Goeido still has a slight chance to kachi-koshi with easier opponents from her on out.

Mopping up the sanyaku, Komusubi Toyonoshima met his match against M1 Okinoumi who used a stiff paw into Toyonoshima's face at the tachi-ai to keep him upright. The tenacious Toyonoshima did get the left arm on the inside and the right hand was also flirting with an inside position, but the taller Okinoumi won the tachi-ai, and used his height to keep Toyonoshima upright throughout. After nearly a minute of inaction in the center of the ring, Okinoumi wrenched Toyonoshima over to the edge from the kime position creating an opening allowing him to grab the firm right outer grip, and once secured, he manhandled Toyonoshima over to the side and out with a wicked uwate-nage. As good as Toyonoshima (4-4) is, he was schooled in all facets today by Okinoumi (3-5) in one of my favorite bouts of the basho so far.

M2 Kyokutenho henka'd to his left against M4 Tochinowaka securing the easy left outer grip and right inside position as Tochinowaka tried to recover. He never would as Kyokutenho escorted his date back and out without even getting the door. When a veteran like Kyokutenho (2-6) has to henka a relative newbie in Tochinowaka (5-3), it's proof that the Chauffeur knows he can't beat the youngster straight up.

Just when I was gearing up for a solid week 1 from M4 Tochiohzan, he displays zero de-ashi in his bout against M8 Takayasu. Oh actually had an opening for moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and then Takayasu put both hands at the back of Tochiohzan's head, but the former Komusubi still couldn't win sorta charging into Takayasu but getting pulled down near the edge as Takayasu got the hell outta there. Tochiohzan should have kicked his opponent's ass this way to Tuesday here, but now he finds himself at 4-4, the same record as Takayasu.

Martin seems irritated by M9 Wakakoyu's constant pull sumo, but it's different from say Goeido's pull sumo since the Wookie goes hard and straight from the tachi-ai using the pull as a means to shift gears quickly and catch his opponents off guard. I don't love this style of fighting, but I appreciate that Wakakoyu understands the importance of a good tachi-ai. Today Wakakoyu quietly moved to 7-1 with a hari-zashi charge of all things slapping M5 Yoshikaze's face with the right hand while getting the left arm deep on the inside sufficient to bulldoze Cafe back and out faster than Bob the Builder. This was a bout where the hari-zashi move actually worked since Wakakoyu caught Yoshikaze square in the face instead of a glancing blow.

I'm stil trying to decide what's uglier: Takekaze himself or his sumo during this 7-1 start. Today he henka'd to his left against M6 Aminishiki, and while Shneaky wasn't felled straightway, he never did recover to the point where he could set his feet again, and so Takekaze easily shoved him across the ring and out picking up his seventh win. I really don't care what happens outside of the jo'i, but I hate to see a guy work his way into the jo'i with crap sumo. I believe Takekaze has henka'd in 7 of his 8 bouts so far, so he better not get a special prize regardless of his record. Aminishiki falls to a tough luck 4-4, but at least he's got a place to rest his head at night on top of his bedroll.

M11 Myogiryu was a split second late at the tachi-ai against m13 Asasekiryu, but it just didn't matter as the rookie fired a few wicked shoves into Sexy's chest and had him pushed back and out in two seconds. Myogiryu sees his opponents better than most other rikishi, so you couple that with his fearless tachi-ai and surprising strength, and we have a playuh on our hands at 6-2. Asasekiryu falls to 2-6.

M15 Sadanofuji pasted M12 Sagatsukasa even after whiffing with one arm on a moro-tezuki attempt at the tachi-ai. Still, Sadanofuji had his right hand buried into the Roach's neck, and that was all he needed scoring a tsuki-dashi win from the center of the ring by pushing Sagatsukasa (3-5) back and out the full radius of the ring by the neck. Damn, that musta hurt as the rookie improved to 5-3.

Sporting a sweet tan, M15 Shohozan took full advantage of an upright tachi-ai from M12 Daido getting his right arm on the inside and forcing Daido to retreat quickly. As Daido (4-4) forced a bit of separation, Shohozan used tsuppari to finish his opponent off in short order moving to a comfortable 5-3 in the process.

And finally, M16 Aoiyama charged with his head straight into M14 Takarafuji 92-6) setting up the deep right inside position with which the rookie easily forced his opponent back and out. Great tachi-ai and footwork from Aoiyama who moves to 6-2 with the win. Now, if I could only tell the difference between Aoiyama and M14 Kaisei who easily stood M16 Tsurugidake (2-6) up from the tachi-ai before seizing moro-zashi and finishing off his gal straight way to move to 5-3.

I know Wakakoyu is 7-1, but the leaderboard consists of Hakuho and Kotoshogiku with 8-0 records and Kisenosato at 7-1. You couldn't script it any better than this. Well, you know what I mean. See ya'll tomorrow.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
You know, I envy Andreas for what he did in his report. It takes cojones to shaft his loyal readers like that. When I got to the end, I could hardly believe it. But then, in retrospect, I went "oh, I see what you did here". Because, you see, writing an intro, an interesting, introspective introduction to one's report takes creativity, and mine's about as extinct as the dinosaurs. Writing a lengthy intro and leaving the report at that...that takes genius. Well done, YBF. With that out of the way, let's have us some sumo.

The Yokozuna cruised to 7-0 after an oshi style win over bothersome Toyonoshima. Unusually aggressive, Hakuho aimed to get in close right after the initial charge, but thought better of it and kept his distance, thrusting at the big target that was painted on Toyonoshima's upper body. The Tugboat falls to 4-3, but has yet to lose to an Ozeki.

Speaking of which, if there's one word I can come up with to describe Kotooshu right now, it has to be 'tentative'. Either that, or he just doesn't give a f**k anymore. Today he just stood up into Gagamaru's charge and easily stopped him in his tracks with a solid left uwate doubled immediately by a right inside. Gagamaru could only resist for so long, and he quickly ended up planking the dohyo via uwate-nage. The Bulgarian is pretty safe at 6-1, while Lord Gaga (2-5) will likely have to move his fief in calmer waters come Hatsu.

The newest addition to the Ozeki stayed perfect after having his way with Aran at the tachi-ai (I guess they don't call him the bride for nothing). Wrapped up in a deadly hidari-yotsu, the Ossetian could do little to stop Kotoshogiku's advance, and eventually ended up with no wins in 7 tries. Look for him to henka some.

While we're on the henka page, Kyokutenho did just that in a successful attempt to get the cheap left uwate. Unfortunately for him, it was against Baruto. The Estonian Biomass mustered an inside grip on that same side and held on until he was ready to deploy the shitate-nage (inner belt throw), with a sprinkle of kubi-hineri (head twisting) for flavor. Baruto rises above the .500 mark for the first time this basho and will be henka'd by Aran tomorrow, while Tenho falls to a paltry but expected 1-6.

I wasn't at all surprised to see Harumafuji lose in his first meeting with a career-high Lee, but the bout itself was pretty strange. Ex-Ama charged hard, like he usually does, trying to take the youngster's head off with one mighty thrust, but soon found out the brick wall in front of him was going to be a lot harder to move around than initially expected. The Ozeki fiddled with some front-o'-the-mawashi grips, but the hulking Korean-Japanese laughed them off and quickly went on the offensive. Harumafuji felt the noose tightening and entered last-stand mode, planting his feet firmly and lowering his stance, but Lee's momentum was too much, and Ama fell onto his back, despite attempting a hikkake (pulling the opponent past you and out of the ring). Tochinowaka (yeah, that's his shikona, in case you were wondering) will take the win for 5-2, while Harumafuji slumps to 3-4 and ain't looking good at all.

Kisenosato duly outmuscled Okinoumi in a straight up yotsu affair after failing to keep him at bay at the tachi-ai, as he was clearly aiming. Sure, some might be worried by how easily the Kid relinquishes belt grips, but I think he's good enough to beat 95% of the banzuke at the mawashi. Of course, if he gives it up like that tomorrow against Kotooshu, he's as good as yorikiri'ed, but I have a feeling he won't. Kisenosato is well on his way to Ozekihood at 6-1, while Okinoumi falls to an expected 2-5.

A lot of rikishi have trouble mounting an effective offensive against Homasho's annoyingly closed stance, but Kakuryu had just the right answer for it today, keeping Homie upright with well-aimed thrusts to the face and neck. Homasho had little room to run and nowhere to hide, and his meek attempt at evading was read by the Kak like a dirty manga, who then turned the tables on him and instantly yanked him down to his 7th loss. Kakuryu improves to 6-1 and talk of an Ozeki run is slowly appearing in the distance.

Tochinoshin scored for the first time this basho, burning Goeido (3-4) with a sort of a vertical henka, i.e. charging really high, with both arms in front, and pulling his opponent straight down. I'll let Mike chastise Goeido for this one (as if...).

Tochiohzan came way too high at the tachi-ai and Takekaze took full advantage, pushing him right back and out. I suspect Oh might have feared a henka or something, but losing like that to Takekaze, of all people, is inexcusable. The Fat Kaze soars to a dubious 6-1, but will surely start losing some when he gets paired with better opponents. Tochiohzan falls to a mediocre 4-3.

Despite age and injury, the Fatman still has one thing going for him, and that's his size. Kitataiki was pretty much unable to get close to Miyabiyama's mawashi, despite trying hard, and eventually fell for the (totally un)surprising pull and a lackluster 2-5. Miyabiyama lumbers to 4-3.

Tokitenku and Yoshikaze produced a surprisingly violent affair, with slaps to the face dealt more generously than weed in Amsterdam. Another surprising aspect was Tenku's straight up tachi-ai. Yoshikaze did henka, but Tokitenku stayed in it, barely, and eventually prevailed with a well-timed hataki-komi. Both guys are still under .500.

Veteran Aminishiki won his bout right from the tachi-ai, in spite of the 20 seconds he wasted to actually finish it off. Sneaky took advantage of a careless tachi-ai from Takayasu and almost had him with a couple of slapdowns. The youngster survived, but found himself in the most disadvantageous of positions, with Aminishiki latched on to his side and no mawashi grip. Aminishiki eventually pressed the issue and the two found themselves in an uneven throwing contest at the edge, which the guy with the mawashi grip duly won. Sneaky improves to 4-3, while his young victim falls to 3-4.

It's utterly exasperating to see Wakakoyu keep winning with the same tactic over and over again. If you look at his wins, most of them are hiki-otoshi, which says a lot about him, and more about his competition. A quick tachi-ai saw our villain plant both hands on Toyohibiki's face, then quickly yank him down to his 4th loss. 6-1 is way more than Wakakoyu deserves, but oh well.

Kokkai got his white ass handed to him in one second flat, when Myogiryu (who, I must say, has made quite an impression on me, going 52-13 since falling all the way to Sd94 due to injury a little more than a year ago) caught him upright at the tachi-ai and steamrolled him into an unsound 1-6 record. The Japanese call this densha-michi-sumo (literally railroad sumo).

You'll have to excuse me if I'm not all that excited by any of the remaining bouts of the day, but the guys involved are just not that important in the grand scheme of things. Come to think of it, the grand scheme isn't even that grand. You got a flawless Hakuho, a solid Kotoshogiku, a determined Kakuryu, a motivated Kisenosato and the usual crap Ozeki (with the possible exception of Kotooshu, who has good reasons to not suck this time out). Kisenosato should breeze to at least 11 wins (and Hak will help him out, for sure, if he happens to need the win), Kotoshogiku should have no trouble reaching 10 wins in his first basho as an Ozeki, Kakuryu should also score 11 himself. Other than that there is maybe the occasional upset or rare kimari-te to look for, i.e. not that much.

But we'll keep looking. See you back here on day 14, after you've probably had more than your fair share of Mike.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Through the first six days of the tournament, there have been no twists and turns, and the yusho race will really come down to Hakuho and then guys like Kotoshogiku, Kisenosato, Kotooshu, and Kakuryu beating each other up and handing each other just enough losses that Hakuho will be able to comfortably distance himself in the end. Furthermore, as stale as Baruto and Harumafuji have looked early on, they will certainly dish out a few losses to the aforementioned rikishi as well, so I just don't see anything changing the rest of the way. Rikishi out to the fast starts will continue that trend; rikishi hovering around .500 will stay there; and rikishi with relatively no wins don't have much hope the rest of the way. This is a circumstance of a perfect banzuke where you truly have the top 20 rikishi in the division ranked accordingly.

Day 6 began with Yokozuna Hakuho taking on M3 Aran, and Aran actually got a sniff of a moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but Hakuho executed a maki-kae so fast it was hardly detectable forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu. From there, Hakuho wasted no time bodying in close to the Russian and forcing him back and out despite decent resistance from Aran. It's interesting because you watch a bout like this and see Hakuho's determination, and then you go back and think about his recent bouts against Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku, and the contrast is obvious. Nonetheless, Hakuho is 6-0 while Aran is the inverse.

I guess one guy who is an exception to my intro is M1 Goeido who has turned an 0-3 start into a 3-3 record by day 6, but it still doesn't mean his sumo has gotten much better. I think his recent success is due to his opponents expecting a henka or a quick pull and then getting caught off guard, and while some might say that's smart sumo, I say it's Takekaze. Today against Harumafuji, the Ozeki was cautious not knowing what to expect from Goeido, and what he got was a pretty good charge that stood Harumafuji upright. His reaction was to go for a lame pull attempt, but Goeido had all of the momentum and was able to turn the tables and pull the Ozeki down with a swipe of his own. Had Harumafuji gone for his usual throat attack tachi-ai, I think this bout is different, but he allowed his opponent to dictate the pace and paid the price. Both rikishi are 3-3, and Goeido's got quite an impressive display of scalps on his mantle.

M2 Kyokutenho moved slightly to his left at the tachi-ai in order to grab the outer grip, but in the process he left himself wide open for Kotooshu to secure the right inside position, and when you let a rikishi over 200 cm get that deep, you don't have a pot to piss in. Took the Bulgarian mere seconds to drag Kyokutenho over and out for his fifth win. If you look at Kotooshu's win, they're over guys who will all make-koshi with room to spare. His one loss was to Toyonoshima, so it's been vital that the Ozeki has jumped out to this quick start because he will be the underdog for most of week 2. Kyokutenho falls to 1-5.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku has enjoyed largely the same competition as Kotoshogiku except for Toyonoshima, and credit the Geeku for taking full advantage. Today against M3 Gagamaru, the Ozeki forced the bout to hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai and didn't even give Gagamaru a chance to get settled. Using his trademark dry hump yori, he had Lord Gaga driven back to the straw in no time, and has Gagamaru played hard to get by bracing both feet against the tawara, Kotoshogiku quickly shifted gears and dumped the Maegashira rikishi with an outer belt throw. This was a great example of an experienced guy like Kotoshogiku thinking more than one move ahead. The Geeku's basho has been textbook at 6-0 while Gagamaru's struggles at 2-4 aren't a surprise.

Ozeki Baruto welcomed one of my new faves in M4 Tochinowaka, and as promising as Tochinowaka is, a rikishi has no idea just how difficult it is to fight among the jo'i until he experiences it. As sloppy and as slow as Baruto has been, he baptized Tochinowaka into the big time by completely halting his charge at the tachi-ai with two hands to the throat (moro-tezuki) that set up hidari-yotsu and a yori-kiri win so fast Tochinowaka barely had time to repent. Baruto moves to 3-3 with the win and deserves props for at least schooling a beginner in these parts, but he's already relegated to the role of spoiler with Harumafuji. Tochinowaka will take a 4-2 start at this level any day, and it's all about experience right now.

In the most compelling matchup of the day, our two Sekiwake met in Kisenosato vs. Kakuryu. The key was that Kisenosato was thinking tsuppari all the way, and as Kakuryu complied at the tachi-ai, he had as much chance of moving Kisenosato backwards as he would a teppo pole. The Kid thoroughly dictated the pace in this one bullying Kakuryu around the ring with potent shoves before sending him out for good in about five seconds. I remember reading in a pre-basho keiko report from Kisenosato after he beat up on his stablemates with oshi-zumo where he declared afterwards, "I guess I am an oshi guy." I'd say yes. In yesterday's bout against Goeido, he lost doing yotsu-zumo. He left himself so open at the tachi-ai that Goeido was able to take advantage. An oshi attack, however, keeps the opponent at bay from the tachi-ai and allows Kisenosato to use his size as an advantage. Kisenosato moves to 5-1 with the win and would do well to use an oshi attack against guys like Baruto and Kotooshu. Kakuryu suffers his first loss of the basho.

Preceding the two Sekiwake, the Komusubi butt heads with Toyonoshima vs. Homasho. Homasho came in low to keep Toyonoshima away from moro-zashi, but when you're defensive from the start, it's hard to get a decent attack in gear. Toyonoshima took what was given and slowly nudged Homasho back until he was sufficiently set up for the oshi-dashi kill. With Toyonoshima's momentum this basho and overall experience fighting at this level, Homasho really didn't have a chance as Toyonoshima moved to a nifty 4-2. The hapless Homasho is 0-6, and while I expected more from Homasho in his sanyaku debut due to his age and longevity in the division, I guess he's got the usual rookie jitters from this rank.

In the Maegashira ranks, M1 Okinoumi showed why he's on his way up and M2 Tochinoshin has peaked. Okinoumi took the initiative at the tachi-ai striking hard and staying low ensuring that the taller Tochinoshin wouldn't get to the inside. Not only did Tochinoshin fail to get an inner grip, but his passiveness allowed Okinoumi to seize moro-zashi. Okinoumi wasted no time in driving Tochinoshin back and throwing him over forcefully with a scoop throw once Tochinoshin showed the first sign of resistance. Okinoumi is just fine at 2-4. Having faced most of the top guys, he's in good position to eke out a kachi-koshi. As for Tochinoshin, he falls to 0-6 and while he's faced nothing but top guys, he's shown little effort in doing so.

The ugliest move in sumo is an M7 Tokitenku keta-guri from the tachi-ai, so when it fails it gives me immense pleasure, especially when his opponent takes full advantage of it. M4 Tochiohzan easily withstood the high kick from the Mongolian, read Tenku's move to his left, and then pushed him off the dohyo with some mustard. Tochiohzan moves to a quiet 4-2 and will likely be paired against the top guys in week 2 if he keeps up his winning ways.

I'm pretty confident Takanohana-oyakata felt the same way I did regarding the M5 matchup featuring Kitataiki and Yoshikaze. After the first go around ended in a mono-ii, the men in black conferenced atop the dohyo and then it was time for the head judge, Takanohana-oyakata to give the explanation. Grabbing the mic, he paused for two or three seconds and then simply said, "It's a do-over." Usually the head judge will give an explanation of what the original call was and who stepped out first, but I'm sure Takanohana was thinking to himself, does anybody really give a damn? I don't.  "Do over!!"  They did and Yoshikaze won moving to 3-3. Kitataiki falls to 2-4 much to Oscar's chagrin.

Is it me or does it seem like M6 Aminishiki and M6 Miyabiyama have already fought each other at least three times this basho? In the day 6 version, Miyabiyama stood Shneaky straight up with a coupla paws to the throat before shifting gears and pulling Aminishiki forward to the do'h!yo. Both vets are 3-3.

I guess I'll mention M7 Takekaze because he moved to 5-1 after demanding the right inside position against M10 Kokkai, grabbing the left outer, and then dumping the Korporal to the clay with ease. When was the last time you heard of a Takekaze uwate-nage win? Ever? And this one didn't even involve a henka to set it up. Kokkai's footwork was so bad, it made Takekaze look like a yotsu specialist. Kokkai's 1-5.

M8 Takayasu was up way too high at the tachi-ai against M11 Toyohibiki, so it was no surprise to see Ibiki sleepwalk his way to an easy oshi-dashi win. Both guys are 3-3.

Prolly the best two rikishi in the bottom half of the division met up today in M11 Myogiryu and M9 Wakakoyu. Today's bout was a classic example of how experienced rikishi can't stand losing to newcomers. Wakakoyu was fired up from the start using tsuppari to keep Myogiryu from getting in close, and as Myo pressed, Wakakoyu went for the kill and just slapped him down to the dirt in a few seconds. It was the Wookie over the Rookie in this one as Wakakoyu takes a one bout lead over his foe moving to 5-1.

M12 Daido was brilliant today making M9 Wakanosato look like a ghost atop the dohyo. Daido evens things up at 3-3 while I'll make my boldest prediction of the basho yet: Wakanosato won't win another bout at 2-4.

M15 Shohozan's thorough dismantling of M13 Asasekiryu signaled a changing of the guard between these two. After a weak henka attempt by Asasekiryu where he actually jumped straight up with his hands at the back of Shohozan's dome, Shohozan got a deep left inside and drove Asasuckiryu back so fast that I couldn't tell if it was oshi-dashi or yori-kiri in the end. Asasekiryu gave an exaggerated fall that you'll see from time to time from the Mongolian's, and you know it was exaggerated because he had the wherewithal to put his hand down to break his fall. Regardless, Asasekiryu got his ass kicked in this one as he drops to 1-5. Shohozan is 3-3.

One of the shweetest moves of the day came during the M14 Kaisei - M16 Aoiyama bout when after about 45 seconds of o-zumo (pure power sumo), Aoiyama ended the affair with a ke-kaeshi move meaning he kicked his right foot into Kaisei's left tripping him to the dohyo. Aoiyama is a quiet 5-1 while Kaisei is struggling at 3-3.

Newcomer Sadanofuji used persistent shoves into the neck of fellow rookie M16 Tsurugidake to get him off balance before disposing of him in oshi-dashi fashion. Sadanofuji moves to 4-2 and looks decent while Tsurugidake has done well to win two bouts so far.

And last but not least, the white and nerdy J3 Takanoyama made a cameo today taking on M17 Kimurayama who seemed content to just stand upright as he offered meek shoves. Takanoyama slipped to the side and yanked Kimurayama to the edge where he bodied him out for the win. At 2-4, Kimurayama looks as if he has no more desire to keep himself in the division.

Martin spells me tomorrow before I begin a lengthy week 2 run starting Sunday.

Day 5 Comments (Oscar Gutiérrez reporting)
I was going to start my report with a thorough thrashing of Kotoshogiku. You know, how he didn't really deserve the Ozeki promotion after barely managing the absolute minimum requirement of 33 wins (with no yusho), and all that while receiving some noticeable help from the almighty Yokozuna who sported a 26-1(!!!) head-to-head record before losing twice in a row to him. Now, I sit here on day 5, Giku's the only Ozeki with an unblemished record, while we have no pushovers on the jo'i , and he's easily outperforming his fellow rankers. The point is: the life of an Ozeki is waaaaay too easy.

As I'm repeating myself on these matters, I'll change the subject and inform you kindly that this Sunday Spain (my homeland) is electing who's perceived as the less inept politician to rule the country or what is left of it for the next 4 years. 2 thirds of the people will vote for the 2 main parties without reading even one of their proposals. The other third is divided among plain idiots (nationalists and stuff), people that don't give a shit and people who actually deserve to vote, but who might choose not to exercise their right knowing the score. Guess where I am.

Enough with the local news, let's go see what happened with our beloved rank-and-fillers.

Shohozan is a shikona that I choke with every time I try to say aloud. I was very happy with his former shikona which allowed me to call him Matutano, emblematic brand that markets Cheetos and Doritos in Spain. Crap, to hell with that, I really don't care. His bout against winless Juryo Chiyonokuni was a wild tsuppari feast. Doritos timed well a pull attempt and had Chiyonokuni on the ropes. Then he timed badly another pull attempt and let his young rival off the hook. They finally engaged in man to man battle when somehow Matutano went flying off the dohyo. These lightweights, too much movement for my liking…Cheetos is 2-3 after this and his competition has been as easy as it can get.

In contrast, a tectonic affair ensued. Takarafuji kissed the dohyo after Kimurayama executed a kote-nage pull and chopped his head down, getting his second win, which doubles what his rival has. I'm going to move on faster than these two did…

Sadanofuji won the pure oshi battle against the Mongolian Tamawashi, who is underachieving yet again. Maybe I think he's better than he actually is, but the fact is I only see him as a mid Maegashira. 1-4 for the Mongolian, 3-2 for the tanned rookie.

Sagatsukasa vs. Aoiyama was a reissue of David vs. Goliath. Just like in the biblical story, Goliath easily overpowered David. Or was it…? Nevermind, fourth win for Yoghourt II, third loss for the bald cockroach (well, I haven't seen a hairy cockroach…ewww, that's a picture for a nightmare).

Tsurugidake was accurate in his shooting today, the target being Dildo's throat (hmmm, dildo and throat, I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker). Tsurugidake pushed out Daido leaving both men 2-3 in another unremarkable affair.

The promising Myogiryu went for a frontal grip on Kaisei's belt at the tachi-ai. He simply used that to raise the Brazilian's center of gravity and escort him out in no time for the yori-kiri win. I'm high on this young Japanese man, who is 4-1. Kaisei is okay in the strength department but I think he needs to work on his samba some more, 3-2 for him.

Next we had a poor man's "unstoppable force vs. immovable object" affair. Toyohibiki walked slowly but surely towards the tawara with an Asasekiryu sticker on his frontal bumper and then seemed to inflate his belly leaving Sexy with the choice between air to breathe and the surroundings of the dohyo. He chose…wisely as a knight from an old crusade would say. Both guys are easily underachieving, 2-3 for the Hutt and 1-4 for the Secretary, who needs to wake up already if he wants to avoid demotion.

Kokkai was upright as if he had swallowed a pole. No wonder Wookiekoyu yori-kiri'ed him in no time at all. 4-1 for Koyu, mirror record for the Georgian.

Takayasu and Fujiazuma engaged in a wild girly slap fest. When they finally got to the point and engaged in some groping, Takayasu actually wanted none of that and left without so much as a goodbye and Fujiazuma fell to the floor longing for some love. The main lady (I know that because she was wearing a more coloured suit and had a fan, although a friend of mine insists it's a mirror) decided that Fujiazuma had made it. But then, some fishwives in black robes and slippers came up, started to chat and decided that Fuji had kneeled way too early and awarded Takayasu an envelope that contained I'm guessing a coupon for free manicure.

Wakanosato and Tokitenku, both coming with an uninspiring 1-3, cut the crap out and instantly went into nage-no-uchi in the middle of the dohyo. Tokitenku tried to use his outside leg to unbalance the old gentleman, but the bulky veteran resisted long enough to make his Mongolian rival fall first.

Unbeaten Takekaze (tremor in the force) slipped on the tachi-ai and seemed easily on his way out of the leader table, but Kitataiki showed what a rough basho he's having by letting him survive and even turn up with some kind of an inside position on both sides. Kitataiki then threatened a kime maneuver and Fatkaze panicked and let go trying a pull attempt, so he was easy pushing material, giving Kitataiki his second win of the basho.

Now we had time for some rest, may I say this was one of the boringest (I'm making up the word, I know, I just don't like "most boring") series of bouts I've ever seen. The second part can only get better, can it?

Tochiohzan wanted none of the "pushing but really pulling" move from Miyabiyama. So he decided to take a step backwards at the tachi-ai to escape from Miflobby's gravity field to then take one, two, three and four steps forwards pushing and keeping his foe always in front of him. Nice de-ashi and tsuki-dashi or as Mike says: "you got your ass kicked". Third win for Oh and third loss for Flubber.

Mike's not the only one who is high on Tochinowaka. If anything, I'm even higher on mar…ermm, on this guy than him. Today he was facing the high-caffeinated menace aka Yoshikaze, who got off to a dream start by seizing moro-zashi. However, Tochinowaka resisted and didn't let Cafe consolidate, so when he finally got an open, he captured the leprechaun and escorted him out of the dohyo. Methinks that Tochinowaka is going to get the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, just give him some bashos to adjust to the top guns. He's 4-1 if you need him. 2-3 for Cafe.

Aminishiki went for a kiri-kaeshi right off the bat but he had to stop when he was called out by the local authorities. It's okay to do that to anybody else, but please, not Gagamaru, we're recovering from a tsunami, the last thing we need is an earthquake. Shneaky didn't really fancy the task of moving back Lord Gaga, so he tried to pull, but Gaga is soooo big even his Shneaky-ness couldn't evade to either side of him. The only way to go then was flying off the dohyo while Gagamaru was collapsing, yet Aminishiki touched the ground before the seismometers went off. We have here a case of improving footwork (Gaga) against declining one (ye olde Aminishiki). 2-3 for the Georgian, 3-2 for the Japanese.

Kakuryu got two good grips on Noshine's belt at the tachi-ai and escorted him to the tawara. Despite some unwillingness, the Georgian had to capitulate cause the Mongolian left no room for chance. Kisenosato had better clinch his promotion as soon as he can, or he may be passed by Fishface, and 6 Ozeki seems to be one too many in this unwritten-set-of-rules culture that is sumo. Hell, they may promote one of the Ozeki to Yokozuna with no reason at all. Do it, I want to see zabuton flying every day. Anyway, Kakuryu's loss count amounts to the same as Noshine's win count, a precious and round zero.

In easily the best bout of the day, Goeido got an early right inside grip because Kisenosato left himself wide open at the tachi-ai (oh, the old mistake of his). The Kid went on the run but Goeido managed to not lose that inside position nor his arm in the process. His reward was a double inside position that Kise countered with a 'kime', locking Goeido's elbows. As Kisenosato was defending well against a full frontal charge, the Maegashira, who has some decent skills (though he seems to forget that some days), threw the Ozeki hopeful off-balance and ended matters with a sweet as you please soto-gake maneuver. Second win for Goeido, first loss for Kisenosato, who still needs 7 wins for the promotion (33 no questions asked will do, and no, being Japanese has nothing to do with that).

Kotoshogiku and Okinoumi came out just about equal of the tachi-ai, inside left grip and nothing on the other side. The difference here was that the newly crowned Ozeki was the aggressor. He was the one looking for the uwate, while Okinoumi was defending. As it should be, the aggressor finally got his wish and forced the Maegashira out of the dohyo before landing flat on his belly, to the joy of the crowd . It wasn't easy, but it was a good win for Kotoshogiku, who remains unbeaten. Only one win for Okinoumi, but he's performing well from the difficult M1 slot, don't count him out of the kachi-koshi just yet.

If some mad scientist is looking for a brain donor, Aran has one brand new, unused. The game plan today against the shaky Kotooshu was nonexistent. So be it, gappuri-yotsu battle, that's my choice, must have thought the Bulgarian. The thug is very strong but not enough to shatter the tallest man in sumo. Good day at the office for the kadoban Ozeki who is half way to his goal. Aran doesn't know what a win is like yet and is off to greener pastures, namely double digit Maegashira, where he will achieve double digit wins.

Toyonoshima's ability to rush into moro-zashi still amazes me. Today's victim was none other than skilled Ozeki Harumafuji, who found himself in a difficult position when his fists had barely left the clay. The Ozeki tried some wizardry longing for some air, but the Komusubi was doing his best koala impersonation. Tugboat answered the Ozeki's repeated kubi-nage attempts stating that he doesn't have a neck and finally with a throw of his own, that was logically successful. Both sport 3-2 records, for an Ozeki that's a bad start, for a Komusubi it's a dream start.

Baruto and Homasho have had a shaky start with only one win between the two. The Ozeki seized the chance to double his count and after a shy push, he grabbed the Komusubi's rear part of the mawashi and pulled him under his armpit. Harima-nage that was called hiki-otoshi in today's kimari-te complaints department.

In the musubi-no-ichiban, Hakuho made easy work of Kyokutenho by getting a right belt grip and immediately applying it to force the Chauffeur down in mere seconds. He helped his old countryman up as a good kid and walked out the hana-michi with his fifth pile of envelopes in as many days.

The leader table has been cleared of Maegashira and only Hakuho, Kotoshogiku and Kakuryu remain unbeaten.

Tomorrow Mike will inform you of Tochinowaka's progress and the stuff going on around it. Hasta la vista.

Day 4 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
I am writing these lines reflecting about newspapers. It is a long time ago that I regularly bought one and I cannot remember ever subscribing to a daily publication. At the moment, though, I find myself guest in my parents' household and enjoy the morning coffees together with a proper journalistic treat. The best part about this is the fact that their particular paper actually offers some of the most worthwhile reads I've ever experienced with this medium. At the same time, I get my news from the internet and I usually check twice or three times a day. To the effect that many of the things revealed to me at breakfast sound familiar, because they are yesterday's news. This is of course not a spectacularly new insight. It is the case that has been made against printed news for the last, whatever, 15 years. And still they are there. Fewer publications, bankrupt publishers, no question. But still they are there.

What does drive people to keep their paper? The tabloids will stay alive for the simple reason that all workmen need something to discuss (or grunt over) in their various breaks (Disclaimer: I am not some class chauvinist. I once merely lived next to a major construction site and gained unprecedented views into logistics and workflows of certain blue-collar affairs). I simply cannot picture the bricklayer brandishing his iBoard pointing out the latest development concerning the two-headed squirrel abducted by Elvis admiring aliens (Reference? Anyone?) to the lads. The more intellectually demanding weeklies might survive for quite similar reasons. You simply need to know how Jon Brynfurth de Fumet commented about Ian Wipkreem's new production of Love Lost Love Gained Inc. for surviving your alumni dinner without embarrassment. But what's the score with the regular regional daily paper?

Again no revolutionary insight. It is and stays the physical, the haptic experience. Touching paper, turning pages. Then feeling the material, smelling the print, hearing the sound of rustling pages, having THE OVERVIEW. The last point unites the medium and the message (That one's easy. Anyone?). Since every news item comes together with many others on the same page (which is a stark contrast to most online news) you gain a sense of control over various events in the world. It's all there for you to judge from an elevated viewpoint, you select, you discard, you are in the know. In other words: Newspapers make people feel good.

And if the news have become very old news, you can wrap fish in them.

Which is my point exactly, because you shouldn't try wrapping fish in your notebook, monitor or smartphone, even though my news here might be very old. For complicated reasons, I am writing this Day 4 "report" after the events of Day 5. In other circumstances I might have used the opportunity to cheat, to mockingly predict "next day" results etc. but watching the action made me realize: it would be a wasted attempt. Why? Because even more than any serious reflection, satire needs drama or at least a plot. Fact is: There is zero of that on the dohyo at the moment.

Wiser men than me have drawn the big picture about sumo for the community in the last couple of months. I find my self mentally at the sideline. I am not prepared to already leave the game like Mario. In fact, I made a point of writing about the refreshing new blood last basho. I have to admit, though, that this particular effect has worn off rather quickly and that, again, I show up having difficulties to tell the various Takasadafujiazumayamas apart. But that's fine. We had some major breaks and now time needs to take its time to separate the crop from the crap.

In the meantime, we have to concentrate on the rest of the field. But that's no big fun either. Having seen aroma therapy user Kotoshogiku dragged to Ozekihood also doesn't rekindle my fire, yet. It's just somehow not right. It's stale. It's lukewarm. It might give me a headache. It reminds me a lot of English beer. Kotooshu is kadoban? Boo-f**king-hoo. Could the NSK please establish a new rule that allows only one non-Asian foreigner per ichimon. Please? If only Kotooshu, Baruto, Kaisei and the other freaks would be real thugs like Roho. Not even Aran is proper villain material, just mini-me grade ersatz.

Leaves us with the remaining on-dohyo topics: Of course Kisenosato will be Ozeki, as should be Toyonoshima and Kakuryu. Unfortunately, another blood-clot is building up at the rank, so Kise's promotion might be the last one for quite a while. Then again, maybe his soon-to-be-real promotion is the catalyst he needs for going even further. Mike speculated on his potential for becoming the next Japanese grandmaster. Hey, why not? He's got the attitude for sure. Would suit me personally much more than many other scenarios. Then again, I can also live with an extension of Hakuho's dominant reign. As long as a regular yusho contender steps up. Why not Ozeki Kisenosato in this role? Would be good.

If there would have been a worthwhile bout, I would have told you. To a better 2012.

Hakuho 15-0. Kisenosato G. Myogiryu K. No S.

You read it here. Print it out. Wrap fish in it.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
We're just three days in, and is it me or does it seem like there is no drama whatsoever this basho? Usually when you have a rikishi up for promotion to an elite rank, there's plenty of drama in watching that run play out, but I feel as if everything is a foregone conclusion from Hakuho's yusho to Kisenosato's promotion to the Ozeki rank. Perhaps part of the empty feeling is due to the high drama the week leading up to the tournament where Naruto-oyakata suddenly passed away in the midst of a brewing scandal of abuse and doping at the Naruto-beya. It was a surreal three or four days of intense news coverage, and now that Takanosato's bones have been laid to rest, it almost feels like the sumo is now secondary to everything else. As I did mention in my pre-basho report and in news items prior to the basho, with Fukuoka's baseball team in the midst of the finals the rest of this week, nobody in Kyushu cares about sumo right now. Hopefully by the end of baseball, there will be some actual storylines creating some drama to actually bring the attention back to the ring.

And speaking of attention to action in the ring, let's get to it starting from the top down where Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed M1 Goeido. Before I comment on the bout, let me just say that Goeido is exhibiting the worst sumo imaginable. It's hard to find a time during his bouts where his feet aren't aligned (a huge no-no in sumo), and he can't decide if he's a belt fighter or a pull guy. He is such a mess right now, and it's painful for me to watch, especially since I know what he's capable of. To his credit, he did take the initiative against Hakuho today attempting to jump inside and then go for an immediate inside belt throw with the right hand, but the set up was so haphazard that it turned into a bout fought with the upper body and no legs. Hakuho calmly read the situation and immediately countered with a left outside grip, so you have two guys in a nage-no-uchi-ai in the center of the ring going Greco-Roman. The rikishi with the stronger upper body will win this bout every time, so it was no surprise that Hakuho threw Goeido to the dirt before the Yokozuna fell to the dohyo himself. This may have looked kind of close, but it wasn't. Hakuho was never in trouble and Goeido was never set. Just look at the pic at's an unorthodox way to fall for Goeido because his position was unorthodox to begin with.  I'm sure I'll have plenty more to point out about Goeido's mishaps the rest of the basho, so let's move on after saying that Hakuho has waltzed to his 3-0 while Goeido is more dazed and confused than a boxer just knocked down searching for his mouthpiece.

In the Ozeki ranks, any win for Kotooshu is a crucial win because this guy is sort of like a batter in baseball coming back after taking a fastball to the face. He's standing in there and going through the motions, but his mind is elsewhere. Today against M2 Tochinoshin, the two rikishi hooked up in the migi-yotsu position, and Kotooshu wasted no time in going for the quick force-out kill. "Quick" isn't exactly a word we use to describe the Private's sumo, so the Ozeki was able to cinch this win in about three uneventful seconds. Kotooshu does improve to 2-1, but at the end of the basho, let's see if he has any wins over kachi-koshi rikishi. Tochinoshin falls to an uninspired 0-3.

I say uninspired because a guy like Komusubi Homasho is also off to an 0-3 start, but this dude gives it his all each bout. Today against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, the two enjoyed left inside grips at the tachi-ai, but the stubborn Kotoshogiku dug in, and with Homasho unable to really force the Geeku back, the new Ozeki was brilliant in his counter attack as he dug his right fist into the back of Homasho's shoulder and forced the M3 to the dirt via tsuki-otoshi. I thought the Ozeki would struggle more this basho, but so far he's looked great...and no, I don't think any of his bouts have been thrown. He's a solid 3-0 while Homasho at 0-3 is still looking for that magic from last basho.

M1 Okinoumi did conjure up some of that magic from Aki, but perhaps it was because his opponent was Ozeki Baruto. Someone wake Mario up out of retirement and find out how to say "slow" in Estonian because that's the perfect word to use for Baruto's tachi-ai. Okinoumi took full advantage seizing moro-zashi and going for the kill straightway. Baruto did manage to put on the brakes at the edge, and usually when this happens it curtains for the other guy because you never want the Estonian to get set, but Okinoumi persisted and maintained the dual inside position, so when the second force-out attempt came, Baruto had no answer. Just like that the Ozeki falls to 1-2 while Okinoumi improves to the same record.

M2 Kyokutenho just makes me laugh. At times he's so lethargic that even the sloth at the local zoo perks up to watch him, but at other times he's nigh unto invincible. Ozeki Harumafuji can testify to that because after securing moro-zashi from the tachi-ai he could hardly budge the Chauffer. He did get him back a few steps, but Kyokutenho had him tight around the outside of both arms and just swung HowDo down into a heap in the center of the dohyo via kime-taoshi, a kimari-te that very few rikishi can pull off. Tenho picks up his first win in the process while Harumafuji cools off at 2-1.

As Sekiwake Kisenosato vies for Ozeki promotion this basho, there really aren't any pushovers. In fact, his opponent today in Komusubi Toyonoshima was one of the more dangerous rikishi, especially considering Toyonoshima's quick start over the two giant Ozeki. Today at the tachi-ai, Kisenosato wisely made sure his left arm was in tight denying moro-zashi, and when it was clear that Toyonoshima would have to move, he backed out and forced Kisenosato to chase him looking for any sort of opening back to the inside. It never came has Kisenosato focused on tsuppari into Toyonoshima's neck to keep him off balance as he evaded until he was set up at the ring's edge for the easy push-out in the end. I enjoyed reading the five points of success given to Kisenosato by his late stablemaster posted on our news page yesterday, especially the one about continuing to push even when you feel like pulling. The only way Toyonoshima would have won this bout after being neutralized at the tachi-ai is if the Kid had gone for a pull. Great stuff from Kisenosato who improves to 3-0, but as Clancy alluded to on day 1, I just don't see how a lot of rikishi will be pumped up to try and stop this Ozeki run. Toyonoshima cools off to 2-1, but that's still a helluva start for a Komusubi.

Martin and I were chatting about the Sekiwake Kakuryu - M3 Gagamaru matchup when I commented that Gagamaru was too upright the entire time. To which Martin replied, "when is he not?" I guess I can't argue with sound logic. Anyway, it was nice to see Kakuryu also take a page from Takanosato and not go for the pull when it was tempting. After a brief tsuppari-ai from the tachi-ai, Kakuryu demanded moro-zashi and began driving Lord Gaga back. The Georgian dug in at the edge and actually swiped the Kak away, but the longer this bout went on, the more you could see Gagamaru gasping for breath. Kakuryu stayed with the push the entire time and finally worked his tiring opponent back and across despite Gagamaru's best effort to keep the Sekiwake at bay with a whiff of his B.O. Kakuryu is a quiet 3-0 while Gagamaru is an expected 1-2.

When I first went to Fukuoka to work for the Japanese gumment, I quickly realized that the Japanese love the word "kokusai," or international. Much of the literature and PR spewed from the gumment in Japan contains the word, and they just love to emphasize how good they are at international relations (kokusai kouryu). To take it a step further, Clancy is running this Sunday in the first ever Kobe International Marathon. He was telling me there were a limited number of slots and so those eager to participate had to enter a drawing. Clancy and three other gaijin who entered were all magically picked to participate. Some of his Japanese acquaintances weren't, however, and it's obvious that the city of Kobe wanted as much international flavor as possible, and so all of the gaijin who entered were picked. So it kills me on one hand how Japan is always talking international; yet, they can't get excited about the most promising rikishi on the banzuke who was born in Japan because his last name is unfortunately Li.

Yes, I'm talking about M4 Tochinowaka who used a shweet nodowa from the tachi-ai to push M3 Aran back and out in a flash improving to 3-0 in the process (the Bride falls to 0-3). A new reader asked me the other day who I thought the next Yokozuna would be. My answer was if there are two rikishi currently in the division who have a chance they are Kisenosato and Tochinowaka. I think Kisenosato can back into the rank after Hakuho's retirement and become a late bloomer like his former stable master, but Tochinowaka has the potential to earn the rank much earlier in his career. I am really high on this kid, and I hope Japan can hop on the bandwagon as well. I get it that the focus has been on Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato of late, but let's see what the reaction is in a few basho.

Rounding out the jo'i, M4 Tochiohzan caught M5 Yoshikaze square at the tachi-ai and just forced him out of the ring in an instant. Oh is a quiet 2-1, and let's see if he can maintain this momentum in week two. Yoshikaze is 1-2.

I guess it's worth mentioning M7 Takekaze since he is off to a 3-0 start even though his sumo was unsavory today against M6 Miyabiyama in a bout that saw Takekaze move at the tachi-ai, push the Sheriff quickly, then pull him off balance before assuming the brokeback position and pushing Miyabiyama (1-2) down from there.

Let's talk about the two remaining Naruto-beya rikishi in light of their recent turmoil. M8 Takayasu exhibited the best sumo of his Makuuchi career I thought by charging with both hands into M7 Tokitenku's neck and using perfect de-ashi to drive him back and across the straw without argument. Takayasu recovers from a bad day 1 to improve to 2-1. Stablemate M9 Wakanosato picked up his first win in a hidari-yotsu contest with M10 Kokkai. Kokkai actually grabbed the firm right outer grip straightway but he looked more lost than Elton John at a Hooters. Standing there like a bump on a log, he allowed Wakanosato to wrench his stubby right arm into a right outer grip, and once Croconosato got the outer, he knew exactly what to do with it throwing Kokkai to the dirt with ease not to mention an 0-3 start.

M11 Myogiryu was nails today using a solid tachi-ai and perfect de-ashi against the hapless M14 Takarafuji pushing him straight back and out for the wham bam thank you ma'am win. Myogiryu moves to 2-1, and I already love his quickness and the way he parlays his shorter stature into a battle ram type of attack fueled by de-ashi.

M15 Shohozan picked up his first win in the division defeating fellow rookie M16 Tsurugidake. It was a straight forward oshi attack that Tsurugidake had no answer for. I guess I used the word "hapless" too soon in the last paragraph since I still had to comment on the 0-3 Tsurugidake. I've talked a bit about stable culture the last few months, and it's clear that the Fujishima-beya (former Musashigawa-beya) is soft.

M15 Sadanofuji picked up his second win against M17 Kimurayama using a methodic oshi attack that worked because the rookie's de-ashi were solid. Kim tried his usual evasive tactics, but Sadanofuji was on his every move earning the push-out win in the end.

And finally, M16 Aoiyama ruined his 2-0 start by getting burned at the hands of a J2 Bushuyama pulldown. The reason for the loss was Aoiyama's sumo was limited to an upper body attack. With no stability in his lower half, he was more than susceptible to a half-assed pull from the Dolly Yama. Kids!

Andreas occupies Wall Street tomorrow

Day 2 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
The atmosphere in Fukuoka Kokusai Center for day 2 looked somewhat like a minor league baseball game on a rainy Tuesday night. Except that it was indoors and you could hear the echo of the public address announcer. Never in my 30+ years of watching sumo have I seen ample open seating as close as the third row when the Ozeki were on the Dohyo. We're not talking Juryo, we're talking Ozeki. Sumo is in a sad state of affairs in late 2011.

I myself am going through a lull in sumo interest of late. I share that with hesitation to our readers, but it's not like this hasn't happened before. The silver lining is that, like the economy, my interest will bounce back at some point. So I'll just plug away in the meantime and give you the highlights of Kyushu basho day 2.

There are two storylines this basho so let's start with those. The first is Kisenosato, who is seeking Ozeki promotion after 10-5 and 12-3 campaigns over the previous 2 basho. That means 11 wins this time should give him the nod for January. Matched up against M3 Aran, Kise looked like a man on a mission. He easily neutralized Aran's tsuppari attack by focusing on the elbows, almost twisting Aran to the side in the process. Before we knew it, Kise sent Aran (0-2)flying out of the ring via Tsuki-dashi to improve to 2-0. Could the Great Japanese Hope finally be on his way to fulfilling his destiny?

The other storyline involves Kotoshogiku, who achieved Ozeki promotion after last basho and arrived here as the hometown hero in a fishbowl. Could the pressure get to him in his debut Ozeki campaign? Being matched up against Goeido couldn't have helped; he was 6-8 against him for his career coming in. In fact Goeido probably had the better tachi-ai, going in low and hard. But it didn't seem to faze the Giiku, as he stayed close and smothered Eido (0-2) en route to a Yori-taoshi victory. So we have Kotoshogiku as well off to a stellar start at 2-0. Let's see how the basho plays out for these two gents- sumo could use a nice run from one or both.

The rest of the jo'i I would say are playing supporting roles in the early going until we start to formulate a yusho picture:

- Kakuryu (2-0) turned hidari-yotsu into moro-zashi and turned the momentum his way against M2 Kyokutenho (0-2).

- Baruto (1-1) broke into the win column with a scoop throw from the right after M2 Tochinoshin (0-2) pushed the pace initially.

- Kotooshu (1-1) looked apprehensive once again against his nemesis Toyonoshima (2-0), who followed up his upset over Baruto with a second consecutive win over an Ozeki.

- Harumafuji (2-0) showed his trademark lightening fast tachi-ai against Homasho (0-2), who looked flustered immediately and fell amid a flurry of hari-te that didn't land but looked impressive nonetheless.

- Hakuho (2-0), who struggled against Okinoumi (0-2) last basho after briefly giving up moro-zashi, looked as if he was out for revenge for the near miss and this time got moro-zashi on Oki. It was game over from that point.

So there you have it. A fairly smooth start from Sekiwake on up, with Baruto and Kotooshu the only rikishi amongst that group with blemished records so far at 1-1 respectively. We'll see you in week 2 with what hopefully will be an interesting storyline to ponder.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
When I look at Jerry Sandusky, the offensive defensive coordinator at Penn State (googlit if ya aint Merican), I feel a twinge of envy. Thats right, envy. I mean, despite all the scandals that we have had in sumo, the one it stands to reason would come screaming out at us, considering the culture of young men barely dressed, grunting and sweating under the tutelage (of age to "tutle") of iron fisted (hnn hnn, he said "fisted") older men, is pedophilia. But somehow sumo has avoided this one. Suicide, murder, drunken brawls, spousal abuse, match fixing, and of course the worst of them all, HENKA--I thought sumo had it all. But good ol Uncle Jerry stepped it up a notch and showed me that as far as slow motion train wrecks go, sumo doesnt have nuttin on NCAA football. (And I might add that when this whole thing came down, and it was evident head coaching legend Joe Paterno was complicit at least, I thought, in Latin, "Pater? No!")

Or maybe its just that the young sumos like feeling the love and ergo dont squawk?

And dont look at me like Im some kind of morbid...whatever goes with morbid, because really, that is a large part of what keeps us coming back to sumo, innit? The fascination with the odd, the freakish, the compelling drama of the downright bizarre? Sumo reminds me of that strange family down the street that you keep an eye and ear on, always eager for the next "no fucking way!" moment theyll produce. Amazing that sumo pushed to become an Olympic sport till the IOC put the kibosh on single sex sports at their little party.

At any rate, weve come to the final basho of this year, a basho which has traditionally provided drama (if not a full house--please, please move the Fukuoka basho to Osaka!) Course, this being the first basho in Kyushu since the remarkable Mark Arbo absconded to the Dark Continent in search of answers to lifes more difficult questions (in Marks case that being, Do you have running water in this village?), we cannot reasonably expect any of that drama to take place in the seats around the Doh!yo (such as headstand poses on purple zabuton).

Things started off with a big white guy from Bulgaria pounding on some old guy who is making his upper division debut after ten years in the sport (cool!). Aoiyama forced Tsurugidake to resist at the tawara, and though his pulling move failed to fell the old feller, it caused him to lose his balance and he was easy pushout fodder for the huge rookie, who at 174kg is making another sort of push, one into the Hutt Fraternity.

Next we had two guys who are worthy successors to the banned from the sport Mokonami, in that both dudes are rockin bitchin tans. They locked up in a sweaty, drawn out belt affair, allowing me time to organize my "Photos of Mike Playing Tennis" file, and just as I was sorting the "Overhead Smashes," Sadanofuji figgered out Shohozans extremely loose mawashi and flung him down.

Another overly large European stepped into the ring next, taking on Takarafuji, a man who as a rookie in July got the snot slapped out of him and demoted back to Juryo, but who manned up and turned a KK there into another shot at the bigs. And when I say, "bigs" I do mean big. Kaisei is 180kg, same as Miflobbyama (but a little less than the butterball himself, Gagaruru). This one was over queekly as Kaisei turned a tachi-ai moro-zashi into win number one with a textbook uwate-nage.

Our first Mongolians of the day (and I should note here that as strange as it seems, the number of these mainland invaders, where you once could not swing a dead goat or calf from a moving horse without hitting a Mongolian, has dwindled all the way down to SIX! in Makuuchi) were Tamawashi and Asasekiryu. Neither guy wanted a sniff of the belt, and after a prolonged at-arms-length tussle, Tamawashi had a thrust slip off the Sexys greasy mug and he got turned around and run out in the style hot topically known as "manlove."

Two-time defending Juryo yusho champion Myogiryu came in bandaged up but there was no hint of slowness as both he and Sagatsukasa came flying out of their stance intent on making waves. A little slapping led to Myogiryu (toughest name in sumo for furries to pronounce correctly, for sure) diving in and grabbing the belt, which caused Sagatsukasa to retreat to the edge and try a desperation throw, which did cause some separation between the two and moved Myogiryu to the edge as well, but the champ kept his balance and his foe did not.

This is the first time Ive seen Myogiryu (cause like Mike, I have a life and do not scour the lower ranks of sumo) and Ill tell ya, with that fast ascent (entered sumo in May 2009, Juryo in Jan this year) and a "ryu" at the end of his shikona, well, you know where Im going with this, eh? Hes got height (187) and decent weight (140) and wins a lot by dominating techniques such as yori-kiri and oshi-dashi. Do not be surprised if this dude amounts to something more than your average side salad.

Toyohibiki ran through Daido like he was a wall of rosewater. I think Daido may be one of these guys Mike is referring to when he says Makuuchi has some guys who are in reality at best Juryo level fighters.

Fujiazuma is NOT one of those guys, however. He has had two basho in Makuuchi, an excellent 10-5 in July and then a 6-9 in Sept. that was notable for it coming from a 1-8 start. Plus dude is the only guy in the division whose weight (183) betters his height (181). Thats just fucking cool. Today he wrapped up Kokkai from the git go and just handed the Gorgeous Georgian his ass.

Fozzy Bear was in attendance for the next matchup, a "waka waka" affair. Sato had no answer whatsoever for Koyu, and to say he it was embarrassing would be to enoble it. How long before the Croc hangs it up, you might ask? I say not for a while yet, cause even though hes 35 and barely treading water, that water has been in high Maegashira. This is a guy who, like Kaio, can hang around till a ripe old age, but unlike Kaio do it on his own. He was, after all, one of the great Sekiwake of all-time.

Another post-scandal wrestler who entered Makuuchi in July of this year, Takayasu, was up against Takekaze. After withstanding an aggressive face pelting, Takekaze got inside and pummeled the youngster back and out to remain undefeated through one day.

Miyabiyama showed his age as he let Tokitenku run him out with nary a protest. Shit like this wouldnt have happened when he was the Sheriff.

Aminishiki, who really has gotten huge in his dotage, took on Yoshikaze, who came in and under Shneakys defenses (what little there was) with his head to the chest and barreled the E6 out in no time.

Kitataiki didnt look like his usual self as he let Tochiohzan get a lightning quick two handed inside, and from there there was nothing Kitataiki could do but go back to the drawing board. I smell one of those OhSnap double digit basho coming up.

Gagamaru had a strong shoving attack going when he missed a slap and got spun around, allowing Tochinowaka the easy win from behind.

Kakuryu absolutely schooled Aran in the ways of sumo, coming in low and getting up and under Arans arms, gaining the moro-zashi and lifting the poor Russian out. Aran held on to Kaks belt for a full three seconds after the bout was finished. Just couldnt bring himself to believe it, eh?

So Kisenosato, fighting under the cloud of Pentangeli Oyakatas untimely demise, took on Kyokutenho, who is surely JPese enough to know that one doesnt go "omoikiri" against someone in mourning. After the Kid got the Chauffer in a hold and backed him up, Tenho, in classic Tenho style, spun him around and seemed to have the mo, but Kise got back in the game by using the tawara. He then charged across the ring, bulldozing Kyokutenho in front of him despite being fairly high, and though typically a bulldog at the edge, the Mongolian turned Japanese citizen meekly fell to the clay, even placing his hand and knee down to soften the blow (one of Mikes Telltale Signs of Letting Up). I suspect well be seeing lots of this type of thing when guys rassle Kisenosato this time out, cause who wants to beat a guy when hes down? Its sad but true that his oyakatas death makes his Ozeki promotion a lot easier.

Kotoshogiku, basking in the glow of being the top Kyushu guy in sumo, at the Fukuoka basho, as a newly minted shin-Ozeki, delivered on the hype hammering into Tochinoshin and executing his brand of sumo, under the pits and back and out. NoShine had no answer for the Shin.

Goeido tried to get inside on Kotooshu, which is the way to beat him, but Kotooshu did a nice job of keeping the Father high so that when he finally did get inside, his only grip was around the Ozekis neck, and its mighty hard to keep a hold on a man of Kotooshus size and greased hair. Kubi-nage fail leads to Goeido flailing out of the ring.

Harumafuji got inside left on Okinoumi, who locked down on the arm and seemed ready to armbar the Ozeki down. But he never did try that move, instead letting HowDo escape a twist down attempt at the edge and get back around on the E1, where the Ozeki was able to crash out on top of his foe.

Bout of the day was next as Toyonoshima allowed Baruto to come in at tachi-ai and grab him, making the Ozeki think he was about to crush him out, but Tugboat had set himself up good and proper with excellent footing, and swung the Biomass around and down. Its sick to think how strong Tugboat must be to throw Baruto without having a belt grip (and how smart a wrestler he is when hes up against the huge guys). Adding insult (through politeness) to injury, he helped the Ozeki off the clay and kind of patted him on the ass. Oh, the horror!

The final bout starred Homasho as sacrificial lamb (though remember the days way back when when Hakuho had a rep for losing on Day One!?) to Hakuhos tungsten blades. The bloodbath did not transpire, however, as the Yokozunas initial blast was loud and painful looking, knocking Homasho back so hard that he assumed his legs were at the edge, but when he tried to use the ropes top push off of, he found he was wrong and slipped to the dirt. Hak spent about 3/10ths of a second considering what had happened, then mentally shrugged and tiptoed back to get his cash. Dude knew he was going to win anyway, so there was no need for him to show some weak assed face that said he felt bad to get such an easy win. Still, Asashoryu would have jumped down on Homa and given him at least a knee to the kidneys just to let him know whos the boss. Hakuho is too bland in his majesty.

Okay, so we get old school on Day 2 as we have the Temple of Ken (Kenji) working his magic on yall. Yes, you have to wait at least one more day for your Mike fix. Boo hoo.









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