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

Senshuraku Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
It has been a quiet basho, but for my druthers ended well. But before we get to that, let’s run over the rest of the business of this basho, going back to pre-tournament story-lines and how they’ve run their course.

Ichinojo had the most buzz coming in, and my eyes jerk up from any between-matches kanji-flashcard study-distraction when he steps onto the dohyo, but he hasn’t made waves at Sekiwake this tournament. We should be impressed that he has done this well in just his second Makuuchi tour, but he hasn’t blown us off the couch like he did in September. Hometown heroes Kotoshogiku and Shohozan were lackluster; Shohozan still had a chance at kachi-koshi today, but it’s not clear he earned that on his own, and as for Kotoshogiku, the big boys finally had to drop his carcass into the well: he sagged to his make-koshi yesterday already. The Ozeki were a non-story in general coming in and have richly upheld that, with Goeido in particular left by the side of the road, wheel-bifurcated armadillo marinating in his own juices. Everyone was already getting sick of the Endo story before the basho started; he then roared out to a 2-6 embarrassment, was given a few sorry-about-that wins, and turned it around. Too late to interest me in his subsequent win streak. If it has lit a Bunsen burner under his butt, great, but my fingers are not trembling at the volume button before his matches.

But! The biggest storyline coming in should have been Hakuho’s pursuit of a tie for the most championships ever. However, what with Hakuho being more dutiful adopted son than holy filial terror, the sumo world has approached his impending coronation with a sign of resignation, drowsy purple-painted eyelids half closed in muted wistfulness for bad-boy Chiyonofuji, beloved national-love phenomenon Taiho, or even great-bloodied-diety-what-in-the-lord’s-gullet-is-this Asashoryu. When he at last takes us to 33 there will be polite, choked expressions of admiration from the faithless, earnest, fulsome praise from geeks like me, and outright disdain from some unbridled (I saw Konishiki the other day saying Hakuho would have “giri-giri made Ozeki” in his time—come on, man!), but this story has been going nowhere as a media event for years. He has been Pete Sampras: greatly boring.

Thank goodness, therefore, for the real drama of the yusho being determined on the last day—it gives us a story for the basho, and a platform on which to hallow Hakuho. Even in that anticipation, though, there was sadness: I had no idea who would win, but I also had no idea whether that win would be determined in the ring or pre-determined elsewhere. Heck, let me be honest; I did have an idea: I think this is decided by Venus and Serena’s dad, by the oyakata whispering proud nothings in a mistress’s ear, by Sokukurai’s technically guiltless cell phone, by sweaty tsuke-bito under the gitterwerk of mass-assed seating terraces. -

Hope I’m wrong.

So I’ll wave my official flag to Rah! Rah! on the Hakuho/Kakuryu bout, and I’m happy to say it looked real enough, but my real interest initially lay in places like whether Tochiohzan would get his eight wins and come back where we need him, whether Big Sand Storm (Osunaarashi) would belt (his opponent’s face) or (grab his opponent’s) belt, whether Homarefuji would show guts or give glory against Endo, who would stake a better claim as next basho’s compelling momentum-man when Takayasu battered against Tochinoshin, and whose iron skillet would melt whose grease and butter when Terunofuji and Ichinojo smacked fleshy slabs.

Perk me up for Amuuru, jerk me around with Goeido—it’s all good, I’ll be there in my chair. But I’m human, I’m not really very dumb, and I’ll wonder. I’ll wonder.

Anyway, to the bouts, to the story. Since everything else today is by comparison dross, we’ll start at the top.

Hakuho (13-1) vs. Kakuryu (12-2)
I love it that part of the build up was watching both of them concentrating while getting their hair done. I don’t mean to mock this or make them sound feminine; I think it’s great that this tough-guy sport can have a bit of the elegant. When you’re Hakuho, ain’t nobody gonna make fun of your hairdo. Truth be told, an excitement I hadn’t been feeling started to sneak in when they showed the chon-mage-making: today will decide the yusho. It does not compare to the nervous anticipation and honest excitement I used to have when Asashoryu and Tochiazuma faced off in similar situations, but I began to feel distant tingles.

Thankfully, the bout lived up to the hype (that there should have been). They lunged aggressively in at each other, and Hakuho used his signature right forearm and left scoop, but instantly turned it not to go forward but to swiftly switch gears and go up top, slap down, and swing Kakuryu back and around so he was against the tawara at the back side. Hakuho then stepped quickly into the attack again. Kakuryu moved out to his left to escape, but Hakuho remained close and powerful on him, and within seconds drove him out at the mukou jomen side of the ring by yori-kiri. Hakuho showed his power and speed here, and Kakuryu did not look to pull back any of his own mo’ back—this was a fitting Yokozuna-sen, unlike several of the Asashoryu-Hakuho farces we were insulted with when Genghis was in his decline.

Hakuho yusho. Hakuho 32 times. Hakuho tied with Taiho. It was a great year for him—five of six yusho.

Hakuho went and got his hair done again, closed his eyes, and tears streamed out—and he is… not quite the best. Tied for the best. One more. Make no mistake—this one wasn’t it yet. That’s next. He came back out, they sung about the mossy stone, and Hakuho tried to sing, but cried too much. Think of it—despite it all, he’s made it this far. They let him in the end. Think how much he’s given away. And still made it. He gave us Harumafuji Yokozuna. And continued to win. He gave us Kotoshogiku Ozeki. And continued to win. He gave us Kisenosato Ozeki. And continued to win. He gave us Kakuryu Yokozuna. And continued to win. He isn’t exciting—no, I can’t pretend he is. But he’s got grace, and greatness. He’s great enough that he made it look easy, and did it while pausing to make way for others. Asashoryu’s fire-and-brimstone sumo was of astonishing power, but always felt like an odd and tenuous, wonderful miracle, and I never thought he’d make it to 32, forced retirement or not. Whereas Hakuho’s sumo has always felt like a given, his dominance natural, this moment inevitable. It’s been an astonishing ten years. One more, and I’ll not hear any arguments: crown him the greatest. For now, congratulations Hakuho on making it all this way. On your own.

Now, back to the bottom, and let’s work our way up.

Chiyomaru (8-6) vs. Kyokutenho (9-5)
You can look at a match like this two ways: blah, because nothing at stake—they both have their kachi-koshi. Or promising, as they have nothing to lose and go all out. Kyokutenho is the more compelling rikishi here, but for whatever reason there has been a lot of questionable effort around him lately; I count at least four of his first eight wins I thought were given to him, and once he got his kachi-koshi he went on a four match losing streak and looked bad doing it. Goshdungdit, if he has lost a step, let him lose it—why this guy is being gifted wins just because he is 40? Well, they gave him a special prize: maybe they wanted to do that. The mysterious “they.” They shouldn’t have. Let him go out on his own terms—I’m not liking this pantomime. Today Kyokutenho tried a little hari-te action, then bullied Butterball (Chiyomaru, in honor of Thanksgiving) out by yori-kiri. Not much to see here; Kyokutenho is better than Butterball, whatever the reason for all his wins.

Myogiryu (9-5) vs. Kotoyuki (7-7)
My favorite peanut-gallery knowledge-wielder, Nek, had it right, I think, when he said injuries make a difference we can’t really see. Myogiryu was very interesting a few basho ago—not huge, but great determination and some kind of mojo in the ring. Then he got hurt, and we all lost interest, methinks. I hope his hot tournament is a sign not only of an overly-low rank, but of health. Meanwhile, Kotoyuki annoyed me yesterday by huffing and puffing around, shouting and blowing in his hand, nodding at somebuddy in the crowd, etc., as if he were auditioning for Overacting Anonymous. Okinoumi instead looked bored and far away. I thought, "Kotoyuki is going to lose." And he did. I see nothing in him, whereas Myogiryu has repeatedly clearly outclassed some of his opponents this basho. Which is all to say I expected Myogiryu to besmear Kotoyuki. Which of course did not materialize. Lots of breast-stroke slapping, then a fall down at the edge by Myogiryu as Kotoyuki went out, called for Myogiryu; it was reversed on the mono-ii and Kotoyuki got his kachi-koshi via hataki-komi. You will see a lot of 7-7 kachikoshi’s today. Like, a lot.

Sokokurai (9-5) vs. Tamawashi (7-7)
Sokokurai is too old to really go anywhere with his wily, resistant ways, but they have carried him far this tournament, and it has been fun to watch. Snack Break (Tamawashi) already needs a new nickname; I will call him Card Puncher, because here he is 7-7 and I remember nothing about how he got that way. A professional, just trying to get what he can out of this. In this one they did quite a bit of pushing on each other’s shoulders, like two guys doing stretching exercises, but eventually Tamawashi got hold of Sokokurai’s arm and slung him violently down, picking up his kote-nage by kachi-koshi.

Shohozan (7-7) vs. Kyokushuho (8-6)
I will strive to remember at least one thing about Kyokuwhowho: he is Mongolian. I will remember this because all the Kyokus I know have been Mongolian, including the Ridiculous Dancing Jester, Kyoshuzan, who I miss. Meanwhile Cheetos (Shohozan—great “misreadings” nickname from Oskar) has looked what I thought he would be when he came up a few years ago: overmatched. Grit has not gotten him far in his time in the division, but he appears to have crested and is now ready to fade away, oh leathery smoky old sausage. Into that great ditch all of our bodies must slump away. Today Shohozan had a grip whereas Kyoku didn’t, but Whowho had strength and size and kept getting Matsutani (Shohozan) farther and farther back, and eventually flung him down by shitate-nage. So much for the hometown boys. Spoiler: Matutano (Shohozan) will be the only 7-7 guy to lose today. A sacrifice to god of Steven D. Levitt.

Chiyotairyu (8-6) vs. Amuuru (5-9)
Perhaps it is just novelty, but I have enjoyed watched underweighted Amuuru work it this tournament, and wish him well. Chiyotairyu I wish a long and mediocre lower Makuuchi career ala Kitataiki, because I want everyone to be happy in this life, and because I’m tired of waiting for him to decide he can trust himself, rather than pull, pull, pull his way to disappoint-o-land. Smells like a duck. Here, though, lo!, he trusted himself, and blasted out Amuuru in two seconds flat, tsuki-dashi. I watched most of the bouts live today, but missed this one, and had to go back and get it off the internet. Gives me a chance to thank Kintamayama, whose videos are excellently done and who provides succinct, often witty comment along with them. He said of Chiyotairyu, "too bad this version of him doesn’t show up more." Couldn’t have said it better myself, so I won’t. Thanks for the assist.

Homarefuji (8-6) vs. Endo (9-5)
Nothing Endo has done this tournament had convinced me he is anything but hype-cannon-fodder, but I will keep an open mind. As for "All Praise Mt. Fuji" (misreadings file: Homarefuji), he is close to his ceiling, but he has humped his butt to bump it, so thank you Praiseful Mountain for your work. Today’s match was a downer, though. After a moment of solid contact, Endo jumped away to the right and Mountain of Praise did a push-up on the clay, tsuki-otoshi. To his credit, Endo did have inside position and his pull-out was swift and purposeful, but I’d like to see more dominance before I get excited. Next time will be an important tournament for him, as he’ll be back at a level where a 10-5 would mean something. He has to prove it there, not here.

Arawashi (8-6) vs. Sadanoumi (6-8)
Arawashi, like Sokokurai, has his wits about him and is focused on one thing: "use what I gots to gets the win." I actually think Aminishiki and even Kakuryu and Harumafuji come from that same stock, so there is no telling how far this guy will go. Sadanoumi, like Homarefuji, showed good grit this tournament, but like Homarefuji also has a low ceiling which he is pressed up against already. In this bout, in seconds flat he was pressed up, against, and across the tawara yori-kiri: Arawashi’s attack was lightning fast, with both arms in deep. As the announcer said, “kibishii, hayai sumo:” harsh, fast sumo. Yep. Look out.

Tochinowaka (3-11) vs. Jokoryu (7-7)
The book is written on Tochinowaka: get two hands on his neck and force him out. To quote Jerry Lundegaard’s regional supervisor, "my patience is at an end." Jokoryu, meanwhile, has a nice sumo body and some presence, but has had no signature moment in Makuuchi, and I envision an upper-to-middle Makuuchi career: he’s at his ceiling too. He was in control throughout today, lower and farther inside than his hapless lower division opponent. He didn’t need the hands to the neck, he just got a left, got in close, and beat his way forward with consistent force and de-ashi for the oshi-dashi win. Good stuff from him here.

Takanoiwa (3-11) vs. Big Sand Strom (3-6-5)
On either side of his injury, I think this was an interesting tournament for Big Sandy: in several bouts, he tried to be a belt guy—and it didn’t work. At all. Yesterday he went back to the hard-forearm-to-the-face, and that worked great. It’s not good news for him, though: if he could have done a mid-career shift and out-sumo'ed his opponents in addition to out-bludgeoning them, we could have started making Asashoryu comparisons rather than Kokkai ones. But as he didn’t (don’t get all excited! I’m saying you can’t compare him to Asa!), so I think his Future is Now: he’ll punch to death as many guys as he can, but will get out-techniqu'ed too often to be anything more than a lower jo’i guy (which is pretty good). What you’ve seen so far is what you get. Today’s bout was emblematic of all of this. Giant Sand went for the forearm to the face, and drew blood from High Cliff (Takanoiwa) that was to stop the match halfway through. However, after that initial blow, this match went to the belt, both taking an inner left and outer right grip and surging back and forth across the dohyo. Eventually, Osunaarashi won this—the first time I’ve seen him win a belt bout this tournament, I think. Point is, he probably shouldn’t have to work this hard against a little guy from the lower ranks such as High Rocks. Still, props to him for getting it done and for the yori-kiri win.

Takayasu (9-5) vs. Tochinoshin (11-3)
Neither of these guys are really "new"—they’re rebound guys—but there is no denying they’ve had great tournaments, and I’ve had fun watching them both. Also turned out this was a bout featuring two prize winners for this tournament, as along with Kyokutenho (not deserving) they both picked up a special (deserving). I think we all hope this is the tournament that helps these guys turn the corner and be able to do this same exciting stuff from Komusubi and above, but I think, rather, that they’re under-ranked for the moment and will return to mediocre next basho. To go back to my Day 6 report, these are two poster children for looking at past results higher up and predicting regression: above his current rank, Takayasu has gone 9-6 once, 7-8 once, and 5-10 three times. Tochinoshin, when ranked M1 or higher, has seven make-koshi and zero kachi-koshi. Anyway, nice match here today. They hooked up quickly in hidari-yotsu; Tochinoshin then used his right arm to slap so hard on Takayasu's nape that the "pop" of it was heard throughout the arena, but the throw didn’t quite work. A few minutes later he tried it again, but Takayasu used the moment to unleash a powerful uwate-nage throw and drive Tochinoshin to the clay. I liked this a lot.

Kitataiki (2-11) vs. Toyohibiki (4-10)
What a terrible tournament for these two guys. Kitataiki must be ready for the horse-hop to the sun-set, because he has traditionally done very well from the bottom of the division, but this time got powdered. For Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki), this tournament’s results are par for the course: he is built for mid-maegashira and no higher, and was too high this time. But Kitataiki is presently much, much lower, and Belcher made this look easy. Kitataiki actually had lower position, but Kerosene used his power to lift Kitataiki up and back with hands to the face and drive him out in linear fashion with hands to the chest—they gave him oshi-dashi, but if it hadn’t been so easy he might have followed through and got tsuki-dashi. Goodbye Kitataiki; it’s been fun.

Takarafuji (7-7) against Okinoumi (8-6)
Takarafuji has been generating a little huzzah with his calm effort, but for me his sumo has been too passive: too much waiting for an opening, too much moving backwards, not enough oomph moving forward. As for Okinoumi, I think he must have everything he wants in life, that’s how bored he looks, but wouldn’t you too if you were a handsome fellow from the Oki Islands, historically a destination so remote it was used for political exiles, who now appears on the national telly fortnightly? Anyway, nice hidari-yotsu action today, and I think Takarafuji cared more indeed, as he was the one to eventually lift Okinoumi across the bales yori-kiri. It’s also possible he is simply better than Okinoumi, as he has consistently ranked in the high Makuuchi of late, whereas Okinoumi has not. No backwards passivity today. With this win Takarafuji gets his kachi-koshi.

Yoshikaze (4-7-3) vs. Aminishiki (5-9)
Aminishiki has the letter “i” in his name four times. That’s all I have to say about that. Bernie Parent was a goalie with 13 years in the NHL. That’s all I have to say about that. Iiii hit Good Wind (Yoshikaze) once, grabbed his neck, and pulled him down hataki-komi. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Tochiohzan (7-7) vs. Chiyootori (6-8)
In this match I expected one of two things: Tochiohzan to be given a win because sumo’s like that when two records are like this, or given a loss because Freakonomics freaked the Association out. In short, that’s how yaocho, mukiryoku, and Brett Favre giving Michael Strahan the sacks record sickens the sport: instead of watching the sumo, you wonder what is really going on. To the action: Bouncy Butt (Chiyootori) seemed intent on drawing a false start, delaying and wiggling up and down endlessly at the lines, but in point of fact false started himself. He then took forever a second time, but did turn it into a better tachi-ai for himself: perhaps Tochiohzan's focus dropped during the wait? And is this butt-bounce something they teach at Oot’s (Chiyootori) beya now? Following being driven backward, Tochiohzan played with fire, trying three short pulls, but he kept them cautious, and survived his own foolishness. Once he changed his mind and decided he could drive forward, he showed he was the better rikishi, turning the orientation of their two bodies so that Booty Bounce was suddenly closer to the straw, then driving him over the bales oshi-dashi. This guy is pretty good. Let us pray, however, that he doesn’t make Ozeki: for now, Tochiohzan is one of the few top-level Japanese guys regularly bringing the real real. For what it’s worth, I am relieved to say I didn’t see any fake here.

Kaisei (6-8) vs. Ikioi (6-8)
Kaisei is a blubbery ball of not-much; Ikioi hopes one day to live up to his shikona. I lump Ikioi in with Jokoryu: if he had “it,” whatever “it” is, he’d be an Ozeki, but so far “it” is being stored under a berm somewhere in the Mongolian steppe and given out in sloshing bucketfuls to those Mongols who crawl across a hundred miles of dirt and dried grass to drink it and head to Japan. Today Ikioi got moro-zashi and tried to force Kaisai out, but no matter how he strained for a drink from the bucket, his lips could not slurp. Kaisei laid his weight on him, squashed him around toward the tawara, then pulled up on his arms like a praying mantis laying into a grasshopper; the grasshopper resisted mutely, still, as it’s strength was disemboweled at the tawara, then was dropped, limp and eviscerated, to the other side of the straw. Yori-kiri. Ikioi wants to win stuff like this, or he will ever be the Grasshopper, and never Master Po.

Takekaze (1-13) vs. Tokushoryu (4-10)
This may be the happiest I’ve ever been about a 1-13; not because I wish Takekaze pain, but because it is what he is owed at this rank. Thank goodsmack; get him out of these regions. As for Tokuwhowho, like Kyokuwhowho, I’ve decided I’ll remember one thing about him: he is not Mongolian. He is another great big piece of rubbery Kakuni (an absurdly fatty Japanese pork-cube treat) floating in everyone else’s ramen. Push him to the side of the bowl, please. Which is what Takekaze did. High Wind (Takekaze) is much smaller, but also much more experienced, and he easily handled Kakuni after a few moments of mid-clay struggle. A good-looking yorikiri win where the wrestlers just showed their different levels.

Terunofuji (7-7) vs. Ichinojo (8-6)
As I said in my intro, Ichinojo is the most interesting thing going on now day in, day out. He got significant applause when he appeared: people get it with this guy. But Terunofuji, to my surprise and delight, has had the highest number of interesting matches this tournament: getting on the belt with an opponent and grinding out, often at great length, in classic sumo style. His several losses in these bouts made me wonder, though: do guys increasingly shy away from belt-fighting because the outcome is less certain? Is there something comforting and attractive about push-and-pull sumo that gives the illusion that you can control the outcome? Is push-pull the dark side of the force, quicker, easier? This match was classic for both of them. The Mongolith was slow on the tachi-ai, and then mostly just stood there doing nothing aside from a couple of ineffectual attempts at a charge, but that is normal for him. Meanwhile, Terunofuji had his upper body low and a good hold on the belt, and, as hoped, chests were a sweatin’ against each other, like August slow-love with no AC. Two minutes ensued. There was a signature moment when Fuji the Terrible slid The Mongolith back until his foot hit the straw, but Ichinojo’s weight was such that tawara felt like it was a six foot high stone wall: there was not the faintest chance The Mountain of Terror was going to get the Iron Blob of Gravity Grease up and over that wall. Wow. Ichinojo. Now, it is possible The Mongolith was simply waiting for Terunofuji to win, as he didn’t try any of his impressive neck throws, but the bottom line is that at two minutes plus Terunofuji got it done: they kind of shook loose of each other for a moment, and Fuji the Terrible used that moment to drive forward, get inside and under, stand The Mongolith up, and push him out yori-kiri. These are the guys we have been waiting for.

Aoiyama (7-7) vs. Toyonoshima (8-6)
I agree with my fellow commentators: Aoiyama is no pretender at this level. He belongs. While he is flabbier and less ponderously scary than Biomass Baruto was, that is the apt comparison: massive and powerful, without great technique but capable of putting the jumpies into anybody: the force with which he extends those jackhammer arms has been fun to watch. Meanwhile, “steatopygia” is a “high degree of fat accumulation in or around the buttocks,” and is often characterized by a shelf-like condition of the buttocks, where the butt sticks out so far from the waist you could set a cup of coffee on it; anthropologists theorize this was used for carrying babies around. Toyonoshima has steatopygia of the stomach. And that is all I am going to say about that. As for the match, my god, those pile driver arms of Blue Mountain (Aoiyama) were in action, and within seconds he had Steatopygabelly’s head bent scarily back. Unlike Endo, who had Toyopygia in the same position in day 6 but couldn’t finish him off, Aoiyama gave Toyonoshima a final one-armed neck shove that toppled Toyopygia over whole-bodied, like a dirty dish rag being discarded into the sink, oshi-taoshi. Yeeps. I’ll watch Aoiyama, Terunofuji, and Ichinojo any day. Toyonopygia too, though the future is not his.

Aside: and that makes 7-1 for guys today who were 7-7 coming in. Now, isn’t that amazing? Just amazing!

Goeido (5-9) vs. Kisenosato (10-4)
Best not to say anything about Goeido’s basho. Yeeks. As for Kisenosato, he is like a new barometer with the temperature set high: he can now beat anybody except the few best wrestlers, against whom he looks helpless. Hence, 10-4 is for him neither good nor bad: it’s where his mercury sits. And his mercury is manifestly higher than Goedio’s. Goeido had him by the arm tottari-style in this one and should have been able to pull him down, or wrench him around and push him out, but instead, the only way to say this is that Goeido simply sloppily fell down, though they called it tsuki-otoshi. 5-10 without an injury as an Ozeki. Wow. Hope he gets another make-koshi next time and puts this farce to a quick end—him being an Ozeki is painful. He now has an overall losing record as an Ozeki.

Harumafuji (10-4) vs. Kotoshogiku (6-8)
My only hope here was that Harumafuji would go all out, as Geeku already had his make-koshi, but I feared he would give Gabburabelly (Kotoshogiku) a milk-sop win to finish things off less disgracefully. I agree with Kowaresasui: I have nothing but respect for Kotoshogiku. But I have disdain for what his rank has led others to do for him. So thank goodness, Harumafuji used speed, strength, and a lovely uwate-dashi-nage throw to whip Kotoshogiku down by the belt, rolling him clear across half the dohyo and out. If you’re watching this one on video, look at the Maf’s position when he throws: he is hopping in the air, low down, feet wide apart, like some thunder beastie out of a woodblock print. That’s why he’s a Yokozuna: few guys can unleash the sheer athletic strength and power like he can when he’s on.

And that’s it for sumo 2014. All in all, this was an excellent last day of sumo. I’m looking forward to 2014. Will Hakuho take his 33rd yusho in the Emperor's tournament? Will Ichinojo start his Ozeki run at the same time? Can Tochiohzan make a run? Will Takayasu be interesting in the sanyaku this time? Can Aoiyama sustain? Will Terunofuji rise or pale? Will Tatsu, now Kagayaku, and coming off an impressive Juryo debut, have anything to offer?

That’s why we watch.

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Day 13 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Greetings, and you are well come to Friday the 13th of this final basho of the year (ki ki ki, ma ma ma). I almost did not don my hockey mask and grab my machete and show up to write, so sick and tired am I of this malarkey that we put up with day after day after day after day after day.

But enough about Mike’s reports. Let’s talk about the sumo, and how the next time some saucer eyed, pie-in-the-sky, rose colored glasses wearing, nude emperor viewing, endlessly upbeat, all is right with the world, never met a match I didn’t like fan of the sumos chuckles condescendingly to me that, silly boy, there ARE no thrown matches worth mentioning (if any at all), I’m going to burn a copy of the Day 12 Ichinojo-Kotoshogiku travesty onto a disc and then, like Jason, SLICE HIS FUCKING THROAT WITH IT!

Okay, I’m all better now. Now, where was I?

At first blush, it would seem unfortunate that 6-6 Kotoyuki would draw W11 Kyokutenho, what with dude needing two out of three for his M8 (“majority eight”) and Kyokutenho fighting pretty well down low on the banzooka (boom!) But when you consider the fact that the eleven month old future E16 had likely not yet eaten solid food when The Chauffer joined sumo in March of 1992, and Kyokutenho’s own precipitous fall from an 8-1 start, it really oughtn’t come as a surprise that the Sad Old Got Taken beya man brought a wicked fast and furious nodowa throat attack that left the lethargic one-time yusho holder backpedaling to his fourth straight loss. Do you suppose it’s possible that getting his M8 so early on stole away some of his (pinky finger held backward at a 45 degree angle to the corner of the mouth) MOJO??! Kotoyuki pushes for the summit tomorrow when he shoots all the way up to the eighth bout of the day to take on E7 Okinoumi, who is himself sitting at 7-6. . .

After WEST16 Chiyomaru today used the same sort of nodowa assault, which, while not as successful initially, did flummox him into charging forward in an all-out push for the pushout win. Chiyomaru had to smile as he retreated back along the edge of the ring and let Okinoumi fall to his tatas. The now 8-5 Wolf’s Spawn’s grin wasn’t all that sweet, however, as he landed face first in the West side salt box. Shoppai!

Da Wolf must be a happy man as Chiyotairyu, another of his professional “teges,” moved to 8-5 with yet another nodowa beatdown, this time of Shohozan and His Glorious Belt. Pretty similar to what Kotoyuki above did to Kyokutenho (hence the same kimari-te tsuki-dashi, which according to Harvye means “moon soup flakes”). The Kintama Mama had better unwrap those golden eggs tomorrow and give one to 9-4 Sokokurai. . .

who tossed Jokoryu like a salad after the two hooked up in a hunched over, noggin to noggin hug, keeping eerily still (for a sumo bout) until Joke’s On You made a lifting push forward that settled once more into a stalemate that Sokokurai ended with a textbook shitate-nage.

The Joker Man is on the precipice with 7 losses, but doesn’t have to necessarily soil his mawashi on Day 14 as he welcomes white, light, and slight Amuuru, who got the bum’s rush today from Sada? No! Who Me? A nascent moro-zashi was all it took as the W7 staved off his 8th loss while the 5-8 rookie Russian needs to find that killer instinct, maybe take a photo of his opponent, stare at it, really fixate on it, then growl in a Brooklyn accent, “aMUru you, ya mope!”

Poor Sadanoumi goes shooting all the way up to the final all-Maegashira bout tomorrow, but luckily it’s against 4-9 Aminishiki, who was hammered back at tachi-ai and out by Toyohibiki, in a bout that looked like two soldiers recovering from the Battle of Okinawa lurching out of their hospital beds over a dispute about whose mother makes the finer miso soup. The amount of taping worn by these two guys was fucking hilarious. Shneaky has the bomb squad removal pads, of course (oh, and screw you all for not talking up my great Bernie Parent gag from my Day One report in the Comments section) and today The Hutt had taping on two knees, two wrists, ten toes, one elbow, nine fingers, his entire left shoulder down to his elbow, and capped it with both feet wrapped like a six year-old 13th century Chinese female. As badass as they look out there, are we REALLY to believe these brutes go home after the basho and make quiet, tender love to their women and help change baby diapers??

In the good news department for JPese fans, Endo seems to have looked at his 2-5 record and said, “Fuggedaboudit!” because he is now 8-5 after taking advantage of some sloppy tachi-ai mechanics by Kyokushuho, who pretty much conceded the inside and had no answer to Endo’s solid right frontal belt grip. Run out quickly and emphatically, Kyokushuho had better bring his “A” game (as opposed to his “Eh?” game) tomorrow vs. Chiyotairyu. . .

whose bout we already covered. Shit! There goes my “flow.”

Tamawashi moved to 7-6 by executing the breast stroke attack to perfection vs. E15 Tochinowaka, who at 3-10 ought to have his sights set on a Juryo yusho come January.

Homarefuji said, “Hmm. That M8 nugget looks mighty tasty. Mind. . .if. . .I. . .just. . .YOINK!” 4-8 Tokushoryu was so limp, so uninspired, so somnambulant, he reminded me of Matt’s writing (oh, snap!! Looks like I’ll just have to wait till Matt gets me back in one of his future reports.) Pushed straight back and out with no resistance whatsoever, it looked, as Mike the Baseball Dad might say, like the W9 was sitting curve but got fastball. I mean, tachi-ai are so fast, that’s got to be the case sometimes, hasn’t it, that they guess wrong and it’s over? The applause was so measly that you could actually make out individual hands clapping.

I was kind of shocked that the MIB didn’t budge after the gyoji pointed to Toyonoshima after he crashed to the clay a nanosecond after Arawashi stepped out. Sure, Arawashi was moving backward, but Toyonoshima was all in on a falling forward lunge pretty much from the tachi-ai, and in my book that doesn’t mean you dominated your foe. This was about as mono as an ii gets in my book, and they didn’t even stir. Both grrrrrAPPlers finish the day needing one more win to enter the New Year with a smile on their face.

It’s been said that sumo is 90% mental and the other half is physical, but today it was 100% physical as Myogi Berra got a quick moro-zashi on Chiyootori and though threatened twice with a counter twisting throwdown was able to maintain balance and shove the last of the Kokonoe Makuuchi men out and down. Mr. Myogi rolls to a 9-4 and has the playdate of the first half tomorrow when he takes on Tochinoshin. . .

who discovered just what Sekiwake Ichinojo can do if he is trying to win, as opposed to trying to make Grandma and Grandpa Fukuoka smile like drunken chimps at hometown hero. These two have met twice before, on Day 15 in July down in Juryo (figure it out.) Both times they hooked up immediately in a yotsu battle, the classic form of sumo where the men grip each other’s belt with two hands in a mirror image, their heads nestled on each other’s shoulders like they’re slow dancing, which in a very real way they are. And both times Itchy Koo, sans topknot, lost.

Today the crowd recognized they were in for a treat by doing the appreciative mid bout clapping only nine seconds into the bout, after the two behemoths had taken their dance positions again and tried some exploratory lifting that showed only that it was going to be a slog. The Private looked to be the aggressor, holding Ichinojo’s feet to the fiery bales, but each time the E8 tried for the forceout the Sekiwake pushed off the straw and came back with a nearly winning twist down as a counterattack. After a long, long time Tochinoshin’s right hand belt grip weakened, and feeling the opening, The Mongolith pressed down and in and was able to walk his foe up and out. We can only pray that Tochinoshin remains healthy and in the division for some years to come, because this was O-zumo. It was like the best bouts between Kotooshu and Baruto, but better. This could be a rivalry that everyone waits each basho to see. Magnificent, and with not a smidgen of fakery or quit.

(The diametric opposite of the joy I felt after watching this tussle was the disgust I felt after watching Roho. . .uh, I mean Osunaarashi fling Kitataiki to the floor of the gym with wildly unnecessary strength after crushing him to the edge and out. I mean, the E12 hit the floor, bounced, and rolled over into the fans. I know that sometimes the wrestlers are finishing their throws and it’s just bad luck in how one guy gets tossed hard, but this was extra oomph that was bush league all the way. He didn’t even give Kitataiki a second look, even when it was obvious dude wasn’t getting up, just walked back to collect his ill gotten gains.)

Immediately after the Ichinojo bout came Takayasu vs. Aoiyama, and lord was it intense. First Takayasu used some fierce tsuppari shoving to drive the Sekiwake to the edge, but Ahoy Matey countered with his own blasting (the kind so exhausting you can hear the breath rushing out their nostrils with each shove) that backed Takayasu across the dohyo and nearly out. Then Takayasu got a little inside, but Aoiyama started palming his forehead to keep him away and it worked. Once more the E3 got inside, and this time the BraSILLYan got psycho chicken, throwing the sumo equivalent of roundhouses. Did Takayasu cry? Did he cringe? Did he begin to act in ANY WAY like one of the main radicals in his shikona’s kanji? No, he did not. He just sucked it up, ducked under, got in close and rammed the big bastard out. Used to be the thing I thought most interesting about Takayasu was that he was born on Feb. 28 (so he’s only had six birthdays) but from now on I’ll recall him staring terror straight in the eye and then ramming his fist up it’s ass.

An excellent example of a bout where both men are very intent on winning is today’s E1 Tochiohzan vs. E2 Takarafuji bout. Both men keep their arms in tight, clamp down if the other gets moro-zashi, abandon the position to try something new, counter quickly but always with intent to get inside, and keep the pace fast and fluid. In the end Takarafuji was able to best his rival, and they ended the day at identical 6-7 marks. I really don’t know how to explain it other than to say, after so many years of watching sumo, you just know it when you see it. You can quote me on this: “Real sumo cannot be faked.”

Terunofuji had an inside right arm from the tachi-ai that looked like it might turn into a belt, but Goeido seemed to clamp down on it and at the same time got the front mawashi that caused The Terunosaur to move back where he got stuck perpendicular in a high, awkward position, and in sumo that’s never a good thing, and today was no exception as The Father was able to body him out for win number 5.

Kisenosato absorbed a so-so tachi-ai from Kaisei, who was unable to follow up with any pushing of substance, and The Kid moved around him and back him up with shoves till the E4 collapsed with his feet against the ropes. Solid win by the Ozeki and we all hope tomorrow is a clash of the titans (Three Stooges accent) voices Ichinojo. Nyah ah ah ah ah ah. Soitny!

Another man wrestling who could yusho but does not control his own course is Harumafuji, who gave his Kak a nice, hard slap right after the tachi-ai, then used an inside right belt to follow the rapidly retreating Yokozuna (who had whiffed on an over the shoulder back belt grab of his own) away across the dohyo, where HowDo picked up the moro-zashi to finish the match in grand yori-kiri style. Kakuryu falls to two losses but remains on the hunt. Yes, ON.

Finally, it appears that Fukuoka is full of optimists, because even the cursory fan of sumo ought to know that once he is forced to fight on or around the belt, Kotoshogiku is going to lose 95 times out of 100. Seeing as how today he was fighting Hakuho, who has beaten him 10x more often than he has lost to him, the fervor with which the crowd screamed as the two men clashed confirmed it. After Kotoshogiku came with none of his heralded charge, Hakuho took a brief moment to get his right arm inside, after which he began a series of moves meant to prolong the bout. First he drew away his right hand, foregoing the belt. Then he turned Geeku to the ropes and instead of simply smothering him out, he used that right, now on the back of the Ozeki’s belt, to literally pull him back toward the center. Next he let go of a dead dead DEAD to rights left hand grip on the front of Geeku’s mawashi. With that inside left now an outside left belt grip he knew he could win with at any time, he hunched down and let the crowd think it was close for a few seconds, and when Geeku (who knew he was meat) tried a wholly perfunctory liftup, Kublai decided they’d had enough and dumped him to the dirt like an overloaded wheelbarrow. A cat, very large and very precise, toying with a mouse of an Ozeki.

So what we have for the weekend is tantalizing, and by that I mean not tantalizing, because the only way Hakuho doesn’t take the yusho in regulation is to lose to Harumafuji tomorrow (which COULD happen, in a perfect storm) and then Kakuryu on Day 15. Just to give you some perspective. Hakuho has lost to Kakuryu four times ever. When? The two basho immediately preceding his Ozeki promotion, and the two basho immediately preceding his Yokozuna promotion. During both runs, one loss brought them head to head in a playoff, both of which Hakuho won.

The point if it ain’t crystal? Hakuho is not losing to Kakuryu unless he wants to lose to Kakuryu, and there is not that proverbial compacted sphere of frozen water’s chance in the eternal afterlife of flaming misery that Hakuho is going to go into the Japanese New Year season as the man who lost his chance to become the all-time yusho leader. Nyope.

Seeing as how you got jobbed by no Kanesy Wanesy on Tuesday, think on this till next time, and remember to wash:

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
For the first time in 17 years today, the sold-out banners were lowered from the Kokusai Center rafters on a weekday. And to think that 17 years ago I was still stalking the sumos living and working in Fukuoka. I have nothing but fond memories as I look back on those days, and it's certainly been interesting watching the sport transform for nearly two decades. We can save the rikishi comparison between the two eras for a different day, but one thing that sumo greatly misses now in my opinion is the drama of a legitimate yusho race. Even this basho, I suppose we have a yusho race going on between Hakuho and Kakuryu on paper, but it's really going to come down to: what will Hakuho decide to do? There was a bit of anticipation for me heading into the day's bouts, but when it was all said and done, I didn't walk away from the day 12 affairs thinking, "Wow, this is going to be a great weekend of sumo!" I'll tell you why as we work our way through the leader board, so let's get right to it starting with the three loss rikishi.

Say it isn't so, but through the graces of the sumo gods and consistent sumo throughout, Mr. Miyagiryu finds himself on the leader board at the start of the day. Against M15 Shohozan, M11 Myogiryu stayed tall at the tachi-ai pretending to go toe to toe with Shohozan's tsuppari attack, but there was nothing behind Miyagiryu's thrusts, and after two seconds he began a slow retreat with half-assed pulls to boot allowing Shohozan the easy push-out win. Myogiryu falls back off the leader board at 8-4, but his was a higher cause today allowing Shohozan to somehow reach the 6-6 mark.

M14 Sokokurai received his tallest task (literally) this basho today in the form of M8 Tochinoshin. It turned out to be a largely uneventful affair as the two hooked up in migi-yotsu where Shin used his long arm of the law to grab the left outer grip, and after pulling Sokokurai in snug, there was nothing the Chinese Inner Mongolian could do. Tochinoshin exhibited the perfect force-out charge bodying Sokokurai back near the straw with one gaburi and then escorting him across as easy as you please leading with that left outer grip obtained from the tachi-ai. Sokokurai has sorta been like a roach this basho where you just can't get rid of him, but barring something disastrous from the other leaders (i.e. more yaocho), Sokokurai is knocked off of the leader board for good falling to 8-4. As for Tochinoshin, he moves to 10-2 and is still just one off of the pace.

Speaking of roaches on the leader board, M11 Kyokutenho battled M5 Chiyootori today where the two hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu position with Otori maintaining the right outer grip while Kyokutenho had to hold on with a right kote grip. The Chauffeur is sometimes able to offer a counter tsuki-otoshi at the edge from this position, but Chiyootori was positioned low enough to where he really had Kyokutenho on the balls of his feet, and there was nowhere to go but back and out. Pretty decisive win today as Chiyootori moves to 6-6 while Kyokutenho has now dropped three in a row ending the day at 8-4.

Our final three-loss leader on the day was Yokozuna Harumafuji who caught M6 Toyonoshima with the left nodowa and right hand to the torso sending him back a few steps, but that's a hard hold to maintain all the way to the bitter end, and Toyonoshima managed to slip out of it and return some tsuppari of his own. The momentum of the bout was already in favor of the Yokozuna, however, and he finished Toyonoshima off with a few more shoves methodically improving to 9-3. Toyonoshima has had a rough schedule the last few days resulting in his dropping to 6-6.

I guess you'd have to say the most anticipated bout on paper today was the Yokozuna Hakuho - Ozeki Kisenosato affair, but any hype ended there as Hakuho's textbook sumo was back in full force today where the Yokozuna got the easy right arm on the inside and the left outer grip on the other side, and he wasted no time in just dumping Kisenosato over and down in the center of the dohyo via uwate-nage. It's been interesting to watch Kisenosato battle the Yokozuna the last three days although "battle" might not be the proper term to use in this case. Against Harumafuji and Hakuho, the Ozeki was able to do nothing other than just stand there like a tsuke-bito in the back halls before a big bout as his senpai uses him for a tachi-ai practice dummy. As I emphasized yesterday, I think Kakuryu could have worked him over in a similar manner had he chosen to do so. The stark contrast in ability between the Yokozuna and these Ozeki is alarming, but the powers that be are doing their best to mask it. With the win, Hakuho remains in firm control of this basho at 11-1 while Kisenosato will at least decorate the leaderboard heading into the weekend at 9-3.

Our final one-loss rikishi was Yokozuna Kakuryu who just jumped to the right and pulled Ozeki Goeido down from the start with a dubious tachi-ai henka in a bout that lasted less than a second. The move drew the expected jeers from the oyaji (grumpy old dudes) in the crowd as it should have, but when you analyze things closer, I think it's actually a good way for Goeido to suffer that eighth loss. In a way, it allows him to save face just a bit because you could now say that he was never given a fair chance to win today. What will be focused on in the media as they discuss this bout is how a Yokozuna sent the Ozeki to make-koshi with a cheap tactic. The first 11 days will of course conveniently be forgotten, and so I'm not going to pooh-pooh the move by Kakuryu today. He'da slew him anyway straight up if he chose to do so, but the end result is Kakuryu's keeping pace with Hakuho on top of the leader board at 11-1.

As it stands at the end of the day, the leader board is cleaned up just a bit as follows:

11-1: Hakuho, Kakuryu
9-2: Tochinoshin
8-3: Harumafuji, Kisenosato

Let's focus on a few other bouts of interest on the day starting with a compelling matchup between Ozeki Kotoshogiku and Sekiwake Ichinojo. I was actually wondering when Ichinojo would lose his sumo virginity, and it officially happened today in no real surprise against the hometown Ozeki. At the tachi-ai, Ichinojo easily got his right arm to the inside instinctively, but he kept it in no man's land until Kotoshogiku could establish his own inside position and mount a charge. As the Ozeki bodied his way into the Mongolith, Ichinojo kept him at bay with the right knee pushing up into the Ozeki's left thigh, but then he suddenly withdrew that leg and stepped it out towards the tawara, a totally brainless move if he wants to win the bout. He didn't, and so with Ichinojo standing there upright at the edge, he invited Kotoshogiku in for the force-out kill by just pulling him in, and the Ozeki complied in short order. The reaction from the crowd was polite, but I think even they knew sumpin was up here. Kotoshogiku actually got a bigger ovation after accepting his caish and walking off the dohyo, and it was almost like the crowd was applauding his effort, not the actual win.

The key to discovering the yaocho in this bout is Ichinojo's right leg. From the start, he uses it against Kotoshogiku's left thigh to keep the Ozeki at bay, and then at one point, he starts to lift Kotoshogiku clear off his feet using that right knee as a fulcrum. He quickly abandoned that move and then just took that right leg ouf of a normal position and used it to step back right near the edge, and from there, not even Kotoshogiku could screw it up. Last basho, you'll remember Ichinojo henka'd Kotoshogiku in their September bout, and I think that partly helped Kotoshogiku save face because as Mr. Miyagi prolifically point out, the Mongolith can squash the Ozeki "just like grape" if he wanted to. The end result was both rikishi sitting on 6-6 records, and Kane better have his bag of kettle corn ready for Ichinojo's matchup with Tochinoshin tomorrow. As for Kotoshogiku, he draws Hakuho, and I say the chances of Hakuho throwing that one are extremely low, but nothing would surprise me.

I thought the worst moment of the day belonged to Sekiwake Aoiyama, not to Kakuryu's henka of Goeido. Prior to Aoiyama's bout with M2 Takarafuji, NHK showed close-ups of him several times as an indication that he has become a force to be reckoned with, and it's true. Aoiyama definitely has a presence now among the jo'i, so to see him lamely jump to the right and commit an ugly tachi-ai was very disappointing. The move fooled Takarafuji hook line and sinker, and Aoiyama really didn't need to do anything after that as Takarafuji just ran himself outta the dohyo, but this was dirty pool all the way. I've been so worn out by the incessant attempts to hype Japanese rikishi into something more than they really are that I've kind of overlooked the tachi-ai henka of late, but this one was totally uncalled for. I would have considered Aoiyama for a special prize this basho, but not after greasing Takarafuji like that. The Sekiwake moves to 7-5 with the win, but I'm hopping off of his bandwagon for the remainder of the fortnight. Takarafuji falls to a dangerous 5-7, and it's too bad because he could have given Aoiyama a great fight.

M5 Osunaarashi offered a wild right kachi-age into Komusubi Ikioi's face and then quickly followed up with a series of girl slaps that had little effect, and so Ikioi was able to survive and force the bout to yotsu-zumo with the deep left inside position. A stalemate ensued from there and Osunaarashi eventually got the right outer grip, but he was up way too high allowing Ikioi to slip to the side and fell the Ejyptian with a right kote-nage. Ikioi breathes slightly easier at 4-8 while Osunaarashi needs at least one more win to stay in the division at 1-11.

M2 Toyohibiki was cautious at the tachi-ai as he should have been against Komusubi Takekaze, who didn't want a straight up fight opting to evade to the side and swipe/pull. Toyohibiki followed his opponent around the ring well, however, and caught the Komusubi with a right thrust to the torso that caused Takekaze's left big toe to touch outside of the dohyo before a pull attempt felled Toyohibiki to the clay. Still not much to see here though as the Hutt climbs to just 3-9 while Takekaze is a hapless 1-11.

M1 Aminishiki sorta wanted to clash straight ahead at the tachi-ai against M4 Kaisei, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it, so he slipped out left and managed the meager right hand to the inside, but Kaisei already had the left outer grip and easily caught up with the gimpy Aminishiki getting his right arm to the inside and driving the stake through Shneaky's heart at that point. Aminishiki was still in the ring at the edge, but he just lowered his fanny indicating to Kaisei to just set him down lightly. The Brasilian complied as he moves to 5-7 while Aminishiki's make-koshi is set at 4-8.

M1 Tochiohzan looked to take control against M3 Terunofuji at the tachi-ai offering a teet shove with the right before getting the arm to the inside, but before he could get established with the left outer, Terunofuji executed a counter kote-nage throw using both arms that wrenched Tochiohzan from the center of the ring over to the edge. Now with Fuji the Terrible looming over him, Oh tried to regroup with the right inside and left hand at the belt of his foe, but Terunofuji had his foe cornered and just gaburi'ed him back across the straw making his presence felt in the division. I still maintain that Tochiohzan is the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke as he falls to 6-6, so to see a relative newcomer in Terunofuji (also 6-6) handle him like this is a bit troubling.

M3 Takayasu and M7 Okinoumi traded tsuppari at the tachi-ai where the beefier Takayasu looked to gain control. Two seconds in he grabbed Okinoumi by the melon and yanked him forward, and while the move didn't fell Okinoumi, it gave Takayasu the deep inside left and showed that he was in charge. The two settled into hidari-yotsu where Okinoumi hurried a force-out attempt without really having his gal in square, and as Takayasu backed up, he gained moro-zashi enabling him to quickly side-step Okinoumi at the edge and escort him out turning the tables. Takayasu secured a slew of prizes with this one as he moves to 8-4 while Okinoumi is one short at 7-5.

For the second day in a row, M4 Yoshikaze agreed to engage in a yotsu-zumo affair, and for the second day in a row, he took advantage of an ailing opponent in M12 Kitataiki getting his left arm in deep and then just lowering his head and using it like a battering ram underneath Kitataiki's jaw to just drive him back and out for the dominating win. Both rikishi end the day at 2-10, and this win probably keeps Monster in the division for January. Kitataiki was a goner a few days ago.

M10 Tamawashi took the initiative from the tachi-ai against M6 Jokoryu shoving his foe back quickly from the start, and all Jokoryu could really do is return defensive volleys as he looked to secure something to the inside. It would never happen and Tamawashi's thrusting attack was too persistent knocking Jokoryu back and across in under five seconds leaving both dudes 6-6.

M7 Sadanoumi kept his arms in tight at the tachi-ai looking to establish the inside position, but M15 Tochinowaka's hands were even tighter, and he looked close to moro-zashi so Sadanoumi quickly evaded back and left pulling Tochinowaka forward and then slapping him down near the edge. This wasn't great stuff by Sadanoumi as he ekes closer at 5-7, but Tochinowaka (3-9) can't get done like this. Good thing I didn't pick him for Fantasy Sumo. Oh wait...damn.

M16 Kotoyuki bullied M7 Endoh back at the tachi-ai forcing him to evade back and right, and as Kotoyuki gave chase, his thrusts became a bit more hesitant with his legs churning slower. This allowed Endoh to latch onto Kotoyuki's extended right arm rendering the limb useless. Kotoyuki tried to just forearm Endoh across the straw, but Endoh had him by the back of the belt and forced him across and down just before Kotoyuki was able to shove Endoh out. This one was so close that Kotoyuki stood back up on his side of the dohyo sort of in disbelief as the ref pointed in favor of Endoh. Kotoyuki stayed put for a few seconds and kept staring as if somehow that may reverse the call, but not today son. KY was pissed as he walked back down the hana-michi, and I know exactly what was going through his head. He didn't care about the loss on paper; he wanted all the caish in those kensho envelopes.

M16 Chiyomaru put two hands near M9 Tokushoryu's neck at the tachi-ai, but he really didn't attempt to thrust him back. Tokushoryu did come a step forward as Chiyomaru cautiously backed up, and so he put both hands to Tokushoryu's neck again and this time he quickly shifted gears backwards pulling Tokushoryu down to the dirt by the dickey do as he himself did a balancing act on the tawara. Ugly stuff really as Chiyomaru improves to 7-5 while Tokushoryu suffers his fate at 4-8

M9 Chiyotairyu blasted M12 Homarefuji back from the starting lines but just couldn't help himself as Homarefuji evaded left. Chiyotairyu switched gears at this point and went for worthless pulls instead, and damn straight Homarefuji picked up on the momentum change because he started trading thrusts for Chiyotairyu pulls, and the end result was Chiyotairyu slapping himself down with poor balance in the middle of the ring. Dude let one get away here as both end the day at 7-5.

M13 Arawashi flirted with moro-zashi at the tachi-ai but before he could get set, M15 Kyokushuho maki-kae'd with the right hand and already had the outer left on the other side, so he let Arawashi come forward a step, and then he pivoted out left and hoisted Arawashi out of the ring with the left outer grip. Smooth move here as Kyokushuho scoots to 7-5 while Arawashi falls to the same mark.

And finally, M14 Amuuru just lowered his head keeping his hips back and thrusting straight into M13 Takanoiwa setting up moro-zashi near the edge, and there was nothing Takanohana's prodigy could do as Amuuru makes it three in a row. At 5-7 he's still got life, and he can likely finish 7-8 and still pull that Makuuchi paycheck in January. Takanoiwa won't at 3-9.

Did I just comment on every bout for the fourth day in a row?? Somebody stop me!!
Okay, Clancy will tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
There's just something about the shubansen, or the final five days of the tournament, where the drama is turned up a notch as the rikishi jockey for position on the leaderboard or push in that final bid to secure kachi-koshi. As was the case yesterday, I've no new insights to add prior to my coverage of the bouts today other than to remind everyone what I've said in that past: don't let my comments ruin the sumo experience for you. See in sumo what you want to see because there's plenty there to enjoy regardless of your viewpoints. As for myself, there's really nothing better than straight up sumo, but I'm also fascinated by the political aspect of the sport and the methods of coverage in the media, and so my attempt is to tie everything together in a fancy bow in an effort to explain what we're seeing atop the dohyo.

Keeping with tradition, let's kick the day off by posting the leader board as it stood at the end of day 10 starting with the leaders and moving from the bottom up:

10-0: Kakuryu
9-1:   Hakuho
8-2:   Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Tochinoshin, Kyokutenho

First up is a bout featuring a couple of our two-loss rikishi in M8 Tochinoshin and M11 Kyokutenho. Both dudes hooked up into migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai, and then a long chess match ensued from the center of the ring. With both rikishi digging in, Tochinoshin tested the waters first lifting Kyokutenho clear off his feet in a tsuri-dashi effort, but when you start that in the middle of the ring, there's no way you're going to finish it against a tall, experienced dude like Tenho. Tochinoshin let his gal back down, but he sent the statement that, "I've got this move and you don't." Next, it was Kyokutenho's turn to make a force-out move leading with his inside belt grip but Tochinoshin dug in a step from the tawara forcing the action back into a stalemate. The longer the bout went on, the more it favored Tochinoshin because the Chauffer's tank just doesn't hold enough gas these days. That may be why Kyokutenho went for a maki-kae with the left hand, but he was denied again by Tochinoshin, and after more stalling in the ring, Tenho went for the maki-kae a second time, and that's when Tochinoshin pounced taking advantage in the slight momentum shift and sending Kyokutenho back beyond the straw. This was actually a well-fought bout from both parties, and Kyokutenho did all that he could do, but in the end, Tochinoshin just wisely let the Mongolian expend his energy before driving the yori-kiri stake through his heart. The result is Tochinoshin's moving to a sweet 9-2 while knocking Kyokutenho off of the leaderboard unless the yusho line sinks by one more loss.

Next up was Yokozuna Harumafuji who faced a tall task against Sekiwake Aoiyama in a contest that saw Harumafuji step out left to grab the cheap outer grip, and with Aoyama stumbling forward due to the henka, Harumafuji had nothing really to push against or grab because there was too much separation. As the Yokozuna looked to quickly right the ship and lunge back towards Aoiyama, there was simply too much ground to cover allowing Aoiyama to spin away and counter with a slapdown of his own that sent Harumafuji to his third loss. This was an ugly bout when it was all said and done, but I think it's a matter of Harumafuji's respecting Aoiyama's size and ability in a belt contest. Harumafuji joins Kyokutenho in the 8-3 category while Aoiyama improves to 6-5.

Let's move next to the most anticipated bout of the day between Yokozuna Hakuho and Ozeki Goeido. This bout was of course the most anticipated on the day not because of the pending sumo but because we were all wondering, 'Will Hakuho throw it a fourth time in a row against Goeido?' Fortunately the answer was no as Hakuho met Goeido with a right kachi-age to the face and then stepped out left yanking the Ozeki down by the back of the head with the left hand. Goeido attempted a desperate shove has he was falling forward and actually grazed Hakuho's gut, but this one was over in less than two seconds as Hakuho easily kept his feet in the dohyo after his retreat.

Hakuho's approach today was curious, but I think he chose to go unorthodox to sorta validate their previous three matchups. Both Mainoumi in the booth and the former Kirinji in the mukou-joumen chair said afterwards the word "abunai," or that was dangerous, and then Mainoumi said that it was a gamble on Hakuho's part to do what he did. We all know that Hakuho could have steamrolled Goeido straight back and out sending him four rows deep if he'd have wanted to, but I think he chose this approach today to give the indication of, "Wow, these Hakuho - Goeido bouts are always so close." Regardless, Hakuho chooses not to lose against the Ozeki moving to 10-1 in the process while Goeido is in a freefall at 4-7. Goeido was never a headline heading into the tournament, and his being kadoban for January will be just a blip on the radar. Nothing like an incredible comeback in two months that would send him into his hometown of Osaka on a roll.

The final bout of the day featured our sole leader and undefeated Yokozuna Kakuryu against Ozeki Kisenosato. Kakuryu offered a lame left hari-te at the tachi-ai as Kisenosato countered with a right hand to the left shoulder of the Yokozuna, and while Kakuryu briefly flirted with the right arm to the inside, he opted to back out of it and then circle the ring to his right going for wild pulls in the process. Kisenosato stayed square, however, causing Kakuryu to flail away with pulls of little substance, and in the end, Kisenosato caught the Yokozuna with a left forearm shivvy sending him spinning out of the dohyo 360 degrees. This actually looked like a legitimate bout on the surface, but it's my opinion that Kakuryu threw it in favor of the Ozeki. First, if there's one guy that you can have your way with at the tachi-ai, it's Kisenosato who always leaves himself wide open. The reason you don't see a palm to the shoulder often in sumo is because it doesn't work, and I'm not talking about just the tachi-ai. You do that at any point in the bout and your opponent will grab the deep inside position. So, with Kakuryu flirting with the right at the tachi-ai and Kisenosato wide open on the other side, moro-zashi was there for the taking.

Second, I couldn't identify a single offensively-minded move from Kakuryu nor was there a single thing that Kisenosato did to put the Yokozuna on his heels. Kisenosato reacted with a few shoves as Kakuryu back-pedaled, but there was never a point where Kisenosato connected on a blow where you thought, "Oh...the Yokozuna's in trouble!" Third, Kakuryu never once went for a legitimate pull. At one point during the melee he actually started to tug on the Ozeki's arm and coulda just yanked him out altogether in my opinion, but he abandoned that and kept circling the dohyo for no reason. Kakuryu's style of late has been mostly pull and evade sumo, so to see him so hapless today didn't make sense to me if he was really trying to win. Fourth, the way Kakuryu went out of the ring was just half-assed. If a rikishi is really trying to win, he at least makes a stand or goes for some desperation move. Kakuryu just spun in a circle and hopped off'a the dohyo as easy as you please.

In short, I thought Kakuryu could have had his way with Kisenosato in the same manner that Harumafuji displayed yesterday and even Aoiyama back on day 5, and I never once saw a legitimate effort to bruise the Ozeki despite no real defense from Kisenosato in the first place. As I scanned the headlines after the bouts, more than one news agency used the phrase "nige-madou" to describe Kakuryu's sumo, and Google translates that phrase as "run about trying to escape." Kakuryu did plenty of running about, but what exactly was he trying to escape because Kisenosato was purely reactionary from the start to the Yokozuna's movements just as he's largely reactionary in every one of his bouts. I think what it really comes down to is this...if Kakuryu wins today, here's your leaderboard:

11-0 Kakuryu
10-1 Hakuho
9-2 Tochinoshin

With the loss from Kakuryu today, here's the new leaderboard:

10-1: Hakuho, Kakuryu
9-2: Kisenosato, Tochinoshin
8-3: Harumafuji, Myogiryu, Kyokutenho, Sokokurai

Whether it's leader board manipulation or an effort to help maintain a sense of parity between the Japanese rikishi and the foreigners or a combination of the two, this has happened basho after basho for the last few years, so it's not surprising to me. Precedent has also shown that nobody is setting up a Japanese rikishi to yusho; they're merely keeping it close and exciting down the stretch to keep as many fans involved and interested as possible. And...I don't have a problem with it. I'd rather see each rikishi go full throttle every day, but I understand the consequences of that, so let's just wait and see how the Mongolian Yokozuna work out the yusho in the end.

In other bouts of interest, let's move on to the Ozeki Kotoshogiku - M3 Terunofuji bout where the real question was is Fuji the Terrbile gonna let him have it? Thankfully, the answer was no as Fuji led with the right shoulder, latched onto the Ozeki's left stub, and just yanked him tottari style over to the edge where he escorted him out from behind with a left outer to the belt. There was little fanfare here as Kotoshogiku was completely helpless falling to 5-6, the same record held by Terunofuji at the end of the day. Kotoshogiku is running on fumes physically, and you can't just continue to buoy him up with gift after gift. He'll have no choice but to retire in 2015, so the question now is are they gonna let him make-koshi in his hometown? I'd be surprised if they do.

It's been an interesting basho hype-wise because Sekiwake Ichinojo was getting all the ink prior to the basho, but a day one loss and then timely losses every few days after that has largely kept him out of the spotlight. Today, he looked to get his head back above water against M2 Toyohibiki who meant well against Ichinojo charging hard and driving with his legs, but Toyohibiki is a thruster and needed to try and throw his gal off balance with a couple of shoves. Instead, he just bodied forward with a right hand pressing in on Ichinojo's left teet, but you can't contain your opponent without an inside grip, so Ichinojo easily slipped to his right at the last moment and pressed Toyohibiki down into a heap at the edge with the perfect counter tsuki-otoshi shove. At 6-5, Ichinojo should pick up kachi-koshi with room to spare while Toyohibiki is a bit out of his league falling to 2-9.

Komusubi Takekaze used a quick inashi move at the tachi-ai moving right and pulling down at M1 Aminishiki's extended left arm, and while it knocked Aminishiki off balance a bit, Takekaze couldn't cover sufficient ground to make him pay. As the two hooked back up, it was Aminishiki's turn to set up the pull that worked like a charm in this ugly bout as Takekaze falls to 1-10 while Aminishiki sorta stays alive at 4-7.

Besides Takekaze, another rikishi who has been having a terrible basho is Ikioi, and with the Komusubi ailing, M2 Takarafuji paid him a favor today striking at the tachi-ai and then just standing there allowing Ikioi to grab him by the left arm and just yank him to the dirt kote-nage style. I thought it looked fishy live and replays confirmed the yaocho here. I'm sure Ikioi's camp paid for this one because you don't want a guy to end his sanyaku debut with a disastrous record. Takarafuji falls to 5-6 with the loss but will paint Nakasu red tonight I'm sure on Ikioi's dime.

M1 Tochiohzan kept both hands in tight against M4 Kaisei at the tachi-ai securing the early right to the inside and looking for moro-zashi with the left. Though he wouldn't get it, he was close enough to cause Kaisei to move out left in attempt to maki-kae with his right arm, but Tochiohzan was pinching in too tightly and used the left to just push Kaisei over and down for the nice tsuki-otoshi win. T-Oh's domination of Kasei continues as he moves to 6-5 while Kaisei is on the brink at 4-7. I'm hoping to see Tochiohzan back in the sanyaku for January, and I want Aoiyama to keep his post as well. It's a completely different banzuke with those two + Ichinojo instead of the yayhoos we've seen up there recently.

M3 Takayasu and M6 Jokoryu hooked up in the classic hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai where both guys hope for the clinching right outer grip. Takayasu used his bulk and length to threaten the outer grip first putting Jokoryu on his defensive heels, and despite his keeping Takayasu away for 10 seconds or so, Takayasu finally got the right outer and scored the decisive force-out win from there. Takayasu is one win away from glory at 7-4 while Jokoryu is still a respectable 6-5.

M4 Yoshikaze quickly snuck into moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M9 Tokushoryu, and despite some hefty counter kote-nage throws from Tokushoryu as he retreated, Yoshikaze stayed square and finally forced his gal across the straw for his first win. Today's tachi-ai was much better than those lousy henka the last few days. Course, today's opponent was a lot worse than his foes the last two days as well, but props to Monster Drink for picking up his first win. Tokushoryu falls to 4-7 with the loss.

M5 Chiyootori played nice today against M10 Shohozan ducking in low at the tachi-ai and just holding that position saying, "Just pull me down already ya dumbass!" Shohozan figured it out in about two seconds scoring the gifted pull down win sending the Fukuoka native to 5-6 while Chiyootori ends with the same mark. No harm no foul here, so let's move on.

Even at 100%, M5 Osunaarashi isn't exactly going to wow you with his sumo skills, so desperate for wins today against M7 Sadanoumi, he came out from the tachi-ai and just punched Sadanoumi right in the chin with that right kachi-age. With the Ejyptian going for blood up high, Sadanoumi took the abuse like a man and came out of the fray with the left outer grip that he would never relinquish. Osunaarashi went for a nifty counter scoop throw with the right hand mid way, but it was Sadanoumi who had the better position allowing him to survive. After Osunaarashi's initial volleys, he was running out of gas quickly, and Sadanoumi musta sensed it because he went for and scored the uwate-nage win in impressive fashion. Sadanoumi has revived himself a bit at 4-7 after a lousy start while Osunaarashi is still stuck at 1-10.

M11 Myogiryu and M6 Toyonoshima hooked up in the migi-yotsu position where both guys were in so snug, their crocodile arms couldn't reach around and grab the outer grip. Toyonoshima briefly flirted with a kubi-nage while Myogiryu briefly flirted with a maki-kae, but ultimately, the younger Myogiryu pressed the action and was so blunt, he just forced Toyonoshima straight down to the clay causing Tugboat to actually do the splits as he hit the ground (ouch!). Mr. Miyagiryu picks up kachi-koshi with the win and also surprisingly finds himself on the leaderboard at day's end while Toyonoshima falls to 6-5.

One of my favorite bouts on the day was the M7 Okinoumi - M14 Sokokurai matchup where the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the start. Sokokurai kept his can way back away from the right outer grip, and this forced Okinoumi much lower than he wanted to be, but it was Sokokurai's only hope because he cannot beat the taller Okinoumi chest to chest. Forcing Okinoumi to stay low and fight off Sokokurai's moro-zashi attempt on the far side, Sokokurai slowly forced the two to circle the ring, and when Okinoumi finally went for the force-out, Sokokurai slipped left and beautifully pushed Okinoumi down at the edge for the tsuki-otoshi win. I know these guys don't have coaches calling the plays, but Sokokurai simply outcoached his foe and earned the victory. Sokokurai moves to 8-3 with the win, and watch out, he could very well climb up to the sanyaku within the next year if he keeps this up. Okinoumi falls to 7-4 with the loss.

For the first time in like three basho, I strongly favored M8 Endoh to win his matchup on the day. Course, he was facing the ailing M12 Kitataiki in a contest where the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, and I think Endoh enjoyed the early right outer although I never saw the mukou jomen angle. As the two dug in, Kitataiki grabbed a fold of Endoh's belt with his own right, but Endoh quickly shoved into Kitataiki's side breaking it off. With little movement in the ring, Kitataiki reached for and got the outer again, and once again Endoh pushed it off and then made is methodical force-out charge from there. Endoh moves to 6-5 with the linear win while Kitataiki has a fork in him at 2-9.

In a battle of two rikishi with very similar styles, I think M16 Kotoyuki knew he had no chance to beat M9 Chiyotairyu straight up, so he henka'd to his right instead. Chiyotairyu must have sensed it was coming because he adjusted quickly and caught Kotoyuki square in the chest and began his charge. Kotoyuki evaded left in desperation yanking Chiyotairyu outta the dohyo by the right arm, but he had already stepped across the straw giving the win to Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu has a 7-4 record now to go with his sweet lambchops while Kotoyuki cools down a bit at 6-5.

After this bout, I was thinking to myself, "Sheesh, what's become of the Sadogatake-beya?" The once proud stable that constantly boasted enough sekitori that you needed two hands to count them all has now been reduced to Kotoshogiku, Kotoyuki, and some dude in Juryo named Koto-er-something-or-other. The days of the dominant stables like Musashigawa (now Fujishima), Futagoyama (now Takanohana) and the Sadogatake-beya are long gone, and it stands to reason because if the entire country of Japan can't find a single guy to make a ripple in the sport, how is a stable going to stock up on multiple guys with game when they're only allowed one foreigner per heya? This is definitely not your grandpa's sumo.

Have I really commented on every bout so far? May as well pick up the final four then. M16 Chiyomaru's opening thrusts against M10 Tamawashi were high again and so with Maru going for the neck and head, Tamawashi went for the chest and pits shoving Chiyomaru back and across without argument. Tamawashi improves to 5-6 as Chiyomaru falls to 6-5. On the bottom rung of the banzuke, Chiyomaru's gotta pick up two more wins, and I hope he doesn't panic and try to do it with henka. Trust in yourself, bro, and git the job done.

M12 Homarefuji caught M13 Arawashi square in the neck at the tachi-ai causing Arawashi to go into retreat mode and look for the counter pull. Homarefuji wasn't exactly driving with his legs and so he struggled to keep up, but near the edge he dove into Arawashi's chest forcing the back of Arawashi's right heel to barely touch beyond the straw before Homarefuji himself crashed to the dirt. Homarefuji moves to 6-5 in the process and at 7-4, Arawashi would have been on the leader board had he pulled this one out!

M13 Takanoiwa and M15 Kyokushuho hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Takanoiwa had the right outer grip, but it was just one fold of the belt, so with Kyokushuho pressing in tight, Takanoiwa didn't have sufficient leverage and it showed as Kyokushuho struck with the left inner belt throw that threw Takanoiwa to the dirt. Size mattered in this one, especially when Takanoiwa only had one fold of cloth. He suffers make-koshi with the loss at 3-8 while Kyokushuho is now 6-5.

Last and...well...probably least, M14 Amuuru latched onto the front of M15 Tochinowaka's belt with the left hand at the tachi-ai, and with Tochinowaka doing nothing, the Rookie came out of the fray with moro-zashi and quickly Bruised Lee right out of the dohyo for the perfect yori-kiri win. Amuuru (4-7) has won two in a row if ya need him while Tochinowaka has officially make-koshi'ed at 3-8.

Can't wait to do it all again tomorrow.

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Let's dive right into the action today since I have no new insight to add since my comments yesterday. We'll start off working our way up the current leaderboard which appeared as follows at the start of the day:

9-0: Kakuryu
8-1: Hakuho, Kisenosato, Kyokutenho
7-2: Harumafuji, Okinoumi, Tochinoshin, Sokokurai

Beginning with M14 Sokokurai, it was all a matter of which M9 Chiyotairyu was going to show up...the thruster or the puller. We had our answer straight way as Chiyotairyu just pummeled Sokokurai silly from the tachi-ai with a few palms to the chest sending him on the run from the get-go. In the process, Sokokurai went for a desperate pull where it looked like to me he gotta bitta hair causing Chiyotairyu to slip, but Tairyu quickly recovered and yanked Sokokurai out ami-uchi style where he tugged at Sokokurai's left limb with the right while pulling his opponent out of the ring from the armpit with the left over the top. This was close at the edge, but it was all set up by Chiyotairyu's bruising tachi-ai, so good on the lad as he improves to 6-4 while Sokokurai's kachi-koshi is denied at least for now at 7-3.

Next up among the two-loss rikishi was M7 Okinoumi who faced the crafty M13 Arawashi in a bout that saw Arawashi henka slightly to his left in and effort to grab the cheap outer, and the move threw any continuity to this bout out the window from that point. Okinoumi still managed the left inside position despite the henka that enabled him to lift Arawashi up high, but he just didn't have the dude secure in front of him as he forced him to the edge allowing Arawashi to slip left at the rope and pull Okinoumi down just a split second before Arawashi was forced out himself. You never like to see a guy on the leaderboard get henka'd, but Okinoumi was not a serious contender to being with. He also needs to be careful about climbing too high in the ranks because he has not fared well from the jo'i in quite some time. The result leaves both of these dudes at 7-3.

Moving right along, M8 Tochinoshin and M16 Chiyomaru were involved in a vicious tsuppari affair where Shin was aiming straight for Chiyomaru's mouth drawing blood at some point during the bout. Chiyomaru is the better push guy, but he just couldn't neutralize Tochinoshin's length and brute strength, and after about 10 seconds of an outright brawl, Tochinoshin swung a huge hari-te that barely connected, but it also made Chiyomaru flinch just enough to where Tochinoshin dove in, grabbed the belt, and then forced Chiyomaru back and out. Tochinoshin moves to 8-2 with the win and is threatening to take over as senior patrol leader in the division thanks to his kachi-koshi and Aminishiki's struggles up higher in the ranks. Chiyomaru falls to 6-4 with the loss, and frankly speaking, dude got his ass kicked today.

As the broadcast started for me this morning, the bout NHK was hyping was the Yokozuna Harumafuji - Ozeki Kisenosato matchup, and why not since this was our only contest that featured two leaders? Course, any anticipation ended right there because when the bout officially started, Harumafuji made Chiyomaru's day look like a walk in the park as the Yokozuna stuck a left nodowa into the Kid's neck at the tachi-ai and then employed sweet de-ashi to knock Kisenosato straight back and upright.  It took just a few steps forward before he slammed that final nail in the coffin that came in the form of a right hand square into the Kid's chest. Both rikishi's true colors were on display here as Kisenosato was unable to do anything in the dohyo.

While this one was obviously not a bout that involved yaocho, I have to think that the majority of yaocho that currently goes on in sumo occurs where the dude throwing the bout is the only one who has any idea. Kisenosato has been on the end of plenty of gifts, and it wouldn't have surprised anyone including Kisenosato had Harumafuji let up in this bout and deferred to the Ozeki, and I think that was on Kisenosato's mind coming in here because he was completely unresponsive in this one start to finish. If you have a Yokozuna fighting an Ozeki, sure, the Yokozuna should be the favorite, but hell, the Ozeki at least needs to put up a fight doesn't he? Madame Tussauds may as well have just placed a wax statue of the Ozeki at the starting lines today he was that ineffective, so I think today was a case of Kisenosato's thinking he might get a favor thrown his way and the opposite actually happening, which completely caught the Kid off guard. The end result is both of these combatants finishing the day at 8-2 and still maintaining their status as leaders.

Let's move next to the one-loss rikishi, and if anyone groaned at my analysis yesterday and Clancy's analysis Sunday regarding M11 Kyokutenho's sumo, what say ye now? M6 Jokoryu forced his way quite easily into moro-zashi against Kyokutenho who tried to adjust by pinching inwards on Jokoryu's arms, but the younger rikishi wisely took his time nudging his gal back, and even though Kyokutenho tried to counter and swing Jokoryu to the side, the M6 knew it was coming (who didn't?) and was able to stay square with the Chauffer and body him back quite easily. As I commented yesterday, I don't know what was behind the finagling in order to get Kyokutenho to eight wins, but you saw the result today as soon as he was involved in a straight up bout...against Jokoryu of all rikishi. Shat, you'd think Jokoryu was the next Ozeki candidate the way he handled the 8-1 Kyokutenho today. I realize that Jokoryu dominates this matchup head to head, but a true 8-1 rikishi puts up a better fight than this. Regardless, Kyokutenho is knocked one more rung down the leaderboard finishing the day at 8-2 while Jokoryu breathes easier at 6-4.

Our final one-loss rikishi is none other than Kublai Khan himself who stepped onto the clay facing Sekiwake Aoiyama. Hakuho secured his favored right inside / left outer grip combination from the tachi-ai and then pulled Aoiyama in tight taking the lead in their slow dance from the start. A giant like Aoiyama doesn't go easy, however, so the Yokozuna took his time as he slowly wrenched Aoiyama near the edge. The Sekiwake shook his hips in an effort to break off the left outer from the Yokozuna, but it was nothing doing as Hakuho finally got him up high and threw him across the straw with the left outer grip. Today's sumo was so beautiful it's a crying shame that we can't see Hakuho fight like this everyday. And Aoiyama is a top six rikishi in my opinion. The Yokozuna are obviously the top three, and then after that I think it goes Ichinojo, Aoiyama, and Tochiohzan with those final two tying for the top five spot. The Ozeki are nothing but a threesome of bearded ladies added to the carnival just to put more fannies in the seats, so to see Hakuho take apart Aoiyama today like this was refreshing. The Yokozuna climbs to 9-1 with the win while Aoiyama has still made his presence felt this basho at 5-5.

That brings us to our sole leader of the Kyushu basho, Yokozuna Kakuryu, who headed into the day at 9-0 and was tasked with taking down M3 Terunofuji in order to maintain his lead. Kakuryu gained moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and carefully forced Terunofuji back knowing Terunofuji's ability to counter. Fuji the Terrible used his size advantage and tried in vain to pinch inwards and lift the Yokozuna upright, but the Kak is just too good to blow this one scoring the eventual force out in about eight seconds that required a bit of a slow-dance across the ring. With the win, Kakuryu is unblemished at 10-0 while Terunofuji falls to a respectable 4-6. Before we move on, Terunofuji looks a little bit beat up to me. He's still young and terrible, but he could be tallying rent-a-car miles on his body instead of grandma-driving-her-Buick miles.

Before we move on, let's reshuffle the leaderboard as it stood at the end of day 10:

10-0: Kakuryu
9-1:   Hakuho
8-2:   Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Tochinoshin, Kyokutenho

There's really no point in listing the two-loss rikishi because I just can't see Hakuho losing one more coupled with Kakuryu's losing thrice. In fact, the way Hakuho was pumped up today, it wouldn't surprise me a bit to see him run the table including consecutive defeats over Kakuryu on senshuraku both in regulation and in the playoff, but I guess we'll find out his true intentions tomorrow as the dai-Yokozuna is matched up against arch-nemesis, Goeido!!

As long as we're on the subject of Goeido, let's next turn to his affair today against fellow Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Goeido dominated the tachi-ai getting the left arm deep inside that he used to drive Kotoshogiku back quickly to the straw. He let up at this point, however, and raised his right arm up and around Kotoshogiku's neck allowing the Geeku to re-establish himself with his own deep left at the back of Goeido's belt. From there, Goeido complied by just backing up slowly to the other end of the dohyo where he stood there and feigned a possible kubi/kake nage, but the throw never came, and he simply waited for Kotoshogiku to make a move. Said move was the Geeku's picking up Goeido by the inner right thigh (fresh!) and dumping him back and out okuri-taoshi.

The two Ozeki faced a predicament today both coming into the day at 4-5 because one of them had to lose. As much as I bag on Goeido, Kotoshogiku is a useless rikishi who could maybe win 3 - 4 legitimate bouts per basho at this point of his career, but because he was the hometown hero here, he was given the win. The result pushes Kotoshogiku to 5-5 while Goeido falls to 4-6 still leaving both dudes in very precarious positions. I think Goeido is just going to have to bite the bullet this basho because coming up with 7 wins for both of these guys is going to be a tall order. I guess we find out tomorrow as that dubious Hakuho - Goeido matchup occurs on day 11. If Hakuho loses yet again tomorrow, I am seriously going to shat myself.

Sekiwake Ichinojo really isn't a guy that M1 Aminishiki can sneak around on, so he fired a right nodowa from the tachi-ai, and then slipped left in hopes of keeping Ichinojo away from the belt. In the process, Shneaky managed a meager right arm inside, but if he got any closer, the Mongolith was going to grab the left outer, so Aminishiki sorta stood back keeping Ichinojo's right arm tangled up and away from the inside position. From this stance, a brief stalemate ensued before Aminishiki tried to dart to the side and pull Ichinojo down by the back'a the arm pit, but Ichinojo reacted extremely fast for a dude his size and just bulldozed Aminishiki back and out using his head as a battering ram for the nice win. Aminishiki's move laterally was so quick and unexpected that he bumped into the gyoji knocking him off the clay as he was pushed out himself, but the referee picked himself up quickly and didn't seem too shaken other than the fact his slip was showing beneath his kimono. It goes to show, though, just how quick and impressively Ichinojo reacted here as he moves to 5-5 and picks up the 6 - 10 spare in the process. Aminishiki is now on the brink at 3-7.

M1 Tochiohzan fished for moro-zashi from the tachi-ai keeping his arms in tight while Komusubi Ikioi charged forward with very little..er..ikioi. Unable to budge Tochiohzan back, the M1 eventually began working his arms in deeper for moro-zashi, but he silled the dill when he changed gears and just backed up a step pulling Ikioi down in the process. Fish in a barrel here as Tochiohzan improves to 5-5 while Ikioi's sanyaku debut officially ends in make-koshi at 2-8.

Rounding out the sanyaku, M2 Takarafuji stood straight up and waited at the tachi-ai just daring Komusubi Takekaze do to anything. Takekaze timidly came forward as Takarafuji circled the ring offering enough shoves to keep Takekaze at bay. Then, when the Komusubi got really close, Takarafuji just threw an elbow into his gut sending him back across the straw and that was that. Takarafuji improves to 5-5 with the win while Takekaze's sanyaku disaster continues at 1-9.

M2 Toyohibiki clobbered M5 Chiyootori back from the tachi-ai with his signature tsuppari attack, but the shoves were focused too high allowing Chiyootori to mawari-komu around the entire perimeter of the ring before yanking Toyohibiki out at the edge with a desperate tug at his right arm and push down of the shoulder. Head shots are sweet indeed, but you can't dictate the course of your opponent's retreat, and it burned Toyohibiki today as he falls further to 2-8. Interesting though that he was able to respond to his opponent's lateral movements today but couldn't do so yesterday against Kisenosato.  Chiyootori improves to 5-5 and still has room to make a bid for the sanyaku.

M3 Takayasu grabbed the early belt grip with the right hand near the front of M6 Toyonoshima's belt and while Tugboat attempted to maki-kae, Takayasu just pressed him upright causing Toyonoshima to retreat. Takayasu stayed snug, however, and was able to dictate Toyonoshima's retreat back and out with well-timed tsuppari and good footwork. Both rikishi end the day at 6-4, and at least one special prize awaits Takayasu if he can get to eight wins.

You'd have to say the most compelling bout of the day featured two rikishi with zero wins who actually withdrew from the basho early on only to come back later in order to attempt to keep themselves in the Makuuchi pay scale with a few wins. I'm talking of course about two ST favorites, M5 Osunaarashi and M4 Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze henka'd to his left at the tachi-ai, but as he did yesterday against Fuji the Terrible, he went too far creating too much separation. I would think one of the last rikishi you want to get close to again after dissing him is Osunaarashi, and from this point, the Ejyptian was all blood and sweat getting the best of Cafe with clubs to the head and alternate pulls. He eventually just wore Monster Drink down in the end before spilling him down to make it official. I feel for both of these guys as Osunaarashi now stands at 1-9 while Yoshikaze is 0-10.

M8 Endoh greeted M4 Kaisei with a left shoulder followed by a left palm into the neck, and as Kaisei pressed forward looking for some cloth, Elvis quickly switched gears and just pulled the rug out from under the Brasilian scoring the second-and-a-half hiki-otoshi win. Kaisei falls to 4-6 with the loss while Endoh improves to 5-5!

Skipping down the charts a ways, M15 Kyokushuho briefly flirted with the right inside at the tachi-ai while M10 Tamawashi shifted back and to the left, and from this point, Tamawashi lost any chance at momentum. Proof in the pudding was a yotsu guy's ability to shove Tamawashi around the ring until he got the left inside "for reals" as we'd say as kids. From there, he quickly dumped Tamawashi to the clay with a nifty outer belt throw. I suppose I commented on this bout in order to show how much an early pull can take a guy out of his game as Tamawashi falls to 4-6 while Kyokushuho evens things up at 5-5.

M14 Amuuru came out with a fire under his arse trading tsuppari for tsuppari with M10 Shohozan before the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Amuuru grabbed one fold of an outer grip with the right hand. For the next minute the Russian tested the dashi-nage waters while Shohozan held on looking for any sort of opening. Nearly pulling Shohozan's mawashi apart, the Tenderfoot finally got him under control dragging him down for the shitate-dashi-nage win. Amuuru staves off kachi-koshi at 3-7 while Shohozan falls to 4-6.

Remember how genki Shohozan was against Homarefuji yesterday? After a one-sided affair, Homarefuji was seen limping back down the hana-michi after the hometown kid had just kicked his ass. Yes, this same hometown kid who just did nothing against a struggling rookie. Well, M12 Homarefuji was a different gal today in a straight-up tsuppari affair against M16 Kotoyuki. Kotoyuki briefly pushed Homarefuji to the side with a left swipe from the tachi-ai, but Homarefuji recovered and just plowed forward shoving Kotoyuki back and across the straw drawing a tsuki-dashi winning technique. This same fire was curiously missing in his bout against Shohozan yesterday, and I'm not saying that I thought Homarefuji deferred in his bout against Shohozan yesterday. What I'm implying is that I think Mr. Miyagi is lurking somewhere in the back halls of the venue, and he did that magic hand-clap massage trick on Homarefuji-san's knee yesterday.

Finally, M11 Myogiryu easily bullied his way into the right inside position forcing M12 Kitataiki back a step or two before reversing gears on a dime and just pulling the hapless Kitataiki forward and down. Myogiryu is a quiet 7-3 while Kitataiki should start packing his bags for Juryo at 2-8.

If you're sick of me from the last two days, I have some good news: I'm right back here again tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It's good to be back in the saddle after a four-day hiatus where I took a brief roadie for a baseball tournament that involved my boys. I was able to catch the bouts each day online back at the hotel, but I still felt a bit out of touch not having had access to the Japanese broadcast. Now that I'm back with my usual satellite feed from Japan, I'm a bit perturbed that they've delayed the start of the feed 15 minutes each day because now when the broadcast starts, the two rikishi involved in the day's first bout are warming up, and I don't get that candid oyakata talk for the first 10 minutes or the short features they usually show in between the Juryo and Makuuchi bouts. I feel as if part of my effectiveness in commenting on the action is having a good pulse on what's being broadcast during the downtime, but I haven't had that yet this basho, and so it just doesn't feel right.

In week two, they usually start off the Makuuchi broadcast with the leader board, and so I'll do that as well since I like to mostly focus on the leaders in week 2 anyway. As we entered the day, the leader board shaped up like this (and I'm assuming NHK went two losses deep):

8-0: Kakuryu
7-1: Hakuho, Kisenosato, Kyokutenho
6-2: Harumafuji, Toyonoshima, Tochinoshin, Okinoumi, Chiyomaru, Arawashi, Sokokurai, Kotoyuki

What I see there is a whole lot of noise and very little substance, but when Hakuho drops a bout in week 1, it suddenly qualifies a whole bunch of rank and file dudes who really have no business being on he leader board to begin with. Since NHK didn't show the leader board by the time my feed started, it's hard for me to tell what they're really hyping. Regardless, I'm going to start with the leaders working our way up the board in chronological order hopefully eliminating some of the dross along the way.

We start with M14 Sokokurai and M13 Arawashi who hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, and while neither rikishi had an outer grip, Sokokurai wrenched his hips beautifully cutting of Arawashi's left inside belt grip. Using his own potent left inside belt grip, Sokokurai masterfully kept his gal square in front of him as he forced Arawashi around the ring and out for the nifty yori-kiri. Sokokurai keeps himself on the leader board at 7-2, and he's actually one of the dudes who I've really enjoyed watching this basho. He's kind of like a poor man's Kakuryu in that he really bugged you when he first came up due to his cheap sumo, but now that he's hunkered down and gotten used to the division, he's got some pretty good technique. Arawashi falls to 6-3 and officially falls out of contention that he was officially never contending for in the first place.

Chiyomaru offered his usual moro-te-zuki to the base of Myogiryu's neck, but instead of pushing forward, he was looking for the cheap pull. Bad idea as Myogiryu was pushing forward with both palms squarely thrusting into Chiyomaru's chest, and he had Maru pushed back and out before you could say "leader board who?" Both rikishi end the day at 6-3, and hopefully Kakuryu doesn't drop one anytime soon or half the division could end up on the leader board.

Two more of our "leaders" clashed today with M16 Kotoyuki and M8 Tochinoshin in a bout that featured a straight up oshi guy vs. a straight up yotsu dude. From the tachi-ai, Kotoyuki offered tsuppari straight into Tochinoshin's chest, but they had little effect since his legs were there to brace himself, not fuel his thrusts. On about the third volley, Tochinoshin just moved right and pulled Kotoyuki down with ease using the left arm wrapped completely around Kotoyuki's melon. Tochinoshin moves to 7-2 in the process and is an obvious candidate for a special prize. Kotoyuki falls to 6-3 with the loss.

M7 Okinoumi engaged in a hidari-yotsu contest from the tachi-ai with M5 Chiyootori, and Chiyootori hurried his force-out charge just a bit allowing Okinoumi to slip right near the edge and counter with a kote-nage throw that worked like a charm. I normally want to see a guy win in a linear fashion, but Okinoumi simply took what was given him today as he climbs to 7-2. Chiyootori settles for 4-5.

In a curious bout involving M6 Toyonoshima with two losses and M11 Kyokutenho with just one loss heading into the day, Toyonoshima looked to gain moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but he quickly backed out of it retreating towards the edge, and as Tenho gave chase with an extended right shove, Toyonoshima turned the tables and had Kyokutenho dead to rights with a left tsuki to back of Kyokutenho's right armpit. He strangely let up on the move, however, and then just stooped in a low stance with legs apart allowing Kyokutenho to slap him down for the comeback win at the straw. To clarify further, Toyonoshima was already on his way down of his own volition rendering Tenho's slap a mere prop to make it look legitimate, but for the second day in a row, Kyokutenho's opponent just took a dive. It was far more obvious yesterday against Okinoumi as Clancy pointed out, but Toyonoshima was not out to win this bout.

There "here we go again" crowd may groan at that assessment, but I don't know how else to break this down. My impression is that people wanting everything to be pure in sumo will take a bout like this and analyze how it was plausible that Kyokutenho did catch his balance at the edge and surprise Toyonoshima with that final slapdown, but I think a lot of viewers fail to notice what the loser didn't do in the bout. For example, what didn't Toyonoshima do in the bout? He didn't play his initial moro-zashi properly; he didn't follow through on that tsuki-otoshi shove while Kyokutenho's back was facing him; and he didn't make an adjustment with his feet at the ring's edge with the bout still live.

The Hakuho - Takayasu bout on day 6 was similar to this one (although far more obvious). Sure, Takayasu connected with a slapdown motion touching the Yokozuna supposedly sending him out of the ring, but what didn't Hakuho do in that bout? He didn't use either hand at the tachi-ai; he stayed completely upright; and he made no effort to keep his feet in the dohyo. How often do we see Hakuho unaware of his positioning in the dohyo? Never...at least when he's trying to win. In one of Harumafuji's losses (I think to Takayasu), he also carelessly stepped out of the dohyo in a similar manner. A guy like Chiyotairyu whose always looking for the wild pull might lose track of his position in the dohyo, but not a Yokozuna.

Anyway, the win by Kyokutenho today puts him at 8-1 making him the oldest rikishi to ever obtain kachi-koshi in the division. I don't know if the Sumo Association wanted that headline in a basho where Ichinojo is having trouble keeping his head above water nor do I know if Tomozuna-oyakata has a wad of cash that he's using to pay guys off. What I do know is that Kyokutenho has been given two gifts the last two days. I guess I'm carrying on here because there's more of this nonsense to follow. With the loss, Toyonoshima falls off of the leader board for now at 6-3.

Our final two-loss rikishi heading into the day was Yokozuna Harumafuji who greeted Ozeki Goeido with two hands to the shoulders and then quickly backed up pulling the hapless Ozeki forward and down in less than two seconds. This one was so emphatic that Harumafuji drew the tsuki-otoshi kimari-te as he stays alive in the yusho hunt at 7-2. As for Goeido, he falls to 4-5 and looks his usual hapless self. Good thing he'll have Hakuho quaking in his mawashi cause he's gonna need every win he can get from here on out.

Ozeki Kisenosato entered the day still at one loss as he faced M2 Toyohibiki who charged forward with his head down and actually caught Kisenosato squarely in the gut forcing him back, and really at this point, the Ozeki's only option was to move out left and go for a counter pull. With Toyohibiki still plowing straight forward, the easy push down win came about two seconds in. Toyohibiki's exaggerated fall and his failure to even try and turn to the side after he dominated the tachi-ai (a point acknowledged by both broadcasters in the booth) tells me he had no intention to win this bout. Remember in Forrest Gump when he returns a kickoff for a touchdown and then keeps on running up through the tunnel in the stadium oblivious to his surroundings? That was Toyohibiki today...charging forward full boar even after his opponent evaded to the side. Without going into further detail, just ask yourself what obvious adjustments Toyohibiki didn't make in this one as Kisenosato skates to 8-1 while the Hutt (2-7) can at least gorge himself on yaku-niku tonight courtesy of the Ozeki's camp.

Our final one-loss rikishi heading into the day was Yokozuna Hakuho who hooked up with Sekiwake Ichinojo in the immediate gappuri migi-yotsu position, and we never see Hak's opponents get the early left outer grip like this, but it goes to show how potent Ichinojo is with his sheer bulk and long arms. Didn't matter, though, because with Ichinojo standing there like a blob as he is wont to do, the Yokozuna was loading up a left outer belt throw that came straight way and felled the Mongolith to the bright Kyushu clay with ease. Hakuho moves to 8-1 with the win and obviously controls his own destiny. As for Ichinojo, he didn't look too determined in this one as he falls to 4-5.

Moving up the leaderboard, Yokozuna Kakuryu faced Sekiwake Aoiyama who hissed briefly from the tachi-ai, but Kakuryu stood toe to toe with him and shoved the Sekiwake back and upright in short order. From there, the Kak pounced to the inside securing the right inside grip, and with Aoiyama using his head to keep Kakuryu away from the inside left, Kakuryu ducked even lower creating the opening for moro-zashi that Aoiyama could not o'ercome. The yori-kiri was swift as Kakuryu moves to 9-0 and enjoys the teet of success while Aoiyama falls to 5-4. Before we move on and review the new leader board, Aoiyama has been one of the more entertaining guys this basho to watch, and I hope he keeps his Sekiwake rank.

Sheesh, that was a lot of contender dust to sift through, but with everything settled, the new leader board heading into day 10 looks as follows:

9-0: Kakuryu
8-1: Hakuho, Kisenosato, Kyokutenho
7-2: Harumafuji, Okinoumi, Tochinoshin, Sokokurai

There's still a lot of sumo to go, and if Hakuho drops another one, the ending to this tournament could get crazy.

In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Kotoshogiku and M3 Takayasu hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Takayasu largely just stood there allowing Kotoshogiku to force him around and out of the ring. This one was mukiryoku all the way, and why not, Takayasu has gotten his this basho already. Takayasu had the early right outer grip, but he took his hand away, and then he did nothing else to counter as the Geeku forced him around the ring and out. With the win, Kotoshogiku limps forward to 4-5, and if they're going to see to it that the hometown kid gets his kachi-koshi, it's going to be ugly down the stretch in terms of fake bouts. Takayasu falls to 5-4, but he gets it.

M'man, M1 Tochiohzan cautiously charged forward looking for an opportunity to pounce as Komusubi Takekaze focused on moving around the ring to set up his usual pull. Tochiohzan ain't that stupid, however, and patiently waited for an opening that would come about four seconds in as T-OH scored the oshi-dashi win moving his record to 4-5. Takekaze falls to 1-8 with the loss if anybody cares. Before we move on, one of the year-end graphics NHK showed today during the broadcast was the top five rikishi with the most wins so far this calendar year. The list is in Japanese for you kanji bandits, and for those who don't recognize the characters, the order is:

1. Hakuho
2. Kakuryu
3. Kisenosato
4. Goeido
5. Kotoshogiku tied with Tochiohzan

When you consider all the gifts the Japanese Ozeki have received this year and then note that not only has Tochiohzan not had any bouts thrown in his favor, but he also withdrew from Nagoya with just two wins, you can see why I tout him as the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke.

Rounding out the sanyaku, M1 Aminishiki was looking pull from the start as he struck meekly against Komusubi Ikioi and then retreated. Ikioi was moving straight ahead, however, and so he easily forced his compromised opponent back and across the straw in two seconds. Aminishiki falls to 3-6 while Ikioi is a meager 2-7.

I normally wouldn't cover two sub five hundred rikishi outside of the sanyaku, but I'm still laughing at Clancy's description of M4 Kaisei's horsehair vest that open backwards! The Brasilian used early shoves in an attempt to feel his opponent out, but M2 Takarafuji managed to slip into the right inside position and grab the left outer grip. As he tested the force-out waters, it was clear that there was no way he was going to budge Kaisei in a chest to chest affair, but Takarafuji was already committed. After digging in for few seconds, Kaisei shook his hips breaking off Takarafuji's outer grip and sending him on the move to try and catch his gal off guard, but Kaisei was square into his opponent and came out of the fray with the right inside and left outer grip that he used from there to score the text book yori-kiri win. Both rikishi stand at 4-5.

There is no way that a hobbled M4 Yoshikaze is going to slay a giant like M3 Terunofuji, and after striking at the tachi-ai, Yoshikaze quickly moved left but jumped too far finding himself standing on the tawara. Terunofuji is passive at the tachi-ai anyway and wasn't fooled a bit by Monster's erratic start, so he simply turned 90 degrees and had Yoshikaze cornered if such a thing is possible in a round ring. There was no escape for Cafe as Terunofuji just bodied him across that last step moving to 4-5 in the process. Yoshikaze is still winless, and remember, the dude withdrew after day 5 and came back today in hopes of picking up a few wins in order to stay in the division come twenty fifteen.

M9 Chiyotairyu was hellbent on pulling M6 Jokoryu down, so he'd strike and pull back, strike and pull back. On about the third attempt, Jokoryu timed his opponent's pull attempt and caught him squarely in the chest with a bitch slap that knocked Chiyotairyu back to where his feet sloppily stepped across the straw leaving both combatants at 5-4. These two were rivals in college and you could tell there was no love lost between them on the dohyo today.

M10 Tamawashi and M7 Sadanoumi bumped noggins at the tachi-ai with Tamawashi firing offensive tsuppari and Sadanoumi on defense. Allowing himself to be driven back a touch, Sadanoumi quickly moved left and yanked at Tamawashi's extended right arm, and it threw The Mawashi off balance just enough to where Sadanoumi made his intentions known with the quick moro-zashi, and it was easy peasy Japanesy from there. Good to see Sadanoumi get his third win (against six losses) while Tamawashi falls to 4-5.

M8 Endoh gained the quick left inside and right outer grip from the tachi-ai, and he had M14 Amuuru dumped to the clay a second in. Course, Amuuru's just standing there and doing nothing helped the cause. I'm not sure if the Tenderfoot was intentionally mukiryoku or not, but he falls to 2-7 while Endoh is surely happy to end the day at 4-5.

M12 Homarefuji kept his hands up high against M10 Shohozan and lamely went for a pull allowing Shohozan to just plow him backwards and out drawing the tsuki-dashi kimari-te. Homarefuji limped back down the hana-michi, and I'm not sure if he was really injured or just putting on a show to justify his lack of effort against the struggling hometown kid. Both rikishi end the day at 4-5.

Just prior to this bout, they showed an entire row of geisha girls (I use the term "girls" lightly) in attendance dressed in matching black kimono. The geisha are actually affiliated with the Ebisu Shrine located on the East side of Fukuoka, and I know that because I used to write this stupid PR newsletter when I worked for the city, and they always liked to feature boring cultural aspects of Japan while I wanted to write about sumo, baseball, and review the concerts that came through town. Anyway, there's really no such thing as a geisha girl in Japan anymore; the hot chicks who want to be "entertainers" all migrate to Tokyo's Ginza district where they can dress in Western attire and fleece the old, rich guys giving them nothing in return but their paid company and a stiffie. Anyone who dresses in geisha garb these days are older women, and there's a reason why the cameras don't pan up too close to them. I can still remember my reaction when I saw those geisha up close for the first time. I was like Butthead when a horrible video comes on and he says, "Uh!"

Not sure why I even commented on that, but I had it in my notes from the broadcast, and since there aren't any other bouts that would top my geisha talk, I'll end the day here.

With so many rikishi headed for kachi-koshi and possibly the yusho, Kane has too much positive company watching the bouts with him these days ifyaknowhadduhmean, so I will be back tomorrow in an attempt to fill his heavy metal shoes. Sweet!

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hello and welcome to Day Eight of the Fuyu Basho, Peter Frampton’s favorite tourney. I’ve bean (I spell it like that because I want you to have good British pronunciation inside your head) reading my fellow contributor’s reports every day, and have been blown away by the revelation that both Mike and Harvyeah use numbers to help them understand the ebb and flow of the sumo we know, yo.

Kane has confided in me that he has a much less scientific approach, foregoing numerology and statistics and rather observing how the ladies with whom he watches sumo on lush futon react to a given rikishi’s warmup routine. Filing her nails? Wrestler will probably MK. Running fingers through her hair while absentmindedly biting lower lip? Heading for KK. Tapping large silicon phallus against the inside of her thigh? You need to ASK?

Martin, hailing as he does from that ‘fisticated center of erudition and cutting edge synergy, Transylvania, takes the opposite tack and goes pure science. You wouldn’t understand it if I tried to explain (shit, I don’t understand it myself), but trust me, once he decodes what the small pigeon bones inside the pentagram drawn in candle wax on his mom’s basement floor are telling him, dude pretty much NAILS it. I mean, we all know he saw Kakuryu as a Yokozuna from day one.

As for me, for years I’d been (naively, as it turns out) simply watching sumo and then remembering what I saw. Well, seeing how THAT’S not going to cut it any longer, I’ve decided to rely less on smarts and more on suds. You see, my wife’s sister’s boyfriend’s aunt’s neighbor’s father’s cousin’s daughter runs a dry cleaners, and through some twist of fate she came to be the exclusive launderer of all the mawashi used by Makuuchi rikishi during every Kyushu basho. Being as we’re nearly family, I asked this woman if she could toss me sumpn, some tidbit of sumo insider chanko that could help me return me to my former place as the most revered contributor on Sumotalk. I mean, I know I can’t do it on the power of my writing alone.

She agreed to provide me, every evening for a fortnight, with photos of each rikishi’s mawashi, raveled (look it up) and laid out flat. But here’s the kicker: The photos are taken BEFORE she washes them! Isn’t that, to use the vernacular of the peasantry, “fuckin awesome?”

Long intro short, I have spent hours scouring these hi res digital photos, mulling over every wrinkle, every odd fold, every blood stain, every skidmark. And do you know what I’ve discovered? Here. Lean in close. Ready?


Having his way in Week One down in Juryo, former Makuuchi mainstay Kyokushuz. . .I mean, Tokitenku rose up to battle with Kyokushuho, who got a demonically strong inside front belt grip, snuggled in close and levered his countryman backward, out, and down for the yori-taoshi (essentially a yori-kiri where you are forced onto your ass).

Kotoyuki went for the thick throat, thus thwarting Thokokurai’s (sorry, couldn’t stop with the “th”) desperate attempts to get inside to the belt. Backing up along the edge, Sokokurai finally had nowhere else to go but out, doing one of those splits where his right leg hits the floor of the gym while his left leg is still on top of the dohyo. Photographer sitting at the West corner MUST have gotten a softcore crotch shot, Mike. We want to see it, please.

Kitataiki took the lower position at the tachi-ai, but Arawashi was able to use the angle to keep the E12 from ever rising out of his crouch, quickly tugging him around and down by his right arm while tapping the back of his noggin, like a teacher in the olden days telling a fifth grader to get back in lunch line.

Homarefuji may LOOK like one of those ball shaped Pokemon, but surely he must realize he has feet? Today the W12 hammered into Chiyomaru and knocked him back, but then came forward and left his feet behind. Easy slapdown win for W16 Chiyomaru, who’s all purdied up at 6-2.

E10 Shohozan went after Tochinowaka like a short, angry husband after his taller wife, two hands to the chin and leaning in like he was stretching his calves. The E15 took it and liked it, coming forward with arms tight trying to get em some belt. So Golden Boy shifted and did it again, Honeymooners style, bang zoom to the moon, Alice! Again the Kasugano beya man shrugged it off and came in. A few more throat pushes led to a nice hard comic book "Thwap!" to the kisser that only let Tochinowaka in, where he clamped down around Shohozan’s forearms. But Shohozan was up to the task, jamming his arm well up under his foe’s pit to body him out as Tochinowaka vainly tried a kote-nage. Well fought battle, and huzzah for the little man (though it is troubling to see domestic violence be rewarded so).

Amuuru came with a nicely formed tachi-ai but not nearly enough power vs. Tamawashi. The Mongolian gave a bit of ground, then went with his foe’s predictable pull attempt, bringing the men across the dohyo where Fyodor’s fanboy found himself pinned and skinned in the tsuki dashi style. It was a crime that he was punished so, but he had better right the ship, because 2-6 at E14 doesn’t leave much room for late night karaoke (or a double homicide).

E11 Myogiryu used a lightning fast tachi-ai to drive E9 Chiyotairyu (who, to be fair, seemed to have a pull/slap down in mind from jumpstreet) back and out before I could crack wise. Both men sit 5-3.

E13 Takanoiwa used solid lower body mechanics to drive some hard pipin tsuppari into Tokushoryu’s throat and chest to bully his way to win number deux. Go back and you’ll see Tokushoryu was upright, using all arms for his pushing, but Takanoiwa was at a perfect angle throughout to transmit the power up from his hips into his stumps. Coaches from almost every sport rejoiced.

One has to wonder just how much cash Kyokutenho put in Okinoumi’s wedding envelope. Both coming in at 6-1, Kyokutenho allowed the E7 the inside right, and it looked like it was game on, but Okinoumi opened up his stance and inexplicably just dropped down. Even though he is qualified with a Level 3 Operators License, I could not discern what The Chauffer did to drive his foe to the clay. PLEASE don’t try and tell me he threw The Bridegroom down with that fingertip belt grip when Okinoumi was already falling. The W11 moves one win away from KK, and I move one more step closer to turning off the tv for lack of excitement. Bigtime yawner for my young ass, but with Kyokutenho at 40 years of age, I’m sure Japanese geriatrics appreciate theatrics.

That Peter Frampton joke in the intro? “Fu-u-u-u-u-u-yu, YU! Fe-e-e-e-el like Kyushu?” (Lord, is that an awful gag. Can’t believe I’m leaving it in.)

The Private almost lived up to his name in front of a non-sellout crowd as Toyonoshima fought off the big guy’s slaps to get inside and snatch the belt. In the whirling tussle one junk wrapping strand of Tochinoshin’s mawashi came undone, and we were pritnear close to seeing his gorgeous Georgian! Toyonoshima sensed something was amiss as he drove him over the bales, so he followed him off the dohyo and crashed on top of him and the MIB seated there. While they were down I’m fairly certain Tugboat tied it back up for him. What a pal!

W8 Endo slid off Chiyootori's body just after tachi-ai, swinging around while holding his forearm. E5 Chiyootori recovered, but only enough to be perpendicular to Endo with no chance of winning. The Kokonoe man fought and struggled, eventually sinking slowly into full on, high school cheerleader, rah rah sis boom bah splits. A position that would end any hopes I have of ever walking again, he just shrugged off like it was another day at the office. Endo has three wins that I cannot even recall.

Winless Yoshikaze had but one plan today after returning from a four day absence, and that was to grab Sadanoumi’s arm and swing him around by it. The W7 nearly fell for it, but was able to keep himself balanced on one leg until Yoshikaze had completed his tumble to the clay. Two wins between these guys after eight days does not speak well of my choosing to cover this bout.

Jokoryu came into today’s matchup with Takarafuji looking to beat a guy who has pretty much pwned him in their career H2H. It started well as he charged forward and forced Takarafuji to the edge, but a left hand outside belt grip allowed the E2 to counter and avoid a quick loss. Jokoryu brought it back to the center with some shoving that caused Takarafuji to abandon his grip and do come defensive chest pushing. Once he stalled Jokoryu’s charge, though, he regained the left grip (on the inside this time) and drove him back across the dohyo and out. Both chaps were left batting .500

Toyohibiki came in and unloaded on Kaisei, who was pushed and lifted by his chin to the bales. . .where he accounted well of himself by dodging away to his left and using his best assets to gain some separation by taxing the W2’s form. Once they clashed together again Kaisei was able to get a bearhug on, what is it, Butane Belch? Though holding his own inside right belt, Kaisei’s impetuousness was too much for Toyohibiki and the Hutt Brother was forced out. Great energy was expended, as was evidenced by the sweat running down the avenue of smooth flesh that runs from the big Brasilian’s nape to (probably) his nuts. Dude looks like hes wearing a horsehair vest that opens on his back.

Aoiyama kept a belt sniffing Aminishiki at bay by repeatedly palming his head like he was testing watermelons in the supermarket, until Shneaky was found to be too ripe and was blasted out to his 5th loss. Sekiwake Aoiyama begins the second week needing only three wins for his kachi-koshi. . .but he has to fight the Triumvirate, beginning tomorrow with Kakuryu.

Ichinojo pulled a poorly executed henka on Tochiohzan, and it got him nowhere but almost disqualified as it he seemed to me to be tugging that chon-mage. After Tochiohzan stood upright, the Mongolith had his right arm on the inside but unwisely pulled it out and went to the back of the head to see if Oh Snap was interested in being dragged down. He wasn’t, and instead got inside himself and tackle sledded the shin-Sekiwake back and out rather easily.

He’s still young, so mistakes like this can be forgiven, and after Hakuho tomorrow drops him to 4-5, he doesn’t have as difficult a row to hoe as his East partner, with only the beatable Geeku and Kid left before a steady diet of Maegashira. One thing I really like about this guy is he always stays cool. He KNOWS he is a beast, and when he makes mistakes his face looks more perplexed about how his strategy didn’t work out than exasperated at having lost. He’s analytical. If he doesn’t make Yokozuna by the end of 2016 I’ll do a one man reenactment of the beach volleyball scene from Top Gun on the steps of the Kokugikan in Tokyo at Hatsu 2017. Nude.

Goeido used to be Takayasu’s plaything, at one point 0-6 vs. the Ibaraki native. Then, in the second half of 2013, Goeido seemed to figure his nemesis out, winning three straight on his way to Ozeki. But this year the trend has reversed, and once again Takayasu is making Goeido “smell the glove.” Today he defeated him for the second time in his short Ozeki tenure and eighth time overall by exchanging inside left belts at tachi-ai, then gaining an outside right and lifting the beleaguered Osaka native to his ignominious 4th loss. Takayasu certainly looked the Ozeki in this bout and I’d not be shocked if he one day MAKES Ozeki. Seems to me he is just getting better and more confident each tournament.

With fellow Fukuoka native and former Ozeki Kaio sitting ringside, Kotoshogiku tried to reverse his fortunes in a basho that is quickly getting away from him. Today he was facing Kisenosato in the tourney’s first all-Ozeki matchup. Time was when The Geeku regularly humiliated The Kid, but since Hatsu 2012, Kisenosato has emerged victorious ten out of the fifteen times they have wrestled on the dohyo to bring their H2H to a respectable 22-29-1.

Perhaps caught slightly unawares at the start, Kisenosato gave up an inside left and much ground, and it looked like Geeku would win this one without much ado. But The Kid must be up on his Shakespeare, because he stiffened and held (sounds like a paragraph I might write about Kakuryu), his heels dangling over the edge, then lifted Kotoshogiku up a touch, came down hard and fast with his arms, and caused the weight bearing load on poor Geeku to crumple him to the clay. I do not credit Kotoshogiku’s wrapped knee with playing a significant part. Kisenosato is just the stronger rikishi at this point. The Ozeki was heard to mutter as he walked away from his fallen adversary, "He which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart; his passport shall be made." The Kid remains his customary semi-serious threat to the Mongolian hegemony at 7-1 while Geeku contemplates retirement in Bali.

After his silly loss to Takayasu, Yokozuna Hakuho was in sharp form vs. Terunofuji. After an initial clash, Hakuho used a lightning fast left hand to the back of the head to send the W3 sliding past. As he turned to recover, Hakuho set upon him and easily crushed him back and out. Leaping out behind Terunofuji, Hakuho gave him a tiny shove as he stumbled into the expensive seats. It appeared that Hakuho may have been worked up due to an elbow that caught him in the eye, and elbow that Hakuho MAY have felt was unnecessary due to the fact that the Yokozuna had him dead to rights and his thrashing at the edge was like the spastic throes of a corpse. No big thang. It all happens in three quick seconds, and Terunofuji can take it.

Takekaze displayed his nads against Yokozuna Harumafuji by going in high and hard toward the Yokozuna’s neck. Roused to anger, the Mongolian Grand Champion gave more than he got, pounding out the petulant punk with a painfully precise pummeling. He stood imperious on the dohyo as Takekaze tried to climb out of the seats. Took the Komusubi so long HowDo just turned and walked back to his corner.

Finally, Ikioi made a much better show of it vs. Yokozuna Kakuryu, surviving a withering attack of shoves and slaps to the chest and head that caused the Komusubi to eventually lean forward while standing on the hay bales, and at that precise moment The Kak slapped him down to the soil. 8-0 for Kakuryu and looking pretty as we head down into Week Two.

(          ) blames it all on Obama tomorrow. I should be back next weekend. Cheerio!

Day 6 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
I wasn’t going to go with statistics today, but as Mike did some yesterday, I thought I’d go ahead and make it three days in a row. Some other time I will compare the matches to a bowl of ramen, or write like a demented medieval goatherder with a concussion tripping on bad bread (credit: Steve Albini).

Today’s stat is career high rank (CHR, to coin an acronym). Even more so than height, weight, and age, using this stat as a predictive measure isn’t really useful. On the one hand, in general, if a guy has had a fairly long career and never rises above a certain rank, he can be expected to get trounced at that rank. Just so, you can expect him to look great if he gets far below it. Think of Tochinoshin, who had two straight yushos while under-ranked in Juryo, but has had six career tries at M1 or Komusubi, and finished no better than 6-9. So, logic tells us Tochinoshin should continue to excel where he is now (M8), get over-promoted, and do badly again next tournament in the jo’i. But simple math never captures it. For example, the two Kazes, Yoshi and Take, both have had a late career surge that seems out of keeping with past performance: Takekaze had two isolated appearances at M1 or above in a long Makuuchi career from 2003-2012, and suddenly has five since then, with a 7-8 as a shin-Sekiwake last tournament at age 35. You’ll also notice how many former Komusubis and Sekiwakes there are floating around the lower ranks—my theory is it takes a while for guys to figure you out, and you can surge up on that, but once they know who you are only the best can overcome attacks focusing on weaknesses. Anyway, what makes it interesting, of course, is that we can’t predict outcomes—if we could predict with an algorithm, we’d be bored. Well, okay, we’d be rich, but we wouldn’t be watching sumo.

In the following headings, the ranks listed represent his Career High Rank (CHR!) on the left, followed by current rank on the right. This is a good time to give props to a great sumo website, http://sumodb.sumogames.de, which has oodles of info in an easy-to-understand layout and updates fast. It has been my go-to raw-data source for years, and I gleaned the rankings info there.

Day six features some leaderboard excitement. I bet you can use your predictive powers to get that one right, as there has only been one leader who matters the past few years.

Tochinowaka (M1/M15) vs. Kotoyuki (M9/M16)
Little Snow (from my “misreadings” file—Kotoyuki) watched Tochinowaka carefully at the tachi-ai and got underneath him, pushing up with two hands to the chest, then drove him out by keeping his hands to Slowaka’s face. What did I just say about guys getting figured out? This was a textbook loss for Tochinowaka, who once rose as high as M1. Get your hands on his glass-jaw-maw and out he goes.
Kotoyuki (4-2) defeats Tochinowaka (1-5) by tsuri-dashi.

Chiyomaru (M11/M16) vs. Sokokurai (M13/M14)
I’m not sure either guy was really going straight at the tachi-ai here, but Chiyomaru was more guilty of jumping out, and he paid for it; Sokokurai kept his head low, pinched in on Fat Circle’s (Chiyomaru) arms, and then pressed him to the ground at an opportune moment. It was just like pressing a marshmallow into the table with your thumb: boo-yoooom! Chiyomaru sprang back from the dohyo with elastic-belly-magic.
Sokokurai (5-1) defeats Chiyomaru (4-2) by shitate-dashi-nage.

Kitataiki (M2/M12) vs. Amuuru (M14/M14)
The grizzled rookie from the steppes of Siberia, named after the Amur River, got his head in low and took an outside left grip quickly; he used his height and length to stay far enough back from Kitataiki to deny Kita any grip at all, then patiently used this superior position to drive Kitataiki out, all while blood streamed in a Gorbachevian Amur-delta down his forehead.
Amuuru (2-4) defeats Kitataiki (1-5) by yori-kiri.

Kyokushuho (M12/M15) vs. Homarefuji (M12/M12)
Clancy was right: Homarefuji ain’t that bad. I’d dismissed him as rotten old Juryo flotsam belched temporarily into Makuuchi with the jetsam roil of competition down here, but today these two guys got in a slap-and-push fest and Homarefuji had more power and drive—no fancy analysis needed; Homarefuji was just better.
Homarefuji (4-2) defeats Kyokushuho (2-4) by oshi-dashi.

“Kungl” is probably a Germanic last name from the fringes of the old Germanic empire, such as Schwabia, Bavaria, Switzerland, or Bohemia. In times before consolidation of the German nation state (it was essentially rival principalities and dukedoms, etc.), dialects were even more variant than they are now, and especially so in far flung fiefdoms, influenced by other present languages such as Czech. Hence, Bohemian records variously show the family name “Klinkhammer” as Klinghammer or Klinghamer (source: “Heimatbrief: Stories of German-Bohemians”) as well, for example. Also, in the provinces often few were literate, and spelling standardization was not yet a universally accepted norm. It is probably in this way that “Kungel” became “Kungl.”

Another theory is that I won the “e” from Kungel during a drunken night of Sheepshead (Schafskopf), and in the consequent haze misplaced it in my first name.

Shohozan (K/M10) vs. Takanoiwa (M11/M13)
This was a fun, hard fought match. It started with slapping and Shohozan advancing, but after Takanoiwa evaded and re-closed, they went chest-to-chest. Takanoiwa got the better grip (is Shohozan too short?), but couldn’t quite knock Shohozan over the tawara, so instead stepped backwards and rolled him with a lovely shitate-nage. These guys worked hard but I think ex-Komusubi Shohozan is seeing the future, and The Future is Youth. Free Ad: The “Palace of Youth,” the Dvorets Molodezhi, can be your cheerful summer getaway for the White Nights of Northern Russia.
Takanoiwa (2-4) defeats Shohozan (1-5) by shitate-nage.

Arawashi (M8/M13) vs. Tamawashi (M1/M10)
Mashi Mash-Up. Arawashi was unaggressive here and basically evaded, but worse, Tamawashi was careless, and when he got Arawashi near the straw, stepped past him. Arawashi then grabbed his arm and pulled him forward further, a trick he’s employed for a couple of tottari wins this tournament. This time it wasn’t tottari, as Tamawashi was still standing, but he had his back to Arawashi now, and Arawashi drove him out from behind: heeyah, cattle, git!
Arawashi (5-1) defeats Tamawashi (3-3) by okuri-dashi. Washi-Washi-Dashi!

Chiyotairyu (K/M9) vs. Kyokutenho (S/M11)
At the tachi-ai Chiyotairyu leapt compliantly into the long arms of Kyokutenho, giving the Ancient Mongoliner a strong, long outside right. Kyokutenho wasted no time using that to drive Chiyotairyu out. Love those long clawhammers.
Kyokutenho (5-1) defeats Chiyotairyu (4-2) by yori-kiri.

Okinoumi (K/M7) vs. Myogiryu (S/M11)
Myogiryu got both arms inside, but he wasn’t gripping anything, and Okinoumi pinched down hard. The Handsome Islander of Remote and Rustic Villageland (Okinoumi) can be quite good when he wants to, and I think he knew he had Muh-muh-muh-mYogi Bear’s number. Took a little time, but Romantic DeepCountry is slightly bigger and he basically had Myogiryu paralyzed and hence drove him out.
Okinoumi (5-1) defeats Myogiryu (3-3) by kime-dashi.

Tokushoryu (M7/M9) vs. Sadanoumi (M7/M7)
So here I am moonlighting as a sumo expert—fun. In the interest of full disclosure, however, Tokushoryu and Kyokushuho are so colorless I cannot distinguish them, and know absolutely nothing about them. They make my brain resemble those shiny-paint cheapo-apartment walls I tried to hang album covers on in college with wads of yellow stickum-stuff: stuff just slid right off. I promise to try to learn, but it’s hard, and with sumo like this, undesirable. Tokuwhowho got the much smaller Sadanoumi going backwards, but with no grip or leverage, Sadanoumi used, I’m not sure, simply stronger will power?, and drove Tokunana back quickly all the way across the dohyo. Then Tokukyoku gave up while still in the ring. He seemed to think “well, I’ve lost,” and was surprised when Sada actually hadn’t finished him. No matter; with an attitude like that, there was no chance of a gyakuten. Sadanoumi got it right on the second try, and I think the difference in this match was focus.
Sadanoumi (1-5) defeats Tokushoryu (1-5) by yori-kiri.

Toyonoshima (S/M6) vs. Endo (M1/M8)
Experience vs. Inexperience. Endo actually had some effective blows to the neck and face here, putting Toyonoshima’s head back at an angle that would have snapped my vertebrae, but Toyonoshima showed his quality by managing to ignore all that and move forward. Endo needed a second strategy: the head-whip-blows needed to be accompanied by follow-up; being impressed by how far he bent Toyonoshima’s trachea wasn’t going to cut it. Toyonoshima concentrated on the more important task: winning. Endo tumbling out backwards, pushed, both heels caught on the tawara. Victory for Toyonoshima even though he couldn’t see his opponent or where he was going. Love this guy.
Toyonoshima (5-1) defeats Endo (2-4) by oshi-taoshi.

Tochinoshin (K/M8) vs. Jokoryu (K/M6)
Tochinoshin is big and strong and soon got a right inner grip; at the tawara he added a left outer. Jokoryu ended up forcing it back to the center of the ring, but there Tochinoshin wrestled him to the clay with both hands in a slow-twisting uwate-nage like a guy with a bad back lifting a 300 pound sack of corn off a truck. Miyabiyama-Announcer said “subarashii desu ne” (“wonderful, isn’t it”). Yes.
Tochinoshin (5-1) defeats Jokoryu (3-3) by uwate-nage.

Chiyootori (K/M5) vs. Terunofuji (M1/M3)
For the third straight day, a long, exciting bout by Terror of Fuji, and finally a win in one of them. Today he got a right outer grip and then fished hard for a left inner. Chiyootori maintained well and prevented the second grip, leading to them trying to grab each other’s hands like two kids fighting over a gumball their aunt foolishly gave to only one of them (“gimme it!!!”). Consequently, Terror Mountain had to work with just that right grip, and work he did, bodying The Oot (Chiyootori) back and using his height and weight to literally smother and smush Oot to the dirt at the straw. Unfortunately, he was so close on top of and tangled up with The Oot Bird at this point that he got his ankle twisted under Ooty-Toot. Hope he’s back tomorrow to continue the streak of “Get after ‘im” bouts.
Terunofuji (3-3) defeats Chiyootori (4-2) by tsuki-otoshi.

Takarafuji (M2/M2) vs. Toyohibiki (M2/M2)
Takarafuji stood up and looked passive at the tachi-ai here, and Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) controlled the pace. In bouts like these, I’m just waiting for the guy in charge to finish winning. Except—Kerosene is a one trick push-pony, and Takarafuji was, it turns out, just waiting for an opening. He got it and pounced: got Belchy off balance, pulled him forward, slapped him down. I wish Toyohibiki were better, wish Takarafuji worked harder the last two days, but respect what he did here in waiting for the win.
Takarafuji (3-3) defeats Toyohibiki (1-5) by hataki-komi.

Aoiyama (S/S) vs. Ikioi (K/K)
Ikioi reminds me a little bit of Kakizoe with the frank dead-on stare and the demonstrative fist on the ground to start his bouts: I’m liking him. Aoiyama went after him by blazing those guns, each of which are the size of two entire Takanoyama’s bundled together with burdock root. Ikioi knew he had to weather the storm then get inside, but it’s dangerous in there: when he went in under, Blue Mountain (Aoiyama) bludgeoned him to the ground like a crazed 3 a.m. bongo drummer on six quarts of tobasco-spiked rum.
Aoiyama (4-2) defeats Ikioi (1-5) by hataki-komi.

Kisenosato (O/O) vs. Tochiohzan (S/M1)
I didn’t like this at all. Tochiohzan didn’t seem to be trying hard to get a grip, and Kisenosato did not muscle onto him the way he should have; Kisenosato did manage to bump Chestnut Mountain (Tochiohzan) back to the tawara through repeated contact, but there Tochiohzan grabbed a sudden twist of lemon on him and spun him down. Problem was, ChestMount was stepping out as he did so. The gyoji, amazingly, couldn’t decide who won, and pointed this way and that like a person making up directions when asked on the street about a place he’s never been. I couldn’t tell who won either, but that’s not my job, whereas it is his. This is the second time I’ve seen that this tournament. I suppose getting it right is the goal, but the gyoji should have the guts to make a judgment and get overturned—and if he goes with his instincts and does it instantly he’ll probably not have to be. At any rate, ye black crowes made the right decision: Tochiohzan, on the slo mo, very clearly stepped out before Kisenosato fell.
Kisenosato (5-1) defeats Tochiohzan (1-5) by oshi-dashi.

Takekaze (S/S) vs. Kotoshogiku (O/O)
Kotoshogiku gaburri'ed out Takekaze. Not much to break down here; I used to love the energy of Kotoshogiku’s wildly pumping belly thrust wins, but here I didn’t even notice these lethargic shadows of those thrusts until the replay, as I was too distracted by Takekaze not trying very hard.
Kotoshogiku (3-3) defeats Takekaze (1-5) by yori-kiri.

Aminishiki (S/M1) vs. Goeido (O/O)
At a certain point with underachievers you do a 180 and start rooting against them: it is too frustrating, and you think, “mercy. Get this guy out of here.” I reached that point with Goeido a while back. This was a simple match where Aminishiki pulled Goeido down by the head after a few seconds of fighting for forward momentum. How can a guy like Goeido lose so easily like this? He looked as vulnerable as the guys Hakuho hatakikomis: even before the pull, Goeido had nothing going on here, and Aminishiki had his choice of paths to a win. Aminishiki is very seasoned and looks coolly deadly sometimes. This guy should have been the Ozeki.
Aminishiki (3-3) defeats Goeido (3-3) by hataki-komi.

Ichinojo (S/S) vs. Kakuryu (Y/Y)
Long bout, and lots going on. My favorite today, though odd. Ichinojo abandoned his usual wait-and-see and tried to move forward at the beginning; perhaps a mistake, as his twisty-throw on guys unwisely advancing has worked well for him previously. Kakuryu, though The Incredible Disappearing Yokozuna, is not a Yokozuna for nothing, and he deftly changed the momentum and backed the Mongolith to the bales. There, we had an interesting moment when Ichinojo stayed in simply by leaning on Kakuryu while standing straight up; both rikishis looked to be resting, but I weren’t. It was another example of how Ichinojo’s weight and balance makes him tough to move. Against any other rikishi, the Yokozuna would have instantly turned this committed lean into a bout-winning throw, but against Ichinojo, he was reduced to an Atlas-upholding-the-world impression. This bout went on another two minutes after this, with Kakuryu working on a left outer grip and Ichinojo a right inner. Finally, Kakuryu did something I’ve been waiting for someone to do to Ichinojo: exhausted him. Again, I think Kakuryu showed why he is the Yokozuna: he used long patience, and ultimately proved to be stronger than Ichinojo in a way that counts: stamina. It can’t have been easy holding that weight. The two and half minute bout ended with Kakuryu walking a hopping, tired Ichinojo out of the ring. Though he lost, Ichinojo remains the most interesting phenomenon atop the clay.
Kakuryu (6-0) defeats Ichinojo (3-3) by yori-kiri.

Hakuho (Y/Y) vs. Takayasu (K/M3)
Takayasu beat Hakuho by slapping him wildly around as Hakuho advanced, and then Hakuho even more wildly flailed a whirling dance step, out of control, and stepped and fell out. I don’t think Hakuho planned to lose this way, but I don’t see either where he planned to win. He looked tentative on his advance, may have overacted a smidge on the “all four limbs akimbo-ly,” and smiled up sweetly at Takayasu after losing as if checking to see if Takayasu was enjoying his kinboshi. Finally, the fact that Takayasu also kinboshi-ed against Harumafuji (and I thought that was legitimate) makes it more suspicious—Takayasu was a good candidate for “hero” coming into the bout. Mukiryoku sickens the sport in many ways, one of which is that is can make seasoned observers who don’t like to be made fools of see bout-throwing even where it isn’t, and that may be happening to me here, but this looked unnatural.
Takayasu (4-2) defeats Hakuho (5-1) by hataki-komi.

Harumafuji (Y/Y) vs. Kaisei (M1/M4)
Harumafuji decided that what worked yesterday might as well work today: he jumped out to his left to get a powerful left-hand grip on the back of his opponent’s belt, then slung the helpless guy out. Our Yokozuna. Hmpf.
Harumafuji (4-2) defeats Kaisei (2-4) by uwate-nage.

Our results leave Kakuryu as the sole leader six days in. His turn? Time will tell. I enjoyed the sumo a lot as always, with the caveat that five of the six Ozeki/Yokozuna bouts fizzled—not uncommon. Special thanks, though, to Kakuryu, Ichinojo, Terunofuji, Chiyootori, Tochinoshin, Toyonoshima, Sadanoumi, Takanoiwa, Shohozan, Kyokutenho, Homarefuji, and Amuuru.

Tomorrow Martin explains the significance of ancien-regime metaphors in “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.”

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
One of the best aspects of the Kyushu basho is that it comes at the end of the year, and so NHK and the Sumo Association have plenty of data to wrap up into little nuggets and present throughout the fortnight. Statistics like most yusho for the year and the rikishi who collected the most wins has become a joke thanks to Hakuho's domination, but there are other areas as well that give us a good gauge on where the sport his heading. Two of my favorite statistical pieces were introduced today, so let's start off day 5 and examine the shin-nyu-maku, or new rookies in 2014, and the shin-sanyaku, or rikishi promoted to the sanyaku for the first time in twenty fourteen.

First, let's examine the newcomers in 2014 as follows:

Hatsu: Takanoiwa, Kagamioh
Haru: Terunofuji, Chiyomaru
Natsu: Sadanoumi, Arawashi
Aki: Ichinojo
Kyushu: Amuuru

From that list, Ichinojo and Terunofuji are the obvious standouts, and while Takanoiwa, Chiyomaru, and Arawashi have all had their moments, they've fizzled just about as fast as they've flared, and I don't see any from that group making a serious impact on sumo in the future. Sadanoumi has some potential in my opinion because he shows good fighting spirit, he's nimble, he's got good belt skills, and he comes from sumo stalk with his father having fought in the division as well. I know he's taking it in the teeth this basho at his highest career rank, M7, but I like what I see from him. Kagamioh and Amuuru are absolute non-factors and are probably more suited for Juryo sumo.

As for the new members in the sanyaku, it shapes out like this:

Natsu: Yoshikaze, Chiyootori
Aki: Jokoryu, Chiyotairyu
Kyushu: Ichinojo, Ikioi

I hope I didn't scare anyone away with that list, but as you can see, there's really only one dude who is an impact player in Ichinojo. I'm still holding out for my former bromance, Chiyotairyu, but remember, his promotion to the sanyaku was undeserved because they simply had no other bodies to fill the ranks for the Aki basho banzuke. He's yet to deserve sanyaku status, but to his credit, he does have ample experience from the jo'i and has multiple wins over elite rikishi (Ozeki and Yokozuna). Outside of Ichinojo and Chiyotairyu, there really is no one else who creams your Twinkie.

What I search for in these two lists are rikishi who show up on both. Who are the newcomers this year that were good enough to break through into the sanyaku? The answer is the future of professional sumo. Ichinojo is the only dude who makes that list, but I'm also going to grant Terunofuji wildcard status just because he's spent the last six months from the jo'i fighting quality rikishi. He's also got credible wins over elite rikishi. It could also be unfair to limit this examination to a calendar year because a newcomer in the last half of the year has a tall order in making the sanyaku. So, if you throw out the calendar year and look at those sanyaku rikishi searching for someone who made the sanyaku within six basho of their debut, you still only find Ichinojo. Chiyootori did debut at the Natsu basho in 2013 and was promoted to the sanyaku for Natsu 2014, so it only took him seven basho, but it still illustrates what we can expect in the mid to long term:

Ichinojo will dominate; Terunofuji will follow a step behind; and Chiyootori should become one of the more formidable Japanese rikishi.

What is actually striking about this list to me is just how few players there really are, and so I think you can see why someone wisely made the decision to just forego Ichinojo's race and glom onto him as sumo's next. Good call.

Okay, with those numbers outta the way, let's focus our attention to the day 5 bouts starting from the bottom and working our way up commenting on each contest. It was business as usual for M16 Chiyomaru who stuck both paws into M15 Kyokushuho's neck from the tachi-ai and then quickly pulled him forward and down in a split second. No smoke and mirrors here as Chiyomaru improves to 4-1, which is why Kyokushuho (2-3) shouldn't have fallen for this so easily.

M13 Takanoiwa moved to his left in an effort to henka, but M16 Kotoyuki shot out of the gate and blasted Takanoiwa to the side before he could finish the slapdown attempt. Off balance, Takanoiwa tried to run, but Kotoyuki was on him like flies to stink and had him pushed out in short order. This bout was a great example of what a perfect tachi-ai can do, especially against a half-assed tachi-ai, which is what we saw from Takanoiwa. Kotoyuki is known to henka a time or two himself, but I don't know why this guy ever needs to monkey around with it. Today was proof positive that his tsuki attack is something that few rikishi these days are really prepared to defend. Kotoyuki improves to 3-2 with the deserved tsuki-dashi win while Takanoiwa is floundering at 1-4.

M14 Amuuru's first five days have been plagued with bad luck. He was jobbed by the judges yesterday as Harvye pointed out and just can't seem to get into gear, but he's also one of those foreigners who hasn't figured out the tachi-ai, which adds to his troubles. Today he put his hands forward to ward off M12 Homarefuji's pending blows before stepping back a half step, and somehow the Russian managed to latch both hands to the front of the belt, but Amuuru was reaching for the belt, not digging in with dual insides, so Homarefuji was able to back out of it and evade around the ring forcing Amuuru to give chase. Amuuru pretended as if he really wanted the belt, but his hands were up high ready to pull at the first chance. From this stance, Homarefuji just pounced and scored the push-out win moving to 3-2. This was bad sumo from both parties, and it's no coincidence that these dudes spend most of their sekitori days in Juryo. As they showed Amuuru head down the hana-michi and through the tunnels of the venue, he walked underneath a ladder just before a black cat darted out in front of him, and then NHK was going to interview him but the lense broke on the camera. Go figure.

M15 Tochinowaka kept both arms low and in tight flirting with moro-zashi against M12 Kitataiki, but like Amuuru's moro-zashi, it was hands deep and that's it. The veteran Kitataiki easily denied full moro-zashi with a right paw to Tochinowaka's shoulder, and then as Tochinowaka lamely pressed forward, Kitataiki grabbed the left outer grip, swung out wide in that same direction, and then used what little forward momentum from Tochinowaka there was against him swinging him out of the dohyo dashi-nage style. Easy peasy as the Japanesey picks up his first win leaving both dudes at 1-4.

M11 Kyokutenho and M14 Sokokurai hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Sokokurai enjoyed the right outer grip while Tenho had to settle for a feeble right kote-nage grip on the other side, something he's used to doing of late. As is usually the case, the dude with the outer grip pressed first while Kyokutenho tried to time a counter scoop throw or tsuki-otoshi move near the edge, but Sokokurai had his gal in too tight, and he scored the force-out win quite easily here. I think if more rikishi would pay attention to Kyokutenho's watered down style in his forties, they'd be able to handle him like this on a daily basis. Props to Sokokurai for figuring it out and moving to 4-1, the same record maintained by Kyokutenho.

M11 Myogiryu was half assed in his tachi-ai today not really attempting to blast M13 Arawashi off the starting lines or demand moro-zashi, so as he inched forward with his arms extended, Arawashi simply latched onto Myogiryu's left and twisted him to the side and down for the shweet tottari win. Arawashi is also 4-1 if ya need him while Myogiryu falls to 3-2.

M10 Tamawashi was hellbent on pressing forward with his tsuppari attack against M9 Tokushoryu, and 1) a tsuppari affair isn't Tokushoryu's game, and 2) Tokushoryu was thinking counter pull with Tamawashi in his grill connecting with effective shoves. This was over in two seconds causing Yoshida Announcer to declare of Tokushoryu, "There's wasn't one aspect of his sumo that was good today." Amen, bruthuh. Amen. Tamawashi moves to 3-2 while Tokushoryu is stuck at 1-4.

I think Harvye nailed it on the head yesterday in his assessment of M10 Shohozan as an overachiever. Today was M8 Tochinoshin's worst sumo of the basho as he backed up from the tachi-ai looking pull all the way, but Shohozan still couldn't connect on a single tsuppari that put Tochinoshin in any trouble. Shin was able to score his pull down win about three seconds inmoving to 4-1. Shohozan has been awful at 1-4, and it's time to start staring the reality of falling to Juryo in the face.

M9 Chiyotairyu didn't attempt a single pull attempt in his bout against M7 Okinoumi, and despite allowing Okinoumi to get an early start, Chiyotairyu just shoved him back and outta the ring in short order. You'd think this guy would figure out just how good he is when he doesn't pull, and it's too bad they don't have a shock collar he could wear that would send a jolt of electricity through his body the moment he even thought about going for the pull. Both parties end the day at 4-1.

M6 Jokoryu attempted a hari-te against M8 Endoh that went nowhere other than allowing Endoh to hook up in hidari-yotsu and gain the right outer grip after a brief flurry. Jokoryu held on with the shallowest inside left you've ever seen, and not only did he survive, but he actually used it to break off Endoh's outer. With the two grappling in the ring each looking for a right outer grip, Jokoryu slowly backed up, and when Endoh made a move, Jokoryu moved out right and felled Endoh with an easy tsuki-otoshi push to Endoh's left side. Rarely do you see a guy with the stifling outer grip that Endoh had lose his bout, but Elvis wasn't even close in this one despite every seeming advantage. Jokoryu improves to 3-2 and is a perfect 3-0 against his college junior. Endoh's record may look okay at 2-3, but I don't see any improvements from him this basho.

M4 Kaisei and M7 Sadanoumi clashed in the best tachi-ai of the day, but in Sadanoumi's case, he doesn't want to go chest to chest with a hairy beast like Kaisei. The Brasilian took his pupil to school securing the firm right inside position and then grabbing a stifling left outer grip setting up his smothering of Sadanoumi back and out. This was so precise and overwhelming the crowd observed a minute of silence on Sadanoumi's behalf afterwards. Kaisei bumps to 2-3 while Sadanoumi is still looking for that first win at 0-5.

M6 Toyonoshima fished for moro-zashi against M3 Terunofuji and then abandoned the attempt with a quick pull hoping to catch Terunofuji off guard. It didn't work, however, as Terunofuji was able to eventually halt the movement in the ring with the migi-yotsu position. Having said that, it was extremely unorthodox as Toyonoshima hunkered low wisely refusing to go chest to chest. From this point, a mighty battle ensued similar to the Kisenosato - Terunofuji bout yesterday (easily the best bout of the basho so far). Terunofuji went for an early tsuri-dashi, but it was from the center of the ring, so there was no way he was going to walk a fish out of water that far to the straw, and when he put Toyonoshima down, Terunofuji lost his right inside position that he would never regain. That would be key as Toyonoshima stayed low the rest of the way finally managing to swing Terunofuji out of the ring with an inside belt throw. The sumo here wasn't great, but it was an extremely entertaining affair. Toyonoshima is a sweet 4-1 while Terunofuji falls to 2-3.

M3 Takayasu largely whiffed on his initial tsuppari against M5 Chiyootori who stayed low at the tachi-ai, and when Takayasu answered that with a meager pull attempt, Chiyootori struck easily pushing the self-compromised Takayasu back and out. Chiyootori joins the 4-1 gang while Takayasu cools off further at 3-2.

Sekiwake Ichinojo is a great matchup against Komusubi Takekaze because the Mongolith is one of the few guys who doesn't need forward momentum from the tachi-ai. Takekaze just bounced off of the Sekiwake and then backed up to his left, and with Ichinojo still just standing there, Takekaze inched back forward only to have Ichinojo just slap him down silly with a paw to the back of the head. Ichinojo is steady eddie at 3-2 while Takekaze is floundering around at 1-4.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku's tachi-ai was weak enabling M1 Aminishiki to body him back from the start, but luckily the Geeku held on with a shallow left inside position halting the Boy Scout's momentum near the edge. Befuddled, Aminishiki next went for his usual pull attempt while the Ozeki committed on a do-or-die push, and as Aminishiki sailed back beyond the straw, Kotoshogiku belly flopped to the dirt. The ref signaled in favor of Kotoshogiku, which I thought was the correct call watching it live, but they called a judge's conference and ruled that Kotoshogiku's body hit the dohyo before Aminishiki was out. Replays showed that Shneaky's left foot was still on the tawara as the Ozeki crash landed, so I agree with the call after watching the replays. Both rikishi are now underwater at 2-3, and can you imagine what shape the Geeku would be in if he wasn't gifted those first two bouts?

M1 Tochiohzan used a nice kachi-age tachi-ai with the right hand against Ozeki Goeido and had the clear path to the right inside, but for some reason he refrained as Goeido slipped out left and swiped at the back of Tochiohzan's head sending the M1 sprawling to the dohyo as if he'd just been clubbed by a grizzly bear. A grizzly bear Goeido ain't, and the weakness of that swipe at Tochiohzan's head did not equal the exaggeration and speed of Tochiohzan's fall. I thought this one was fake due to Tochiohzan's refusing the inside when it was there (he's the master of moro-zashi) and the unnatural ending. Furthermore, Goeido had no momentum as he skirted left, and this one was just too easy, especially for someone struggling like Goeido. I could be wrong, but I think Goeido was given a gift here as he moves to 3-2 while Tochiohzan falls to 1-4.

As Kane likes to say, Dayum! When Sekiwake Aoiyama gets the hissing tsuppari going, you know he means bidness and with Ozeki Kisenosato on the other end, this was about as lopsided as they come. Aoiyama charged hard actually headbutting Kisenosato over the right eye drawing blood before hissing his way forward firing beefy paw after beefy paw into the Ozeki forcing him back quickly to the straw. When Kisenosato tried a last gasp evasive maneuver to the left, the Sekiwake finished him off in tsuki-dashi fashion picking up a great win. I had forgotten about Aoiyama's hissing--something he does when he's going all out, so when it's absent in questionable bouts, it's a telling sign. Regardless, the Sekiwake moves to 3-2 while Kisenosato suffers a key loss at 4-1. It's key because with a total of 10 rikishi sitting at 4-1 with a couple of Yokozuna unblemished, it's going to be really hard to assemble a leaderboard that emphasize any particular Japanese rikishi doing well.

For the first time this basho, Yokozuna Hakuho got his coveted right inside and left outer grip from the tachi-ai, but then again, his opponent was M2 Toyohibiki. Took about two seconds for the Yokozuna to wrap his gal up in a wad of bubble wrap and dispose of the Hutt with as spectacular an outer throw as you please. Loved the whoopass from Hakuho in this one as he sleepwalks to 5-0 while Toyohibiki limps home at 1-4.

Yokozuna Harumafuji moved left at the tachi-ai in an effort to grab the quick and dirty outer grip (a move called uwate wo tori ni iku) against upstart Komusubi Ikioi. In my book, it's a henka, and Ikioi never was able to recover as the Yokozuna threw him down into an uwate-nage heap a second in. One thing I've noticed the first five days with Harumafuji is that I didn't miss him at the Aki basho. For some reason, his style and unpredictable behavior are a bit over the top for my liking as he moves to 3-2. Ikioi is a meager 1-4.

Finally, Yokozuna Kakuryu used a nice left nodowa to keep a hesitant M2 Takarafuji upright before the Kak pounced to the inside with the left while attempting to secure the right outer grip on the other side. Takarafuji weasled his way out once, but Kakuryu still maintained the inside position and eventually worked his way back into moro-zashi. From there it was academic as Kakuryu scored the easy force-out win. I thought Takarafuji (2-2) looked lethargic from the tachi-ai as if he didn't want to be there, and he never gave himself a chance in this one. As for Kakuryu, he moves to 5-0 with the win and is the only guy with a shot at the yusho although I'd say his chances are about 20% at this point.

Well, that brings the jobansen, or first five days to a close, and in my opinion, the basho so far has been lacking of really good sumo. Even the bouts the first 30 minutes haven't been as hard fought as they've been the last few basho, and with only one rikishi able to keep pace with Hakuho at this point, the drama will wane quickly until Hakuho decides to give one up.

Tomorrow, Harvye explains the mystery of the missing "e" from the last name of former contributor, Andreas Kungl.

Day 4 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
During the long years when my Internet streaming wasn’t much better than what you’d get on a corded rotary phone at your kitchen table in 1988, I often resorted to alternate methods of figuring out which rikishi might be good. Occasionally, being a dweeb and not yet married, I found time to make charts of the height, weight, and age of all the top division rikishi. Even after I married and joined the modern internet world, I still check those three things first for any new rikishi I haven’t heard of.

In general, of course, young, tall, and heavy is good, and old, short, and light is bad. That’s the reason I had my eye on Ichinojo and Terunofuji before they ever hit the top division. However, as a “rule of thumb” this is probably more interesting for how wrong it often is. I’m sure, dear readers, many of you are already crying out “but look at Harumafuji!” (only two of 42 upper division guys are lighter than him) or “remember Yamamotoyama?!?” (an enormous person but unexceptional wrestler)

Well, let’s put it to the test: one night last week after the wife and kids fell asleep, I revived my chart, ginned it up for this basho, and will reference it today in looking at the bouts. Click here to pull the chart up in a separate window, and here’s how to read the numbers:

Chiyomaru (37/5/4) is short for “Chiyomaru is 37th in height (tallest to shortest), 5th in weight (heaviest to lightest), and 7th in youth (youngest to oldest).” Once you get used to the code, you can see at a glance that Chiyomaru, for example, is a stumpy, roly poly, young dude: the numbers gives you a basic picture of him. Of course, you can also see that just by turning on your television, but there are surprises throughout. For example, I did not realize that Tochinoshin is still so young, (14th), or that Yoshikaze is already so old (38th). All the figures are out of 42 guys, of course. In the case of a tie, I ranked them alphabetically.

Amuru (8/41/26) vs. Kyokushuho (9/28/11)
Remember Takanoyama, the Czech who would look athletic in any other sport, but looked anemic here? Amuuru isn’t that much different; at 134 kilos, he is tied for lightest in the division. The first three days it showed. Today, unfortunately, he also got the rookie treatment: the other guy was allowed to blatantly break the rules and beat him thusly. Amuuru was just sitting there, fists not close to the clay, and Kyokushuho stood up and pushed him out as if demonstrating how to keep an 88 year old away from mochi at New Years (slowly, carefully, firmly). Amuru pliantly complied, and they called it a match. Well, we’re off to a rollicking start!
Amuuru (1-3) loses to Kyokushuho (2-2) by… can I really bear to type “oshi-dashi” for this gyoji-created travesty?

Takanoiwa (31/34/9) vs. Chiyomaru (37/4/5)
Tachi-ai, one Chiyo push, one instant Chiyo back off, one Takanoiwa dirt snack, one Chiyomaru breath of freedom. Takanoiwa (1-3) loses to Chiyomaru (3-1) by hiki-otoshi.

Kitataiki (27/31/38) vs. Kotoyuki (39/12/6)
Kotoyuki jumped out to his right and henka'ed Kotoyuki down easy peasy. And then stood there smiling in a self-satisfied way. Ick.
Kitataiki (0-4) defeats Kotoyuki (2-2) by hataki-komi. (Jerk.)

Tochinowaka (2/9/13) vs. Homarefuji (34/16/28)
Tochinowaka is a classic underachiever. I believed in him when he came up because his three stats all lined up: young, tall (tied for tallest), and heavy. But he’s the best proof that if this is all you look at, you ain’t lookin’ at much. As Mike once put it, he seems to have the perfect sumo body; but as Mike has more often put it, he is slow and passive. He has bad instincts, and there is no fire on display. Luckily, he got Homarefuji today, who has performed horribly in each of his several brief previous trips to the upper division. Didn’t matter. Homarefuji must have watched video, because last tournament Tochinowaka got creamed by guys who got in his grill. That is what Homarefuji did: constant hands to the throat. Tochinowaka bore it, bore it, bore it, but didn’t try any counter attack or have an evasive strategy, and it worked for Homarefuji—he just kept at it until it was done.
Tochinowaka (1-3) loses to Homarefuji (1-2) by oshi-dashi.

Myogiryu (16/33/19) vs. Sokokurai (25/37/35)
Let me just say, in the world of Japanese misreadings, that Sokokurai will always be “It’s Dark There” to me. Let me also say that at best he is a poor man’s pale shadow of the inventive and sneakily powerful Aminishiki: he wins more by sticktoitiveness than anything else—I haven’t seem much in his 3-0 start. Simply put, Myogiryu is much better than him, and beat him easily today with a few thrusts, shoves, and brush backs with loaded arms. Back, out, done. Liked it—it is fun to see skill well employed.
Myogiryu (3-1) defeats Sokokurai (3-1) by nodowa leading to oshi-dashi.

Shohozan (38/42/33) vs. Arawashi (24/38/22)
If Tochinowaka is the classic underachiever, Shohozan is the classic overachiever; he’s spent a lot of time in the jo’i despite being the smallest guy in the division and no young sprout to boot. Today, he needed to be a little less of a tough guy, though. He smacked hard into Arawashi, moved him backwards, and looked to have control. However, his hands were in Arawashi’s face, not at his belt; Shohozan was too high, and with Arawashi not panicking, Arawashi kept his hands under Shohozan’s and took the open chance near the tawara to grab Shohozan’s arm and use it pull Shohozan forward and down. Sloppy sumo here, but props to Arawashi for hanging on and making the best of a bad tachi-ai.
Shohozan (1-3) is defeated by Arawashi (3-1) by tottari.

Kyokutenho (11/29/42) vs. Tokushoryu (32/10/21)
I’m shocked Kyokutenho is only eleventh in height (as he gets older, has he slipped down? Does he need longer shoes now, too?). Throughout his long and excellent career, it has been his leveraging of his height (pun intended) that has been his signature asset. I’d have guessed he was tallest or 2nd or so. That he is not just makes me love him all the more: he fights tall. That happened again today; he let Tokushoryu get under him and move him back, but he simply stood up, stepped to his left, and used his long left arm to push up on Toku’s right while using his right arm to push down on Toku’s neck. Toku rolled easily to the clay. My only issue here is this looked too easy, but we’re all having fun with Kyoku’s success right now, and I only saw the ease in slow mo, which is kind of like cheating, so I’ll let it go.
Kyokutenho (4-0) beats Tokushoryu (1-3) by sukui-nage.

Tochinoshin (5/20/14) vs. Tamawashi (15/14/31)
Nice hard tachi-ai by both parties, and Tochinoshin had his arms lower and looking good, with a little bit of mo, but Tamawashi had stood him up a bit with a hand to the throat, and Chestnut Heart (Tochinoshin) then unwisely abandoned his mawashi-fishing trip, starting a slap-fest. Normally I’d think this would favor Tochinoshin, but something odd happened; Nutsy’s forward momentum stopped, he had his feet aligned, and Snack Break (Tamawashi) surged back into him and knocked him flat on his back, literally bouncing on him once or twice like a careless guest flopping onto the airbed you’ve prepared for him in your spare room. Tochinoshin looked a little worse for wear after this one, and his abandonment of sound sumo hurt him. Likely to see more of that as his success brings him amidst the killer whales of the jo’i. Or he withdraws with a knee injury.
Tochinoshin (3-1) verbiage Tamawashi (2-2) by oshi-taoshi (push and fall over), which is a very precise description of what happened.

Chiyotairyu (33/15/10) vs. Endo (29/32/7)
No, today’s “stats report” is not a secret way of yet again delivering the message that Endo may have a hard time living up to his “great next hope” hype. But there it is—“there is no there there.” He just isn’t very big. In September, I happened to be watching casually with my in-laws, a fine old Japanese couple who pay little attention to sumo, when Endo lost badly. They were not disappointed. They were disgusted. My father-in-law griped, “kono hito genki ga nai,” (“this guy stinks,” more or less). I thought this was interesting to me because I was surprised they knew who he was—I shouldn’t have been—but also because they definitely weren’t into the hype. They’ve been in this country for seven decades, have eyes in their heads, and saw what we all see: ain’t nothin’ there right now. That’s why propaganda is ultimately a farce. As for ain’t nothin’ there, that describes today’s match too: Chiyotairyu immediately backpedaled and tried to pull Endo down, but that is hard to do when your hands are on the front of your opponent’s shoulders, rather than on top of them. By the time he got his hands up top, he was too far back and was easily pushed out. This was a boring, is all on Chiyotairyu, and says nothing about Endo’s abilities one way or another.
Chiyotairyu (3-1) loses to Endo (2-2) by oshi-dashi

Chiyootori (35/7/2) vs. Sadanoumi (28/40/15)
Mike was right to be on the Chiy “Ooooh!” Tori bandwagon early. He’s big, and he’s still very young to have already been to the sanyaku. He has time to bloom, and has looked good this tournament. Today he looked bad, but got the win anyway. Bouncy Butt (that’s him) did his rumpy-pumpy thing while the gyoji yelled at him to get his fists on the dirt. After which he drove Sadanoumi back, but Sadanoumi stuck with it and, during some mutual arm-wrangling, brought the match around to the other side of the dohyo, at which point he grabbed a left outer grip and spun Boingy Boingy down to the clay while pushing down on his head. Looked like a nice recovery win for Sada, but unfortunately he had a second grip: Floompsy’s hair. On the reply it did indeed look like he clawed into it rather than just resting his hand on it.
Chiyootori (3-1) defeats Sadanoumi (0-4) by foul

Okinoumi (14/18/27) vs. Osunaarashi (12/23/3)
The first two bouts this basho, Osunaarashi abandoned his brawler ethic and tried some belt-fighting. I’d bet his stable master sat down with him between tournaments and said, “okay, dude, you have to try being a sumo wrestler.” His stablemaster is right, but it wasn’t working for wins yet, and Big Sandy, after two losses, panickedly returned to some punch-up again on Day 3, and that didn’t work either—he looked lost. He also hurt his knee, and is out of the tournament.
Okinoumi (4-0) defeats Osunaarashi (0-4) by default

Kaisei (3/6/18) vs. Jokoryu (17/22/12)
Kaisei has been so blah for so long I forgot he was supposed to be good. He is one of five guys in the top ten for both height and weight; Ichinojo, Terunofuji, and Aoiyama all live up to it in one way or another, while Kaisei joins Tochinowaka in the massive “me-h” department. Today he lazily slurped forward while Jokoryu aggressively went for a grip; Kaisei did recover enough to get a right outer while Jokoryu had a superior left inner; they then pushed their butts back and held on with arms stretched out like some kind of double-tension-spring. I like this stance; it signals strong intent and is classic sumo, and the promise paid off with an interesting end: Jokoryu set his legs far apart, trying to get leverage for some wrenching with his arms, but he used so much force he lost his footing and almost slipped down. When he recovered, the force of this unusual jolting caused Kaisei to momentarily lose his grip. Jokoryu immediately capitalized with a throw. I’m still waiting for Jokoryu to show me consistent grit, but I liked this today.
Kaisei (1-3) loses to Jokoryu (2-2) by uwate-dashi-nage.

Toyonoshima (42/26/37) vs. Yoshikaze (40/36/39)
In contrast to Kaisei, let me give a massive “yay!” to these two wrestlers, both undersized and old, who both fight their guts out. Toyonoshima gets more credit for this because he looks the part of an unrufflable bulldog, but I respect Yoshikaze’s daily wild-scramble-to-win as well. Unfortunately, yesterday’s scramble ended in a leg injury, and he becomes our second withdrawal of the day.
Toyonoshima (2-2) defeats Yoshikaze (0-4) by default.

Takayasu (20/19/8) vs. Aminishiki (26/35/41)
I’ve been waiting for years for Aminishiki to finally lose a step (not that I want him too—one of my faves), and it may finally be happening. No one has looked worse in the first three days, during which he basically strained for a few seconds then fell down in his matches. Takayasu, however, has looked great, and his win over The ‘Maf yesterday looked legit. I expected him to obliterate Aminishiki today. However, today Brocade (Aminishiki) waited to fall down until Takayasu had already stepped out. Brocade also looked good here. They hit each other hard at the tachi-ai, trying to keep low, then did that mutual “let me try to swoop him up with my arms so I can duck in low” thing, which worked for Aminishiki, who got one arm in Takayasu’s pit and another on his chest and pushed up. Comically, Takayasu stretched down and managed to delicately hold the top of Aminishiki’s belt with two fingers. However, perhaps he concentrated a bit too much on this bit of English tea party etiquette, because while he did that Brocade pushed him until he stepped out. That sand outside the dohyo is very loose, and screws up everybody’s balance when they step in it: it has an effect like stepping on a greased pig hide. Both pirouetted towards each other and, mutually falling down, butted their hips into each other in a bit of a dosie-do, or like two cheerleaders drunkenly congratulating each other. Hence, Aminishiki fell down again—but also won. He will take it.
Takayasu (3-1) is defeated by Aminishiki (1-3) by oshi-dashi.

Aoiyama (6/2/24) vs. Takekaze (41/30/40)
Normally, everyone enjoys a classic size mismatch like this and roots for the little guy. Unfortunately, after years of henka'ing his way into the jo’i, Takekaze never earned it, and I always root against him. He has often been Hokutoriki II. However, he’s been a little better lately, both morally (less evasion) and in results—let us hope those things are causally related, and that others will take notice. Today, Aoiyama stood straight up at the tachi-ai and moved back. Most likely, he was defending against the henka. That is the worst thing about the henka—it gives you advantage even when you don’t do it, because guys are afraid to come at you hard. But no matter. Once he started moving forward, Aoiyama was a bit out of control and slapping around in the air when he should have just driven forward low and confident, but even so he was too big for Takekaze, who got out of the way of the pinwheeling arms the only way he could: by backing out under pressure. Just desserts for past crimes.
Aoiyama (2-2) defeats Takekaze (1-3) by oshi-dashi.

Ichinojo (7/1/1) vs. Goeido (30/25/25)
Here are two guys going in opposite directions, and their respective bright and bleak paths are the story of the sport right now. Goeido has looked awful this tournament: I could barely watch, and felt sorry for the guy as he literally floundered to the ground the first two days and then won on a gift on day three. One of the announcers the first day said “he needs to get back to fighting his brand of sumo.” The problem is, that is his brand of sumo: he has never been anything but an inconsistent, jumpy, confusing mess. He has no style other than desperation. Then there is Ichinojo. The thing I find compelling about the Mongolith is not the size, but the balance. He simply plants his legs apart, and guys can move him about as much as the apes could the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also, the strength. Frankly, Ichinojo looks flabby, but his effortless throws are things of beauty. It’s hard not to hype this guy. He’s the opposite of Endo, who had a lack of size we thought he might overcome with technique but hasn’t so far. Ichinojo has size but we worried about his technique. It turns out we shouldn’t have. Very, very compelling right now. There have been a lot of Hutts slid about the griddle like hot lard, and I expected the same from Ichinojo. Instead, he seems to have an almost magical ability to stick to the dohyo like iron glue. Maybe the Mongolith is Magnetic. Maybe he’ll float through space tonight emitting eerie music.

Which means he should have annihilated Goeido today, right? Wrong. I expected that or mukiryoku today, but I’m going to give Goeido credit—I think he exposed a way to beat Ichinojo today. He got in low and close right away, so tight to Ichinojo’s chest that Goeido had a right inner grip that stretched all the way to the back of Ichinojo’s belt. Ichinojo then tried his signature throw: turn and throw with one hand and press down with the other, using his weight, balance, and spread feet to prevent being dumped himself in the process. It didn’t work; Goeido was in too close for the Mongolith to get any torque on him, and Goeido held on and drove him out, adding a frontal grip on the belt for good measure while doing so. This was the bout I was most looking forward to today, and thankfully it had a different outcome than I expected. Goeido regains some dignity here.
Ichinojo (2-2) loses to Goeido (2-2) by yori-kiri.

Terunofuji (10/8/4) vs. Kisenosato (18/11/23)
To be honest, Terunofuji has been boring the behoozus out of me. I’m not seeing it with him. Then again, Tochiazuma never was a ball of fire either. An apt comparison? We’ll see.

Today’s match with Kisenosato, however, was dynamite. Both went for a belt fight, and Terror Mountain (Terunofuji) had a left inner while Kisenosato had a right outer. It was Kisenosato who dictated the pace here, though. Despite their relatively even positions, Kisenosato faced forward and keep a constant backward pressure on The Terror of Fuji, while Terror faced slightly sideways and defended. Both fought over which grip would be accomplished on the other, open side. Kisenosato didn’t have enough advantage to turn this into a win right away, but his experience put him in the driver’s seat. This went on for a full minute, and this was NOT one of those long matches where they hold on to each other and only movement is heaving bellies: they moved all over the ring as Kisenosato sought a force-out point. Eventually, due to Kisenosato’s effort and pacing, about midway through he was able to add a left inner, and eventually in the final round of surging Terunofuji, exhausted, let Kisenosato walk him out. I’ve always hoped for the best from Kisenosato, and for the last year or so he’s looked solid—no fancy hijinks, just effective pressure and focus. However, he doesn’t have the speed or dynamism, I don’t think, to make it to the Yokozuna rank—all three Monglayoks have that threat. This is about as good of Kisenosato as you’ll see—and don’t get me wrong, it was very good—but I don’t think this work against those above him. Or, eventually, against The Growing Terror.
Terunofuji (2-2) loses to Kisenosato (4-0) by yori-kiri.

Kotoshogiku (36/5/34) vs. Ikioi (1/17/20)
Poor Kotoshogiku. After a couple of easy greazies the first two days, he fell down yesterday. Poof, Fukuoka is a pumpkin. Delicious in fall cooking. Today, better effort by both rikishi, though Ikioi set up his win with a post-tachi-ai henka: hit first, then jump out. Geeky never recovered from this. He did some nice chasing of Influence (Ikioi) around the ring, and drove Influence back some, but the Ozeki really needs to get a grip fast and drive his opponent straight out. Speed and adjustment is not his game. Eventually, with all this messiness going on, Ikioi found a spot to get both arms underneath—moro-zashi—and finish Kotoshogiku off. This was a fun one.
Kotoshogiku (2-2) loses to Ikioi (1-3) by yori-kiri.

Harumafuji (21/39/32) vs. Tochiohzan (13/21/16)
Tochiohzan has been looking great this tournament, despite the three losses. He has been the pre-injury guy we remember: good solid effort, concentration, forward momentum, de-ashi. Today, he just plain looked better than Monet (did you know Harumafuji used to do impressionist painting?). Harumafuji tried to used his wicked speed and strength combo, but Tochiohzan was too centered and focused for him, and eventually Monet got a little too cute with the fancy evasion footwork; his foot slipped and he went to the clay pretty much on his own while Tochi was facing away from him. However, this was caused by Tochiohzan's attack: he earned it. I’ve never felt Gaugain was much of a Yokozuna—too much antsiness in his attack, and that was how it looked today. I like Seurat when he tries to dominate, not to out-genki his opponent, which leads to sloppy losses like this one.
Harumafuji (2-2) loses to Tochiohzan (1-3) by oshi-taoshi.

Toyohibiki (23/3/30) vs. Kakuryu (19/27/26)
Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) makes a great M8 or so, but he is overmatched higher than that. He brought his trademark Thundercloud! attack against The Secret Yokozuna today, but he is a one-trick pony, and Kakuryu was prepared and easily sustained it. The Invisible Yokozuna then just approached, grabbed Thunderburp’s belt, and easily ushered him out. Some people say it is “frontrunnerism” to say so, but I like watching the best be the best—isn’t that one of the pleasures of professional sports? If I want charm, I go see rookie ball in Danville or Billings. Yeah, I root for underdogs too, but there is satisfaction in seeing Kakuryu show why he’s a Yokozuna (even if he is The Unknown Yokozuna): he very good. This wasn’t even hard for him.
Toyohibiki (1-3) is defeated by Kakuryu (4-0) by yori-kiri.

Hakuho (4/24/29) vs. Takarafuji (22/13/17)
Smily and roundish, Takarafuji is kind of cute. Hakuho is Blandola the Great. Today, unfortunately, and in contrast to Kakuryu, Hakuho looked like Boredola the Understimulated. He resembled most of all Chiyotairyu: he hit hard at the tachi-ai, drove his opponent back, and then when it didn’t instantly finish his opponent off, immediately went for the pull. The difference is that for Hakuho it works—he is better, after all—and for Chiyotairyu it doesn’t. I also think Chiyotairyu plans it from the outset, whereas Hakuho uses it as an expedient. However, Hakuho has been doing this too much lately. I suppose he figures ho hum, another win, guy’s overexcited, I’ll just pull him down. And yeah, he has a right to win any way he wants, but when we’re comparing the Yokozuna to an underachieving M9, that is a problem.
Hakuho (4-0) defeats Takarafuji (2-2) by hataki-komi.

Lots of good sumo today. Dare-dare writey writes yousa whosa’s nani-nani morrow-morrow.

Day 3 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
Before we get started, though not celebrated internationally, I want to wish you all a belated Happy Halloween! Don’t know what you all did that night but I had 5 kidney stones (not joking) that all decided to perform yumitori-shiki all at once, so my night was filled with true horror followed by the haze of strong prescription drugs. Kinda like the way life in general often is…


The Colombian women's cycling team debuted their new uniform, with a flesh-colored section between stomach and thighs at the Tour of Tuscany in Italy over the weekend. UCI President Brian Cookson wrote on his Twitter account that "it is unacceptable by any standard of decency."

Yeah? … who died and made you UCI President. Oh wait, he IS UCI President.

Aside from the posturing of our self-appointed “decency” czar, this odd morsel of news exposes one of the great by-products of sports. See, we don’t much think on foreign countries or, for that matter, anything really that’s not bumping up against the burger on the plate right in front of us.

But when a North Korean breaks a record in Olympic pole-vaulting, or a Nigerian wins the Grand Prix, or a Jewish guy becomes the heavyweight champion of the world, or an Italian guy quits smoking, we take notice of their respective homelands. What the culture might be like, how their economy works, how mad for us their women would be…

We’re sometimes inspired to reconsider our lazy notions about these exotic locales and I’m thinking that's a good thing. Makes us maybe wanna visit some of these places (well maybe not all places).

Now Mongolians are rocking the sumo world to its very core and we’re forced to read the katakana,
モンゴル like 800 times each basho so what say we take an insightful gander at some of the stuff that goes on in Mongolia.

Now armed with a complete understanding of the Mongol culture let’s get out our extra virgin coconut oil and slide “under the mawashi” because Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s real deal Sumo in Kyushu Japan! Day 3!

M15 Tochinowaka never got his mitts on any mawashi. Right from the git he was forced to work his opponent’s upper body because the crafty (thanks Mike) M14 Sokokurai knew to stay low and be patient. They two men danced around the ring, Soko holding onto Tochi’s left wrist for 2 long ballads and as always this elicited a respectful round of applause from the teeming throng of teenagers in the audience. Finally Sokokurai got his left on huffing and puffing Slo-Waka’s belt, and it was only a matter of time before he spun around and threw down for the shitate-nage win. Tochi toughed it out and fought hard, but I was really impressed by Sokokurai’s enduring tenacity in this long ass bout. Tochinowaka is at an exhausting 1-1 while Soko breathes easy at 3-0.

M14 Amuuru (who always looks like he just finished the complete works of Dostoyevsky) won his first Makuuchi bout. After the tachi-ai M16 Chiyomaru backed up quickly across the rope as if THAT’s how you win in sumo. Amuuru be a strange1-2 while 2-1 be Chiyomaru.

Homarefuji who’s only a few letters away from being Yokozuna, got solid armpit leverage after he and Tamawashi both struck hard at the tachi-ai. Homarerufumarefuji almost tipped over Tamamamawashi for a quick vic, but the ever dashing Mr. Washi Washi escaped disaster. He started slapping and shoving Haruhomararefuji so hard that dude just said “OK, OK, I'll step out geez!” M10 Tama-washi (1-2) wins by oshi-dashi and M12 H etc (1-2) loses by the same.

At the gun, M11 Myogiryu got his forearm right into M9 Tokushoryu’s honker with a loud wet smack and as the two men yanked each other around in a mighty yotsu struggle, Toku’s nose started gushing this red liquid everywhere. Tokushoryu almost had Myogiryu's number with a powerhouse uwate-nage attempt, but Yogi Mahesh Mahoney’s foot work and body placement thwarted the bleeding fat guy’s throw.

When they settled in the middle of the ring, the Gyoji stopped the bout and did a crappy job of wiping off all the blood and and then he shoved a twisted tissue up Toku’s nose causing him to wince. Really? That’s all you got? A twisted tissue? See, THAT’s not tradition…that's just lame. Get an instant replay screen will ya!!! Sorry…anyway…when they started up again, Toku basically got worked back and out licket-spliyt. Myogiryu (2-1) grabbed the win by yori-kiri while Tokushoryu (1-2) walked away thinking “Really? That’s all you got? A twisted tissue jammed up my nostril?”

Elvis’ movie star looks have overshadowed his sumo skills, and when Mike mentioned he was looking kinda Juryo lately it solidified my notion that YEAH, he WAS pretty damn good when he debuted. I mean you guys agree right? WTF. The difference is striking! Now he’s been morphed into merely a marketing tool and I’ll leave it up to you to define “tool”.

M8 Endoh tried pretty hard not to lose his first two matches in Kyushu but alas, he probably should’ve tried to win 'cause he was lugging around an 0-2 record when he faced off with M7 Sadanoumi.

Sad n’ Lonely ran at Endoh at the tachi-ai and then slid around and rolled to the clay. Endoh’s hands were slapping around and looked for a pull attempt, but the uber motivated Sadanoumi spun to the ground before Elvis could get a good grip on the dude’s belt. To be honest, it’s been painful watching the dude lose with all the adoration and hype surrounding his every move so I kinda was glad El Hypo got the gimme (and a gimme it be matey). It’s like he’s already a beloved veteran that the crowd just wants to win no matter what it takes. Endoh 1-2 and Sadanoumi 0-3 can now afford a PS4.

M6 Tochinoshin (2-0) has returned! He got himself demoted into an abyss from which few return. Gone were the days where girls giggled at the batting of his ample eyelashes. Gone were the days when his roommate Gagamaru (who now sits in Juryo) was careful not to take ALL the covers when they slept. He would have to fight his way back through the minors where guys do whatever it takes to win, where injustice goes undetected, where each victory gets nary a cheer from the scant few in the bleachers.

Well, Tochi manned up like a champ and not only did his time in purgatory but racked up stellar (often zenshou yusho) records. On this night he faced a strong new face in M5 Chiyotoori (2-0) and my notion was Tochinoshin was more hungry than afraid. At the gate Tochi immediately went for the belt. Right then I referenced when Mike points out a paid off rikishi’s hand floating around a belt and merely caressing the mawashi instead of grabbing and holding it. No such tom foolery here as the Shin shot for a grip and held onto it like Clancy grasps a pair of AKB48’s panties!

At this point, Chiyobird also had achieved his own migi-yotsu and wasn’t gonna go down easy, but every time he tried to work his man back, Tochi would lift and roll Chiyootori around towards the rope. When Tochinoshin finally stole a low, center belt grip, it was all she wrote and Chiyootori got thrown off the dohyo. Shin DID slip at the end, but the outcome remained the same - Tochi (3-0) gets the yori-taoshi win and Chiyo respectably falls to 2-1.

Unlike Endoh and fellow Mongol Ichinojo, the talented M3 Terunofuji has come up through the ranks slow and hard. He’s taken some knocks, but he’s learning and when it’s time to get all berserker and shite he doesn’t step away…he jumps on it.

The banged up M5 Osunaarashi prolly wasn’t looking forward to meeting this fresh tough kid early on but collide they did and Osu got his ass thumped fast and hard. Credit the Thug for meeting the young Mr. Terrible straight on and yeah he paid for it…dude bounced backwards offa the forward moving Mongoru, twisted his left leg and tumbled hard on the corner of the dohyo…ouch! Terunofuji’s all business at 2-1 while Osunaaaaaarashi (0-3) may need some time off and we wish him well.

Monster Drink M4 Yoshikaze faced off with M2 Toyohibiki and I was looking forward to the stark contrast between the 2 mens' sumo style. Thing is, you never know which Mysterious Mr. Toyo H. Ibiki will show up on any given night. Last night it was the fully text book, Dejima style, 18 wheeler rikishi that roared out of the gate and drove Yoshi backwards and off the dohyo as fast as their size differential would imply. Yoshikaze, who we all have come to realize is a tough kid, suffered a leg injury so let’s hope he gets healthy and back in the game ASAP!

Sekiwake Ichinojo and Sekiwake Aoiyama are similar in a number of ways…similar ranking, height and weight for example. Both men prefer migi-yotsu grip. Both are from places that don’t contain the word Japan. So when you see them face off for the first time you be like..Dayum they gonna be all up in it! At the tachi-ai the two giants mated chests with a blubbery slap and then it was all Ichi Brutha! Using his right handed belt grip, he was yanking the hapless Aoiyama this way and that and easily chucked him down for a decisive uwate-nage win. Ichinojo is licking his chops at 2-1 and Aoiyama (1-2) be like “Say whaaat?”

Ozeki Kisenosato took waaaaay too long to oshi-dashi Komusubi Takekaze, but the end result was never in doubt. Kise makes Hakuho sweat at 3-0, and Takekaze takes a shower at 2-1.

The NSK has been doing a bang up job marketing sumo of late. I’m all for it. But sometimes the hunger for ratings sullies the purity of the sport and I refuse to believe that there aren’t better ways to sell our favorite pastime to the public. Like…hmmm…how about you get the message out with a shirt!

Shmozeki Kotoshogiku. What can I say. The word came down from high up. -

“Dude prolly doesn’t have game no mo’ so let’s give his home team crowd something to get all jiggy about”. Day 2’s bout with Aoiyama pissed me off…I can take a little play acting, but Geeku looked to the sky, his chin held high like some super hero after he was handed the bogus white dot. When the books get cooked in your favor you oughta display a little humility to my way of thinking…but if it’s gonna be play acting, I guess you may as well do the dance!

Well on Day 3 the Geekster faced M2 Takarafuji who has the ability to quietly rack up numbers every basho and can on occasion with intelligent, patiently strong sumo. Kotoshogiku leaped hard at Ta-ra-ra-boom-dee-ay and it shocked me how a big man can drive so hard with literally no effect on his opponent. The two men grappled and Geeku seemed to be wondering how the “faux bout” would play out. Takarafuji kinda looked a bit befuddled himself and simply stepped back until the Ozeki slid down Takara’s body like it was covered with grease. Geeku hit the clay with a jiggling thud and the crowd couldn’t believe it! Ta-ra-ra-boom-dee-ay stands at 2-1 while Kotoshogiku slides down with the same tally.

Hakuho’s nemesis, Ozeki Goeido, kept his head down at the tachi-ai preventing young Komusubi, Ikioi, from grabbing his customary migi-yotsu grip. Goeido drove Icky to the edge of defeat, but his strength being what it is (not again!) was unable to seal the deal. The two rikishi grappled with each other until Goeido got his right mitt on the back of Itchy Koo Park’s head and spun him down for an energetic hataki-komi win. Go-Go Girl is 1-2 while Ikioi is taking a beating just like an egg at 0-3.

M1 Aminishiki got thumped, chased and shoved oudt hard by Mr. Excitement himself - Yokozuna Kakuryu. Oshi-dashi was and shall ever be the call leaving the Shneekee One (who landed hard on his bum knees) at 0-3 and the expressionless Kakuryu at 3-0.

Aminishiki is not the only one, but his grit and passionate need to be in sumo in the face of compromised gams personifies what a bad ass athlete is all bout.

Mike is right. M1 Tochiohzan is good. Off the tachi-ai he pushed Master Cylinder Hakuho back to the line. He came in low…got his feet under him and drove forward while Hakuho’s legs were uncharacteristically spread wide. Yokozuna Ho dug in against the rope like he meant it and then…Tochiohzan kinda got rolled over.

When Tochi was unable to finish for the win, Hak lifted him and then shifted his weight and tossed him down…the roll looked suspiciously soft to me, but I’ve been doing hard drugs and drinking whiskey for a week straight now so…

Hakuho, who forces us all to view sumo excellence in new ways rockets to 3-0 and Tochi rolls downhill to 0-3 in the joi!

Yokozuna Harumafuji and M3 Takayasu (who seems loaded for bear this basho) got into a real slug fest. Stinging tsuppari from Takayasu kept Harumafuji away from his belt but never let it be said that Slappy’s gonna back down from a boxing match. Time and again Haru would try and grab mawashi and Takayasu would slap him away ’til finally the Yokozuna grabbed Taka’s belt and right leg and went for the throw down. Thing is, Takayasu spun around and Slappy’s leg slid way outside the hemp. Takayasu gets the kin-boshi and a rare isami-ashi 3-0 win while the beaten up Harumafuji did his little head tilt and falls to 2-1.

Wow…what a night of sumo. Agreed? The first two nights kinda chugged along but Day 3…dayum!

Well everyone take a deep breath and get ready for the next round of what could very well be a history making basho and maybe…just maybe you get to clear your head with someone like THIS to hang out with till then…

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
For the first time since I can remember, the venue was full for the first day of a Kyushu basho. I saw a headline that indicated the TV numbers from day 1 drew a 16.7% rating, and while the article didn't expound on previous Kyushu basho day 1 numbers (I'm sure they were dismal), sumo was pulling between a 17% - 18% number on senshuraku just a few years ago. So on one hand, it's great to see attendance and overall interest in the sport on the rise again, but it bugs me that the reasons for this success have little do to with the actual sumo. I recently called what we're seeing "socialist sumo" because the intent is to create this semblance of parity between the Japanese rikishi and Mongolians that really doesn't exist, so while the numbers are up, the success has come at the price of quality sumo in the ring.

As we turn our attention to the day 2 bouts, we will be extremely hard pressed to find a quality bout of sumo where at least one of the rikishi didn't go for a pull or back up within the first few seconds.

The day began with M16 Chiyomaru offering a moro-te-zuki into M15 Tochinowaka, but Maru backed up instead of using his legs to move forward. Tochinowaka looked to get to the inside in the fracas, but Chiyomaru tsuppari'ed him away and kept on the move finally managing to turn the tables near the edge and shove T-Wok out in the end. This was ultimately ruled tsuki-dashi, but I say save that kimari-te for a rikishi who really deserves it. Chiyomaru is off to a decent 2-0 start while Tochinowaka is 1-1.

M16 Kotoyuki got his bearings in the division back today by greeting K15 Kyokushuho with two stiff palms to the throat and chest, and he had Kyokushuho backed straight up and out in mere seconds. Now this sumo from Kotoyuki is what Willis was talkin' about when it comes to tsuki-dashi, not that evade garbage from Chiyomaru a bout earlier. Kotoyuki picks up his first win while Kyokushuho is still winless.

M13 Takanoiwa began with an early shove with the left and right kote-nage grip against M14 Sokokurai, but Sokokurai is as wily as they come and was able to evade laterally with a swipe at Takanoiwa's extended right arm. From here, the bout turned into a grapplin affair where both rikishi feigned the push but were really looking for the pull. Sokokurai is favored in this type of contest, and it showed as he swiped at the back of Takanoiwa's left shoulder felling him in the end. Sokokurai moves to 2-0 while Takanoiwa falls to 1-1.

You can tell Aminishiki out-ranks M14 Amuuru in the Boy Scouts because Shneaky has way more folds in his bedrolls. Still, the Russian ain't too far behind, and when it comes to a rookie in the division, I don't know that I've every seen someone with so much mileage. In a bland bout today against M13 Arawashi, Amuuru used his long left arm to flirt at the front of Arawashi's belt while he kept his foe at bay with the left, but he failed to create anything from the tachi-ai with his legs, so Arawashi just moved right, latched onto Amuuru's extended left arm, and twisted him down kote-nage style. Arawashi picks up his first win while the rookie has still got a few requirements to finish before he earns his first merit badge.

M12 Homarefuji looked to dictate the pace against M11 Myogiryu early using a tsuppari attack, but Homarefuji's blows were having little effect, and so Myogiryu was able to slip into the left inside position followed by the right outer grip, and the former Sekiwake turned the tables quickly driving Homarefuji back and out spanning nearly the full length of the dohyo. Both fellas end the day at 1-1.

At this point in the broadcast, they showed clips of Kotooshu's danpatsu-shiki, or hair-snipping ceremony. Call me Rip Van Winkle, but I seemed to miss that news in between basho. Anyway, they had Kotooshu in the booth today providing color with his new coif, and while the dude did okay at the color analysis, someone needs to tell him that oil is no longer required once you reach oyakata. Sheesh, even George McFly shuddered at the former Ozeki's hair today.

We finally got a straight up hidari-yotsu bout today featuring M12 Kitataiki and M11 Kyokutenho where Kitataiki had the right outer grip using it to wrench Tenho over to the edge, but he didn't have his gal in snug, and so Tenho was able to slip out left and counter with a brilliant left inside belt throw that caused Kitataiki to hop along his left foot where his toe barely touched out as he tried to catch himself from stepping across. He quickly reloaded and looked to finish Kyokutenho off, but the ever-alert judge managing the West side caught it and called for a mono-ii where the bout was correctly ruled in favor of Kyokutenho (2-0). Tough luck for Kitataiki who falls to 0-2, but credit him on the attempted sales job at the end.

After the last bout, NHK showed a little vignette on Kakuryu's becoming the sport's 71st Yokozuna. What, is NHK just figuring it out too?

M9 Chiyotairyu was straight forward in his tsuppari attack against M10 Tamawashi, and although Tairyu tried one ridiculous slap downward at Tamawashi's dickey-do with both hands, Tamawashi was back pedaling and unable to capitalize. Chiyotairyu humbled himself and repented at this point going back to the freight train tsuppari that pummeled Tamawashi back and out straight way drawing just the oshi-dashi kimari-te. Even though this was more of a tsuki-dashi than Chiyomaru's win, I'm glad they didn't give it to the guy because of the pull attempt. Regardless, Chiyotairyu moves to 2-0 and has a lot more swipes in him I'm sure the rest'a the way. Tamawashi falls to 0-2.

Hometown kid M10 Shohozan jumped the gun early against M9 Tokushoryu curiously drawing laughter from the crowd due to the false start. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the reaction; I've see Japanese "comedy" shows on TV before and they'll laugh at anything. As the two reloaded, Shohozan threw both fists towards the dirt but likely false started because he seemed to hold up putting his palms forward as if to ward off a blow instead of charging full throttle. Tokushoryu did come full boar, however, forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu and obtaining the stifling right outer grip near the edge, and Shohozan had no answer. This one was so lopsided, I'm pretty sure Shohozan thought he false started and let up, but regardless, both rikishi end the day at 1-1 and credit Tokushoryu for doing forward moving sumo.

M8 Endoh, sumo's version of Carly Rae Jepsen, stepped into the ring against M7 Okinoumi where the two quickly engaged in hidari-yotsu that saw Okinoumi use his length to grab the right outer grip, and it was curtains from there as Okinoumi kept his gal in close (don't tell his fiancée) and smothered Endoh back and across without argument. Endoh really looks like a Juryo rikishi to me at this point as he falls to 0-2 while Okinoumi is a smooth operator at 2-0.

M8 Tochinoshin and M7 Sadanoumi engaged in a gappuri hidari-yotsu bout from the start where Tochinoshin's failed right kachi-age gave Sadanoumi the outer grip, but against a behemoth like Shin, the smaller Sadanoumi didn't want to find himself chest to chest. He tried in vain to topple Tochinoshin near the edge with a right soto-gake, but it wasn't to be and after reloading, Shin used his size advantage to just wrench/lift Sadanoumi over and out. Tochinoshin moves to a shweet 2-0 with the win, and while he'll likely rule this basho, I'm afraid he's going to find a mirror and realize, "Hey, I'm an Eastern European. It is okay for me to just get by on size alone and fight half-assed as long as I keep pulling this Makuuchi paycheck." Sadanoumi falls to 0-2.

M5 Chiyootori and M6 Jokoryu hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Otori quickly looked for the maki-kae with the right hand. While Jokoryu was able to block the move, he didn't capitalize lazily leaving his left hip exposed for a Chiyootori outer grip. Chiyootori pressed from there, and while Jokoryu was able to shake off Chiyootori's outer grip, Chiyootori still maintained the better angle and bodied Jokoryu back and across the ring before sending him over on his leedle bum at the edge. What's in the Kokonoe chanko this basho as Chiyootori moves to 2-0 along with stablemates Chiyomaru and Chiyotairyu. As for Jokoryu, he falls to 0-2, and I'd normally criticize his sumo at this point, but I'm still trying to get over the shock of my using a Sade reference a few paragraphs up.

M6 Toyonoshima looked for moro-zashi at the tachi-ai against M5 Osunaarashi who failed to offer a kachi-age leaving himself wide open. Toyonoshima got the quick right inside, and the Ejyptian knew he was in trouble at this point backing up to try and finagle a pull, but Tugboat kept his body square and was able to force Osunaarashi to step back and across before he could counter and slap Toyonoshima down by the shoulder. Toyonoshima moves to 2-0 while Osunaarashi is an ugly 0-2. In the same vein as my comments for Tochinoshin, I've been trying to convince myself that Osunaarashi is still young and raw, but I'm afraid he's falling into the same category we've seen from so many other foreigners who don't hail form Mongolia. I mean, these guys are young; they have their fame; they're making sweet moolah; and of course they're getting chicks, so I can't say I'm that surprised that they just coast along from the mid-Maegashira ranks.

M3 Takayasu and M4 Yoshikaze engaged in a wild affair that looked more like a girl fight in the schoolyard than a sound bout of sumo. To Takayasu's credit, he tried to remain calm while Yoshikaze was completely monstered up and flailing this way and that, and in the end, Takayasu timed a Yoshikaze whiff perfectly slapping Yoshikaze down for the hataki-komi win. Takayasu looks decent at 2-0 while Yoshikaze has been a spaz this basho at 0-2.

M4 Kaisei and M3 Terunofuji hooked up in the gappuri migi-yotsu from the start where Kaisei pressed the action first, but Terunofuji seemed content to just dig in and keep the bout moving West to East, and with Kaisei hopping just a bit, Terunofuji made his move and turned the tables at the tawara twisting Kaisei out with the left outer grip. This was classic Terunofuji sumo where he starts passive and then pounces when his opponent thinks he has the upper hand. If it's worked for Kyokutenho all these years, Terunofuji can surely capitalize on it as well, but I would like to see Terunofuji a bit more aggressive in the ring. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

M2 Takarafuji looked to establish the right inside position from the tachi-ai against the wide open Sekiwake Ichinojo, but the Mongolith quickly evaded left looking for the cheap pull. When Takarafuji failed to capitalize on his opponent's evasive maneuver, Ichinojo got the right arm to the inside and despite a Takarafuji left outer, Ichinojo just planted his stump and launched Takarafuji over the edge for the inner belt throw win. Once again, ugly sumo from Ichinojo, but the number of rikishi who can make him pay for it can be counted on one hand. Both of these gentlemen end the day at 1-1.

Sekiwake Aoiyama gave Ozeki Kotoshogiku the free moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, and without offering much of a counter, Kotoshogiku wrenched Aoiyama towards the edge and easily forced him out after a feigned struggle from Aoiyama. Two days, two Kotoshogiku wins, and two yaocho plain as day. I'm not saying here that Kotoshogiku is going to go 15-0 and take the yusho; what I am saying is that letting Kotoshogiku get off to a hot start and show well in his hometown is a ploy to generate headlines. Remember, marketing has trumped the purity of sumo for several years now as Kotoshogiku moves to 2-0 while Aoiyama will eat well tonight at 1-1.

Ozeki Goeido failed to establish anything from the tachi-ai, and as Komusubi Takekaze quickly back-pedaled, the Ozeki wasn't able to keep up getting pulled down near the edge in an affair that didn't even last two seconds. A mono-ii was called in hopes of finding something that would give the Ozeki a win or a redo, but Goeido's hand clearly touched down first before Takekaze stepped out of the ring. How people can watch sumo like this from the Ozeki and still think his four bout winning streak over Hakuho is legit is beyond me. Expect a bail-out or a kyujo soon from Goeido who falls to 0-2. Takekaze moves to 1-1 with the win and has to be thinking, "Fish in a barrel against that dude."

Ozeki Kisenosato kept his arms in tight against Komusubi Ikioi coming out of the fray with the light right inside position, but when Ikioi decided to back up and go for a feeble pull, the Ozeki's right grip improved and he was able to grab the right outer grip at the edge as Ikioi just stood there and was forced back. I thought Ikioi coulda tried harder in this one, but what does it matter as the Kid improves to 2-0 while Ikioi remains winless.

Yokozuna Hakuho got the right inside at the tachi-ai and looked to bulldoze M1 Aminishiki straight back, but Shneaky tried to slip out to his right in the process and attempt a counter right kata-sukashi. The result was Hakuho falling to the dirt about a second and a half in but not before he had Aminishiki shoved back and well across the straw. Hakuho stepped gingerly off of the dohyo and seemed concerned about something afterwards. The announcers speculated it was his ankle, but it turns out that Hakuho bumped his thigh against the dohyo as he crashed down out the edge, but he stated in the dailies this morning that he was just fine. At 2-0 it's par for the course. Aminishiki falls to 0-2 with the loss.

Yokozuna Harumafuji connected with enough tsuppari to keep M2 Toyohibiki from really doing damage with his own thrusts, so when the Yokozuna backpedaled a bit inviting a forward charge from Toyohibiki, he slipped into moro-zashi and had his gal at this point. Toyohibiki managed a left inside as he was driven back, but Harumafuji's right hand was near the front of the belt leaving him with two potent grips that allowed him to escort Toyo the Hutt back and out with ease. Harumafuji moves to 2-0 and looks quite sprite the first two days. Toyohibiki is an expected 0-2.

Hey, have you guys heard about that new Yokozuna Kakuryu? Today against M1 Tochiohzan, he was unable to bully the M1 at the tachi-ai backing up for the quick pull instead. Tochiohzan wasn't able to pounce fast enough to take advantage of the retreating Yokozuna, so with both rikishi even steven in the center of the ring, they looked to hook up again. The Kak went for another pull the second go around as well, but again, Tochiohzan couldn't capitalize despite pressing forward, and this time, the Yokozuna was able to slip into the firm left inside position. As the two dug in, Kakuryu went for and got a maki-kae with the right arm, and it was curtains at this point as the Yokozuna scored the force-out win. I'd really like to see Kakuryu establish this inside position from the tachi-ai, not from cat and mouse sumo against an M1 rikishi, but I think it's mostly a case of Kakuryu being lazy and just going through the motions. He has nothing left to prove in the sport, and sumo has nothing to gain from another Kakuryu yusho. Tochiohzan falls to 0-2 with the loss, but he looks healthy to me this basho and can easily make up the ground.

There's still some uncertainties surrounding the basho, but one thing for sure is that Kane will rock the house tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Greetings from the US of A. That’s right, the Kyushu Basho finds me in my birthland (neologism alert!) this year, and so I’m writing sumo for the first time ever without my boots on the ground, my finger on the pulse, my tongue in the...nevermind. At any rate, despite my distance from Fukuoka, I’m no mere distant observer; no, I remain the seasoned sumo insider you’ve all come to know and despise but secretly wish you were.

The reason for my confidence? Because my peoples back on the Arch (that’s short for “archipelago,” which Japan is, cause it’s as a series of islands, and not a Noah reference) are keepin me in the loop. In fact, just received an email this instant, let me open it and read off what is surely some sick insider shit about Myogiryu or zabuton.

“Dear Kelly sensee.”

See? See the respect I engender?

“As you requested when last we met, I have kept abreast of the goings on here in your adopted homeland.”

Retha Fraknlin don’t get it any better than this, yo! It continues.

“Onion prices have leveled off after a three year rise, due in part to the lowered costs of fertilizer in the wake of the government’s decision to...”

Okay, okay. I live in the countryside, so shoot me. I’m sure it gets better. Let’s skip ahead.

“I’m also happy to report that as saddened as we all were, some good has come out of the recent death of Hasegawa-san at the hoof of his mule. It seems his widow has donated a small rice field in his honor, which the village will use to create three new parking spaces for the local middle school.”

Well. Hnh. Um...okay then. Let’s get to the sumo, shallwy? (Neologism alert!)

The first match of the day had Kotoyuki vs. Chiyomaru (whose ship, I’m tempted to add, has sailed--arfarfarf). Kidding. Dude is young and hung, and showed it today by playing that schoolyard game where two girls slap their palms on each others while chanting some singysong:

“My oyakata
Told me to say
That you won’t beat me
Any of the day...”

Seriously, the best way to describe the attack of both men is to say they looked like they were swimming the breaststroke. In the end Chiyomaru shifted and slapped Kotoyuki’s arms down and made off with the goods.

Tochinowaka (who, trust me, has one of THE oddest given names I have ever seen on a JPese guy) defeated Kyokushuho in a more traditional manner though via the same kimari-te, standing up his foe and ceding the outside left belt, then moving back and shlapping the Mongolian down a nanosecond before he himself stepped out. A judges review did not change the gyoji’s decision.

Newbie Russian Amuuru was taken down by Sokokurai after both men stayed low looking for belts. Amuuru got his left grip and pushed the action to the edge, but Sokokurai broke it and got in and under the pits, then bearhugged the Russian and spun him around on one leg and down hard for the sukui-nage win.

Takanoiwa hit his countryman like a ram (not the long wooden kind used to break sieges, but the kind with curled horns and demon eyes), causing Arawashi to retreat to the edge and escape by circling away. Takanoiwa kept on him and though giving up a belt grip, was able to shove his foe back while collapsing his leg like a folding chair. Gyoji, blocked by like, what, 150 kilos of sumo manflesh, called it for Arawashi. However, the MIB stood up, pushed the button on that little metal thing they carried, and it was like the gyoji had never said such a thing. Takanoiwa remains undefeated atop the leaderboard, while Arawashi will have to scramble like the dickens if he wants his KK (okay, so sue me for trying to inject some excitement into a basho that has gone stale).

Back in Makuuchi for the first time this year, Homarefuji would not let Kitataiki out of his sights, using good old fashioned noggin to face sumo to push the Kitanoumi man grappler out by oshi-dashi. Solid, both the body and the technique. I’d like to see this guy become a mainstay up in the j’oi. He’s tall, heavy, and he comes from a Yokozuna’s heya. HowDo needs some wingmen! But he’s getting long in the tooth, so prolly just a pipedream.

Life has not been good to Myogiryu as of late. After a sterling 11-4 from W6 in July, he was sitting pretty at Sekiwake for September, only to withdraw due to injury. Sumo is an unforgiving mistress, and after his 0-15, he is now at E11. As is typical, he came strong at tachi-ai today, got inside two arms moro-zashi on Kyokutenho, and was then promptly spun around and dropped at the tawara by the crafty elder statesman of sumo. Left with nothing in his Day One pikanik basket, Im sure he ended up with a booboo, and really, I don’t know how Myogi can bear it. Nailed it!

Tamawashi came in with guns a blazin, driving Shohozan back with a fierce throat attack (external) that looked like it was going to git er done. The Golden One, however, remained calm, his eyes cold and hard even in the heat of battle, seeming to ask scornfully, “Zat all you got, hero?” Once the Mongolian lost his forward mo, Shohozan charged ahead and chased his circling, swiping, flailing, bailing ass out for a bigtime comeback win. Love seeing Shohozan’s surly, disdainful visage. Dude coulda worked for Vito Corleone—“I’ll make him a mawashi he can’t retie.”

Speaking of The Godfather, Chiyotairyu grabbed hold of the sides of Tokushoryu’s head like Michael Fredo’s when he told him in Cuba, “I know it was you, Fredo.” And while Chiyopupdaddy didn’t kill Tokushoryu like Michael did his brother, he did yank him down with no problem at all.

Tochinoshin is back and lookin good. Today he easily pushed Endo back from the shikiri-sen, nearly driving him out with a throat shove (external). Endo manned up and tried to go for the belt, but Tochinoshin kept his arms in tightly and countered anything Endo threw at him, while pushing him back the edge. Once there, The Private got an outside right belt grip and lifted the JPese star for several seconds, until he finally gave up resistance and crashed out. I’ll hand it to Endo for not going out like a wuss. That’s about the best I can say. Tochinoshin was wearing a big ol Aminishikiesque wrap on his leg, and hasn’t been in Makuuchi since May of 2013. Endo needs to win these bouts.

The Noumis met in a brief affair, as Oki locked down on Sada’s arms and drove him straight back and out.

Toyonoshima may no longer be sanyaku material, but that’s not to say he cant bring it any longer. Today he got his trademark inside two arms and just shopping carted Jokoryu back and out. I guess you could say Jokoryu was Home Depot-sed!

Chiyootori got a strong inside right belt from tachi-ai and Osunaarashi had no answer, hanging around for a few seconds but in the end getting pressed to the bales and worked out.

Yoshikaze went fair and square against huge Kaisei, absorbing the shove from the start and flying around his back to attempt a rear mawashi grab. That failed so he went into defensive mode as Kaisei bore down with long arms and fierce shoves. Monster Drink evaded one set of left/right and got in with a nice moro-zashi, even backing the big Brasilian to the ropes. But Kaisei recovered and forced the highly Caffeinated One across the ring, where he swung him down and crashed right on top of his head and upper torso. I’m a man’s man, don’t mistake it, but I squealed like a fucking churchmouse when I saw this. Thankfully, Yoshikaze was able to rise on his own and make his way off the dohyo, proud as he ought to have been for fighting so gallantly.

Takayasu and Terunofuji both got left belt grips from jump street, and they turned each other around and around until Takayasu literally got the upper hand by breaking Terunofuji’s arm clamping grips and swinging him down.

Sekiwake Aoiyama got into a big time tsuppari slapping battle with Toyohibiki, and it was over in a few seconds as Aoiyama was able to slap The Hutt down just before stepping out himself.

Ozeki Goeido was way too eager to avenge his Sept. loss to Takarafuji, rushing in too fast and not making sure he had his foe centered. With his back to the abyss, Takarafuji calmly and with adroit timing lifted up on Goeido’s left arm, sending him past and down to the clay. Maybe Hakuho ought to employ the same strategy when they meet in Week Two.

Aminishiki’s bedrolls are getting out of hand. Dude looks like Bernie Parent. Today after a halfway decent tachi-ai, he had nothing left for Ozeki Kisenosato, falling down as he was pushed back. Both men quickly got off the dohyo to make way for the Zamboni.

Guess somebody forgot to tell Tochiohzan that when you have a guy pushed back to the edge right from the tachi-ai you should press forward some, either by lifting up or by placing your legs a bit back to get a good shoving angle. You certainly don’t want to bring your feet up under you and let yourself be driven the other way while offering zero resistance, and while attempting some half-assed snatching at a belt you could have grabbed when the Ozeki was against the bales. Then again, if the holidays are coming up and it’s your foes hometown basho, well, maybe someone DID tell Tochiohzan something. Kotoshogiku gets his Xmas present early. Yawn.

Gyoji fell asleep on his watch and Harumafuji was able to use a blatant false start to get under Ichinojo’s chin and slam him back. The shin-Sekiwake had no choice but to backpedal and pull, and it was over in a flash as HowDo kept his head down and rammed him out. Hate to see this kind of thing. It’s not the Yokozuna’s fault, of course, but that’s why they have gyoji. A disappointment of a bout, indeed, though it was fun to see Ichinojo nearly use the Yokozuna’s chon-mage to keep from falling off the dohyo.

Takekaze didn’t roll over vs. Kakuryu, nor either did he henka. In fact, he stuck around, putting up with the Yokozuna’s shoves and slaps and even giving a few of his own while rebounding from the edge twice to keep the battle on. But when one slap missed and the Yokozuna bent down and grabbed the inside belt, well, the spring popped up, the marmalade appeared, and we all enjoyed a little Takekaze for breakfast.

In the final bout, Hakuho went toe to toe with, if not his doppleganger, at least his stunt double in Ikioi. Hakuho got his right hand inside on the belt and used it to lift and separate Ikioi from any chance he had of winning. Run of the mill yori-kiri win for the Yokozuna, and it’s not really a tough call to say that even if he cannot figure out that ever vexing Goeido (urp) I still cannot see Hakuho going into the New Year without being the co-owner of the title of most yusho winning rikishi in modern sumo.

Like Mike said in his pre-basho report, there is scant storylxine here in Kyushu. I’ll try to work something up for ya, maybe take the “Ichinojo has a tiny mage” angle, or Kotoshogiku becomes first JPese yusho winner since Darwin knows when.

I think Mike will be here tomorrow to read your fortune, so hands in the air, yall, whoop whoop!
























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