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

Day 14 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
On Day 10, I got a bad draw. It was a day of lots of pulls and weak step outs. I'd been all geared up for a thrilling start to the positioning phase of the tournament, but got a lump of lignite. 'S okay; on Day 12 I got a great draw, with a lot of hard knocking, head butting, strong fighting sumo. Positioning was on: the guys were fighting hard to secure their end status.

And thank god I didn't draw Day 13. Mike was right: the last four bouts yesterday were obvious political decisions. However, that illustrated a point I was trying to make on Day 10: on Day 13, positioning is winding up, and results-determining is beginning, and there is too often precious little integrity in that phase. (I considered calling it "results-fixing," but decided on the less suggestive "results-determining.") No matter; I still looked forward to day 14, hoping for better luck than Mike had.

I didn't get it. Days 14 and 15 are all about results-determining, and the fix was in from early on today. I know readers don't always like it--hell, I don't like it myself--but I'd say I had my suspicions with about half of the matches today. That's too bad--this kind of tidying up is more common on the last Sunday than the last Saturday, and I was sorry to see it so prevalent today. Also, in a tournament where not a single wrestler went kyujo during the term, suddenly here on Day 14 we had three withdrawals. It was not a good day for sumo.

In too many ways: before we get to our storylines, I should say a few words about the passing away of Kitanoumi, one of Japan's great Yokozuna, with 24 career championships between 1974 and 1984 and later ten years at the head of the Association in two separate stints. I can't speak to his dohyo career; I wasn't watching sumo when he was active. And I am sorry to say it would be classless today to dwell on his record as Rijicho--maybe a topic for next tournament. So, instead, what I can say is that his death at age 62 is tragic. A lot of former wrestlers die well before their time, a sobering tribute to the toll the sport and its culture takes on bodies and health. RIP.

We'll work story by story today.

Who is the Better Ha? (Yusho Race) + Live, Die, Repeat + Hometown Heroes

Y Kakuryu (8-5) vs. Y Harumafuji (12-1)
Harumafuji's strategy was clear: get low. He head butted in low off the tachi-ai, then squatted down even further off the ricochet, getting moro-zashi. He then kind of pulled Kakuryu past him by the waist while turning; Kakuryu now had his back to him. Speed is a hallmark for Harumafuji, and he moved in for the oshi-dashi win against Kakuryu, who'd run almost all the way out and only had time to turn and face, not resist.

If you rewind and watch Kakuryu, his strategy is less clear; he grabbed over the top for the belt once or twice, but he was either immediately befuddled by Harumafuji's aggression or didn't have much to offer.

After a horrible start, including a day two loss to Giant Sand (Osunaarashi) and a shaky, questionable win over Aoiyama on Day 3, Harumafuji has dipped his power and speed engines in gasoline and set them on a bank of Bunsen burners. If he wins the championship, it well be well earned...

O Terunofuji (7-6) vs. Y Hakuho (12-1)
...but with a tip of the hat to The Storyteller (Hakuho). Like an overweight, partnerless, fifty year old man having a slow, quiet drunken afternoon lonely on the veranda of a decaying rental villa somewhere in the jungles of southeast Asia, this was a melancholy and languid affair.

The tachi-ai was awful, with neither man moving forward much. Looked like a mistake. They quickly negotiated a come-together, and then hooked up in protracted yotsu, left outer, right inner for both. This had a bizarre effect. Normally, this should be exciting: it both favors Terunofuji--this is his specialty--and Hakuho, who can use time and control like this to wreak devastation with power and speed of his own. Unfortunately, in reality I literally dozed off during the match--I'm not making that up. Why? This is a good time for me to repeat the most important point about mukiryoku/yaocho: it poisons our enjoyment of the sport, because instead of enjoying the bouts we see, we spend time wondering whether it is straight-up--even the legitimate bouts. Evidently, I still enjoy sumo--I passed through the valley of death on sumo cheating some time ago and came out weatherbeaten, weary, realistic, and ready to take the good with the bad. But bout fixing is the bad.

Ahem. Let me awaken from my dream sequence. The bout was long enough to fit this digression comfortably in--eight seconds short of three full minutes long--but curiously passionless. Terunofuji's knee looked just fine, and I hope it is just fine, but I kept waiting for Hakuho to crumple him to the ground with an underhand pull down, or use his powerful thighs to drive out this opponent who shouldn't be able to dig in. Instead, they just kind of stood there. Hakuho had his feet aligned. Later Terunofuji did too. Terunofuji wasn't bothering to hunker down. There were one or two moments where you could see the rope go slack: neither guy was exerting any pressure. Finally, apropos of nothing, Terunofuji executed a force-out charge as smooth, bland, and slow as a river of yoghurt. Hakuho ever so gently walked backwards and stepped out, standing fully upright, yori-kiri. And Terunofuji had his kachi-koshi (Live!).

M3 Toyonoshima (5-8) vs. M11 Shohozan (11-2)
O Kotoshogiku (8-5) vs. O Kisenosato (8-5)
I felt bad for the crowd today, as neither home town hero got to fight. Kotoshogiku withdrew (shin injury), giving an inconsequential win to Kisenosato. However, amazingly, Shohozan drifted up to 12-2 after Toyonoshima also withdrew (with an injury to the sole of his left foot). Most amazing, Shohozan plays Aminishiki, of all people, on the final day tomorrow. Shohozan is now more on the leaderboard than ever, as there is a real chance he slips into a playoff with Hakuho and Harumafuji, or even a mano-a-mano with the 'Maf. Wow.

Let us visit the leaderboard for one last time. Only these three can win it, with many scenarios in play:

Harumafuji, 13-1 (controls his own destiny, faces Kisenosato)
Hakuho, 12-2 (faces Kakuryu)
Shohozan 12-2 (faces Aminishiki)

Late Bloomer? (Yoshikaze) + Will He? Won't He? (Goeido)

K Yoshikaze (7-6) vs. O Goeido (7-6)
I got excited when Yoshikaze first felt uncomfortable in the stare-down crouch and asked for a reset, then false started on try #2. Why? It thought it meant the bout would be straight up; Yoshikaze wasn't pretending. However, this was one of three matches today that was a blows-to-the-face fest where one party, in this case Yoshikaze, was really into it, and the other party, here Goeido, kind of had his hands in there but wasn't really attacking, just maintaining and going ever further backwards, bit by bit. Fun to watch and a great effort by Yoshikaze, who was on Goeido like butterflies on horse dung in a windstorm, and eventually Goeido fell down in front of him, oshi-taoshi. Incidentally, the announcer afterwards went on a long tirade about how Goeido had absolutely nothing to offer in this bout: no strategy, no attack, no nothing. Yep.

Goeido gets Tochiohzan tomorrow, who already has his kachi-koshi, which probably means he will be gifted a win and be safe from demotion to Sekiwake. But you never know: I will be rooting hard for Tochiohzan to put this Goeido-Ozeki farce to a merciful end. You never know.

Foreign Bruisers Set Free?

K Tochinoshin (6-7) vs. M4 Ikioi (10-3)
Little bit of a henka by Tochinoshin to his left at the tachi-ai, so ruler rap to the knuckles for that one. However, it was immaterial; this was a pretty immediate yotsu bout with both guys holding left outer and right inner grips. I hear tell that Ikioi is considered quite strong, and Tochinoshin is quite obviously so. Ikioi threw Tochinoshin down, shita-te-nage. I had similar pangs about this one as the Hakuho. A little death of confidence, over, and over, and over.

M2 Aoiyama (5-8) vs. S Myogiryu (2-11)
Not his most impressive match, but a solid win for Aoiyama. It was blam, blam, blam against the smaller man with pile driver arms, and I'd have liked to see Aoiyama finish off that way. However, he saw the opportunity for a pull, took it, and it worked, kata-sukashi. Why he would prefer a strategy that leaves him standing on the tawara like a ballerina I'm not sure, but to be fair it may have been safer than giving Myogiryu a chance to evade and possibly get behind him. Aoiyama is not nimble. A win's a win.

M1 Ichinojo (5-8) vs. M1 Osunaarashi (5-8)
The bad news: Osunaarashi out with a knee injury as expected. The good news: supposedly just two weeks to heal (props to Kintamayama for the reporting on this; I checked in on this wry, good-natured video savior and master of the one-liner in the evening after watching the bouts in real-time earlier). I do worry about Big Sandy, though. This isn't the first time, and these things can pile up.

Low-Ranked Mow-Down

M15 Chiyootori (8-5) vs. M8 Takarafuji (9-4)
Both of these guys have had their predicted good tournaments, and this would have been a good place for a brouhaha, but alas, I fear they played it safe, for whatever reason. Passive Takarafuji was back, and the one pull he tried looked like a guy trying to dunk his cousin's head under the water but not get too much water up his nose. Chiyootori stayed low and inside with his arms and scored the easy yori-taoshi win.

M7 Kaisei (7-6) vs. M11 Gagamaru (8-5)
This was a simple chest-to-chest belt battle, and Kaisei is bigger, better, had dual grips, and got a fairly easy yori-kiri win, securing kachi-koshi, against a slack-looking opponent who already had his 8.

Before the match, the announcers talked about Gagamaru's relationship with Kitanoumi, for whom he was the first ever protégé to reach the top division. Apparently Gagamaru said he was petrified of Kitanoumi at first, but the first time they had chanko-nabe together, he found Kitanoumi very regular and down to earth, giving him advice and treating him as a regular joe; they said he came to see Kitanoumi as a father. Nice memory.

(Maybe yesterday morning as a last good deed Kitanoumi told him to stop that one-hand-up tachi-ai crap, too, because he hasn't done it the last two days.)

M8 Tokushoryu (7-6) vs. M12 Takayasu (9-4)
What to do when you've had a good enough tournament that your kachi-koshi is salted away, but you haven't done enough to win a special prize? Spread the love. Like some others today, Takayasu did a fair job of acting, keeping his arms out in front and making contact with Tokushoryu, but never made a move to grab, strike, or push, and lamely stepped out easy-like, oshi-dashi, after he felt he'd shown enough. Tokushoryu ensures his kachi-koshi.

Hope Springs Eternal

M15 Kitataiki (6-7) vs. J5 Shodai (11-2)
And, introducing... Shodai! Wait, isn't this storyline supposed to be about Mitakeumi? Yes, but only because he is thought of as a "next hope" because he can't put his hair up yet. He hasn't impressed me this basho, so, instead, here a guy tearing up juryo on his second tour of that circuit. More important, he has height, weight, and youth: the three demographics that usually accompany the best future prospects. At 184 centimeters, he's got 6 cm on Mitakeumi, and at 154 kilograms, he'as a big 'un. At 24, he's not super young, but should be entering his physical prime. But of course, the most important thing will be technique. We've seen physical specimens do nothing (Tochinowaka is the example I know best). Will Shodai have "it?"

Hard to tell from one match. Bad off the tachi-ai, where Shodai let Kitataiki get underneath, but the proof is in the pudding: he was too big and strong for Kitataiki to drive him back, and he very simply reversed the momentum, drove his man across the dohyo, and picked up the yori-kiri win. Not bad when facing an experienced veteran trying hard to fend off make-koshi. Heck, I'll root for Shodai. Bring 'im on!

M11 Mitakeumi (6-7) vs. M5 Sadanoumi (5-9)
As I said four days ago, Mitakeumi really earns nothing with 7 or 8 wins--all the buzz is gone. And 7 or 8 is precisely what he is going to get, with some help from a guy for whom a win would have made little difference at this point in this tournament (I have often wondered if stablemasters advise rikishi to tank at a certain point, saying "let's just get low enough now that next time you'll be in a position to really clean up"). Like Takayasu before him and Goeido later, Sadanoumi was careful to keep his hands in the battle, but not his arms or any of the rest of himself. The Bully (Mitakeumi) loves a practice dummy; easy tsuki-dashi for him.

The Peter Principle + Mike's Heart

M6 Kotoyuki (7-6) vs. M13 Chiyotairyu (8-5)
Perhaps blinded by wrath, I forgot to include Kotoyuki in the list with Homarefuji and Amuuru as mid-Maegashira giving it a run at their highest ever rank, which is ironic because he is the only one of the three who is showing future potential. And of course we have a second storyline to cover here, our new favorite daily drama: will Chiyotairyu break Mike's heart with vapid pulls, or give him sweet kisses of blasting tachi-ai ham hands and leg-driven annihilation? This was an interesting battle of two of the most formidable slappers in the division. True to form, Chiyotairyu had a big tachi-ai and powerful momentum, driving his man back, but Kotoyuki was able to evade to the side, and Chiyotairyu panicked and tried a pull. Kotoyuki capitalized with a blamola onslaught and got the tsuki-dashi win. Bitter tears dripped into Mike's breakfast Cheerios.

M14 Daieisho (4-9) vs. M6 Homarefuji (3-10)
Disastrous tournament for both these guys, and more so for Homarefuji, who has been around long enough that he will run out of chances sooner. This was nearly identical to the previous bout: a slap fest with one momentum change. Homarefuji had the bigger drive at the beginning, but when Daieisho stopped him just for a split second, Homarefuji reacted with a pull attempt, and Daieisho moved smartly forward and pushed him out, albeit while falling down, for the oshi-dashi victory. See you later, gentlemen.

M5 Amuuru (3-10) vs. M16 Asasekiryu (3-10)
Ho hum. This illustrates the Peter Principle very well: at M5, Amuuru could do nothing against tougher opponents. However, against a struggling M16, no problem. Which means Amuuru will probably give us several more years of entertainment hovering about around M10 or so, which is respectable and which I will enjoy. The two things that did not work for him against better opponents this tournament worked for him here. First: he stayed away from the belt in the beginning, maintaining against his opponent's hacks and looking for an opportunity. Second: when Asasekiryu could not solve him (though other wrestlers could), he got inside, grabbed the belt, and when Asasekiryu could not withstand him (other wrestlers could), forced him out, yori-kiri.

The Rest of the Stories

M9 Tamawashi (6-7) vs. M13 Toyohibiki (7-6)
Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) tried to get pummeling slaps in, but Tamawashi put two hands in his armpits and lifted him backwards, which has the advantage of not only driving your man back but making it hard to use those arms. It was enough, as Toyohibiki stepped out into the sand while defending at the edge (though it took a while for the gyoji to notice; after this Tamawashi was driven across the dohyo and jumped to an apparent but non-existent "loss").

M10 Sokokurai (8-5) vs. M7 Kyokushuho (8-5)
Dark Warehouse (Sokokurai) stood up too high at the tachi-ai and wasted time with two facial shoves against this always-game opponent, who went straight down and in and got an outer left, and I believe an inner right. That set up a quick yori-kiri win for Kyokushuho. I'm developing a growing admiration for both of these gamers.

M9 Sadanofuji (3-10) vs. M4 Endo (3-10)
I always watch Endo with interest, and I perked up for this one: yes, two 3-10 guys, but, therefore, they have nothing to lose and should fight straight up. How would Endo fare?

Oh, my. It was heart wrenching, people, and I mean that sincerely. Endo got a little bit of momentum with solid technique and a belt grip off the tachi-ai. However, as usual his total lack of power and size was exposed. Sadanofuji gathered himself, started moving forward, and Endo had no answer: he yori-kiri smother-out of Endo from there was complete and effective.

Endo's lack of raw strength is so enervating I thought, "he should retire." I think he thought it too: after Endo was over the straw bales, Sadanofuji tried to hold him onto the dohyo by a fold of his belt as a courtesy, but Endo jerked free and voluntarily stepped off the clay completely, then collapsed to all fours in the front row of the audience. He even had a hard time getting up--less from the bad knee, I think, than sheer depression. I've never seen anyone in sumo look so defeated (except for the ever-gloomy Kotooshu, who looked like his mother had died even when he won). I had thought Mike was going too far in saying Endo doesn't even belong in the upper division, but now I'm not so sure.

S Tochiohzan (7-6) vs. M2 Okinoumi (5-8)
Very simple two-arms-to-the-inside linear force out, yori-kiri, for Tochiohzan.

M12 Takekaze (6-7) vs. M3 Aminishiki (6-7)
These are the two oldest wrestlers in Makuuchi, and the two most prone to henka. Someday I want to see both guys jump out to the left, a double-henka, and stand there looking foolish. This would have been a good opportunity. Alas, Takekaze didn't do his part, and when Aminishiki henka'ed to his left, Takekaze obligingly sprang forward and put his hands on the dirt, hataki-komi.

And so Aminishiki, M3 7-7, gets to affect the yusho line tomorrow against Shohozan. Wow.

Well, today's disappointments notwithstanding, I've had a great time writing for you this tournament, and reading your comments, positive, negative, and indifferent. Mike, Brian, tesholama, Kowareyasui, Adil, Lex Ingenii, Barry, lp, wuli, Koshi, Ozeki 9, Anonymous, Nek, circlark, et al.: thanks for pushing me to do this the best I can.

I'm pretty excited to say Clancy *may* be up tomorrow. Now there's something to root for.

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Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It used to be that day 13 was the most exciting day of the tournament, and I guess today's version would qualify this basho as well if you're really into bad acting. And when I say "bad acting," I'm actually restraining myself because I can't remember when I've seen as piss-poor of an ending to a day of sumo that would top what we witnessed today. I mean, I don't know how anybody could come away from today's events and still believe that all sumo is fought straight up when six of the day's last eight bouts where thrown for obvious political reasons. Furthermore, the last five bouts lasted about two seconds each if we were lucky. Is it too much to ask these guys to align their chests and at least make it look plausible? You have top Mongolians fighting top Mongolians and Japanese Ozeki fighting Japanese Ozeki, and collectively they all produced a big, fat turd. At least replace the yobi-dashi with hot chicks in bikinis and high heels and have them parade stuff around the dohyo like they do in boxing to compensate for the product they're displaying in between the ropes.

As a sumo fan, I'm insulted that the Association would actually allow this stuff to occur, and I would not be doing this if I didn't enjoy the writing aspect of it so much. Seriously, I don't know where to begin. The leaderboard is just a facade to give everyone a yusho race to talk about, and none of the bouts involving the leaders today or the rest of the way will be legitimate, so I'm not even going to address a leaderboard anymore this basho. I guess that leaves us with the early matchups, so let's just go in chronological order today leaving the fake bouts to the end.

K15 Kitataiki executed a classless henka to his left against J4 Fujiazuma pulling him down to the dirt in half a second. Just great. Maybe I shouldn't have started from here after all as Kitataiki moves to 6-7.

M13 Chiyotairyu and M11 Gagamaru hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Chiyotairyu enjoyed the right outer grip while Gagamaru countered with right kote grip. Knowing he had the advantage, Chiyotairyu never panicked and made sure he was ready before mounting a successful yori-kiri charge that Gagamaru couldn't answer. Chiyotairyu picks up kachi-koshi with the win at 8-5 and my broken heart is officially mended with this one! Gagamaru falls to the same 8-5 mark with the loss.

M10 Sokokurai delivered a fierce right kachi-age from the tachi-ai followed by the left inner that stopped M12 Takekaze in his tracks, and when Takekaze can't dictate the pace, it's curtains. Sokokurai executed the flawless force-out charge clinching kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Takekaze's got his work cut out for him at 6-7.

M13 Toyohibiki came with moro-te-zuki at the tachi-ai against M8 Tokushoryu, but his attack was too hurried, and so Tokushoryu caught him with a left tsuki as he retreated turning Hibiki around and setting him up to be shoved into the second row. Good patience from Tokushoryu in this one as both rikishi end the day at an okay 7-6.

M7 Kyokushuho secured moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M15 Chiyootori and had him pushed back and out before the fat lady could even clear her throat. These two rikishi end the day at 8-5.

M7 Kaisei and M12 Takayasu hooked up hidari-yotsu where Takayasu grabbed the right outer grip, and so Takayasu mounted a methodic force out charge that Kaisei didn't answer. Takayasu moves to 9-4 and has done well considering he was buttsuke-honban coming into the tournament. Buttsuke-honban means that Takayasu didn't practice with any sekitori prior to the tournament due to his coming off of a kyujo in September. Anyway, powerful stuff from the kid as Kaisei falters to a 7-6 record.

M6 Homarefuji used a mild henka to the left and his usual tsuppari attack that M16 Asasekiryu halted with the left position inside. Homarefuji countered with the right outer straightway, and once he was able to work his way into the inside on the left, he mounted his charge easily sending Asasekiryu back and across the straw. Pretty inconsequential bout that was still better than anything the last 20 minutes as both rikishi stand at just 3-10.

M6 Kotoyuki came with a decent tsuppari attack, but it was missing his legs, and so M14 Daieisho was able to force him back a step, but once KotoLoogie came to his senses, he began attacking from the legs up and had Daieisho pushed back in out in short order. I didn't think he deserved the tsuki-dashi technique, but Kotoyuki improves to 7-6 with the win while Daieisho continues to unimpress in this division at 4-9.

M11 Mitakeumi began with some nice shoves into M5 Amuuru's neck creating just enough of an opening to where he was able to lurch into moro-zashi, and his attack was so quick and decisive that Amuuru's only thought to counter was a weak left arm around the head as if to pull. He wouldn't even get that far as Mitakeumi drove the Russian back and across without argument. The rookie needed a win like this as he moves to 6-7 while Amuuru falls to 3-10.

M9 Tamawashi came with his long tsuppari arms of the law, and M4 Endoh tried to latch onto the left in an effort to counter with a pull, but Tamawashi meant bidness today and just plowed into Endoh spinning him around 180 degrees and shoving him into the suna-kaburi. There's no reason for Tamawashi to suffer make-koshi today when the alternative is kicking Endoh's ass with such ease, so at 6-7 he's still alive. Endoh falls to an unsurprising 3-10 with the loss, and when his opponents actually try, his bouts aren't even close.

Facing a stiff test against M8 Takarafuji, M4 Ikioi came with a right kachi-age that set up the left to the inside for him, and so the two battled on the other side with Takarafuji trying to counter with his own left inner while Ikioi tried to keep him completely away. During this scuffle, Ikioi backed up briefly throwing Takarafuji off balance enough to where Ikioi inserted the right to the inside as well giving him moro-zashi, and once obtained, the yori-kiri was straightway as Ikioi picks up a great win moving to 10-3. Takarafuji falls to a respective 9-4 and may have been a bit mukiryoku.

M2 Okinoumi struck hard looking to establish an arm to the inside, but M5 Sadanoumi was able to slip into moro-zashi. Still, Okinoumi was dictating the pace leading with the right outer grip, so Sadanoumi never could snuggle in chest to chest. At the edge, Sadanoumi countered with a nice inside counter throw that got Okinoumi off his feet, but he survived the move and swung Sadanoumi clear across the dohyo with that right outer and just smothered him out of the ring from there. It's too little too late as Sadanoumi improves to 5-8 while Sadanoumi was done days ago at 4-9.

M2 Aoiyama used the hissing tsuppari to methodically drive M9 Sadanofuji back to the tawara where the Sadamight briefly looked to counter with a left scoop throw, but he was positioned poorly for the move, so Aoiyama was able to survive and then resume his shove attack that sent Sadanofuji back and across for good. Very methodical win here for Aoiyama who moves to 5-8 wile Sadanofuji was simply outclassed at 3-10

M3 Aminishiki connected on a quick right hari-te into Komusubi Yoshikaze's face at the tachi-ai that worked wonders. The move allowed Aminishiki to position himself well to the inside with the right arm leaving Yoshikaze no other real option than to go through the pull motions, but Cafe was likely still seeing stars as he went for the poor move because Aminishiki just drove him back and out in about a second. Gotta love those hari-te when they work as Aminishiki stays alive at 6-7 while Yoshikaze is still trendy at 7-6.

The final real bout of the day saw M3 Toyonoshima get both arms to the inside early causing Komusubi Tochinoshin to respond with a quick pull attempt using the left arm. It didn't work to perfection, but he was able to halt Tugboat's momentum thanks to a right tsuki pressing into Toyonoshima's left side and his sheer size advantage, and from here the two settled into a stalemate. Tochinoshin applied enough pressure throughout to where he was able to shove Toyonoshima upright and finally get the right arm deep to the inside, and once obtained, he used the kote grip with the left arm to keep Toyonoshima in snug and easily forced him out from there. Great perseverance from Tochinoshin who moves to 6-7 while Toyonoshima suffers make-koshi at 5-8.

If you know what's good for you, just cut your losses now and move on. Otherwise...

M10 Shohozan used a sneak attack into M1 Ichinojo before the Mongolith had fully touched down, but it didn't matter as Shohozan just charged right into moro-zashi thanks to Ichinojo's keeping his arms out wide. Shohozan immediately forced Ichinojo back to the edge where the Slug countered with a left kote-nage that gave the crowd a scare, but the move was Ichinojo's using his arms only and not positioning himself with the lower body to actually throw, and so after he let up on the throw, he kept his hands wide again allowing Shohozan to regain moro-zashi. From there the Fukuoka native scored the yori-kiri win on his second force-out attempt moving to 11-2 in the process, and how convenient that a Fukuoka native is the leading Japanese rikishi this basho! Ichinojo takes make-koshi with the loss falling to 5-8, and if I was passing out Oscar awards on the day, this one would have received the award for "Most Plausible-Looking Yaocho Bout," but trust me, Ichinojo was mukiryoku here. Before we move on, why in the hell are they pairing Shohozan with Toyonoshima tomorrow? You have a guy within one of the yusho, and you're giving him a 5-8 rikishi on day 14? I'm sure any upstart Mongolians who come along in the near future will receive the same consideration.

M1 Osunaarashi used his usual moro-te-zuki against Sekiwake Tochiohzan at the tachi-ai but immediately went for a meaningless pull attempt right after that. Tochiohzan read the move with ease pushing the Ejyptian back and off the dohyo so forcefully that Osunaarashi lay there prone across the first three rows. Replays showed that as Osunaarashi was being pushed out of the dohyo, his left toe got stuck in the tawara and caused him to wrench his knee as he fell down to the floor below. After whisking him out of the arena in that antique wheelchair, they reported that he was able to get up out of the wheelchair and get into the ambulance under his own power to have his knee checked out. There was absolutely no reason for Osunaarashi to go for that pull attempt, and you know what they say about letting up in the ring...someone's gonna get hurt, and that's what happened here. Tochiohzan conveniently moves to 7-6 with the gift while Osunaarashi falls to 5-8.

Moving right along, Sekiwake Myogiryu looked to get moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but when Kotoshogiku went with the slightest right kote counter move, Myogiryu just dove to the dirt not even bothering to adjust his footing to stay square. This one was painfully obvious as Kotoshogiku is in the clear now at 8-5 while Myogiryu takes one for team Japan falling to 2-11. And with that record, why not?

In the one clash today featuring two of the three Amigos, Goeido whiffed on a quick left hari-zashi, but with Kisenosato doing nothing from the tachi-ai, Goeido managed to slip into the right inside position, and so the Kid just stood there and allowed his fellow Amigo to force him to the side and out in two seconds. I don't even need to explain this one as Goeido improves to 7-6 while Kisenosato must be content with his 8-5.

In the most anticipated bout of the day, Yokozuna Harumafuji henka'd to the left going for the cheap outer grip in the process, and when he didn't latch onto the belt the first time, he pulled Hakuho forward grabbing that left outer for reals. Hakuho dutifully squared back up and refrained from getting the right to the inside in order to counter, and so he just stood there like a bump on a log letting Harumafuji drive him straight back and down mounting him in the process at the corner of the dohyo. This was terrible sumo starting with Harumafuji's henka, and I don't think Hakuho even attempted a single move here as both dudes end the day tied now at 12-1. Bor-ring!

In the final bout of the day, Ozeki Terunofuji came with a right kachi-age that knocked Yokozuna Kakuryu upright, and like Hakuho before him, with the Kak doing nothing but standing there like a bump on a log, Terunofuji went for a half assed pull attempt that was actually quite poor, but Kakuryu just dove forward and down hesitating just a bit as if to say, "Aren't you going to deal that final blow?" Terunofuji hurriedly went for a push to send the Yokozuna down for good, but Kakuryu was already a goner by that time. This was just a pathetic display, and sumo fans deserve a lot more than this. The problem is...these four Mongolians fighting each other is the same thing as the Williams sisters playing each other in a tennis major. You're never going to get a straight up bout.

Two days ago I stated that I thought Hakuho would drop one of his next two bouts, and I actually made that statement knowing that Hakuho was going to get Kotoshogiku on day 12 and then thinking that he'd draw Terunofuji on day 13. I'm of course so used to Hakuho being the highest ranked dude that my mind just calculated it in that way, but the point I was ultimately trying to make then is to say that Terunofuji's fellow Mongolians have his back and will see to it that he gets his eight. If it wasn't Kakuryu taking the dive today, Hakuho would have done it in his place. It all evens out in the end, though, as Terunofuji improves to 7-6 with the win. Hakuho draws Terunofuji tomorrow and doesn't need to defer now because the Ozeki will likely draw Kotoshogiku on senshuraku, a bout that will allow Fuji the Not So Terrible this basho to pick up that eighth win. As for Kakuryu, he falls to 8-5 with the loss, but who really cares?

Looks like I'm not the only one whose had enough of this crap sumo.  Kitanoumi Rijicho unexpectedly gave up the ghost about an hour after the day 13 bouts.  Dude, take me with you...please!

Let's see if Harvye can make sense of this mess tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
The one real storyline left is Hakuho vs. Harumafuji. Hakuho has been on since day one. Some sloppy sumo, yes, but also some real domination. On day 7, when he refused to lose to Okinoumi and flipped him over backwards at the tawara when about to lose, we knew it was on. Similarly, though Harumafuji is carrying around a one-loss concrete block, on day 9 he similarly refused to lose, at the last second pulling out Yo! Ko! ZUNA! sumo and destroying Ikioi for a comeback win.

I know we often go in reverse order to cover the yusho race up top in the last few days of the tournament, but I like the way this day unfolded, so let's start from the bottom and work our way to the demolition derby deranged destruction denouement that ended it. I'll cover the other storylines as we go along, but Ha Ha is your Mama.

M14 Daieisho (3-8) vs. J2 Kagayaki (6-5)
Smash mouth smack up! Baba bada that's my hard hand in your chop, chappie-yaki! Step to the side, little daisy, Daieisho! Bash im' in the face some more, red belted fella! Oooh, Kagayaki, ya cain't win if you cain't survive the wild woolyings of Kagayaki, if ya jus' stand there and let 'im puch ya! Yer done, oshi-dashi, he's done battered ya on out!

M12 Takekaze (6-5) vs. M15 Chiyootori (7-4)
Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, kill! Yes, Chiyootori, this is how it is done 'gainst this little fly in your soup. Slop 'im, bop 'im, get 'im. Keep those arms moving, stay low, get it on! When he tries to pull you, move forward! And push the High little Wind (Takekaze) out of there, oshi-dashi.

M13 Chiyotairyu (6-5) vs. M11 Mitakeumi (5-6)
Ug, bug. Chiyotairyu looked slow off the tachi-ai, but that was because he had concocted a wicked plan. No moving forward for him, oh no, no no. Just push Mitakeumi up once, an' pull 'im down. Ooops! Hiki-otoshi, we call that. Maybe somebody's tired. Mebbe both of 'em's tired. STORYLINE UPDATE: Mitakeumi, who was looking good at 5-4, is now 5-7, and his debut tournament screams out, "meep!"

M10 Sokokurai (7-4) vs. M13 Toyohibiki (6-5)
Good morning, Grandpa Grumble (Toyohibiki)! You have awakened from a slumber here. Good night, It's Dark There (Sokokurai), you have tried nothing but pull here. Doom. A sigh. Grandpa Grumble was so lithesome, so quick! Bang! went his forearm to the face! Pitter-pat, went his little hands, as they poked and doked and drove his man out. Zuuu, shhhh, went his little eyes as they followed It's Dark There around the ring, didn't let him out of their sight, and DID NOT LET HIS LEGS FALL DOWN UNDERNEATH HIM!!! A banner day for Grandpa Grumble, oshi-dashi.

M8 Tokushoryu (6-5) vs. M16 Asasekiryu (2-9)
Asasekiryu has those long, long arms, which he used to reach in and get a nice belt grip which he held for a looooooong time. Tokushoryu, who reminds me a lot of "buta kakuni," large chunks of rectangular, fatty pork stewed to gooshy softness, preferred to body up and try to tire out his foe. But lo!, look at those sexy, wiry legs of Sexyryu, who has kept in condition even as his oomph has slid into the Sad Pool of Discarded Youth. Maki-kae, and spin around! And then Tokushoryu pulled a neat move, grabbing Sexy's arm and trying to pull him around slung over his shoulder like a sack of oats. But what's this? Another maki-kae by Sexy, a grab of the back of the belt, a feeble little kick by Buta Kakuni, and there's Sexy now suddenly in front of Kakuni and pushing him out yori-kiri. Okay, I spent a long time on that but, well, it was long. And kind of cool. Well done, Sexy Man.

M12 Takayasu (8-3) vs. M8 Takarafuji (8-3)
Look how good Takarafuji can be when he is not passive. Look at him with that stubborn right belt grip, driving Takayasu all over the ring and several times to the tawara. Look at him trying to force Takayasu out...look at him trying again...look at...wait, it isn't working. Ooh, now he is getting tired and switches arms to the left belt hold. Um, that isn't working either. Okay, wait, now he's REALLY tired. Look at them just leaning on each other there, no belt grips at all. Puff, puff. Takayasu sensed the momentum switch and did some driving around of Takarafuji, but this was a great match, folks, and despite my teasing neither was about to just give up like that. Right at the tawara, easy force out prospects fleshily upon him, Takarafuji pulled the perfect overhand throw, uwate-nage, flinging his spent foe into the sand so hard it kicked up like a little dust devil. Ah! Ah! STORYLINE UPDATE: two under-ranked wrestlers here working hard to finish off a great tournament, but going in opposite directions. I'll be glad to see Takara Boom Dey Ay in the high jo'i again next time.

Shohozan (9-2) vs. M7 Kyokushuho (7-4)
Boom! Slap! Fizz! Pap! A lot of times, these matches remind me of a 70's Batman comic. Shohozan was reaching back and slinging the guns; these weren't just slaps, they were Olympic hammer throws. After a bit of that, zooop! In onto the belt he went, one hand on the body, one hand on the silk. And when he threw Kyokushuho down off of that, uwate-nage, he did it with panache; Kyokushuho kind of popped off the dirt like a stuck carbuncle you finally pry off with your screwdriver. STORYLINE UPDATE: my predictive power remains weak; I said this hometown hero was my #1 candidate to melt and wilt. Nothing doing. Special prize, here we come.

M6 Kotoyuki (5-6) vs. M9 Sadanofuji (3-8)
Okee-dokee, Kotoyuki is 5-6 but he's having a pretty good tournament at this rank, I think. And Sadanofuji is having a bad one. As usual this fortnight, Sadanofuji stood around and thought about what he should do rather than do it. Little Snow (Kotoyuki) focused on trying to shove his man out and move forward. It's elementary, my dear Watsonfuji. Watson did get a nice, ripping nodowa throat grab in there for a while, but only for a moment, as he was devoured by the slavering hound of the Baskervilles here, oshi-dashi.

M15 Kitataiki (4-7) vs. M6 Homarefuji (2-9)
Quiz: Kitataiki will win this match with, a) arms and body? b) head and feet? With any stupid question like this, you know the answer is the stupid sounding one. Kitataiki head-butted hard off the tachi-ai, signaling his intentions and letting him get well and good inside off the tachi-ai. As the match progressed, he kept his head down and forward on Homarefuji's shoulder like a sleeping baby, and when he had his mommy leaned back far enough, hooked his leg under Homarefuji's and tripped him over backwards, soto-gake. It looked great. STORYLINE UPDATE: Homarefuji continues to crash and burn. Whoa.

M9 Tamawashi (4-7) vs. Sadanoumi (4-7)
Knockout! Like so many matches these last few years, this was more of a boxing match than sumo. I just don't remember all this slapping, pushing, shoving, and flailing about in the air back when I was a young chicken watching these things. The key in this one was that Tamawashi connected with a wicked actual punch in the jaw part way through; Sadanoumi lasted a few more seconds, but when he went down kote-nage, it was in a woozy kind of way--"let me hold onto the ground for a minute; I'll be right with you."

M4 Ikioi (8-3) vs. M11 Gagamaru (8-3)
Lord Gaga didn't even pretend to put his left fist down; he seemed to hold it up even higher in the air, maybe on purpose? A taunt? Someone tell me: do I have it all wrong, 15 years in? Are only three hands on the ground required? Are you allowed to leave one up if your other is down? Seriously. I'm starting to doubt myself. Anyway, this obvious violation of the rules as I understand them continues to work for Lord Gaga, as he had Ikioi helpless and hapless, going backwards and fumbling at Gaga's outer extremities like a shy lover on his first trip to where he wants to get to. But! Lord Gaga fell down. Which is euphemistically called "tsuki-otoshi."

M7 Kaisei (7-4) vs. M3 Aminishiki (4-7)
Ho! Nifty. Try this some time: watch one guy. Rewind. Watch the other. You see a completely different match. Kaisei is bigger and more interesting, so my eye was all on him. He had the momentum, he was on top and smothering his man, then reaching under, working hard, just a matter of time now...and Whoa! What just happened? Suddenly he lost, shitate-nage. Rewind, watch Aminishiki. Aminishiki does one thing here: he gets in low right away and holds onto a frontal belt grip, which he holds well. With that grip and position, Kaisei can neither push him down nor force him up and drive him back. So, watching Aminishiki, when the throw comes, it is no surprise: he was in control all the way. STORYLINE UPDATE: unlike his fellow low ranked brother, Kaisei is not capitalizing. Now he has to think about just ensuring that eight. Often disappointing, this guy.

M2 Aoiyama (3-8) vs. M4 Endo (3-8)
If you like sumo, you have to like this. If you like Endo, well, um. Well. Well, let's talk about Aoiyama! You will not find a more dominant match this tournament. Aoiyama got his arms extended into Endo's mandible, bang, Bang, BANG, and then grabbed hold of Endo's face and flung him out by it, oshi-dashi. Endo was propelled so straight backwards into the crowd that the poor shinpan had to grab his crack-strap and shove him aside in order not to get an ass-pillowing. Wow! Even the shimpan can throw Endo! STORYLINE UPDATE: Foreign Bruiser Set Free. Aoiyama needs to do this every day. Could he? Try to be Baruto, man, not Kokkai!

M5 Amuuru (3-8) vs. M2 Okinoumi (3-8)
Amuuru has lost in two ways this tournament: by dicking around and not getting inside and being easily pushed out, and by getting inside and grabbing the belt and then getting outmuscled, yori-kiri. This was the latter. STORYLINE UPDATE: what I just said.

K Tochinoshin (4-7) vs. M1 Osunaarashi (5-6)
Oh, yes, Yes! Yes. Here is what we like to see. There were a few moments of wicked face and throat belaboring by Giant Sand (Osunaarashi) there, but then they quickly slipped into a classic chest-to-chest battle that lasted a long time. Not much went on, but it was tense--who will prevail? Who is stronger? Who will leverage every little bit he has and, just barely, put out 800 watts to his opponent's 795? They both soon eventually had right inner and left outer grips, and I think Tochinoshin is simply a bit stronger. Over to the straw they went, where Osunaarashi, for the second time this tournament, showed the power of his toes: Tochinoshin could not get him out linearly, so had to swish him a bit from side to side, like a guy dipping a sausage in the raclette, to get him out, yori-kiri. Yummy. STORYLINE UPDATE: Foreign Bruisers Set Free, second installment this afternoon.

S Tochiohzan (5-6) vs. M1 Ichinojo (5-6)
Sigh. Tochiohzan loves moro-zashi--both arms to the inside--and he got and it had it for as long as he wanted it, so I suppose I shouldn't complain about his win. But this went on for a while, and he wasn't moving The Mongolith at all and then only eventually won when Ichinojo appeared to randomly fall down to the side. Hiki-otoshi, says they. STORYLINE UPDATE: I was just thinking how happy I was not to have spotted any muki-ryoku today--but I reminded myself I would call it if I saw it. I saw it. Foreign Bruiser Set Free? Um, not this time.

K Yoshikaze (6-5) vs. S Myogiryu (2-9)
Heh. I'm having a good time today. Yoshikaze friggin bapped his noggin into Myogiryu's so hard Myogiryu's arms twitched in the air like a spider hit with a rolled up newspaper, then he crumbled to the ground. They allow this stuff? Zoinks! They call that hataki-komi, but I call it "my concussion or yours, buddy." STORYLINE UPDATE: this was another top-notch fun-fest by The Possesed (Yoshikaze), whose wild, ultra-hyper style has finally been paying off the last two tournaments. I don't expect it to last, but it continues to be a fun ride. He'd looked kind of lame the last few days, but this new trick was a doozy. Just give me three more days of this and I'll pin a gold star to his naked chest, with blood running all over the place. He'll like it! Ouch.

O Terunofuji (6-5) vs. M3 Toyonoshima (4-7)
My assessment is that Terunofuji cannot get low enough on that knee to dig in and outlast guys on the belt, which is his bread and liquefied lard. Tugboat (Toyonoshima) didn't have much going on here, just lower position, and the Mountain of Terror (Terunofuji) was all over him from above like a storm cloud on Christmas. However, Tugboat kept put-putting with from-below-gaburi, and as Terunofuji was too high, was able to turn him and get him to step awkwardly into the loose and telling sand, yori-kiri. Nice work by a workman. STORYLINE UPDATE: Live? Die? Repeat? Die. I am still compelled by this storyline, as it is anybody's guess whether he ends up in a kadoban-coffin or gaspingly sneaks up to eight.

O Kotoshogiku (7-4) vs. Y Hakuho (11-0)
Just watch Kotoshogiku trying to move that truck of dirt! You can hold that truck of dirt from the left! You can push the truck of dirt from the right! You can grab the truck of dirt and say oomph and arrgh and grrrn, and the damn truck of dirt may rock a little on its wheels, but man, I'll be damned if a little man like that could move a WHOOOOLE truck of DIRT! It. Just. Won't. Move. Eventually Truck of Dirt (Hakuho--and I promise never to use that nickname for him again) turned the little key in the ignition. Black smoke belched from his engine, brrrroooooommmm!, he shuddered a bit as his chassis lurched forward, and he smashed the flea-like visitor who'd been struggling to move him, yori-kiri. STORYLINE UPDATE: three days to zensho. Mmmm, mmmm good.

Y Kakuryu (7-4) vs. O Kisenosato (8-3)
Speaking of trucks of dirt, my goodness! Kisenosato didn't know this one's engine was already humming, and you really shouldn't step in front of rumbling dirt trucks coming up the haul road from the bauxite mine with worn out brakes. BLLLLAAAAAAAMMMM! (that symbolizes Kakuryu's frontal assault.) Whhhoooooshhhh! (that symbolizes Kisenosato being blown off the dohyo like a Kleenex scudding down a Chicago street and swept into the air and landing wetly and disintegrating in Lake Michigan on a fresh October day.) Yori-kiri. STORYLINE UPDATE: no, Kisenosato will not win this tournament either. Sigh.

Y Harumafuji (10-1) vs. O Goeido (6-5)
My, god. This was a great day of sumo. Three dirt trucks in a row to close it out. Hakuho's dirt truck wasn't turned on at first. Kakuryu's was high speed. Harumafuji's had raw-timber battering rams lashed to the hood with hemp ropes six inches thick. Harumph moved forward jabbing with severed swamp trees attached to his shoulders, and gave Goeido what was almost a dame-oshi as he propelled him off into the crowd, oshi-dashi. Goodbye! Goodbye! Bye bye!! STORYLINE UPDATE: whichever Yokozuna wins it will have earned it. Make. My. Day. Done.

Tomorrow Mike sings like the sweet bluebird of the morning.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The big news coming into the day was of course Hakuho's neko-damashi tachi-ai against Tochiohzan on day 10. The neko-damashi was first introduced by Mainoumi back in the early nineties because the dude had to do something to make up for his small stature. The premise of the tachi-ai is to clap your hands in front of your opponent's face to throw him off, and it obviously worked against Tochiohzan. The results of the move in the media were mixed with about two thirds of the outlets criticizing the Yokozuna for his move. Some claimed that it lacked hinkaku (there's that word again!), but others were okay with it. I didn't read of any scathing comments from members within the Association, but what can you really do anyway? Like the tachi-ai henka, it's a legal move, and if Tochiohzan wants to return the favor in January, I'd love to see it.

What's really happening here is that Hakuho has become so bored that he's trying out these seldom seen moves just to keep things interesting. On day 7 he baited Okinoumi into that yagura-nage, a move that hadn't been seen in the division for eight years since Asashoryu last pulled it off, and I remember well when Asashoryu was going through this same phase and testing out various moves just for the sake of a new challenge. The reason Hakuho is even able to do this is because he's so much better than the rest of the field, and anyone who is Japanese that criticizes the move or reverts to the "hinkaku" card does so because Hakuho is making a mockery of the sport. And when I say mockery, I mean he's rubbing it into the faces of the Japanese rikishi because he knows they can't stop him.

As for me, I didn't have a problem with the move, but Harvye did have a great point yesterday in that it's something that shouldn't occur in the Yokozuna ranks. When they asked Hakuho about it, he replied, "I just wanted to see if it would work." I guess it did, but trust me, the reason he won that bout wasn't because of the tachi-ai.

Okay, having said my peace on the matter, let's get right to the day 11 bouts starting with the meaningless leaderboard that shaped up as follows at the start of the day:

10-0:  Hakuho
9-1:   Harumafuji
8-2:   Kisenosato, Shohozan, Takayasu

The first three rikishi are the usual familiar faces, and Shohozan and Takayasu are just filler to help make it look as if there's actually a yusho race going on.

Let's start the day with the two loss rikishi meaning we visit the M10 Shohozan - M7 Kaisei matchup first. Shohozan shaded left at the tachi-ai while Kaisei answered with some lame shoves as he kept his arms up high. After Shohozan recovered from that horrible start, he took advantage of Kaisei's lethargy and secured moro-zashi in about two seconds. Kaisei didn't put up much of an effort to counter, and so Shohozan wrenched him over to the edge and dumped the Brasilian with ease using a spectacular scoop throw with the right arm. Argue amongst yourselves whether Kaisei was mukiryoku here intentionally or not, but he WAS mukiryoku. There is absolutely no way a rikishi of Shohozan's caliber can do that to Kaisei if the Brasilian is trying to defend against it. Kaisei knew exactly what he was doing here as he falls to 7-4 and eats well on Shohozan's dime. As for Shohozan, he improves to 9-2 and gives the locals another dose of Viagra for at least the next 24 hours.

Next up was M12 Takayasu who was pitted against M4 Ikioi, and it was Ikioi who was proactive using a right kachi-age that drew hurried but ineffective tsuppari from Takayasu. Ikioi responded with defensive tsuppari of his own, and in the process, Takayasu pulled at Ikioi's right arm early knocking him off balance, but Ikioi easily recovered and knowing that Takayasu had pull on his mind just waited for the next attempt before timing a do or die charge into Takayasu when it came. Though Ikioi was pulled to the dirt, he managed to shove Takayasu well across the straw before he hit, and this one wasn't that close. You could just see Takayasu trying to set up pull the entire way, and Ikioi knew it, so credit him for the strong oshi-dashi win. The result knocks Takayasu off of the leaderboard and leaves both of these dudes with 8-3 marks.

I just about shat myself when I read Toyonoshima's comments in the media yesterday after his "upset" win over Kisenosato. To quote the Tugboat as reported by Nikkan Sports, "I think I was KY in that one, but I want to win too. I guess I just lowered the excitement surrounding the yusho race."

For those of you who don't know, the term KY is very popular in Japan these days, and it stands for "kuuki yomenai," or unable to read the situation and act appropriately. What exactly was the "situation" that Toyonoshima was referring to? Why would a rikishi have to go out and make a comment like, "I want to win too."? Isn't it a given that all rikishi want to win their bouts everyday? For Toyonoshima to say that he wants to win too and then to use the term KY clearly illustrates that he knew the expectation for him was to let the Ozeki win. In two of his three lines, he also ended them with the verb "shite shimatta," (he used the colloquial version, "shichatta") which denotes the speaker realizes that his actions produced unfavorable results. I can't believe they actually quoted him like that (was it KY on the part of Nikkan Sports?) because he's admitting right there that he felt guilty about not letting the Ozeki win. Incredible.

Anyway, Ozeki Kisenosato was paired against Yokozuna Hakuho today, and the bout began with Hakuho just offering his arms out extended across the starting lines, and the move enabled Kisenosato to yank one of the arms sending the Yokozuna off balance, but he recovered easily and squared back up extending his arm again this time into Kisenosato's right shoulder, and with the Ozeki doing nothing at this point, Hakuho just slapped the side of his head with the left and then pulled him down with ease drawing the hataki-komi win. My opinion of the bout is that Hakuho gave Kisenosato an opening, but when his response was timed, he just took care of business and put the Ozeki out of his misery. It's too bad we can't get a sweet belt match out of a Yokozuna and an Ozeki these days, but it's just the current landscape in sumo as Hakuho sails to 11-0 while Kisenosato falls to 8-3.

That leaves us with Yokozuna Harumafuji who battled Sekiwake Tochiohzan in the day's penultimate match. As he is wont to do when he's trying to win, Harumafuji came with the right nodowa at the tachi-ai and then used effective tsuppari every time Tochiohzan tried to get close, and after a few seconds of action where the Yokozuna dictated the pace, he finally drove his right shoulder into Oh's chest and drove him off the dohyo in front of the chief judge. Pretty easy stuff here as Harumafuji moves to 10-1 while Tochiohzan falls to 5-6.

As the dust settled among the rikishi in charge, the leaderboard shaped up as follows:

11-0: Hakuho
10-1: Harumafuji
9-2: Shohozan

That's pretty bleak to have that leaderboard on Wednesday of week 2, and I suspect that Hakuho will drop one of his next two bouts. He has Kotoshogiku tomorrow, and the implications of losing that one are obvious, but it wouldn't surprise me if he bowed to Terunofuji in an effort to let the Mongolian Ozeki know, "We got your back, bro." Not that Terunofuji needs any help, but he's given up a LOT this basho.

In other bouts of interest, Yokozuna Kakuryu and Ozeki Kotoshogiku hooked up in hidari-yotsu with neither rikishi in snug, and so they both maki-kae'd into migi-yotsu where Kakuryu just gathered his wits for a second or two before executing the easy kata-sukashi moving to his left and yanking the Ozeki down by the right shoulder. Normally you'd step to the outside of your opponent to slap him down by the shoulder, but Kakuryu moved right across the front of Kotoshogiku's body to the other side of him and still had plenty of room to score on the move. Like Terunofuji, Kakuryu's also given up enough already, so I would have been surprised to see him drop one here. He moves to 7-4, the same record held by Kotoshogiku.

In perhaps the most bizarre bout of the day, Ozeki Goeido actually got moro-zashi against M1 Ichinojo, but he didn't know what to do and allowed the easy maki-kae from Ichinojo with the right arm sending the bout to migi-yotsu. From there, Goeido attempted dashi-nage, but Ichinojo stayed square, and so Goeido panicked going for a desperate pull near the edge. He slipped down in the process, however, as if he expected the tawara to be in a different spot, and as he fell dangerously close to the sand, he offered a lame tsuki into Ichinojo's side, and the Mongolith complied graciously toppling over from as light of a blow as you'd care to see. The result was both rikishi crashing to the sand away from each other in a most unusual fashion. They called a mono-ii and showed replays, and it looked to me as if Goeido's right knee clearly hit the dohyo first, but I wasn't surprised when they threw Goeido a bone and called a do-over.

If the first bout wasn't ugly enough, the two combatants made sure to put on another unorthodox show in the rematch. After hooking up in migi-yotsu, Ichinojo just let himself get forced back and offered a terrible right swipe at the Ozeki's left side, but it actually knocked Goeido down before he could get the Mongolith across the straw! Goeido was so inept in both of these bouts that he deserved to lose regardless of Ichinojo's intentions. Just ugly sumo all around as Ichinojo improves to 5-6 while Goeido has to beg for two more wins at 6-5.

Rounding out the real Ozeki ranks, Terunofuji offered his usual hari-zashi tachi-ai against Komusubi Yoshikaze, but the last place Yoshikaze was looking to get was snuggled in tight against Terunofuji's teets, so he struck quickly and then moved back and left going for a quick pull attempt that threw the Ozeki off balance. With his right arm locked up and under Terunofuji's left, Yosihkaze kept circling the dohyo trying to pull the Ozeki down, but Terunofuji kept his footing and eventually got his right arm around Yoshikaze's left from the outside. At the edge, Yoshikaze attempted a final desperate force-out charge, but Terunofuji meant bidness and just wrenched that arm in nice and tight before throwing Yoshikaze over and down like a rag doll picking up the kote-nage win in the process. I thought this was as well as Yoshikaze could have fought, especially if Terunofuji's knee is injured. He's going to do nothing at the belt against the Ozeki, and so credit him for executing a nice plan, but he just came up short in the end as both dudes end the day at 6-5.

M1 Osunaarashi came with the usual moro-te-zuki tachi-ai against Sekiwake Myogiryu follwed by migi-yotsu and a stalemate. As Myogiryu attempted his first charge, Osunaarashi welcomed it by grabbing the left outer grip and digging in solidly, and with the Ejyptian maintaining the advantageous grip, he staved off Myogiryu's best force-out attemp and then turned the tables at the edge dumping Myogiryu off the dohyo leading with the left outer. Osunaarashi creeps closer to .500 at 5-6 while Myogiryu is seriously going to have to regroup now at 2-9.

Komusubi Tochinoshin henka'd to his left in a blatant false start that wasn't called, and the move was so sloppy M3 Aminishiki was able to get his right arm deep to the inside, but it didn't matter. Shneaky is so far done that Tochinoshin was able to ward off the attack with his own right to the inside, and then after lifting Aminishiki upright, he forced him back and across not even waiting until he could secure a right outer grip. This was a bad bout of sumo as both guys end the day at 4-7.

M2 Aoiyama executed the hissing tsuppari today that were so beefy M3 Toyonoshima couldn't get close to the inside. Knowing he was in trouble, Toyonoshima tried to evade to his left and yank at the Bulgarian's extended right arm, but Aoiyama stayed squared and caught him with a good shoulder slapdown that sent Toyonoshima sprawling. Aoiyama ekes forward to 3-8 while Toyonoshima falls to 4-7.

M2 Okinoumi and M6 Homarefuji hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Okinoumi had the right outer grip, and despite Homarefuji's best attempt to escape, Okinoumi kept him close and scored the easy force-out win. Not sure why I bothered with this one as Okinoumi improvves to 3-8 while Homarefuji is even worse at 2-9.

M6 Kotoyuki made mince meat out of M4 Endoh just focusing his tsuppari attack straight into...well, straight into Endoh himself crushing him back and across in two seconds without argument. This resembled a bout you'd see in Jonokuchi when it's a total mismatch between the two rikishi, and it's one thing to get beat, but it's entirely another when you can do nothing against a guy like Kotoyuki, not even keep your feet. I know that mukiryoku sumo and good acting on the part of one's opponent can make a rikishi look viable, but when you watch guys lose like this, it's evidence that they don't belong in the division. Kotoyuki improves to 5-6 while Endoh suffers make-koshi at 3-8.

M13 Toyohibiki took charge against M5 Amuuru peppering the Russian with shoves as Amuuru looked for some kind of opening by swiping at Toyohibiki's hands. It would never come, however, as the veteran Toyohibiki just stayed square and caught Amuuru with enough potent thrusts to send him out in less than five seconds. Toyohibiki is alive and well at 6-5 while Amuuru's make-koshi is official now at 3-8.

M5 Sadanoumi got his left arm inside at the tachi-ai against M10 Sokokurai, but it was too shallow. Despite the poor positioning, he just charged forward hells bells, but Sokokurai, who had the much deeper left to the inside, was easily able to rebuff him at the edge, turn the tables, and grab the right outer grip in the process. Sadanoumi tried in vain to counter with a kote-nage throw, but he was done in due to his reckless tachi-ai and subsequent charge. Don't look now, but Sokokurai is slowly but surely becoming a playuh in the division as he moves to 7-4 while Sadanofumi falls to 4-7.

M11 Mitakeumi faded out left at the tachi-ai just slapping M7 Kyokushuho's shoulder in a move as useless as Bruce Jenner's old jock straps. Kyokushusho squared up well chasing Mitakeumi left, and so the rookie was forced to dig in with the right inside. With that right arm in deep, he was actually able to force the action back to the center of the ring, and he actually had the left inside as well, but he stupidly moved it up to Kyokushu's throat to aid in the pushout. Shuho took clear advantage by getting his right to the inside, and since he already had the left outer, he showed the rookie exactly how you finish off your foe. Mistakes everywhere in Mitakeumi's sumo today, and if you're afraid of a mediocre Mongolian, you ain't goin' anywhere in this division. Mitakeumi falls to a dangerous 5-6, but at least his bouts have been straight up at least this last week. Kyokushuho improves to 7-4 with the nice win.

M13 Chiyotairyu was intimidated by M8 Tokushoryu today not even going for his trademark tsuppari tachi-ai opting instead to just charge into hidari-yotsu. The problem is when you're not a yotsu-guy, you're gonna get schooled with exhibit A being Tokushoryu's hoisting Chiyotairyu up high with the left inside, grabbing the right outer grip, and escorting his gal back and across in a most chivalrous manner. Both rikishi end the day at 6-5 and I'd like to add one more storyoline to Harvye's docket as follows:

Mike's heart mended or broken by Chiyotairyu: Today -- broken!

M8 Takarafuji kept his arms low and in tight absorbing M12 Takekaze's best shove attempts well, and the instant Takekaze evaded going for a pull, Takarafuji moved forward and slipped his left arm to the inside. As Takekaze tried to back out of it, Takarafuji stayed snug and just shoved his opponent back and out. Perfect execution form Takarafuji today as he picks up kachi-koshi at 8-3. Takekaze is still okay at 6-5.

M15 Chiyootori stayed low at the tachi-ai as he has been wont to do this basho, and he also kept his arms in tight daring M9 Tamawashi to extend himself so Otori could grab the belt. Tamawashi responded with his hands pushing into Chiyootori's neck and shoulders, but Chiyootori persisted and came away with the right frontal and left outer grips, which he used to turn the tables at the edge and twist The Mawashi outta the dohyo. Good stuff from Chiyootori who moves to 7-4 while Tamawashi falls to 4-7.

M9 Sadanofuji focused his hands into M16 Asasekiryu's neck throughout and kept his eye squarely on the prize never letting SexyRyu get inside or trick him with a pull. After about 10 seconds, the Sadamight had Asasekiryu cornered against the rope and shoved him out with ease moving to just 3-8. Asasekiryu is long gone now at 2-9.

M11 Gagamaru came with tsuppari while M14 Daieisho just got the hell out of there, and I don't blame him. At one point, Daieisho managed to slip right and push Gagamaru off balance near the tawara, but he failed to push him out from behind, so Gagamaru recovered and grabbed Daieisho with a right kote-nage grip and executed a mammoth throw using his right leg as extra ammunition. Like the Endoh bout, when you see guys go down like this, it's an indication of a very scattered banzuke. Kotoshogiku loses like this at times as does Goeido, which tells me they are grossly over-ranked. Contrast that with Tochiohzan, whom I maintain is the best Japanese rikishi at the moment. Oh ain't flashy, but how often does he just get his ass kicked as if he doesn't even belong in the division? That's right. Never.

Last and likely least, M15 Kitataiki and J1 Takanoiwa hooked up in hidari yotsu, and while Kitataiki was looking pull, Takanoiwa was looking right outer, and he got it in about five secods easily scoring the yori-kiri from there. Kitataiki's prolly Juryo bound as he falls to 4-7.

It's gonna take some serious magic and storytelling to keep this basho inneresting, so let's hope there's drama tomorrow for Harvy'e sake.

Day 10 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Let's position for the stretch run. There are three official parts to a basho, in sections of five days: the joban (first five days ), chuban (second five), and shuban (last five). I feel there are three distinct parts, too, but would divide them a little differently.

To me, the first ten days or so is set-up. This is where storylines are developed. Some develop naturally from good sumo, like the current showdown between Hakuho and Harumafuji for the yusho with their stellar sumo. Some develop unnaturally, like Kotoshogiku's strong tournament propelled by some very obvious mukiryoku. Still, in the first ten days to large degree guys are left to set up their own stories. This is where you set yourself up to earn considerations in the last five days.

From about days 10 through 12 or so, there is positioning, and this can be the best, most intense part of the basho. Here, some wrestlers pour it on to try to solidify what they set up the first ten days, as we will see Yoshikaze attempt over the next few days. Also, often during positioning you get to see guys fall apart; no telling who yet this time, though my top candidate is Shohozan, and for example Tochiohzan did this a few tournaments ago after setting up an apparent Ozeki run over the joban and chuban, then totally falling apart in the shuban. Terunofuji and Goeido were not able to set-up comfortable kachi-koshi margins, so they will be positioning hard to avoid kadoban. However, in the positioning phase, storylines collide, and you can get very compelling sumo when neither party is willing to sell out. The positioning phase is make-or-break time.

The last two, sometimes three days of the basho are about results-determining, and unfortunately, my observation is that mukiryoku, yaocho, and the like become rife at that point. Once wrestlers have completed their positioning, they or their stable masters are willing to lock storylines in rather than see them slip away. I don't like it, but there is a certain politeness to it; the wrestlers are culturally entwined with one another and tend to avoid de-harmonize things with agonizing upsets, reversals, and thwartings late in the game.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Here we are back at day 10, wrapping up the set-up phase and entering into the positioning phase. It is usually my favorite part of the basho, when a lot of potential winners are still nominally out there, almost everybody still has a chance to get kachi-koshi (you can still kid yourself and cheer for your favorite 3-6 guy to go on a streak), and lots of storylines are live and real. How will they play out? On days two and three, I listed three. They're all still ongoing:

1. Who is the better Ha, Hakuho or Harumafuji? So far the answer is Hakuho, but Harumafuji is pouring it on, and Hakuho may cede to him. Your yusho will come from this pair, and I'm looking forward to what choices they make, in the ring and out, the next few days.
2. Yoshikaze: late bloomer? This has been a second straight surprise standout tournament for him: he remains possessed by a ghost. Whether that has come as an earned reward for newfound feisty explosiveness, or as a present in order to breathe life into a storyline I will leave to you (but I say both).
3. Terunofuji: Live. Die. Repeat. He's at 4 "live," 5 "die," and too much "repeat"--if the injury is as real as it looks, he should have withdrawn. I would be surprised if he mukiryoku'ed himself all the way to kadoban--Ozeki are protected, even if they are Mongolian--so I'm going to say the knee problem has been pretty crippling. I am curious to see how this plays out.

And the set-up phase has generated a few more storylines:

4. Home town heroes: Shohozan is having a great tournament, and Kotoshogiku a showy one. Will this hold up? My bet is no. They had their week, and other wrestlers will now be positioning for kachi-koshi; these two are safe, have entertained the crowd through the dog days, and can now be sacrificed.
5. Goeido: will he? Won't he? I think he gets his three wins and staves off demotion, but it is going to be close, and the Association may be as tired of him as we are.
6. Kisenosato: "wait 'til next year." Again. Very quietly, he has put together an 8-1 tournament and has a legitimate numerical shot at the yusho. However, we've seen him set up this way and then wilt during the critical positioning so many times, I think no one is really paying attention anymore. I like his sumo, but not enough to believe he could yusho off dohyo merit.
7. Foreign bruisers set free? All four behemoth upper jo'i foreign powerhouses--Tochinoshin, Osunaarashi, Ichinojo, and Aoyama--are at 3-6 or 2-7. However, they've fought their way through the top guys, fulfilled most of their responsibilities, and should now get lighter fare and a chance to position themselves as top jo'i guys again--if they finish out with rough, tough sumo. Will they?
8. Low-ranked mow-down: as expected, Takarafuji and Kaisei, ranked under their ability level, are having strong tournaments at 6-3 (though to be honest they should be at 7 or 8 wins). Takayasu, even farther down, is even better at 8-1. Do they polish it off with a push for the sanyaku, or get satisfied and wilt?
9. Hope springs eternal: having watched him for nine days, Mitakeumi is too small to be Japan's "next." However, he has a chance to make an impression: finishing at 7 or 8 wins will do nothing for him, but if he can get to 10 the buzz will be heavy.
10. The Peter Principle: you will be promoted to your level of incompetence. I'm perhaps the only person interested in this storyline, but Amuuru and Homarefuji are both at new highest-ever personal ranks, and doing terribly. Can they recover?

Who is the Better Ha?

S Tochiohzan (5-4) vs. Y Hakuho (9-0)
Terrible fighting spirit by Hakuho here in the worst match of the day. Hakuho henka'ed, watched Tochiohzan run past, and, in a self-satisfied way, didn't bother to follow him, assuming Tochiohzan would run all the way out of the dohyo. He didn't. So Hakuho, with an "oops, sorry about that!" demeanor, had to run over the grab his belt and yori-kiri him out in the most dispirited end to a Yokozuna match I've seen in a while. The whole thing felt like it a high school play rehearsal three weeks before the show when nobody has bothered to memorize their lines. This was humiliating for Tochiohzan, who both got deked at the tachi-ai and disrespected after. Hakuho gave him a "sorry, buddy" slap on the chest and had the gall to smile a chagrined "oopsy me" smile as they walked back to their places: condescending, and probably infuriated Tochiohzan. I love Hakuho. But today he showed us how bad sumo can look when it gets so rote you don't take it seriously. This was embarrassing.

Y Harumafuji (8-1) vs. O Kotoshogiku (7-2)
While Hakuho much more resembles Asashoryu in skill level, Harumafuji is the more reminiscent in terms of sumo content. When he is good, he gives me little thrills of awe like Asashoryu delivered with his amazing power and speed almost every day. Harumafuji utterly destroyed Kotoshogiku. If you can, check out the ease with which Harumafuji reaches in for the belt with a right overhand grip and then slings Koto forcefully down and halfway across the dohyo, uwate-dashi-nage. The gulf in skill level between these two is cavernous, and Harumafuji is positioning himself now for a possible yusho, while Kotoshogiku is well set-up for his kachi-koshi, so doesn't need to position much, and was sacrificed and immolated.

The Possessed: Late Bloomer?

M1 Osunaarashi (3-6) vs. K Yoshikaze (6-3)
Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) executed a horrible tachi-ai, grabbing at Yoshikaze's head, and then sort of slapped wildly at The Possessed (Yoshikaze) before going for a couple of pulls. On the one hand The Possessed was doing what he needed to do by moving his feet forward, staying compact and inside, and following Giant Sand around, but on the other hand he was tentative and slow, and sloppily let one of his arms get stuck straight up in the air when Big Sandy finally countercharged. Giant Sand took advantage and got not just one but both of his arms inside for dual belt grips, which is lethal with his size. He then charged across the ring with his snared prey and they both went a-tumblin', knocking down judge Musoyama, former Ozeki. Messy yori-kiri win for Big Sandy.

Live. Die. Repeat.

O Terunofuji (4-5) vs. S Myogiryu (2-7)
Terunofuji got a nice kime hold off the tachi-ai, pinching down Myogiryu's arms, but Myog' wisely pulled one arm out of it and was able to drive The Future (Terunofuji) almost all the way out. When the dust settled, they were in a more traditional stance, mostly on the body, not the belt, with right inside / left outside holds. They then worked for the belt, and Myog' got it first, but Fuji the Terrible followed with a left outside, and that was it. They had a great showdown at the tawara, with Myog' pinioned in the air like a frozen star sticking out of a wedding cake, and toppled hard, but Terunofuji won by forcing his opponent down and out, yori-taoshi. Live. Repeat.

Home Town Heroes

M4 Ikioi (6-3) vs. M10 Shohozan (8-1)
Wow. Here is what you get when wrestlers who have set up possible special prizes and other goals for themselves with good jo- and chu-bans try to finalize position for those goals and really go for it. Shohozan came off the tachi-ai with tsuppari so fast and furious he must have spent his morning smoking dope and staring at a cake blender, while Ikioi responded tenaciously by maintaining position, then trying four quick counterattacks: a kote-nage (grab the arm and throw), a shoulder throw, a head pull, and then another kote-nage, that last a wicked firm one that sent his opponent rolling. Liked it.

Will He? Won't He?

Y Kakuryu (6-3) vs. O Goeido (5-4)
Blech. Mike warned you yesterday this was about to happen. Kakuryu just stood there and let this man get moro-zashi on him, then lost yori-kiri. Oh, I wonder why! And that is all I have to say about that.

Wait 'Til Next Year. Again.

M3 Toyonoshima (3-6) vs. O Kisenosato (8-1)
I think many of us who for years have longed, for the good of sumo, for a Japanese winner, repeatedly had our hopes dashed by Kisenosato. Let me be plain: I have often wanted him to yusho, and rooted for him to do so. However, as this was like rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, etc., I eventually gave up. Now I am forced to root against him, because I know he can't get a yusho legitimately (though I still contend he can get 10 or so legitimately). Today packaged all those hopes and fears into a nutshell. Here he stood, 8-1, facing a Maegashira guy. A win should have been academic. But Tugboat (Toyonoshima) kept low, batted Kisenosato's arms away, resisted Kisenosato's awkward attempts to drive him by pushing down on his shoulders and such like a guy trying to stuff too many blankets into a box, got inside, and scored an easy yori-kiri win. How did I feel? Simultaneously frustrated and relieved. We've been through this with Kisenosato so many times it feels better to get him out of there than hope for something he is past deserving to get.

Foreign Bruisers Set Free?

K Tochinoshin (3-6) vs. M1 Ichinojo (3-6)
A decent chest to chest set-to here, with a strong guy on the left and a big guy on the right both struggling for forward movement and a better grip. As often happens, two grips were better than one: Ichinojo had the right inner and left outer, while Tochinoshin alternated, then ended up with a left inner and, on the right, ended up slapping at the impressive flesh blanket on Ichinojo's back rather than extending down a few more inches to get belt. Yori-kiri win for The Mongolith resulted. Why did this feel so underwhelming? Say it ain't so, Tochinoshin.

M2 Aoiyama (2-7) vs. M2 Okinoumi (1-8)
Dumb, lame sumo here by Aoiyama. He hit hard on the tachi-ai, then slid Okinoumi to the straw with extended arms to upper body and neck. However, Okinoumi stepped predictably aside, and Aoiyama looked lost and let Okinoumi get behind him. If Aoiyama could run, I would say he tried to run away from Okinoumi at this point, but instead we can say he trotted sheepishly off the dohyo, okuri-dashi. This was one of at least four today in which I thought the loser gave up the tawara much too easily.

Low-Ranked Mow-Down

M7 Kaisei (6-3) vs. M4 Endo (3-6)
The story here was Endo. Off the tachi-ai, he looked puny, and was overwhelmed by the bulk of Kaisei's body, and was literally stuck underneath him, not in the good-sumo-position way, rather in a that-wave-was-bigger-than-I-thought inexperienced-ocean-beachgoer way. He fell down oshi-taoshi underneath that bulk in a crumbling-brick-and-mortar-walls-should-not-be-crouched-under-in-a-windstorm way. He was smothered, covered, chunked, scattered, capped, diced, and topped. Kaisei wins another 1000 meals at Waffle House.

M12 Takayasu (8-1) vs. M7 Kyokushuho (5-4)
High 'n' Easy (Takayasu) was looking very determined before the tachi-ai, and I thought, "he's got it," but Kyokushuho is a quietly highly competent competitor, and after the tachi-ai it was clearly who was remembered to eat his spinach this morning. While Takayasu was leaning sideways and lurching his arms forward to no purpose, Kyok' was working him with hard, focused shoves right to the sternum. The match was won tsuki-otoshi on a head pull from Kyokushuho not long thereafter, but he'd earned the pull by dismantling and disorienting his man.

Hope Springs Eternal

M11 Mitakeumi (5-4) vs. M8 Takarafuji (6-3)
Very simple stuff by the superior wrestler, Takarafuji. He let Mitakeumi hit him hard, held him there, then gave a little jerk on Mitakeumi's arms, stepped to the side, and watched Mitakeumi run most of the way out of the ring. And then Mitakeumi step sullenly out when he didn't have to. Okuri-dashi. Mitakeumi tried too hard here in the beginning, then not hard enough at the end. Rookie jitters and bad attitude. He reminds me a lot of Hagiwara (the very young Kisenosato) when he'd try to pretend not to be angry after losing. If I was his stable master Mitakeumi and I would be having a chat tonight.

The Peter Principle

M13 Toyohibiki (4-5) vs. M6 Homarefuji (2-7)
This was a good test for Homarefuji, and he failed miserably. Toyohibiki is just a practice dummy at this point: with his utterly predictable push, shove, and slap linear attack and his inability to finish matches off, a legitimate M6 should easily outmuscle, outsmart, or outlast him. However, Homarefuji could not outmuscle: he give tit for tat on the smack fest, but couldn't dominate. He could not outsmart: he didn't try anything different and just let Toyohibiki play it his way. And he couldn't outlast: in the end, it was Homarefuji whose legs caved in and he fell down--normally Toyohibiki's role in a match of any length--tsuki-otoshi.

M5 Amuuru (3-6) vs. M5 Sadanoumi (3-6)
Mike and I have been on Amuuru all tournament for not committing and not getting inside. Here he did both, grabbing a nice inside left. Down lower on the banzuke, this was leading to wins for him. Problem: against higher ranked guys, it is not. Sadanoumi responded to the closeness of this warm, huggable friend by reaching in for two grips of his own, then nearly doing a tsuri-dashi lift-out but settling for yori-kiri. I hope I'm wrong, but Amuuru may be finding his level: lower down.

And, Because I Like Sumo, We'll Do Everybody Else Too

M16 Asasekiryu (2-7) vs. J3 Jokoryu (5-4)
Very bad sumo here. Asasekiryu was tentative on the tachi-ai, and that let Jokoryu get a bit lower on him and grab a left outer. Then Jokoryu easily pushed Asasekiryu past him, like an impatient usher at the ballroom door, "in you go, madam." The bad part was after this Asasekiryu just stepped out, and Jokoryu just watched him do it. It was called yori-kiri. Come on, people.

M11 Gagamaru (6-3) vs. M16 Kitataiki (4-5)
Oh, Gagamaru. He false started with that left fist about a meter off the ground. Then Kitataiki false started deliberately as a message: "I know your timing trick." But on the third go round Gagamaru still didn't get close to touching down, and sadly, he was not punished for it: he used his bulk and arms to easily wrap Kitataiki's upper body up and run him out, yori-kiri. Stop this, gyoji, please.

M10 Sokokurai (5-4) vs. M15 Chiyootori (6-3)
Funny looking tachi-ai with Sokokurai looking unprepared and then standing up too high, but, amazingly, Chiyootori came close but was not able to drive him out off of this. It went to the tawara, but Sokokurai dug in there, got one belt grip, worked Chiyootori across the clay, got another grip, and lifted the big man out, yori-kiri. Suspiciously little fire here from Chiyootori.

M9 Tamawashi (4-5) vs. M13 Chiyotairyu (5-4)
Chiyotairyu won his sixth straight, but I still have given up on him, and he showed why in this hataki-komi win. He opened with roundhouse, milling arms, as if he was going to do his best sumo, his blast-axle force out. However, he went back to what he is probably even more famous for among those who know him all too well: the pull (for the second time in this win streak), reversing momentum, going backwards, and slapping Tamawashi down in front of him. Yes, he won. But he is going to get worked doing this when he is up at M7 or so next time.

M14 Daieisho (2-7) vs. M9 Sadanofuji (2-7)
Boy, is Sadanofuji looking bad this time out. Daieisho is Juryo fodder, but the best Sadanofuji could do was stand up tall, grab his opponent's head over and over again, and wiggle it violently around--while getting matter-of-factly forced out, yori-kiri, by a focused Daieisho. Get thee both gone to Juryo.

M6 Kotoyuki (4-5) vs. M12 Takekaze (5-4)
Classic Takekaze: make contact, step aside, other guy falls down, hiki-otoshi. This was much too easy for Takekaze, and Kotoyuki either should have known this was coming or did. I didn't like it.

M8 Tokushoryu (4-5) vs. M3 Aminishiki (4-5)
This was the third time today a wrestler seemed to step out needlessly in an "I give up, you got me" kind of way. Very uninspiring. I was ready to give this one to Aminishiki, who employed my very simple favorite sumo advice: get lower than your opponent and stand him up--but he wasted it with a slap to the head that was really a pull, after which he lost big 'mo and Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) followed him around the ring, looking amazingly nimble for a clot of congealed hard fat, until he could beat him hikkake (arm pull).

So where does that leave us? The best storyline is still #1, the Hakuho/Harumafuji yusho showdown, and it was strengthened, as Hak is alone at zero losses and Harumph now alone at one.

Mike positions us tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Okay, it's time that I come clean on something...the reason that I ended up leaving Fukuoka all those years ago. A year or two ago, some chick was attacking me in the comments section at the end of each daily report accusing me of all sorts of things, one of which was being unable to "hack life in Japan." I was quite incredulous when I read that particular remark because I thought Japan is where a lot of foreigners go because they can't hack life in their own country. Anyway, I was doing just fine in Japan and attending the sumos and everything, but people started figuring out that I was unable to clap in unison with the crowd prior to the bouts that featured rikishi from Fukuoka and nearby prefectures.

It's embarrassing to admit this, really, but it's true. I don't know how many hours I spent standing in front of the mirror at home trying to clap in unison with my fellow Fukuokans, but I just couldn't get it. After several years, they finally revoked my gaijin card and sent me packing, and as I look back on it all now, I think there were two plausible reasons that made me unable to clap in unison: 1) I wasn't old, and 2) I just can't bring myself to clap for bad acting. So you can understand how hurtful it is to my pride when I hear the Fukuoka crowd going gaga in unison prior to the bouts that feature dudes like Shohozan, Yoshikaze, and Kotoshogiku. But...the man'in on'rei banners were lowered yet again today, and so I guess it's all working as script..er..uh..planned.

With a fresh week 2 upon us, let's switch up the format and focus first on the leaderboard and then on other bouts of interest. I'll be generous and go down two losses from the leaders, and so at the start of day 9, the leaderboard appeared as follows:

8-0: Hakuho
7-1: Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku, Shohozan, Takayasu
6-2: Kakuryu, Ikioi, Chiyootori

Let's start with M12 Takayasu and M15 Chiyootori who were both low and tight at the tachi-ai coming away in the hidari-yotsu position where neither dude was very deep to the inside. From here the two dug in looking for the outer grip and a possible pull attempt as they continued their low stances, and with a stalemate ensuing in the center of the ring, Takayasu sprang the maki-otoshi trap out of nowhere pushing into Chiyootori's left side with the right hand while twisting him down with the left inside. It was a pretty nifty move as Takayasu becomes the first Maegashira rikishi to pick up kachi-koshi at 8-1 while Chiyootori falls off the leaderboard at 6-3.

Let's next move on to M4 Ikioi who found himself in the day's final bout against Yokozuna Harumafuji. The Yokozuna came with a right hand to the neck and shove with the left that sent Ikioi back near the straw, but instead of finishing his gal off straightway, Harumafuji settled into the left outer grip and weaker right to the inside. From here the two combatants dug into a long migi-yotsu affair, and with Harumafuji content to just stand there, Ikioi began mounting some nice inside belt throw attempts that brought the crowd to life, but on the second attempt at the edge, Ikioi couldn't quite get the ikioi he needed and ultimately lost to Harumafuji's counter throw at the edge led by the right outer grip. I really think that Harumafuji coulda ended this one in seconds, especially when he had the outer grip while Ikioi had none, but regardless, it was a good spectacle for the fans as Harumafuji picks up kachi-koshi at 8-1 and more importantly stays just one off the lead. Ikioi falls to 6-3 and off the leaderboard altogether for the time being.

Out final two-loss rikishi coming into the day was Yokozuna Kakuryu, who kept his right arm out wide at the tachi-ai and refused the inside with the left against Sekiwake Tochiohzan. I think Oh sensed it at this point as he secured the left deep to the inside and charged forward hard as Kakuryu offered the obligatory pull without moving laterally. It was over in less than three seconds in favor of Tochiohzan, and I guess he needed the win more as Oh moves to 5-4. As for Kakuryu, he's not this dumb. You don't reach Yokozuna because you still make what appear to be senseless mistakes atop the dohyo that not even a rookie would commit if they were trying to win, and so he falls to 6-3 meaning he's got plenty of room to bow to some of the Ozeki if necessary in the coming days.

Let's next move to the one-loss rikishi starting with M10 Shohozan who had a cupcake today in M14 Daieisho. The two charged into the hidari-yotsu position where Shohozan maintained the right outer grip, and the Fukuoka native went for a quick belt throw straightway, but his mechanics were terrible and he nearly lost his left inside position in the process. It was clear at this point that Daieisho was not mukiryoku, and so Shohozan had to regroup in the center of the ring. Plan B was much better where Shohozan secured his gal in tight and then executed the gaburi-yori we so often see Kotoshogiku employ, and that was good enough to send Daieisho back and across with little resistance. Shohozan is the second hira-maku rikishi to reach kachi-koshi at 8-1, and more importantly, you have a Fukuoka native high on the leaderboard. As for Daieisho, he falls to a paltry 2-7 with the loss.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku and M2 Okinoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, and Okinoumi's intent was to win. As a result, Kotoshogiku could do nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing...and this against a rikishi who was already make-koshi in all of eight days of action. So after about two seconds, Okinoumi just moved to his right and used a sharp tsuki with the right hand into Kotoshogiku's left side sending the Ozeki down in sorry fashion just a few seconds in. It's funny because this was the exact move that I pointed out was missing earlier in the basho when some of the Eastern Europeans were just walking out at the edge instead of attempting this counter tsuki-otoshi move against guys like Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato, but here comes winless Okinoumi and shows just how open and easy the move is against the Three Amigos. I mean, does anybody stop to think that you have a supposed Ozeki here high on the leaderboard, and he enters day 9 against a winless rikishi only to get his ass handed two him in two seconds? Am I the only one who notices such things?

In my pre-basho report, I talked about various patterns that occur in bouts against the Japanese Ozeki, and today was a case of a guy struggling mightily coming into the day and everybody's thinking surely the Ozeki can handle him all on his own, right? Uh, no. Hakkaku-oyakata is going to attend his morning meetings tomorrow and just shrug his shoulders and go..."What? He was 0-8 coming in." The end result is Kotoshogiku's falling to 7-2 while Okinoumi picks up his first win of the basho at 1-8. Just incredible what goes on these days.

In the final bout involving a one-loss rikishi, Ozeki Terunofuji went through the motions of a hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping lightly with the right and getting the left to the inside, and so fellow Ozeki Kisenosato complied getting his own left inside. With Terunofuji just standing there upright, Kisenosato grabbed the right outer grip and just forced Terunofuji back and across with no resistance. This kind of stuff just insults my intelligence, but I understand why it has to happen. It's also hard to get an actual reading on the extent of Terunofuji's knee injury because in some of his bouts he has looked healthy and dominant. Who knows as Kisenosato moves to 8-1 while Terunofuji will likely get some love from his Mongolian pals as he falls to 4-5.

All talk of these leaders is meaningless until Yokozuna Hakuho drops a bout, so let's go there next as the dai-Yokozuna welcomed the dai-Amigo in Goeido. Man, if the Yokozuna was going to drop a strategic bout to anybody, you would have thought it would come today, but fortunately he was all bidness. Hakuho looked to get moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against the fauz-zeki, and with the Yokozuna fighting full throttle, Goeido attempted a maki-kae with the right arm as he evaded to his left like a leedle girl, but Hakuho kept him close with the left belt grip and chased him over the straw before forcing him back and out in two uneventful seconds. Is it too much to ask for a little more effort from someone who holds the rank of Ozeki? It used to be where Yokozuna/Ozeki bouts were the highlight of the basho, but these days you either get bad acting or a lopsided affair as we witnessed today. Hakuho moves to 9-0 with the win while Goeido falls to a precarious 5-4. I still get the sense that Hakuho will drop one along the way here, but we'll see.

Regardless, the leaderboard at the end of the day looks as follows:

9-0: Hakuho
8-1: Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Shohozan, Takayasu
7-2: Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Chiyootori

In other bouts of interest, M1 Ichinojo secured the right inside and left outer grip from the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Myogiryu, and he wouldn't let go despite Myogiryu's best attempt to escape, and with the Sekiwake trying to mawari-komu out of the grip, Ichinojo stayed square scoring the quick and powerful yori-kiri win. After the bout, the NHK announcers were saying, "He should always do sumo like this." Yeah, ya think? Does anyone even think to question why he doesn't? At some point, these foreigners have to get theirs to at least make it look respectable, and that's what Ichinojo did today moving to 3-6 while Myogiryu falls to 2-7.

Komusubi Tochinoshin sorta came with a right kachi-age at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Yoshikaze and then kept both elbows pointed outwards with hands pressed against Yoshikaze as he is not wont to do, and after a few seconds of inaction, Tochinoshin put his right arm up high as if to pull gifting Yoshikaze the left inside. From here, Tochinoshin's reaction was to kinda get his right arm in the kote grip around Yoshikaze's left but he actually went for a weak push to the side with the back of his hand instead of trying to wrap Yoshikaze up tight. With Tochinoshin clearly mukiryoku and executing useless moves we never see from him, Yoshikaze ducked down, grabbed his left leg lifting it upright, and then drove the Private clear across the dohyo and out to the delight of the crowd. Sorry folks; this was entirely mukiryoku on the part of Tochinoshin all in an effort to bring more folks out from neighboring Oita Prefecture. With the win, Yoshikaze improves to 6-3 while Tochinoshin falls to 3-6, and taking everything we know about these two rikishi including technique, size, etc, is Yoshikaze really three bouts better than Tochinoshin after nine days? Give me a break.

M1 Osunaarashi caught M3 Toyonoshima hard at the tachi-ai with two hands to the neck / face area before moving left and attempting to pull Toyonoshima forward and down. Toyonoshima unfortunately kept his footing, and I say it that way because the Ejyptian greeted him with a vicious right face slap that knocked Toyonoshima silly and allowed Osunaarashi to rush in, grab the right inside position, and sink Tugboat for good. Osunaarashi looks great as long as he doesn't have to gift someone a win as he moves to just 3-6 while Toyonoshima falls to the same mark.

M3 Aminishiki offered a quick right hari-te at the tachi-ai, but M2 Aoiyama was even quicker with his tsuppari attack that worked so well he didn't even have time to hiss before he had Shneaky pushed back and across. Like Osunaarashi before him, Aoiyama's gotta be thinking, "Dayum, it's nice to be able to run free!" He moves to just 2-7 while Aminishiki falls to 4-5.

M5 Sadanoumi and M4 Endoh hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the start where Sadanoumi had the right outer while Endoh jockeyed for the right inside that would have given him moro-zashi. Endoh ultimately relented grabbing a right outer of his own, and the gappuri contest was on. Well sort of. Sadanoumi didn't do anything to move forward or attack, and after a few seconds, he feigned a maki-kae and a pull attempt in the same motion ensuring that Endoh would score the easy looking force out win. Both rikishi end the day at 3-6, and maybe if we could get more folks up to the venue from Kumamoto, Sadanoumi would see more love...

With M5 Amuuru executing another half-assed tachi-ai where he doesn't quite commit to the inside, and he doesn't quite go for a pull, M7 Kaisei just plowed straight forward shoving the Russian back with pushes to the torso, and Amuuru had no answer getting knocked out in two seconds flat. Kaisei moves to 6-3 while Amuuru falls to 3-6.

Before M8 Tokushoryu was even out of his stance, M6 Kotoyuki was into his craw using the tsuppari attack, but Tokushoryu is quite the blob, and he wouldn't go easy. After expending too much energy on the first volley, Tokushoryu shoved his way back into the bout forcing the action to the center of the ring, and when Kotoyuki came with round two, he didn't have quite as much punch, so Tokushoryu timed a pull of Kotoyuki's extended arm and slipped out right offering a nice shove into Kotoyuki's side sending him across the straw for the win. Great counter sumo from Tokushoryu who improves to 4-5 while Kotoyuki falls to the same mark.

M7 Kyokushuho was having trouble in a tsuppari fest with M6 Homarefuji, so he grabbed the left outer grip and put his right hand at the back of Homarefuji's head as if to threaten a pull, but his positioning was so poor for that move that he switched gears and charged forward looking for the yori-kiri. The problem was that he only had the left outer and wasn't secure on the right side, and so Homarefuji was able to slip to the side and pull Kyokushuho down at the edge. Bad sumo from Kyokushuho who falls to 5-4 while Homarefuji improves to just 2-7.

M9 Sadanofuji and M8 Takarafuji engaged in the hidari-yotsu contest from the beginning, and it looked like the Sadamight thought about a quick swipe downwards with the left hand at Takarafuji's dickey-do, but it was a weak move and Takarafuji capitalized on the momentum shift easily driving Sadanofuji (2-7) back and out moving to 6-3 in the process.

M9 Tamawashi leaned forward at the tachi-ai looking to get his tsuppari gig going, but M12 Takekaze just struck with his head and then moved out left offering a pull of Tamawashi's arms that sent the Mongolian stumbling out of the ring in short order. Nothing much to see here as Takekaze improves to 5-4 while Tamawashi is the inverse at 4-5.

M10 Sokokurai looked for the left inside / right frontal belt grip, but M13 Chiyotairyu had other plans just plowing straight forward into Sokokurai and knocking him back and outta the ring in about two seconds. This is the Chiyotairyu who stole my heart all those years ago (sigh) as both dudes end the day at 5-4.

M11 Gagamaru and M16 Asasekiryu began in hidari-yotsu, and with his gal in snug, Gagamaru wrapped his right ham around Asasekiryu's left arm in the kote grip and just bullied Asasekiryu back and across in mere seconds. Pretty uneventful stuff as Gagamaru moves to 6-3 while Asa Ain't So Sexy Ryu at 2-7.

And finally, M11 Mitakeumi got the left arm to the inside from the tachi-ai and immediately began driving M15 Kitataiki back, and the veteran Kitataiki's response was to move left and go for a weak pull, but the rookie stayed close enough and applied enough pressure that he was able to push Kitataiki over and down before he himself was dragged to the clay. Mitakeumi is doing just fine at 5-4 while Kitataiki falls to 4-5.

My broadcast began after the M13 Toyohibiki bout where he defeated Kagayaki improving to 4-5, and forgive me for not bothering to go look this one up. I was hoping I'd get the full broadcast today because I really wanted to hear the banter and spin that took place prior to the bouts, but that will have to wait until day 11.

Harvye saves the day tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
As Mike said, Fukuoka is the smallest of the four cities that host sumo (Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka). It is also probably the most livable. While Tokyo can have New York-esque buzz and excitement, and Osaka and Nagoya are grittier business towns, the former a center of comedy and personality, the latter more straight-laced and sometimes, yes, boring, Fukuoka has something almost American about it, with many wide boulevards, less crowing of people, expansive parks, and a southern seaside pace (though it can also be bitterly cold in the winter). Personally, despite the small crowds, I'm happy sumo continues to come here. In fact, I wish they'd expand out a little more: I'd trade the May tournament in Tokyo for one in Sapporo.

It being a Sunday, NHK once again was ready to do one of their tourism specials. With Fukuoka not offering as many sights within the urban area as, say, Tokyo, they partnered with the Kyushu Regional Tourism Board (KRTB) to do the whole island. During the day, before the bouts, the wrestlers visited sites all over the island of Kyushu and even a few small islands beyond. Amazing how they had time for all this and that the wrestlers agreed to mountain climbing and such! All in the name of entertainment, folks.

M15 Kitataiki (3-4) vs. J2 Seiro (3-4)
Nice, quick tachi-ai by the veteran, Kitataiki, that let him get low and take a smothering grip on Seiro's right arm; he then kept his body diagonal, his feet unaligned, and drove his man back. Nice resistance at the tawara by Seiro, but moments later it was yori-kiri curtains. Afterwards Kitataiki was heard to say "I was smokin' like Sakurajima," referring to the iconic volcano looming over the skyline of Kagoshima, a few hours to the south of Fukuoka at the southern end of Kyushu, where they'd been earlier.

M16 Asasekiryu (2-5) vs. M13 Toyohibiki (2-5)
Weak, backwards moving henka by Asasekiryu resulted in no better results than him putting his hands on the back of Toyohibiki's head, like an excited grandchild reacting to a leaning-over, forward surging grandparent. Very easy oshi-dashi win thereafter for Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki). Good. Perhaps Asasekiryu was tired out after the long climb up Sobo-san, a lovely if mild-mannered (not much more than a forested lump, which could also be a good description of Toyohibiki) Kyushu entrant into Japan's "100 Famous Mountains."

M11 Gagamaru (5-2) vs. M12 Takayasu (6-1)
Two false starts perhaps had Gagamaru flat off his left-fist-not down cheat move; when the match started he did it as usual, but wasn't moving forward when he did, and this let Takayasu take the initiative and get inside on the belt. Moments later it was an uwate-nage throw for the win by Takayasu. Probably Gagamaru was bogged down by eating 14 portions of Kyushu's famous ramen noodles early in the day--the first one the bowl comes with, and he had 13 "kae-dama," or "change balls" of noodles. I did not make that part up--the announcers were talking about it--but I am making up that he ate it at Ippudo Honten, the original shop of one of Japan's best noodle chains.

M15 Chiyootori (5-2) vs. M11 Mitakeumi (4-3)
Nice match up here. Both wrestlers stayed low and grappled for position with their arms; Mitakeumi, however, went for the pull, and this gave Chiyootori control for the balance of the match. Mitakeumi did recover enough to drive it to stalemate, but then he reached in for the belt; he got it, but it was too far away, sapping his power and flexibility of position, and Chiyootori chose that point to force the issue, driving him back. Good stuff here right through to the end, as they were both executing throws and falling off the dohyo face-first at the end, but Chiyootori won it with the better position, yori-taoshi. That's commitment. Earlier in the day they were sent to Yakushima, just south of Kyushu, where they practiced "teppo" (pole-hitting) on one of the ancient, massive Jomon-sugi cedar trees, the Redwoods of Japan, and playfully compared their girths to the tree--Chiyootori won (against Mitakeumi, not against the tree).

M10 Sokokurai (5-2) vs. M10 Shohozan (6-1)
The single word for Shohozan's tournament so far has been ferocious, and it is great to watch. It is possible some other wrestlers are letting up, as he is a Fukuoka guy, but it doesn't matter: this is what he needs to do, at his size, regardless. Today, too, he stayed hard on It's Dark There's (Sokokurai's) neck and face, slapping away Sokokurai's arms when needed, and soon had him flustered, disoriented, and down, uwate-dashi-nage. It is indicative of his status this basho that he and Sokokurai were sent to look fierce in somber kimonos beforehand at one of Fukuoka's most iconic sights, the awesome, glimmeringly inspirational religious grounds of Fukuoka's most impressive temple, Shofuku-ji.

M9 Tamawashi (3-4) vs. M14 Daieisho (2-5)
Wow. Even before the tachi-ai, I was thinking all Tamawashi needs to do is push hard and dominate: he is bigger, better, and more experienced. He did just that. His two-handed face-shoves here were so powerful here Daieisho flopped over the tawara on the fourth one like a tuna being brained by a sledgehammer, yori-taoshi. Perhaps Tamawashi was inspired by their visit earlier in the day to Japan's real-life Space Center on the small island of Tanegashima, just south of Kyushu, because he took off like a rocket.

M8 Tokushoryu (3-4) vs. M8 Takarafuji (4-3)
Very nice reactions by Takarafuji here, showing an unaccustomed speed; Tokushoryu did a quick-start underhanded swipe with the arms, moving to the side, a modified henka, but Takarafuji was with it so completely it looked like he knew it was coming; the resulting, satisfying yori-kiri win was immediate. Takara-Boom-Dey-Ay! After the match Takarafuji commented that Tokushoryu's sumo was about as exciting as the cheesy, gaudy, 80's-ish light show and music fest the civic leaders of Fukuoka thrust on the town with the overdone, "we are provincial" excesses of the Canal City shopping center.

M7 Kaisei (4-3) vs. M12 Takekaze (4-3)
Takekaze is known for trickery, evasion, and henkas. However, he can't do that every time, so sometimes he tries going straight ahead. Memo to Takekaze: Wrong. Day. Respect for springing into the body of Kaisei with all his might, but he looked like a nerf bullet, bouncing off the bulk and being removed, oshi-dashi, seconds later. After this on TV in real life they showed an awesome view of mellow sunset sunlight over the bay of Fukuoka, visible from outside the venue. Awesome. So I'm saying these wrestlers spent the day quayside dangling their feet over the water and reminiscing about childhood and their mothers.

M13 Chiyotairyu (3-4) vs. M6 Homarefuji (1-6)
Chiyotairyu was awful the first four days, then an exploding bottle-cap the next three. He smartly did that again today, smashing forward--but also fell prey to his old addiction, the pull. He got lucky; as Homarefuji followed him back across the dohyo, Homarefuji fell down while Chiyotairyu danced on the tawara, a few millimeters from defeat. An ugly hataki-komi win for Chiyotairyu; let us hope he doesn't take any comfort from this W and continue to resort to pulls. After this I kind of felt the same way I did after seeing the site they saw earlier in the day: the celebrated "hells" of Beppu, pools of natural hot water of various volcanic colors, which, however, are overpriced, underwhelming, and, like Chiyotairyu, very disappointing.

M5 Amuuru (2-5) vs. M9 Sadanofuji (2-5)
I see Amuuru as a guy with potential, and Sadanofuji as a guy going nowhere, so I was looking for them to codify this with an Amuuru win. That win, in fact, happened, but in a demoralizing way: Amuuru never got inside, and won by retreat, twirling around, and tiring his bigger opponent out. Sadanofuji also looked bad; he had the position he needed halfway through, feet unaligned and moving forward, Amuuru at the edge, but he wasn't quick or careful enough; Amuuru saved himself with a good, quick yank on Sadanofuji's arm, reversing their positions, and finally got inside a bit later for the yori-kiri win. As Mike would say, I can't believe I wasted so much bandwidth on this one. Earlier in the day they were both buried up to the neck in the volcanically-heated sands of the beaches of Ibusuki, which in real life is pleasant enough, but today's interment of them was symbolic of the burial of their sumo futures if they can't fight better than this.

M7 Kyokushuho (4-3) vs. M5 Sadanoumi (3-4)
A match in three parts. 1: nice face shove by Kyoku gave him a good head start. 2: evasion by Sadanoumi gave him a second life and better position. 3: odd charge by Sadanoumi in which he had good position with his left arm but then pulled it out, left it saving in the air above his head, and was driven to the dirt from that side by Kyokushuho, tsuki-otoshi. This looked very unnatural to me, but who knows why that would be. Perhaps Kyokushuho had picked up lunch when they ate at Kitahama Ramen, another famous ramen shop of this ramen-crazy city, where you sit on high stools and there is a bit of a some-assembly-required feel; they don't put much too complicated in your bowl, and you get to make it up yourself with what you find on the table.

M6 Kotoyuki (4-3) vs. M3 Aminishiki (3-4)
As you know, I'm not into Kotoyuki. However, with the decline of Aminishiki, I was ready to see a changing of the guard here. A battle of two types of dishonor: pre-fight (Kotoyuki) and in-fight (Aminishiki). They had a long stare down that was the key to the match. Kotoyuki blinked first, putting both fists down. Aminishiki then insultingly took his time, and when he did go, did so kind of nonchalantly, baiting Kotoyuki into over commitment. Aminishiki just henka'ed easily to the left, got behind Kotoyuki, and knocked him embarrassingly over, oshi-taoshi. The changing of the guard will have to wait. I don't particularly feel sorry for Kotoyuki, as neither of these guys defines the way I like to see things done, but I did feel sorry for them having to take the shinkansen all the way down to Kagoshima earlier in the day just to see the aquarium. I mean, it's a nice aquarium, but that's a long way to go to stare at fish.

M1 Ichinojo (1-6) vs. M4 Endo (2-5)
As I've been saying for about eight basho now, Endo essentially has no power. But Ichinojo has been so awful this basho I've decided it isn't just mukiryoku: the Mongolith is also too lethargic and has too few moves to be a top guy. He certainly played this one straight up, and it couldn't have been easier: barely straining, he just moved forward, pushing on Endo around the chest, and won, oshi-dashi. Endo looked like a toddler trying to stop a tractor. No power, painfully demonstrated--couldn't move The Slug an inch. Perhaps the reason they were sent to climb Miyanoura, on Yakushima, the highest mountain in the southern half of Japan, was so they'd have an excuse on why Endo looked so tired in this one (Ichinojo had stayed in the hut at the bottom, drinking beers and eating one of each flavor of soft-cream). Endo did look very handsome on the summit, though.

M2 Aoiyama (1-6) vs. K Yoshikaze (4-3)
I am loving Yoshikaze the last two tournaments, and the crowd was into it. They were yelling so loud I looked up expecting hometown boy Kotoshogiku, but lo!, it was The Possessed (Yoshikaze). Unfortunately, it was mukiryoku funny bidness from Aoiyama today, who stood up, had good position with his hissing thrusts, and was countered with nothing by Yoshikaze, who had also stood up but had no ghost in him today: he was at the mercy of Aoiyama's meat-slabbing. But Aoiyama found another way to lose, just walking backwards and out while Yoshikaze followed, "pushing," and got the oshi-dashi win. Not his fault; this is what happens when Aoiyama has any opponent whom there is any reason to give a crowd pleasing win to. The Compliant One. The Possessed will be back, I predict, but today he was exorcised. Earlier in the day, to symbolize Yoshikaze's newfound eruptive power, they'd visited the vast caldera on which the smoking crater of Mt. Aso, a volcano and a "100 Famous Moutnains" member in its own right, is a mere pimple. Long ago, a original mountain here blew up, ejecting a volume of material greater than the mass of the current Mt. Fuji. I'm not making that up. There are whole towns inside the ancient crater now. You could fit whole towns inside Aoiyama, too.

S Tochiohzan (3-4) vs. M4 Ikioi (6-1)
I am opposed to the henka, but only at the beginning. Once you've had a good, honest tachi-ai, your commitment to winning, to me, allows evasion to side as necessary, and that is almost what happened here, as after a twitchy, mostly-forward tachi-ai from Ikioi, he had to move to the left to take the superior Tochiohzan off his game. He did it again a few moments later. However, Tochiohzan stuck with it, I'm happy to say, and the ultimate force-down kata-sukashi win, with a resounding slap to Ikioi's back, like a boat prow in choppy weather smacking down off a wave front, was very satisfying. Earlier they'd send these two to eat "champon" in its home town of Nagasaki. Champon is a version of ramen with a white, creamy soup and lots of seafood in it. It is absolutely delicious, like Tochiohzan's win.

O Kotoshogiku (6-1) vs. M1 Osunaarashi (2-5)
I'm sorry, but I just can't take this seriously. One way to do mukiryoku and have it look good is to essentially do nothing, but with a nice, tense body. It's the very definition of muki-ryoku, which translates as effort-less. That's what Osunaarashi did here. Blue-skiers will say Kotoshogiku got nicely to the belt and scored a powerful yori-kiri win against a stiff opponent. But that is not what was going on; there is an age and size and power difference here that precludes it. Hope I'm wrong. Anyway, the crowd was really into this one, and our aging prima-donna, Kotoshogiku, played up to it, showing off his sweaty bulk as if it were the beautiful slopes of Mt. Kirishima itself, a gorgeous dormant volcano in southern Kyushu that is a center of religious worship, which is kind of how Kotoshogiku is being treated this tournament.

M2 Okinoumi (0-7) vs. O Kisenosato (6-1)
Easy win for Kisenosato here; I am still a believer in this guy, and this was simple stuff for him; Okinoumi went chest to chest and Kisenosato is still superior at that when facing the supple and powerful but placid Okinoumi. The yori-kiri win was academic. Okinoumi went over the edge so softly and easily at the end we can at the very least say he needs to give a better effort, but he pretty much always looks like that. Boring stuff here, like Yahoo Dome, the baseball stadium that is the home of the dominant Fukuoka Hawks of Japanese professional baseball. For a dome, it looks kind of cool, like a space cruiser the Jawas might build, but I've never liked watching baseball in a dome.

O Terunofuji (4-3) vs. O Goeido (4-3)
This is the kind of thing that makes me sigh because I have no trust these guys will ever fight a legitimate match. I remember with some chagrin how I used to look forward to Ozeki-to-Ozeki match-ups in tournaments when I first got interested in the early aughties; either those were more straight up matches than these or I was just naïve, because I now approach Ozeki showdowns with a sign of resignation. There is usually just too many obligations and two much politics involved, whoever the two protagonists are. This one fully lived up to my mood, with Terunofuji lamely henka-ing and Goeido right on him with a down-low, quick, strong push-out, yori-kiri. I didn't see any mukiryoku here, but nor did I see any sumo of any meaning or significance. Certainly, "Stop the Terunofuji" became a successful reality this tournament, but with that knee it is a non-topic: it's like having a "melt the ice cream" tournament in a sauna. Yeah, this match was kind of like eating at the innumerable riverside food stalls that are a trademark of Fukuoka tourism: once upon a time these were probably cheap and authentic, but at this point, while still delicious, objectively, they leave you with an empty feeling because this trope has been so thoroughly taken over by tourist dollars and the need to rake those in that you feel a bit had. Both men ate heartily there today.

Y Kakuryu (5-2) vs. K Tochinoshin (3-4)
I have thought Kakuryu's two losses this tournament legit, but Mike says he is too smart to lose that way. Certainly today, he wrestled smart. He is a size-loser in this one, so he tried something else: once he had Tochinoshin on him and pushing hard, committed to full momentum after an honest tachi-ai, Kakuryu just stepped to the size and started spinning his opponent, eventually whirling him to the ground after a few revolutions, uwate-dashi-nage. Whatever it takes. This match reminded me of the curling path up the perfect cone of the mountain they climbed in the morning, Kaimon-Dake, the last of the Kyushu 100 Famous Mountains entrants we'll discuss today. Because the mountain is a steep, perfect cone, level on each side, the trail twists around and around it like string on a spindle, or like Tochinoshin on Kakuryu's hand.

Y Harumafuji (6-1) vs. M3 Toyonoshima (3-4)
Toyonoshima had no chance here; Harumafuji is too good and Tugboat (Toyonoshima) is not limber enough. This was a simple matter of Harumafuji driving hard, then taking care to keep the evading Tugboat ahead of him for the oshi-dashi push-out. A few days ago I said Harumafuji's tournament was a dead duck; inevitably, he has looked very good since then and he has put himself in a position for The Storyteller (Hakuho) to possibly eventually pick him as the winner (though I think Hakuho is picking himself this time around, hence yesterday's yagura-nage throw). NHK did a nice thing, sending two of the yokozuna to Fukuoka's two best parks: low key but pleasant, these are great places to take your family, and emblematic of Fukuoka's laid-back, friendly charm. Harumafuji and Toyonoshima were assigned to Maizuru Park, a pleasant green space with the old Fukuoka castle foundation, some waterways, and the futuristic bulk of Yahoo-Dome providing counterpoint. Like Harumafuji's sumo, it is a bit avant-garde.

S Myogiryu (2-5) vs. Y Hakuho (7-0)
How would Hakuho follow his awesome, saving-himself-at-the-tawara win yesterday, in which he flipped Okinoumi over, around, and under his body and then upside down, simultaneously twisting in the air above the bales himself to land on top of Okinoumi for the thrilling gyaku-ten (comeback) win? It was sumo poetry. Unfortunately, today was sumo dissonance, a sloppy and uninspiring affair. Myogiryu had the momentum at the tachi-ai as Hakuho didn't look that into it, playing around with his hands up high and not committing to trying any grip. However, about a meter from the tawara Hakuho surged back inside and got ‘mo back on his side; he still didn't take any grip. The end was odd; Hakuho stopped, pushed, and pulled back, looking ready to fall down if Myogiryu had been near. However, Myogiryu was NOT near him: Myogiryu, like Hakuho, was moving backwards, falling out of the ring awkwardly on Hakuho's last, lame-looking but apparently effective oshi-dashi shove (he is a dai-Yokozuna, after all). Hakuho may have looked like nothing special here, but he is still the best ever, so I'm glad they sent him earlier in the day to my favorite place in Fukuoka, Ohori-koen, a wide expanse of green with a lot of water in it, cool stuff for the kids to play on, long meandering walkways, and a sense of well-being. I like Hakuho, and I like it that he remains the only unbeaten wrestler in this tournament, in a position to tell the story as usual. I hope he'll continue to let this chapter be all about himself--he's earned it with many years of great sumo. This may be a trumped-up come-back (he wasn't really much away), but it's fun nonetheless. The guy is simply great.

Mike promotes the Fukuoka-ken manga "Tonoharu," by ex-Fukuoka JET Lars Martinson, tomorrow.

Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The day 7 broadcast started off with a lengthy interview of the former Izutsu-oyakata, or Tsurugamine as he was known in his fighting days. Tsurugamine retired in 1967 and then ran the Izutsu-beya until his retirement where he handed the stable off to his son, Sakahoko. Sakahoko currently runsn the Izutsu-beya and is the oyakata of Kakuryu. Tsurugamine actually had three sons who became rikishi, the other notable is the former Terao, or the current Shikoroyama-oyakata (best known around these parts as Homasho's mentor). Undersized, Tsurugamine was best known for his ability and strength when fighting to the inside. He often muscled his way into moro-zashi and employed an interesting technique where instead of grabbing the belt in vertical fashion as rikishi do these days, he would grab the belt and then turn his hands 90 degrees so the backs of his hands were facing upwards.

Due to his size, Tsurugamine was only able to reach the Sekiwake rank, coincidentally the same rank his undersized sons would reach. After the interview, Mainoumi explained that it was Tsurugamine who coined the familiar phrase used to explain a mono-ii that starts, "Tadaima no kyougi ni tsuite setsumei itashimasu," or I will now explain conference. It was such an interesting segment, and it's always good to start off the broadcast talking about Japan's golden years in sumo because they sho ain't golden now.
M14 Daieisho offered to hands to the neck of J1 Takanoiwa but then went for the quick pull completely giving Takanoiwa the momentum. The Mongolian secured the deep left inside as a result in the momentum shift and then bodied Daieisho upright before going for a maki-kae with the right giving him the belt grip on that side, and from there is was too easy as Daieisho falls to 2-5 after that stupid tachi-ai.

M13 Chiyotairyu was all bidness today lurching forward hard at the tachi-ai and focusing his tsuppari straight into M13 Toyohibiki's torso. Chiyotairyu is the superior rikishi when he does this kind of sumo, and it showed as he finished off his foe in maybe two seconds. He moves forward to 3-4 with the win while Toyohibiki is ailing at 2-5.

M12 Takayasu and M15 Kitataiki hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, the favored position of each rikishi, and it showed as the two dug in well aligning there chests and battling for the lethal right outer grip. After some good jockeying and wrenching, Takayasu was able to barely latch onto one fold of Kitataiki's belt, and he went for the kill at that point. The problem was, that one fold wasn't enough for the force out win, and as Kitataiki looked to counter at the edge, Takayasu was able to drag him to the sideways and around 180 degrees where he then pushed him out from behind in the excellent displays of sumo. Sure wish I could see stuff like this the last 30 minutes of the broadcast as Takayasu soars to 6-1 while Kitataiki falls to 3-4.

M12 Takekaze sensed blood against the ailing M16 Asasekiryu, and he was looking for that offensive-minded pull from the start. When the first volley didn't take effect, Takekaze smartly got his left arm up and under Asasekiryu's right, and with the threat now from that arm, Takekaze was able to bait his gal into the effective pull down, the move he was looking for all along. Takekaze moves to 4-3 with the win while Asasekiryu continues to struggle at 2-5.

One of the most entertaining bouts of the day featured M11 Mitakeumi vs. M11 Gagamaru where the rookie stayed low at the tachi-ai before springing a pull attempt against Gagamaru who was leaning forward too far for his own good, but Gagamaru was able to survive the move and square back up. Mitakeumi did well to demand moro-zashi as they hooked back up and he survived several Gagamaru kime-dashi charges, but he just couldn't counter Gagamaru's sheer girth, and on the third force out try, Gagamaru was able to toppled Mitakeumi back across the straw and then mount him adding insult to injury. Great counter sumo from Gagamaru who moves to 5-2 while Mitakeumi is doing just fine at 4-3.

The most compelling matchup of the first half featured two 5-1 rikishi in M15 Chiyootori and M10 Shohozan. With the crowd clapping and chanting in unison SHO-HO-ZAN, SHO-HO-ZAN, the two rikishi promptly...committed a false start. After reloading, Shohozan gave the crowd what they wanted leading with a nice right face slap and then taking advantage of Chiyootori who kept both arms wide and high as if to feign a pull that would never come. Shohozan bodied Chiyootori back to the straw with ease before giving him a couple of final shoves to win in about three seconds. I suspect Chiyootori was mukiryoku today as Shohozan moves to 6-1 while Otori falls to 5-2.

M8 Tokushoryu and M9 Sadanofuji struck well at the tachi-ai with each rikishi pushing into the others shoulders, and with no one getting an arm to the inside, Tokushoryu just executed an easy slap that sent the Sadamight to the dirt in about two seconds. Pretty plain Jane sumo all around as Tokushoryu moves to 3-4 while Sadanofuji is circling the drain at 2-5.

M7 Kaisei and M10 Sokokurai hooked up in gappuri hidari yotsu meaning both had left inners and right outers, and normally this position would favor Kaisei, but Sokokurai kept his left shoulder snug up into Kaisei's right armpit keeping him upright just enough to where Kaisei couldn't dictate the pace. Sokokurai did using his left inside grip to throw / drag Kaisei near the straw, and while he wasn't going to win attacking with the left inside, he did throw Kaisei off balance just enough to where he was able to secure moro-zashi, and from there, he went Kotoshogiku back in his prime and used three solid gaburi shoves to knock Kaisei back across the straw. This was the best sumo Sokokurai's even done in the division, and his victory was an upset. He moves to 5-2 with the win while/ Kaisei falls to 4-3.

M6 Kotoyuki and M9 Tamawashi engaged in a nice tsuppari-ai from the start, but it was Kotoyuki who stayed lower and drove with his legs, and the result was yet another tsuki-dashi win in about four seconds. Great stuff as Kotoyuki moves to 4-3 while Tamawashi falls to 3-4.

M8 Takarafuji and M5 Sadanoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu, and it was Sadanoumi who enjoyed the right outer grip, but he decided to mawari-komu with the outer grip in hopes of a dashi-nage, but Takarafuji easily survived that, and as the two finally settled in, Takarafuji shook his hips breaking off Sadanoumi's outer grip, and from there, it was all Takara Boom De Ay as he showed Sadanoumi how to force a dude out. Takarafuji moves to 4-3 with the win while the Kumamoto native falls to 3-4.

M5 Amuuru and M6 Homarefuji traded shoves at the tachi-ai with Amuuru using his length to dictate the pace. With Homarefuji doing nothing, the Russian was able to nudge him back little by little before finally jumping into assume the inside position that he used to force Homarefuji back and across without argument. The sumo wasn't great, but Amuuru will take it as he ekes forward to 2-5. Homarefuji falls to 1-6. This bout wrapped up the first half, and I must say, there was a lot of good sumo.

And good sumo was what we didn't get from M7 Kyokushuho and M4 Endoh in a bout where both dudes seemed intent on trying to connect with the better face slap. Each traded slaps and pull attempts before Kyokushuho used his length and experience to connect on dual shoves that knocked Endoh back near the straw and Kyokushuho rushed forward pushing into Endoh's face and just bodying him back and down so hard Endoh's back hit the edge of the dohyo as he tumbled off backwards. Dude got up, though, but he finds himself now at 2-5. Kyokushuho moves to 4-3 for his troubles.

M1 Osunaarashi used a moro-te-zuki directed squarely into M3 Aminishiki's face, but Shneaky was moving left to henka, and so his head was fortunately not severed from his neck. As Osunaarashi squared back up and Aminishiki rushed forward, it was now Osunaarashi's turn to move left and execute the pull. Worked like a charm as Osunaarashi moves to 2-5 while Aminishiki falls to 3-4.

M1 Ichinojo put both hands to Komusubi Yoshikaze's face but just kind of kept them there allowing Yoshikaze to slip into moro-zashi, but the Komusubi seemed hesitant to attempt a force out charge, and so he backed out of the move and put his right hand at the back of Ichinojo's head preparatory for a pull. It was such a dumb move because it totally gave Ichinojo the clear path to the inside, but the Mongolian didn't take it opting to just leave his left arm dangling as he waited for Yoshikaze to make the next move. Yoshikaze quickly repented and regained moro-zashi, and this time he went for the force out swinging Ichinojo over towards the straw and across with no resistance from the Mongolith whatsoever. This was total mukiryoku sumo from Ichinojo who did absolutely nothing to try and win this bout let alone counter with anything. At least Yoshikaze was taking it seriously as he moves to 4-3 while Ichinojo takes one for team Kyushu falling to 1-6. If you have the means to watch the reverse angle replay, you can totally see how Ichinojo purposefully refrains from doing anything with his left arm.

In the matchup of both Sekiwake, Myogiryu shaded left at the tachi-ai as Tochiohzan looked to establish the right to the inside, but Myogiryu did nothing after the henka while Tochiohzan responded well squaring back up and shoving Myogiryu back and out in about two seconds. Afterwards, Mainoumi was saying that Myogiryu's got an injured right ankle, and it showed today as Tochiohzan thoroughly dominated his partner in crime. At times, Myogiryu looks like the better rikishi of the two, but Tochiohzan is definitely more consistent. Oh moves to just 3-4 while Myogiryu falls to 2-5.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato welcomed M2 Aoiyama who came with the hissing tsuppari, a sign that he means bidness. Kisenosato moved well circling the ring never letting Aoiyama connect with the kill shot. As Aoiyama gave chase, he carelessly brushed the sand just outside of the straw right in front of the chief judge, Musoyama, but the dude's vision is about as stellar as his Ozeki career, and so the bout kept going for another 10 seconds. As Aoiyama continued to give chase, the two finally settled into hidari yotsu where Kisenosato had the right outer grip, but Aoiyama slipped out of it with a nice tsuki otoshi with the right hand, and with the two now separated, Kisenosato was clearly out of gas because Aoiyama was able to shove him over to the straw and the Ozeki couldn't even keep his balance as he just teetered on the edge before Aoiyama delivered a final shove that sent Kisenosato into the first couple of rows. The men in black called a mono-ii where video replays showed that Aoiyama's left toe kicked up a touch of sand as he stepped near the corner of the toku-dawara. It was close, but it looked like the correct call meaning Kisenosato escapes as he moves to 6-1 while Aoiyama falls to 1-6.

Ozeki Terunofuji came with a right kachi-age against M4 Ikioi and then followed that with a half-assed pull attempt with the left arm. The Ozeki really didn't look committed on anything, and so the two hooked up in migi-yotsu where Terunofuji made a motion or two to grab the left outer, but nothing materialized, so he went for another pull that had no effect other then to give Ikioi the deep right to the inside, which he used to prop Terunofuji upright and then force him out with little resistance. I'm not sure what Terunofuji's intentions where here, but this was completely uncharacteristic sumo for him. I didn't see where Ikioi did anything to dictate the pace here, so Terunofuji had a bad outing regardless of the reason. Terunofuji drops to 4-3 while Ikioi is yet another storyline brewing at 6-1.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku and Ozeki Goeido sorta hooked up in migi-yotsu and I say "sorta" because Goeido just left his right arm dangling doing nothing with it. That allowed Kotoshogiku to easily slip to his left and send Goeido down with a tsuki-otoshi less than two seconds in. Kotoshogiku moves to 6-1 with the win while Goeido was likely mukiryoku here falling to 4-3.

Yokozuna Harumafuji demanded the right inside position against Komusubi Tochinoshin and followed that up with the left outer grip, and it was just textbook sumo as the Yokozuna kept his foe upright while continuing to apply pressure, and he scored the yori-kiri in about 15 seconds. It was really perfect sumo, especially against a larger opponent. Harumafuji is a cool 6-1 with the win while Tochinoshin falls to 3-4.

In an interesting bout, Yokozuna Hakuho and Komusubi Okinoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Hakuho enjoyed the right outer grip, and normally Hakuho just plows forward from this point, but he settled in and let Okinoumi make a game of it. As the two jockeyed around the ring, Okinoumi attempted a maki-kae with the right, and instead of Hakuho taking advantage of the momentum change, Okinoumi came away with the right outer grip moving the bout to gappuri-yotsu. The two dug in again when Okinoumi made his moving hopping once, twice, three times into Hakuho nudging him back with each gaburi, but at the tawara, Hakuho timed a perfect move to the right and turned the tables with a nice utchari throw. This resembled a Kyokutenho bout where the Chauffeur would often let his opponent think he was succeeding in a yori charge only to turn the tables at the end. As for the bout itself, I think Hakuho was just letting his foe hang around. It's just not probable that Okinoumi would be able to hang with the Yokozuna like that. Regardless, Hakuho is unscathed at 7-0 while Okinoumi falls to 0-7.

In the day's final affair, Yokozuna Kakuryu used tsuppari to keep M3 Toyonoshima away from the inside, and the shoves were working so well, Kakuryu just kept them going forcing Toyonoshima over to the side and out in about four seconds. Easy peasy Japaneasy for the Mongolian who improves to 5-2 while Toyonoshima falls to 3-4.

Harvye's back up tomorrow.

Day 6 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Hakuho called me up the other day and we were talking sumo. I said why don't we let you guys write up your matches for a change? He was into it, and said he would check with the Sumo Association. So, today, we bring you "Sumotalk: As Told By the Men Themselves!"

To get things going, I asked Hakuho a few questions. Harvye: "So, Hakuho, what do you think of the tournament so far?" Hakuho: "Well, Harbold, we're all giving our all to please the fans. There's been a lot of excitement so far, and lots to come."

Harvye: "May I call you The Storyteller?" Hakuho: "Um, okay…." Harvye: "what are your chances to take the yusho?" Hakuho: "If I do my best every day I hope everything will work out." Harvye: "Come on, man, you're the best in the business. Tell me, are you feeling it this time, or not, or maybe going to give it away?" Hakuho: "Hargul, I want to thank you for letting me say a few words to all your wonderful fans. It really is an honor, and I hope I can live up to their expectations." Harvye: "Just answer the question." Hakuho: "I hope to do honor to all the great rikishi before me and really give it my all."

Harvye: "Dude, you don't need to play this with me? Like, really, man--admit it, the injury was a fake." Hakuho: "It really is a beautiful thing when I see the sold-out banners drop at the basho, and I hope that if we all give our best we'll see them every day. I humbly invite the fans to come watch us do our best." Harvye [brows contracting]: "let me try something different. What do you think of the Sumo Association?" Hakuho: [note: I would like to imagine I saw the tiniest flinch in Hakuho's cheek at this point, but actually, I didn't; the man was as impassive as Avalokitesvara:] "Hardorj, I want to thank them for all their wonderful support and kindness over the years. Without them I would still be a mere stripling, selling bags of pickled meat on the streets of Ulaanbaatar."

Harvye: "Um, okay, last question; what do you think of Sumotalk?" Hakuho: "I want to thank you for your brilliant, honest reporting. Every day I am amazed at the insight of your sumo takes and the boldness of your penetrating, correct conclusions. There truly is no equivalent in the English language--no, let me say, in any language--to your site. When it comes to sumo, you have no peers. Keep up the fantastic work."

Thanks, Hakuho!

M16 Asasekiryu (1-4) vs. J1 Kagamioh (3-2), as told by Asasekiryu:
"Sometimes sumo's real easy, man. This guy ain't got much, so I kept it simple. Hit him hard at the tachi-ai, then reached in and grabbed his belt. I'm getting kinda old, so I didn't want to sprain anything, so I took my time to wait for my move. I just kept my butt back out of his reach and waited. Dude didn't have two grips on the belt like I did, so actually I needn't have waited. I just took him out yori-kiri. Man, if it was always this easy my name would have been right up there with Asa."

M13 Chiyotairyu (1-4) vs. M14 Daieisho (2-3), as told by Chiyotairyu:
"My stable master is always ON me, man! Two days ago he was like, 'if you don't blast the shiz out of your opponent today, I'm gonna flay you up one side and down the other.' So yesterday I did, but I kinda fell down, so he was like, 'if you don't destroy this little creep today I'm taking the beer bottle to you. Focus, damn it, focus, how many times do I have to tell you? Do you want to be an embarrassment to my stable?' So I did, I went hard at Daieisho, I hit him and worked him, and his arms were flying in my face, but I kept what my stablemaster said in mind, and damned if it didn't work; I just kept moving forward, and I even got the tsuki-dashi kimari-te. But, but… it doesn't always work out. I have this sinking feeling I will pull tomorrow. It just comes over me."

M12 Takekaze (2-3) vs. M13 Toyohibiki (2-3), as told by Takekaze:
"See, its real simple, see. When the guy is bigger than me, I henka. When he isn't, I don't henka. Well, sometimes I still do. But anyway, Toyohibiki, if you haven't noticed, he's real big, and I don't care about henka'ing, see, it's about winning. So I just jump out to the left, and I take him off his game, see. Just like that, he's got no game, see? Yeah, I had to circle 'round the ring twice evading and running and I almost fell down there, but that's my game. I ALMOST fell down, but I DIDN'T, because I KNOW how to mawari-komu. HE would have fallen down; I don't. And eventually, Toyohibiki, he's just too big and slow and simple, and I just slapped him down hataki-komi, see. It was mind all the way--believe it."

M11 Gagamaru (3-2) vs. M15 Chiyootori (5-0), as told by Gagamaru:
"I have this new trick. I don't put down my left fist. I stare real hard at the other guy--this is key--and I kind of zone out, except not really. I'm just letting my mind, my chi, really, focus on one thing: the moment that guy puts his fists on the ground. Empty my mind, I'm ready, soon as those fists hit, I go. He's thinking about putting his fists down, that's jerking his head up and down a little, but I'm cool: I just go forward at that split second, and my timing is perfect. And I drive him out. He doesn't stand a chance. Like today. This guy came in undefeated, but he was yori-kiri bait for me in two seconds. Yeah, I'm not supposed to do it. Yeah, if the judges don't stop it one of the wrestlers is going to figure it out and henka me or outwait me. But I'll keep doing it long as it works. You bet I will."

M10 Sokokurai (4-1) vs. M12 Takayasu (4-1), as told by Sokokurai:
"Sometimes it's tough. I wanted to get on the belt, where I think he's weaker than in oshi. But he just wouldn't let me. He pushed me away with one arm, then surprised me by whapping his other arm onto MY belt. I kept working with my left hand, but he kept tilting and pushing on my arm and I just couldn't get my hand to his belt. Guy's pretty good. Finally, he let me get in there, but the thing was, he already had an arm around my body on the other side by that point, so what could I do? I tried to work with the grip I'd gotten, but he had too much of me, didn't make any mistakes, and yori-kiri'ed me."

M15 Kitataiki (3-2) vs. M10 Shohozan (4-1), as told by Shohozan:
"Look, I fell out of the division for a while there, and I've gotten some help this tournament, yeah, but when you focus--which used to be my hallmark--you can get it done. This guy's getting old, and I could feel the energy in me: that's really important in sumo, I kid you not--I just knew I could beat him. I took that confidence into bodying him up off the tachi-ai. When I got him to the straw, though, I didn't want to take any chances; he's a veteran and knows his stuff. So I felt him out--just takes a split second; you feel it, really, rather than think it--and I knew he was pushing back so hard on me I was better off pulling him than trying to drive him over. So I brought him back to the center and flipped him over uwate-nage with his own momentum. Sweet."

M9 Tamawashi (3-2) vs. M11 Mitakeumi (3-2), as told by Mitakeumi:
"I was really fired up by those loud dudes in the crowd raisin' hell. Yeah, dude! YEAH! Early on I tried to keep low and stand him up and get inside--it's simple stuff, really--but I wasn't getting much of anywhere. I had my left hand on his body, but he had his on mine, and with our rights we were just pinning each other's lefts down. People think because I'm young I'm stupid, but I learned plenty in college. You think I was in the chess club? Just 'cause it's college don't mean it ain't still a contact sport. So, 'veteran savvy?' Please. I got all the savvy I need in this sexy body. I just got busy and kicked this guy's ass. I ain't afraid. First I kicked him, pretty hard, then I pulled his freakin' hair; they let me get away with it, and I slung him down by his head, dude, by his HEAD! Did you see that? Pretty freakin' awesome, I was. Put that hataki-komi slap-down in your 'veteran experience pipe and smoke it, mother."

M9 Sadanofuji (2-3) vs. M7 Kyokushuho (2-3), as told by Sadanofuji:
"My game is to grab the belt, body up, keep my torso turned to the side and my legs apart, tire my opponent out, and slowly, carefully work out a win using my size. It's funny though; sometimes you just find yourself playing your opponent's game. I was all wrong off the tachi-ai, grabbing him around the head, as if that was going to do any good, then we got in this slap fest; I guess sometimes you just want to say, 'I can beat you at your game, too, chump.' It's a macho thing, it just takes over. Dumb of me, yeah, but it moves fast out there. I knew I was in trouble and tried to get the belt there at the end, but I was fighting his game and he knew and he got me, yori-kiri."

M6 Kotoyuki (3-2) vs. M8 Takarafuji (2-3), as told by Kotoyuki:
"I, with my god like powers and my might, dominated. Did you see how I moved him back with the stunning power and rippling flesh of my sleek, muscle-clad arms? I destroyed his face, his throat, his everything. He prayed to his god for mercy. I, rampant, am so far ahead of him, I cannot understand the insult of him being ranked ahead of me. Only a matter of time, children, only time. Yes, you may have noticed that this wretched cur had the gall to evade to the side a bit, at the tawara, no less, at the end, at his doom, at the cusp of my glorious victory, coward, and yes, I fell down at this point and was given a 'loss,' tsuki-otoshi, but I was clearly the winner. A 'loss'! I will not dignify this injustice with further commentary. He cheated. I think he probably stepped out and just nobody noticed. This was mine all the way. I still say I won. I, Kotoyuki! Ah, listen to the sound of my name, like fresh lavender in the morning! I won the MORAL victory."

M5 Amuuru (1-4) vs. M8 Tokushoryu (1-4), as told by Amuuru:
"Gosh darn it, I don't know what to do anymore. You Sumotalk chaps keep saying I should get inside and get the belt, and so I did, even though this guy is really big. And, golly, it was working! I only had him on one side, and he had me on the same side, and we were holding hands on the other side, and he kept pulling on my head and stuff, and we were going around, and around, and I, well, I just held on! I just held on and on and I thought 'this is really going to work for me, it really is!' Down lower on the banzuke it did; I'd get in there and bulldog it and eventually I'd have just enough strength to beat 'em. And jeepers, I thought that was going to happen here. But this guy, well, I kind of felt like a rag doll. I had him, but he was like a bucking bronco built like a cow, and, well, shoot, it didn't work out--in the end he was the one pushing me out yori-kori. Crikey! I don't know, chums, I just don't know. You're right, I've been fighting scared the first five days, and this seemed to work better for a while, but fellows, it didn't work enough, and dang nab it if I just don't know what I'm going to do now. Drat!"

M4 Ikioi (5-0) vs. M7 Kaisei (3-2), as told by Kaisei:
"Kerrrrrrrr-slap! That's me hitting him. Shuff-shuff--that's me taking steps toward the tawara, moving him. Uuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggg! That's me pulling, really, really hard on his belt. But he is so tall, I couldn't get him over the straw. Epic. Hah hah! That's me going, really, you're not going to move to the side, you're going to lighting-PULL me? When you're literally standing on the straw? And have literally NOWHERE to go? Yori-kiri for me. I love sumo."

M6 Homarefuji (1-4) vs. M4 Endo (1-4), as told by Endo:
"I really, really have to beat somebody. I really do. This guy, he's an M6, and it's the highest he's been ranked, and I thought he was a guy I could finally dominate. Finally. I don't know what's happening to me. Well, I couldn't dominate him. It's so scary. I don't know who I am anymore. I didn't manage any sound sumo in this one. I'm sorry, but I'm so lost. We just did a bunch of weak head slapping and wandered around the ring like losers. At least I beat him, got him, oshi-dashi. Maybe this is my game? Maybe I should slap and evade? I don't know. Help me. Please, help me!"

M5 Sadanoumi (3-2) vs. M3 Aminishiki (2-3), as told by Aminishiki:
"Whoops! Little 'ol henka action there, yes sir, step right up, you, and I'll step out: and zing!, off you go, let me escort you off this here dohyo, sir, thank you very much. Har har! Dumbass."

K Tochinoshin (2-3) vs. S Myogiryu (2-3), as told by Tochinoshin:
"For fun, I like to blow goats off mountainsides with Soviet-era bazookas sold to us when we were kids by drunken soldiers when they pulled out of Dodge. But I digress. You may not like this--yes, I moved to the side a bit at the tachi-ai--but I want to win. This guy Myogiryu is very good, and he has been bringing hard, fierce tachi-ai to the clay every day. Could I beat him straight up on that? Prolly. But that's playing into HIS game, giving him HIS best shot. Some guys, you take away their bread and butter, and they don't have much. Don't get me wrong; I respect this guy, but he's not real big, and I am. All he's got is his aggression. Once I killed his momentum with that little maneuver, caught him, gave him a little 'Sasquatch-loves-you' treatment, it was all over. Yori-kiri. You can talk and talk about respect. This IS respect--I respect his game. But give me credit: I played it smart. We used to rent machine guns to tourists to shoot at the goats, too."

O Terunofuji (3-2) vs. M1 Osunaarashi (1-4), as told by Terunofuji:
"The Yokozuna are still good. But me and my friends are turning it into a power game. We're going to be the Yokozunas before you know it, and we're all about strength and size. It's me, Osunaarashi, and Tochinoshin right now. Not everybody sees it, but my countrymen Yokozuna will be passe in a year or two's time. It's starting to be a young man's game, and we play it different--it's less about grips, speed, and reaction, and more about strength and power. Yeah I work on my technique, but I don't want to leave much to chance. In the end, we're 'go big or go home' guys. This sport goes in waves, and we're bringing back a wave of size and power. There's a lot of pride in it, too. Big Sandy, he's one of my friends, my peers, my peeps, and today I wanted to beat him straight up, man to man, power to power. Our style. Our way. We make each other better being rivals this way. I just grabbed him and tried to be the stronger guy. And I was; yori-kiri'ed him after a little dance at the tawara by him. But I have to tell you: I'm paying for it. My knee HURTS. I can't get away with this every day--but I just couldn't resist. Osuna, he's my buddy, and I had to show him I'M still the man. We're friendly and we go back and forth like that. He'll have his days. We all will. But we both know I'm better. I'm going to get over this knee thing and be IT. But it cost me today. I may have to ease up tomorrow."

M2 Aoiyama (0-5) vs. O Goeido (4-1), as told by Goeido:
"My tsuke-bito came back up from the corridor and told me: no dice this time, Aoiyama's stable isn't selling today. They figure at 0-5, he needs one, and at 4-1, I don't. They even offered to buy from US. So I was like, oh CRAP, okay, I have to BEAT him. So I was nervous. First I false started, and then I thought, okay, I'm just going to henka him. He's just way too big. But still he was on me with those hissing thrusts, giant arms in my face like the ropes broke on somebody's lumber truck and I'm following in a Honda Civic. Thing is, Aoiyama is not that smart--he was too cautious. I almost had it. He didn't step forward with his feet, so I did--I just ran in there and drove him out. Whew. But, as usual--man, I kill myself--I kind of fell down at the end. Well, okay, I was sloppy--yeah, yeah, I hear it from my stablemaster all the time too!--I was sloppy, and, yeah, he played it will, twirling a little there at the tawara and staying in and pushing me down, hiki-otoshi. I wish I could say he pulled my hair, but he didn't. Next time I'm going to have my tsukebito offer more. Man, being an Ozeki sucks."

O Kotoshogiku (5-0) vs. M1 Ichinojo (0-5), as told by Ichinojo:
"I put two hands on the dirt. I grab him. I bounce up and down. I push him. I am bigger. I push him out. Yori-kiri. I am the winner. He isn't very good."

S Tochiohzan (1-4) vs. O Kisenosato (4-1), as told by Kisenosato:
"This freakin' guy. GIVE ME A CHANCE. So you might know I have this problem at the tachi-ai where I leave myself wide open. He's really good at getting his arms inside, so he usually gives me trouble. So what? I'm not afraid. I'll try kime or something. But he doesn't do it. Probably five times this match he had a chance to stick one or both arms inside just by extending at the elbow. And he didn't do it. Did you see that where for a while he was gripping my belly flab? As if he could use that to throw me? When he could have reached in further and gripped anything he wanted? I damn sure wasn't preventing him. FIGHT ME, DAMMIT! So I got a little pissed. I started punching him and slapping him. Yeah, I was pissed. That was me saying, see what happens when you go mukiryoku? Everything gets all messed up. Then he embarrassed me by walking out backwards when I wasn't even ON him. 'Oshi-dashi' my ass. I mean, sure, 98% of the people don't get it, but I know my sumo colleagues are snickering. FIGHT ME. I can beat you, mutherfracker. I can BEAT you. Gad, I never thought I'd say it but I can't wait to be an oyakata. The sumo has lost its luster for me. They're making a fool of me and I'm stuck with it. Just. Fight. Me."

M3 Toyonoshima (3-2) vs. Y Hakuho (5-0), as told by Hakuho:
"Thank you again for letting me participate in this writing experiment today, Hargrim. I will do my best to leave a pleasant memory. Toyonoshima is a good wrestler. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to wrestle him if I were an ordinary wrestler. I would be concerned, I think. Sometimes, I goof around and put my arms up high and things to see what wrestlers like this will do. When I was a child, I used to stick safety pins into electrical outlets. I liked the feeling. When I had my arms up and was being helpless, he stuck onto me like freshly chewed horse cheese. So I had the sensation of what it might be like if he was going to beat me. But I am ready to win the tournament this time around, I am thinking, so I reached down and put both hands on the back of his belt. He is so small. It is like holding a beach ball. Then I ran forward with little pitter-pat steps with my feet--de-ashi is an art and is beautiful--while also lifting up on the back of his belt and leaning over forward--do you know how difficult these contradictory physical activities are to do at once? No, you do not. But I can do them. And that is how I won, yori-kiri. Sometimes at night I dream I am being attacked by tiny mice. I step on them and squash them, but I grow so tired, so very tired. I fall asleep and they are biting me and still they do not hurt me. Then in my dream, a behemoth Colossus, black and fiery, comes out of the blackness and attacks me, and we do battle and I am tested to my utmost! I cannot describe the glory of this feeling to you! Then I wake up in a sweat, and I feel empty. I miss Dagvadorj when I was young."

Y Kakuryu (3-2) vs. M2 Okinoumi (0-5), as told by Okinoumi:
"So, I tried. I'm kinda big, ya know? I'm kinda strong too. The ladies love it, dude, serious. Solid. So I tried. I moved forward, I tried to grab him. He's not that big, this dude. I can't figure him out. Doesn't matter. I'm going forward, he's going back, then he's all like, 'tsuki-otoshi, dude, psych!', and I'm all like 'dirt tastes like shite, man, hoo!' Don't feel bad. Win or lose, the chicks are all OVER me. Sometimes they're like, 'are you Endo?" Or like "are you a Yokozuna?" It's funny, man. I'll take it. I'm like, 'yeah, babe.' Plenty know who I am, too. Oh, yeah. I little bit of fame is worth ahelluvalotta yee, hah! I better shut up; my oyakata'll get on me again."

Y Harumafuji (4-1) vs. K Yoshikaze (3-2), as told by Harumafuji:
"I was not going to lose today. No. We all know Yoshikaze is possessed by writhing spirits, but as Yokozuna I am endowed with holy powers. Don't sneer--this is not tiddlywinks. With these holy powers, I can defeat demons. Wipe them from the field. This demon rushed on me with a mouth of fire, and burrowed into my body, trying to gobble my heart from my body like a succubus. I felt his ghastly emanation seek to wither my spirit--both arms inside he had, wicked thing. But I called upon holy powers and pinched down on his arms; we call this 'kime.' And I slung his livid carcass around in an arc of extended holy bliss and discarded it on the unforgiving clay. I Am Yokozuna. Spirits: spirits, I slay you."

Thanks to all the wrestlers for their participation today! Hakuho now is the last guy standing undefeated; Mike lets you know tomorrow wither he wanders.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As I scanned the headlines post day 5, I saw the usual items that would appeal to the Japanese crowd like the headline touting the matchup between two of the more handsome rikishi in Ikioi and Endoh. Ikioi was quoted as saying, "No way I want to lose to a guy that came in after me." Then there was the quote from Kotoshogiku on his flawless start that said, "I'm moving in a direction where I've never been." No kidding. But the headlines that really caught my attention after day 5 was that Hakuho is now tied with Terunofuji for most wins this calendar year at 59. Hakuho of course dominated Terunofuji the first two basho of the year in terms of wins, but thanks to Hakuho's withdrawal in September, Terunofuji actually had the lead heading into the basho.

There's no doubt that Hakuho will end up taking the title for most wins in 2015--which is incredible when you factor in a single basho with no wins, but let's see what happens next year. Just the fact that we're having this conversation is proof positive of how good Terunofuji is and how much better he will become. Hakuho is still the favorite of course to win the most bouts in 2016, but it will clearly come down to Hakuho and Terunofuji again. I think within about the next two years, the moment will come when it suddenly hits us that Terunofuji is the best guy in the sport. I clearly remember the point when the transformation occurred from Asashoryu to Hakuho, so let's watch for the same transition between these two rikishi over the coming years.

As for the day 5 bouts, M15 Chiyootori set the pace in this one early going for the quick pull of M14 Daieisho who charged low, and after Daieisho survived the move, neither dude had any momentum to mount a straight forward fight, so they hunkered down and looked for the pull. After Daieisho gave Chiyootori his best pull shot, Chiyootori came to his senses and decided on a forward charge catching Daieisho and shoving him out. Chiyootori is a cool 5-0 with the win while Daieisho falls to 2-3.

I guess M13 Chiyotairyu finally smelled blood against Juryo rikishi, Hidenoumi, because he mounted one of those straight forward charges leading with the freight train tsuppari. His balance is still horrible, but he did manage to bully Hidenoumi back and across before crashing to the dirt from a late tsuki-otoshi attempt from Hidenoumi. Chiyotairyu will take anything he can get at 1-4 while Hidenoumi ain't much better at 2-3.

M12 Takayasu secured the left inside from the tachi-ai and after lifting M16 Asasekiryu's left arm up high with a kote grip, he parlayed that into the right outer, and Sexy had nothing after that. Easy yori-kiri for Takayasu who moves to 4-1 while Asasekiryu is already packing his bags for Juryo at 1-4.

M12 Takekaze and M15 Kitataiki hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Takekaze went for a quick neck throw with the right arm wrapped around Kitataiki's noggin, but Kitataiki was just positioned too deep to the inside, and he was able to use his right leg to pin Takekaze in tight and force him across before the counter neck throw could take effect. Kitataiki moves to a quiet 3-2 while Takekaze falls to 2-3.

M11 Mitakeumi and M13 Toyohibiki engaged in a fierce tsuppari-ai that was more bark than bite early on. The difference, though, was that the rookie was looking straight into his opponent absorbing the blows well and placing his shoves more effectively, and the instant Toyohibiki sensed trouble, he started to back up and think pull, but the rookie got him before he could mount a counter attack scoring the nice oshi-dashi win in the process. Mitakeumi's head is above water again at 3-2 while Toyohibiki is 2-3.

M11 Gagamaru and M9 Tamawashi hooked up in hidari-yotsu, and it looked as if Tamawashi had reservations about going chest to chest. And who can blame him? So instead of digging in, he began to mawari-komu around the ring, and Gagamaru's stubby legs just couldn't keep up as The Mawashi set up him up for a beautifully executed scoop throw with the left arm. Both fellas end the day at a respectable 3-2.

M10 Shohozan moved right at the tachi-ai throwing M8 Takarafuji a curveball early, and as Takarafuji squared back up, Shohozan got the left inside and flirted with the right inner as well. As Takarafuji looked to fight off moro-zashi, Shohozan darted back and left pulling Takarafuji off balance and finishing off his bidness with a body blast into Takarafuji's body sending him across the straw. Takarafuji actually looked a bit mukiryoku here to me. I know he's got a bad head to head record against Shohozan, but he's the superior rikishi. It's good to have the Fukuoka native "hot" at 4-1 while Takarafuji falls to 2-3.

M8 Tokushoryu and M10 Sokokurai felt each other out at the tachi-ai (as opposed to feeling each other up thank the gods) not knowing whether they wanted to tsuppari or go for the belt straight way, and in the process, Tokushoryu grabbed Sokokurai's right arm in the kote grip pulling it up high, but the hold was too light, and so Sokokurai was able to weasel out of it and assume moro-zashi, and from there it was wham bam thank you ma'am. Sokokurai moves to 4-1 with the win while Tokushoryu has been lethargic at 1-4.

M6 Homarefuji was proactive from the tachi-ai against M9 Sadanofuji driving him back early, but he didn't have the muscle to finish him off in one fell swoop, and so Sadanofuji was able to stop the bleeding with the left to the inside. Homarefuji countered with the right outer, but he wasn't set up sufficiently to the inside with the left, so the two dug in for an eternity waiting for some kind of opening. I was in the mood for some Pink Floyd's Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and so I queued it up on the iPod, and just as the song ended, I looked up in time to see Homarefuji go for a dashi-nage move, but he was too gassed and allowed the Sadamight to break off the grip, tsuppari Homarefuji upright, and then yank him down for his troubles. Can't believe I wasted so much bandwidth on that one as Sadanofuji creeps to 2-3 while Homarefuji is 1-4.

M7 Kyokushuho went along with M6 Kotoyuki's tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai, and as the two traded shoves, you could see that Kotoyuki was the more experienced dude at this style of fighting, so he easily bullied Kyokushuho around and out in about five uneventful seconds. Kotoyuki one ups his foe at 3-2 while Kyokushuho is 2-3.

M7 Kaisei came with a right kachi-age against M5 Sadanoumi followed by getting the right to the inside, but before the two dancers could get acquainted, Sadanoumi moved out left leading with a tsuki-otoshi that pulled Kaisei clear off balance setting him up for the easy tsuki-otoshi target in the end. Kaisei could have been mukiryoku here because Sadanoumi hasn't exactly been kicking ass and taking names the last few basho. Regardless, they both end the day at 3-2.

M4 Ikioi kept his arms in tight at the tachi-ai denying M4 Endoh anything to the inside, and Endoh just doesn't have the skills to counter such a move, so Ikioi moved out to his right, got Endoh in the kote grip around the left arm, and then yanked him over to the edge using his own left arm to push Endoh out in short order. Don't look now, but Ikioi is 5-0 while Endoh is spinning his wheels at 1-4. It's amazing how far you can get in life in Japan by just being ikemen, or handsome.  And hey, I oughta know! (bada-boom)

Neither M5 Amuuru nor M3 Aminishiki looked like they wanted to go chest to chest, but they still charged forward grapplin' for position. Aminishiki welcomes this kind of fight, and he reached up and under grabbing Amuuru's left arm using it to yank him around. As Amuuru looked to square back up, Aminishiki next grabbed that left arm in kote fashion and threw Amuuru off balance. As the Russian was stumbling forward, Aminishiki clearly grabbed his mage and yanked him down, but the judges were as bored as I was, so nobody called it. Either that or they made the determination that Amuuru doesn't have enough hair to pull. Regardless, Aminishiki escapes the hansoku loss moving to 2-3 in the process. As for Amuuru, he's been lackluster to say the least at 1-4.

Against Komusubi Yoshikaze, Sekiwake Tochiohzan simply needed to just grab his gal and pull her in tight, but Yoshikaze was too feisty from the tachi-ai shading left and forcing the Sekiwake to trade shoves with him, and Tochiohzan doesn't have the footwork to keep up in such a contest. Around the dohyo they went trading shoves and looking for pulls, but this kind of affair favors the Komusubi, and after about five seconds, Yoshikaze was able to sneak into moro-zashi, and from there the yori-kiri was academic. Yoshikaze pulls ahead of his sanyaku mate with a 3-2 record vs. just 2-3 for Tochiohzan.

M1 Osunaarashi just kinda stood straight up and extended his arms towards Ozeki Goeido in pull fashion intentionally executing a bad tachi-ai, and not even Goeido could screw this one up charging into moro-zashi and driving the Ejyptian back and out before Osunaarashi could fake any more moves. Nuff said here as Goeido skates to 4-1 while Osunaarashi knows his place at 1-4.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku shaded just a bit right at the tachi-ai wrapping his right arm around M3 Toyonoshima's left, but with nothing secure on the other side--the inside, Toyonoshima easily backed out of the move hooking his arm up and under Kotoshogiku's own right arm and pulling him forward to the clay. The question now was...did Toyonoshima have enough dohyo in order to execute the move. Watching it live, Tugboat sent Kotoshogiku crashing to the clay before he looked to step out, and the referee ruled in Toyonoshima's favor, but I don't think I've ever seen the judges remove their little lap blankies and stand up so fast gathering for a mono-ii. After a long deliberation and multiple replays, they ruled that Toyonoshima's right heel scraped the sand before the Ozeki's swan dive was complete, and it looked to be the correct call.

Replays showed what looked like a tiny skiff of sand flying up from Toyonoshima's right heels an instant before Kotoshogiku hit the deck. When the judges sat back down and gave the explanation, Izutsu-oyakata explained, "We called the mono-ii because we thought Toyonoshima's stepping out and Kotoshogiku's hitting the clay occurred at the same time." At this revelation, the nervous crowd applauded thinking that a rematch was in order because it looked like Kotoshogiku was beaten, but then he made everything right in Fukuoka by continuing on, "But...Toyonoshima's right heel stepped out first, so we rule a mistaken call by the referee. Kotoshogiku in the winner." It wasn't pretty, but after 10 long years, Japan will take what it can get as Kotoshogiku stays tied for the lead at 5-0 while Toyonoshima falls to 3-2.

Moving right along, Ozeki Kisenosato used a light shove to M1 Ichinojo's neck with the right before a methodic left inside / right outer combination for Kisenosato. Ichinojo complied with his own left inside, and the two dug in before Ichinojo kinda made it exciting executing a few right inside belt throw attempts, but they were half-assed, and the Ozeki was able to easily survive and force his opponent back and out. Whatever as Kisenosato moves to 4-1 while Ichinojo is a major team player at 0-5.

Komusubi Tochinoshin henka'd to his left against Ozeki Terunofuji grabbing the quick and dirty left outer grip followed by the right inside position that was sufficient enough to get the Ozeki way upright, and so Shin immediately drove Terunofuji back to the straw and had him pinned up against the bales. Teru wouldn't go easy, and so Tochinoshin brilliantly used his left outer grip to throw Terunofuji enough off balance to where his left leg was raised up, and from there the Georgian was able to execute the kill shot and score the yori-kiri win. Afterwards as they interviewed Tochinoshin, he admitted that the henka was not proper sumo, but it was a nice win nonetheless as the Private moves to 2-3. As for Terunofuji, he didn't put up much of a fight as he usually does in a pinch, and I'm guessing after being done in at the tachi-ai, he figured why risk further injury by digging in hard against such a big lug like Tochinoshin. The Ozeki falls to 3-2, and I guess that means he's officially eliminated from Yokozuna promotion this basho?? I had totally forgotten about that, but with his injury and the supposed injuries to the other two Yokozuna, a stellar basho from Terunofuji was not in the cards.

Yokozuna Kakuryu was looking for the pull from the beginning against Sekiwake Myogiryu, and Myogiryu is smart enough to read that and just plow straight ahead forcing the Yokozuna back and out in about two seconds. Had Myogiryu lost this bout, he would have fallen to 1-4, so I can easily see why the Kak let up for him. Look, you don't reach the Yokozuna rank because you're a dumbass. Kakuryu knows full well that against Myogiryu if he tried to go for a stupid pull the entire way from the tachi-ai that he'd get his ass kicked, but he did it anyway for political reasons. He couldn't care less about his 3-2 record while Myogiryu limps to 2-3 thanks to a bit of charity.

Yokozuna Harumafuji and M2 Okinoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu, and Okinoumi smartly burrowed his chest in tight using his size advantage to give him the better chance at grabbing the first outer grip. Harumafuji persisted well, however, and never let Oki grab that outer, and after about 10 seconds of good sumo, Harumafuji shaded left and executed a nice inside belt throw that sent Okinoumi over and down. I thought Okinoumi gave it a good go here even though he fell to 0-5, but Harumafuji was clearly the superior rikishi as he moves to 4-1.

In the day's final affiar, Yokozuna Hakuho used his methodic tachi-ai where he goes for the left inside and right outer grip, and today gainst M2 Aoiyama it was just like clockwork, and he needed just a few seconds to gather his wits before executing the textbook outer belt throw. Ho hum as Hakuho stays in control at 5-0 while Aoiyama is flailing at 0-5.

It's way too early to start talking about leaders, and little by little, the fearsome foursome are dropping bouts here and there keeping the narrative alive and well. Through the first five days, the Mongolians are averaging 3.75 wins apiece while the Three Amigos are averaging 4.33 wins apiece. I mean, you can't script it better than that! Well, you know what I mean.

Harvye spells me tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
My overall feeling four days into the tournament is that there are still so many unanswered questions. It's clear that Hakuho isn't injured, but will he drop any bouts along the way? I also can't tell the extent of Terunofuji's injury. He's looked great three of the days, but he was totally lethargic against Tochiohzan. Was that due to his injury or his fighting one of the prominent Japanese rikishi and letting up a bit? Then there's Mitakeumi who shot out to a great 2-0 start only to sputter the next few days. Is he a legitimate threat? I can't definitively answer any of those questions, but it will all play out over the course of the tournament.

The biggest headline to me the first four days came at the end of day 2 when the man'in on'rei banners failed to lower during a hon basho for the first time in 80 days. You had to go back to day 12 of last year's Kyushu basho to find the last time the event failed to sell out. There's no reason to panic, however. Fukuoka is the smallest of the four towns, and there are simply fewer people to draw from. If the Kyushu basho sells out on day 12 or earlier, then you know that sumo is still in an uptrend. I think sumo will start a new sell-out streak this basho earlier in week 2 then last year, and anything that can be done to encourage more tickets sales will likely be carried out. Putting Takamisakari in the mukou-joumen chair for today's broadcast was a good start. Seriously, I don't know how Yoshida Announcer and the others can keep a straight face when this guy starts talking into the mic.  As I scanned the headlines after the bouts, I saw one where the former Asashoryu said of Takamisakari's analysis, "He talks a lot, but I don't really get what he's saying!"

On that note, let's get to the day's action starting with M15 Chiyootori who put his right hand to the left shoulder of M16 Asasekiryu as the two clashed and then hunkered down from the tachi-ai. Having denied Sexy's forward charge, Chiyootori simply displayed more power as he forced his way into moro-zashi and scored the easy force out win moving to a cool 4-0 in the process. Asasekiryu falls to 1-3 and has the bounce of a tennis ball that has been buried in the bushes for a year.

J2 Seiro making an appearance from Juryo flirted with a left frontal belt grip against M14 Daieisho but ended up settling for hidari-yotsu at the tachi-ai. With no one having gained any real momentum, Seiro went for an ill-advised and needless maki-kae with the right, and as soon as he attempted it, Daieisho pounced and forced him back and out leading with a right kote-nage grip. Daieisho reacted well here moving to 2-2 while Seiro obviously has a few more kinks to work out in his sumo.

M13 Chiyotairyu opened with a wild tsuppari charge straight forward, but he may as well of had his eyes closed as M15 Kitataiki just backed up to the side and pulled Tairyu down less than two seconds in. Chiyotairyu is just plain awful this basho falling to 0-4 while Kitataiki breathes easier at 2-2.

M12 Takayasu looked to force the bout into hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai against M13 Toyohibiki, but he quickly changed gears getting his right arm up and under Toyohibiki's extended left and toppling the Kerosene Burp over to the side nearly as fast as the bout began. Takayasu improves to a quiet 3-1 while Toyohibiki continues to struggle at 2-2.

M12 Takekaze bounced once off of M11 Gagamaru's girth at the tachi-ai, but credit him for at least moving forward. As soon as Gagamaru realized that Takekaze had just delivered his best shot, he used beefy tsuppari to just clobber Takekaze back and across with a few shoves. Next time you're at the supermarket and see someone you don't care for, grab three Christmas hams and just hurl them at your opponent, and that's the way I would describe Gagamaru's victory today. He improves to 3-1 with the win while Takekaze is fine at 2-2.

M10 Shohozan raised our rookie, M11 Mitakeumi, upright with a left kachi-age and right hari-zashi from the tachi-ai, and it was enough to halt any of the rookie's momentum and allow Shohozan to get the left inside and right outer with Mitakeumi still standing way upright. Mitakeumi looked a bit lost at this point as Shohozan quickly executed a right outer throw that sent Mitakeumi down to his second loss. As Mitakeumi went down, he flirted with a right ashi-tori move looking to trip Shohozan up, but it was too little too late. Shohozan moves to 3-1 with the win while Mitakeumi falls to 2-2. Regarding the rookie, I've probably made myself so paranoid with all this yaocho talk that I find I'm not trusting what I'm seeing yet in the youngster's bouts. In his first two wins against two pretty savvy veterans (Takekaze, Takayasu), Mitakeumi was just dominant, but he's been totally lost against two lesser opponents in Sokokurai and Shohozan. Just as I mentioned in my intro, all of this will play itself out over the fortnight, so let's just be patient. Being the glass half full guy that I am, you only have to go back to Terunofuji's 2-7 start in his rookie debut to see that it takes these guys a bit to get their bearings in the division.

M10 Sokokurai came with his arms in tight denying M8 Takarafuji the inside as Sokokurai looked for moro-zashi, and with Takarafuji completely befuddled by the strategy, Sokokurai got him raised upright. The Inner Chinese Mongolian relented on moro-zashi at that point instead opting for the right outer grip on one fold of the belt. Takarafuji was able to survive briefly due to a loose outer grip of his own, but Sokokurai pinned him up against the edge and forced him across in a dominating affair. Takarafuji lost this at the tachi-ai as he falls to 2-2 while Sokokurai is a sleek 3-1.

Two behemoths in M7 Kaisei and M9 Sadanofuji hooked up in migi-yotsu from tachi-ai with Sadanofuji enjoying the left outer grip. With the early advantage, Fuji kept his can way back to keep Kaisei away from his own outer, and then he made his move using his the left leg to pin Kaisei in tight before simply forcing him back and across with little argument. This was just as they draw it up in the textbook although Kaisei prolly could have put forth more effort as Sadanofuji picks up his first win while Kaisei suffers his first loss.

M7 Kyokushuho lazily welcomed M9 Tamawashi at the tachi-ai getting the left to the inside but giving up the right outer grip, and The Mawashi just used his forward momentum to force Shuho back and out with no resistance. Not sure what was going on here as both dudes finished the day at 2-2.

M8 Tokushoryu simply beat M6 Homarefuji at his own game today using the tsuppari attack. The key here was that Tokushoryu used his size advantage and never once thought about going for a pull. His de-ashi were perfect, and Homarefuji simply couldn't answer the bell today as both rikishi now sit at 1-3.

M5 Amuuru used his long arms to keep M6 Kotoyuki at bay from the tachi-ai, but he opted to stand there and trade shoves with Kotoyuki instead of look to get inside, and Kotoyuki eventually coupled de-ashi with his tsuppari attack and shoved Amuuru out hard enough to draw the tsuki-dashi winning technique. Kotoyuki improves to 2-2 with the win while Amuuru has been lethargic falling to 1-3.

M4 Ikioi used a right kachi-age and then left slap at M5 Sadanoumi's extended right arm sending him down lightly a second into the bout. Talk about a glass jaw as Sadanoumi continues to decline at 2-2 while Ikioi moves to 4-0. No offense to you Ikioi fans, but I think the last thing this basho needs is Ikioi on the leaderboard.

M4 Endoh secured the left inside and right outer grip from the tachi-ai against M2 Okinoumi, but he just couldn't put the former Sekiwake away. Endoh wrenched Okinoumi this way and that and eventually gave up the right outer in the process, but it was just one fold of the grip for Okinoumi. Didn't matter anyway as Okinoumi just let go of the outer grip for no reason, and so Endoh executed the final force out charge near the edge picking up his first win in the process at 1-3. Okinoumi falls to 0-4 and didn't put forth much effort today.

M3 Toyonoshima completely dominated the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Myogiryu plowing his round gut forward straight into the Sekiwake setting up the left arm deep to the inside. Myogiryu's own left on the other side was too shallow, and as soon as he raised his right arm upright as if to pull, Toyonoshima just destroyed him back and across the tawara for the convincing win. Toyonoshima moves to 3-1 in the process while Myogiryu falls flat at 1-3.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan got the left arm inside at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku and managed to get the right arm briefly to the inside as well, but instead of just inserting either of his arms in deep and demanding moro-zashi, he just stood there all mukiryoku and allowed the Geeku to force him over and out in three seconds or so. Kotoshogiku didn't even have an outer grip to lead with, but he's easily the most popular rikishi in Fukuoka, and so it makes perfect sense to have him go on a bit of a run here in Kyushu. Oh takes one for the team falling to 2-2 while Kotoshogiku is an unsurprising 4-0.

Komusubi Tochinoshin used a right kachi-age at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kisenosato while the Ozeki responded with a nice right paw to the neck, but Kisenosato was dangerously upright and vulnerable to moro-zashi in the process (something evident from the reverse angle). Tochinoshin settled for just the left to the inside, however, forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu in the center of the ring where both rikishi dug in and jockeyed for position. At this point with the Ozeki still upright and Tochinoshin having the much longer reach, the Komusubi completely refrained with the right hand eventually allowing Kisenosato to take charge with a right outer of his own. As the rikishi dug in again, Tochinoshin actually had the path to the frontal belt grip with the right arm that would have given him moro-zashi, but he refrained yet again and just settled in as Kisenosato scored the ultimate force-out win in about twenty seconds. This one looked good to the lay man, but trust me...Tochinoshin could have easily won this bout in seconds. If Kisenosato was able to go chest to chest with a guy like Tochinoshin and overpower him, Kisenosato would be going chest to chest with his opponents and overpowering them on a consistent basis. Kisenosato moves to 3-1 with the win while Tochinoshin plays ball falling to 1-3.

Ozeki Terunofuji and M2 Aoiyama hooked up in migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai with Aoiyama coming away with the left outer in the end. Terunofuji never panicked, however, and dug in sufficiently before brilliantly wrenching his hips and cutting off the outer grip by Aoiyama. This change in momentum allowed Terunofuji to grab the left outer of his own, and from this point, Aoiyama resembled a pig on the spit with a juicy apple in his mouth as Terunofuji executed the lethal outer grip throw. The Ozeki moves to 3-1 with the victory while Aoiyama is just going through the motions at 0-4.

Against Ozeki Goeido, M3 Aminishiki monkeyed around with a weak right hari-te and feigned pulls, so Goeido just planted his feet and caught Shneaky with some good tsuppari to the chest sending the M3 off balance and then over and down in the lopsided affair. This was just bad sumo all around, especially coming in the Ozeki ranks as Goeido scoots safely to 3-1 while Aminishiki is a predictable 1-3.

Yokozuna Harumafuji came with his patented right nodowa against M1 Ichinojo that kept the Mongolith up so high that the Yokozuna eventually secured moro-zashi. As Harumafuji looked to set up the force-out, Ichinojo countered briefly with a nice kime-dashi attempt, but Howdo kept his footing and righted the ship forcing the Mongolith across in the end tugging at the belt from the inside with his left. Good work here from Harumafuji who breezes to 3-1 while Ichinojo falls to 0-4.

Any anticipation leading up to the Yokozuna Hakuho - Komusudbi Yoshikaze matchup was quickly quelled as Hakuho just henka'd to his right causing the surprised Yoshikaze to just stumble off balance and down in a half second. The crowd didn't really know how to respond it happened so fast. Furthermore, no one expects a Dai-Yokozuna to sidestep a smaller dude like Yoshikaze, but damned if he didn't do just that. In my opinion, Hakuho can do whatever he pleases on the dohyo; he's earned it, so I had no problem with his decision to henka. Look, Yoshikaze cannot beat the Yokozuna straight up, so who cares anyway? Hakuho moves to 4-0 and finds himself sitting in that ever familiar comfy chair as the storyteller. As for Yoshikaze, he can only scratch his mage and wonder as he drops to 2-2.

In the day's final affair, Yokozuna Kakuryu survived the moro-te-zuki tachi-ai from M1 Osunaarashi and got his right arm inside first forcing Osunaarashi to comply with yotsu-zumo. Not wanting to give up an outer grip to the larger Ejyptian, Kakuryu wisely kept his can way away hunkering down and denying Osunaarashi the left outer. As the two jockeyed in the middle of the ring, Kakuryu finagled a left frontal outer of his own, but he still stayed low not wanting to give up the outer grip on the other side, and after nearly a minute, he finally sensed the timing was right and barreled forward staying low forcing Osunaarashi back and out in the process. I think we all would have liked to have seen this one go chest to chest because we all would have liked to have seen an upset, but Kakuryu knew better and forced the bout to the belt without snuggling in close. Brilliant work that will go unnoticed by most as Kakuryu moves to 3-1 while Osunaarashi falls to 1-3.

I'll be back tomorrow to wrap up the joubansen.

Day 3 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Let's pick up where we left off at the end of Day 2:

Storyline 1: Which Ha will be best?
Advantage Hakuho. In fact, Harumafuji is pretty much out of this storyline. Yes, I know there are still 13 days for Harumafuji to make up a one match difference. But until Hakuho loses, he is now the only comeback story. Every day Hakuho wins he cements this tournament as a "I'm still here" statement. However, if he loses early, it becomes a "who's next" tournament. He has an interesting test today against Osunaarashi, who has not beaten him in three tries. Is it time?

Storyline 2: Yoshikaze late bloomer?
Today Yoshikaze gets Kotoshogiku. As one of our observant readers pointed out, today's result will point towards whether Yoshikaze really is The Possessed, or just a guy enjoying a streak of particularly good luck. If he beats Kotoshogiku, it is on: he is the man to watch. If Kotoshogiku wins, Yoshikaze is just a fun guy out there. Why? This is Fukuoka, home town tournament for Ozeki Kotoshogiku, and if they're willing to sacrifice that storyline this early in favor of Yoshikaze, something interesting is happening. If not, it's business mostly as usual (but I'll still enjoy watching the burning--from--the--inside Yoshikaze make a rose garden funeral of sores out of those around him when he can).

Storyline 3: Terunofuji: live? die? Repeat?
Yesterday we were on "die." Today he has a relative patsy, Okinoumi. A win means live, repeat. A loss means die, and brings repeat into question: if his knee prevents him from beating a guy like this, he should get out.

And they're off:

M15 Kitataiki (0-2) vs. J2 Kagayaki (1-1)
I have a softspot for Scorched Mosquito (Ka--ga--yaki); he is one of those Japanese "next" contenders, and a guy I waited for literally for years for because Mike fingered him as a comer way down in the Yondanme (which doesn't even exist). However, like others before him, great promise does not always translate into results, and his Makuuchi visits have been underwhelming. He's in a spot where he needs to take care of declining veterans like Kitataiki, but he had nothing here; Kitataiki got one arm very deep inside, another on the belt outside, was slightly lower, was moving surprisingly quickly for an octogenarian, and soon won yori-kiri.

M15 Chiyootori (2-0) vs. M13 Toyohibiki (2-0)
Do they teach you to bounce your butt in the Chiyo stable? Chiyootori bobs up and down like a struck jello at each tachi-ai. I can see the sports psychology value of it--gets you into physical motion and concentrates you on the match ahead, takes you out of your own head. It does look silly, though. He kept his focus during the match indeed, keeping his head down and his hands up, resisting Toyohibiki's advances, and waiting for Toyohibiki to overextend (as usual), at which point Chiyootori pushed him down tsuki-otoshi. This didn't look dominant, but was well played given the opponent's track record.

M13 Chiyotairyu (0-2) vs. M16 Asasekiryu (0-2)
Can Chiyotairyu really not beat the shriveled persimmon, Asasekiryu? I was not convinced of his effort level here. They had a hard--smacking tachi-ai, like two clean cutting boards whapped together, and the leftover fruit drying in the pale noonday sun at the corner of a fallow field on a fading November day, Asasekiryu, grabbed a hold of Chiyotairyu's belt with a long, long left inner grip. Good for him. But Chiyotairyu is young and should be able to counter. He couldn't, and Sun Dried Tomato (Asasekiryu) played it beautifully: he hopped backwards out of the grip, took a new hold of Chiyotairyu on the other side, and dragged him forward and down for a very charming uwate-dashi-nage. Fruit salad.

M12 Takekaze (1-1) vs. M14 Daieisho (1-1)
When you're driven off your point at the tachi-ai by Takekaze, your future in the upper division does not bode well. Takekaze had Daieisho going backwards; granted he didn't have enough to finish him off right away and Daieisho did some fine evading, but it looked bad for the younger man from the beginning, and it was bad. After a bit of running around the dohyo--definitely Takekaze's game--Takekaze found Daieisho properly primed and actionable, and slapped him down hataki-komi.

M12 Takayasu (1-1) vs. M10 Shohozan (2-0)
I didn't care for this much. It was fought twice. The first time around, High 'n' Easy (Takayasu) made a whimsical try for the belt; Shohozan deeked him off that with a blast to the face. Then they slapped at each other's noggins a bit; Takayasu was too upright during this. Finally Shohozan advanced in on the body and had Takayasu going down and out, but Takayasu collapsed his man down too with pressure on the back. They basically fell at the same time; judges said do 'er 'gain (as they should have at the last bout of the day; see below). The second match was a direct replay of the first, except this time Shohozan jumped into a crawling--baby position mid-way through the slapping, and babies will never be good at sumo because when you put your elbows and knees on the ground like that it is called "losing." Okay, I guess he slipped. Hataki-komi.

Runner-Up Match of the Day: M10 Sokokurai (1-1) vs. M11 Mitakeumi (2-0)
This was a fine display of technique, calm, and veteran savvy by It's Dark There (Sokokurai). Class Bully (Mitakeumi) jumped in hard and tough off the tachi-ai, and had momentum on his side with roundhouse blows to his man. However, as Mitakeumi carelessly stuck with his now-exposed strategy, Sokokurai responded easily with Step 1: he reached into the exposed underside of Mitakeumi and grabbed him around the body, stopping Mitakeumi's advance. Then, when the Bully took too long trying to win by still pressuring up top, Sokokurai employed Step 2, reaching further down and in and grabbing Mitakeumi's belt. Finally, for Step 3, Sokokurai taught the now compromised Bully a lesson, picking him up bodily and planting him out like a whiny child, legs-a-danglin'; this is called tsuri-dashi (fish-out) and is always fun to watch. I'm glad this happened to Mitakeumi--he needed it, as getting schooled by a relatively weak rank-and-filer who, however, isn't in school anymore, will quickly teach that you don't get any breaks up here (when things are fought straight up). I loved this because we saw what looked like dominant power from Mitakeumi easily and methodically dismantled by the older man. Sokokurai took what looked like an embarrassing defeat and turned it into a rout. That is how you do it.

M11 Gagamaru (1-1) vs. M9 Sadanofuji (0-2)
Lord Gaga seems to have found a new way to win: cheat. Just like yesterday, he put one fist on the ground, but never put the other down, simply waiting until his opponent put both fists down and then charging forward at that instant--the split second advantage he gained by not having to jerk that fist to the ground gave him a huge advantage. Exactly like yesterday, he smashed hard into his opponent and slid him backwards and pushed him right out, yori-kiri. Someone needs to tell tomorrow's gyoji to watch for this and call a matta--this is crap.

M7 Kaisei (2-0) vs. M8 Takarafuji (2-0)
I mulled this pair before the tournament (yes, really! The sumo nerd comes out again): which under-ranked guy would have the better tournament? Both are sure bets. However, I chose Kaisei for the surer play. Although I recognize he has some power and chops, I've never liked Takarafuji--too passive. Also, we already know Kaisei's long term level: he has been around long enough that we know he belongs right about at M4. I would contend we don't know Takarafuji's long--term level yet. The banzuke is littered with guys who spent a tournament or four flirting with M1/Komusubi slots, and made us hope they could put it together and stay there and threaten Ozeki. Most of these guys, however, get figured out, or lose a bit their youthful fire, and slide down to make up your respectable-upper-frequent-visitor-guys instead. Until he shows me some more dynamic wrestling, Takarafuji looks to me like one of those. Which is a long winded way of saying I was gratified when, after a nice tachi-ai here, Kaisei immediately extended inward for the belt, while Takarafuji failed to, and Kaisei had his man out in seconds, yori-kiri.

M9 Tamawashi (1-1) vs. M6 Homarefuji (0-2)
Tamawashi failed to keep Homarefuji in front of him. Four times Homarefuji evaded to the side to get out of his opponent's face thrusts, and the fourth time was able to down him hataki-komi. I don't like this kind of sumo, but Homarefuji will take what he can get.

M8 Tokushoryu (0-2) vs. M5 Sadanoumi (1-1)
A quick, silent tachi-ai where both guys got their bodies snuggly glued together while standing upright. Problem was, Tokushoryu chose to man-hug his opponent, arms up high around his buddy's shoulders: "I love you, man!!!" Sadanoumi, on the other hand, woman-held his opponent, slinging his arms down around his opponent's waist and pulling in tight: "I luvvvv you, baby," he growled. Yori-kiri win followed shortly for Sadanoumi.

M5 Amuuru (1-1) vs. M7 Kyokushuho (1-1)
Oh oh. Amuuru, you have to get inside, man. You looked so good the past few tournaments, fearless and tenacious, working in on your opponents and hanging on for dear life. This tentative face slap and retreat stuff this tournament is not your game and will get you nowhere at this level. Are you fighting scared? That's not what got you here. I know it's intimidating to be this close to the jo'i, but you're fighting Kyokushuho here, man--you can beat him the same way you beat all the other guys on the way up--he was one of them--and you might just beat some better wrestlers too. But not if you act like Takekaze out there. You both looked lame jumping around and trying to hold each other's faces like moony lovers, but the one who eventually jumped inside was the guy who won, yori-kiri: Kyokushuho, not you. Remember that, man. Get out there tomorrow and get on Kotoyuki's belt right away, no messing around.

M4 Ikioi (2-0) vs. M6 Kotoyuki (1-1)
I continue to not like Kotoyuki, a one trick pony who can beat you with power-blast stuff but has no other weapons, and can also be beaten if you stand up to that power shtick and show him your own power: he is best when his opponent runs a bit scared. Therefore, with Ikioi doing his best Homarefuji imitation and lurching all over the dohyo in evasion, this looked to be Kotoyuki's game. However, Ikioi is nimble and supple bodied, and at the end of the chase he did an excellent hop to the side away from the straw, simultaneously grabbing the doomed-by-momentum Kotoyuki to throw him down sukui-nage. Neither of these guys is going to get anywhere fighting like this.

M3 Toyonoshima (1-1) vs. M4 Endo (0-2)
My goodness. When Toyonoshima beats you with agility, you have a problem. Endo started this with everybody's favorite "bane of Toyonoshima": a neck-breaker stiff-arm… except that it rarely works. Sure enough, Tugboat (Toyonoshima) had no problem resisting, and then grabbed Endo with a wide stance, putting his stubby left arm inside to the belt while pulling Endo's other arm out as wide as possible with his right arm, like ballroom dancers on the turn. Then, fascinatingly, when Endo tried to turn this into a throw, Toyonoshima pulled out, spun around 360 degrees, and was back in position in time to easily slap down the too-slowly-advancing Endo, hataki-komi. Geez, kid… geez.

S Tochiohzan (1-1) vs. M3 Aminishiki (1-1)
Tochiohzan is a favorite of mine, and he kept it simple here: kept his arms in tight and worked his way forward, presenting no easy targets for arm pulls or other shenanigans from Shneaky, then reversed pressure at the tawara and pulled Aminishiki hard, sending him sprawling to a tsuki-otoshi loss. This isn't a good-looking way to win, but it was efficiently executed and effective.

S Myogiryu (1-1) vs. O Kisenosato (1-1)
This match is a good example of why I continue to think Kisenosato is a rung above Kotoshogiku and Goeido. Nobody can match Myogiryu for focus, intensity, and konjo (fighting spirit), and his tachi-ai was a fleisch-shmacking impact that had me convinced he was going for it 100% and would get a win. However, Kisenosato withstood, neutralized Goeido with a hand to the face, drove him backwards, and spun the smaller man down, tsuki-otoshi. The key here was how Kisenosato's heavy flesh pretty easily absorbed the pounding tachi-ai Myogiryu gave; most guys would have tipped over.

O Terunofuji (1-1) vs. M2 Okinoumi (0-2)
This took a long time. Terunofuji has shown over the last few tournaments that he is leagues better than Lake Placid (Okinoumi), and on a good day wins this simple chest-to-chest battle in about ten seconds. It took him 37 today, and that is long for sumo--I do think his knee is bothering him. Both wrestlers spent a lot of time working on getting an effective grip; Terunofuji got the first one, but he couldn't turn it into victory. In fact, it took so long Lake Placid executed a nifty maki-kae and got a grip of his own. Unluckily for Placid, Terunofuji is still pretty heavy, and when Okinoumi tried to turn his new grip into a throw, Fuji the Terrible used that momentum against him, using three of his limbs: kicking Okinoumi off balance with a leg life underneath, using one hand as a pivot, and using the other hand on Okinoumi's head to topple him slowly, slowly over, uwate-nage. This whole match was an exercise in swimming in molasses, and I don't think that happens if Terunofuji can use his pins. Still, he lives to struggle another day.

K Tochinoshin (0-2) vs. O Goeido (1-1)
Today Tochinoshin sent a fierce, growling bear into the ring. The bear grabbed Goeido about the body, stood him upright, devoured his guts, and pressured him over the straw yori-kiri in today's most dominant performance. That bear is always there; here's hoping Tochinoshin will let him out of his cage more often.

O Kotoshogiku (2-0) vs. K Yoshikaze (2-0)
Swift, easy win here for Kotoshogiku, who charged, grabbed, belly-humped, and immediately drove Yoshikaze out no problem, yori-kiri. Now, if expectations were to hold, you might expect me to call mukiryoku by Yoshikaze at this point. However, I see no reason to. Yoshikaze has had a demon living in him of late, but Bela Lugosi may have finally died today: when you aren't naturally great, streaks of brilliance can come and go like the moon in scudding clouds. Not long ago Yoshikaze was banging about in the lower Makuuchi, and it is perfectly plausible Kotoshogiku is still the better wrestler on most days: when not possessed by a poltergeist, this is the kind of guy he could regularly beat legitimately. That doesn't mean I take back the praise for Yoshikaze's remarkable giant-killing of late: it just means he ain't Hakuho, and while you may get lucky and flip "heads" twelve times in a row every now and then, sooner or later it comes up tails. Throughout his career, Yoshikaze has been wildly inconsistent, and I've been waiting for him to come back to earth. He did that here. Here's hoping his lightning-ghost will fluoresce a few more times this tournament, but today was a reality check.

Match of the Day: M1 Osunaarashi (1-1) vs. Y Hakuho (2-0)
Osunaarashi started this off badly, flirting with a henka by jumping up and ever so slightly to his left, but Hakuho wasn't bothered by this at all, and stayed on him and grabbed an outer left grip he would never give up. They spun around a few times, and when they settled down Hakuho got a right inside grip too that should have spelled curtains for Big Sandy (Osunaarashi). However, Big Sandy had the same grips. We've seen him mature dramatically over the last few tournaments, and we were about to see him demonstrate his strength against a second Yokozuna in a row. Hakuho mounted his force out charge, but Osunaarashi resisted with the best tippy-toe work at the straw I ever remember seeing; I don't know about your feet, but I can't imagine mine could resist the power of a Dai-Yokozuna with merely the toes--half upright against two inches of straw. There was a great moment where Osunaarashi was actually just on one foot, and gingerly but perfectly reached down and placed the toes of his dislodged foot back inside the tawara. He also had to move laterally during this; it was really two force out attempts at two different spots on the tawara, both of which Osunaarashi stood down with grit and will. Back to the center of the dohyo they went. The crowd, which had oohed and aahed in great appreciation at the tawara, now applauded enthusiastically. Part of me wishes the rest of the story was an Osunaarashi win, but it wasn't. Inevitably, from here Hakuho mounted a more successful force out charge, this time letting go with his right hand and moving it up so he could force Giant Sand to lose his balance through pressure on his upper torso: worked like a charm for the yori-kiri win. Great sumo from both parties, and makes me yearn to skip the Ozekis and get this kind of thing every day.

Y Kakuryu (1-1) vs. M1 Ichinojo (0-2)
Whew. Not sure I have much energy left to report on this one. That's okay; Ichinojo didn't have enough energy to win it either. Pretty simple affair here; chest to chest, Kakuryu had the right inner and left outer; Ichinojo had a right inner but no left grip. What is more tiring: having to hold up Ichinojo's weight, or being Ichinojo's weight? The answer today was the latter, as the Yokozuna got a fairly easy, if fairly time consuming yori-kiri win.

Y Harumafuji (1-1) vs. M2 Aoiyama (0-2)
And we end with an anti-climactic mess. As with his Yokozuna bout yesterday, Aoiyama failed to move forward or do much of anything here, and I thought, "Oh, Mr. Cooperation is going to help another Yokozuna right his ship a bit." Except Aoiyama ended up winning. Or wait a minute, he ended up losing…. Um, let me explain. Off the tachi-ai, Aoiyama was employing a lame and piddling, "Sorry, man, I don't mean to hurt you" version of his trademark hissing meat-slab arm-thrusts; he was barely making contact. Harumafuji, the most versatile of rikishi, decided to show Aoiyama what can be done with shoves, and started connecting hard to the middle chest; this soon had Aoiyama at the straw. However, as he so often is, Harumafuji was sloppy. For his force out, he grabbed Aoiyama by the front of the belt with his left hand--then dove headfirst off the dohyo to Aoiyama's left, aided by a successful push down attempt by Aoiyama from above and behind on his neck. It was very difficult to see who went out first; the gyoji picked Aoiyama for winner, and a long mono-ii resulted. To my surprise, rather than upholding the decision or at least going with a do-over, they gave it to Harumafuji suso-tori, saying Aoiyama's heel was out first. Didn't look that way to me. Now, maybe they saw something I didn't, but this just seems wasteful to me: run it again. What do you have to lose? If it is that hard to tell, it's close enough to do over. Not doing so gives rise to doubts about whether you consider who you WANT to have win, rather than who DID win--even if you didn't do that. Avoid the appearance of impropriety. Do it over. Anyway, despite the shaky win, I think this puts paid to Harumafuji's yusho chances--fighting like this, he will not get there, nor deserve to.

So how did our storylines do?

1. Hakuho comeback tournament? Looking very good after today's display. This may be our only true storyline.
2. Yoshikaze as late blooming phenom? Seriously dented. Demoted to sideshow. But who doesn't like sideshows?
3. Terunofuji: live? die? Repeat. Today was "live."

Mike recalibrates the orbit tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
I'm tempted to say I want everybody to be healthy and out there fighting. However, that has to go with the corollary "fighting straight up." With the log jam of obligations at the top these days, and the particular way the banzuke is constructed, on second thought, I'm not sure. Mulling a banzuke with the top four Mongolians deciding who will win and how to pitch enough wins to the Ozeki, with the Ozeki befuddled and humiliated but taking what their rank and history offers, and with the band of massively potent but blocked foreigners just below them (Tochinoshin, Aoiyama, Osunaarashi, Ichinojo) trying to figure out what cheap plastic toy they can afford with their meagre allowance, sanguinity fades. The top fifteen wrestlers are such a maze of politics and debt payments that their matches of late are a sludge-ooze of greased gears rather than much 'rasslin. So yeah, when I think about it, I think I would prefer the withdrawals: it's a better way to create room for real fighting than by having everybody dance the Macarena.

As we head into day two, things started off about as expected: the Ozeki all won on day one, their mower cords yanked, and so did the Yokoz...wait a minute...Kakuryu was driven from the dohyo like a tarred and feathered tax collected in revolutionary Boston. Is Yoshikaze still possessed? On day one that woke me from a somnambulant nod through the final half hour. Ahhhh, I do love sumo. Whether that was another jolt of evanescent electricity from the revenant that has taken over Yoshikaze's burning sinews, or just Kakuryu's way of saying "and this tournament will be between Harumafuji and Hakuho! Your turn, gents!" I don't know, but it set the stage for day two. Would Yoshikaze burn with pale fire again? Fire up the storyline.

And Terunofuji's very painful looking day one win also set a storyline for this basho: I was half surprised to see him today. He wasn't faking that limp, and if he makes eight wins he's getting a Curt Schilling Bloody Sock award. Forget about the yusho race--his drama should be about guts, grit and survival. Will it be?

So there's your Day 2 set-up; let's see if the day one story set-ups will be flashes in the pan or tone-setters for the basho:

1.  Yokozuna comeback battle: which Ha will be best? Kuho or Rumafuji?
2.  Yoshikaze: late blooming sanyaku threat?
3.  Terunofuji: live? die? Repeat.

Let's get to it; shouldn't take too long, as the guys were rippin' and zippin'.

J1 Kagamioh (1-0) vs. M15 Chiyootori (1-0)
Chiyootori made this look easy, getting in low, getting a left to the inside, then keeping his body in an inverted L shape, keeping his belt out of danger while uprighting Kagamioh with his arms and pushing him out, yori-kiri. Textbook.

M14 Daieisho (0-1) vs. M16 Asasekiryu (0-1)
Daieisho was reading a different chapter in the textbook, the one on shoves and thrusts, as he rhythmically battered Asasekiryu with rapid, precise, powerful blows to the upper chest and throat. Asasekiryu looks a little pekid, folks, and was easy tsuki-dashi fodder.

M15 Kitataiki (0-1) vs. M13 Toyohibiki (1-0)
Speaking of pekid, if Kitataiki can't do anything with two deep inside belt grips against Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki), he's all used up. Toyohibiki used superior bulk and strength to resist, charge, and dump, yori-taoshi.

M12 Takekaze (0-1) vs. M13 Chiyotairyu (0-1)
Easy victory: blast hard off the tachi-ai and knock your overwhelmed opponent off the dohyo in a second flat. Reading that, you're thinking Chiyotairyu won, but lo!, no, the winner was Takekaze, totally dominant, oshi-dashi. How did he do it? Chiyotairyu was not moving forward off the tachi-ai. So, you could say Takekaze won by henka: knowing Takekaze is prone to it, and knowing Takekaze is small and therefore vulnerable to his power attack and hence even more likely to henka, Chiyotairyu just stood up at the tachi-ai, looking to pull, and to his surprise was greeted by a meattruck. Good guesswork here by Takekaze, who had nothing to lose--Chiyotairyu was certainly not going to henka him.

M12 Takayasu (1-0) vs. M11 Mitakeumi (1-0)
Ummm, so, Mitakeumi looked pretty good here: fast, long armed, and a little wicked. He enjoyed this victory and I'm glad we weren't in Junior High gym class together. Takayasu didn't offer much at the tachi-ai with some low-armed scooping, and Mitakeumi took full advantage, juking a bit with his own arms and thereby making Takayasu miss, and then blasting Takayasu upright, keeping him away and bent back with a good throat grasp, and swiftly destroying him oshi-dashi.

M10 Sokokurai (1-0) vs. M11 Gagamaru (0-1)
I think this was a false start; Gagamaru never put his fist down, which allowed him a quick advantage. Without any force behind his slower tachi-ai, Sokokurai was vulnerable to Lord Gaga's girth and power, and Gags slid him right straight out, oshi-dashi.

M10 Shohozan (1-0) vs. M9 Sadanofuji (0-1)
Mulling Sadanofuji before the tournament (I do love a banzuke, folks), I saw two main possibilities: another bad tournament as he returns more to his level but is a little deflated, or, a good tournament as he learned from the pounding he took up top and uses those lessons to get back up there. So far looks like it is Scenario A, as he was tepid against Shohozan. He did get some forward momentum going after losing the tachi-ai very badly (mukiryoku?) and going back-a-wards at first, but he then wasted that with a premature pull attempt, and Shohozan punished him by pinching him hard on both teats (yes, really) and oshi-dashi'ing him out.

M8 Tokushoryu (0-1) vs. M9 Tamawashi (0-1)
Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) had a moment in the sun for a few tournaments there as he used his bulk to good effect and won some big matches in the jo'i, but I think he has a terrible sumo body. He is round and blubbery, and looks thick-packed and inflexible. Most of these guys are clearly sheathed in both fat AND muscle, but someone gave Special Sauce bad advice by letting him get so big: he is too easy manipulated with his own rotundity getting in the way, and I don't see enough coiled strength. He also just went in too high at the tachi-ai today--why on earth would you try to grab the other guy's shoulders from the outside?--and this was a simple oshi-dashi affair as Tamawashi was lower and more focused.

M8 Takarafuji (1-0) vs. M7 Kyokushuho (1-0)
So the theory is that Takarafuji, despite his terrible lethargy last basho, is pretty good, and if so he should run the table on his early opponents this time out. So far so good; nothing dramatic in this yori-kiri win, but faster and with much more aggression than we're used to from the man in Purplest Pink. I'm going to say the key to this match was penetration: more so even than his arms, Takarafuji got his whole upper body in tight and glued onto to his lesser opponent, giving Kyokushuho nowhere to go.

M6 Kotoyuki (1-0) vs. M7 Kaisei (1-0)
Kotoyuki's approach is too simple to win yet against a veteran big man like this. I've yet to see Kotoyuki do anything when winning but dominate through size and strength and then look smug about it. Well, Kaisei is even bigger, and quickly had mo' on his side. Kotoyuki realized it, and used a paw to the throat, but it was too late, as the entire Atlantic Ocean recalibrated its tides and poured its weight back down on him. Easy, dominant oshi-dashi win for the better big man in this match, Kaisei.

M6 Homarefuji (0-1) vs. M5 Sadanoumi (0-1)
Not much to break down here; Homarefuji flailed at Sadanoumi, but while Sadanoumi hasn't made much of his time in the jo'i, you had to know he had enough to put away a colorless guy ranked at his highest ever spot. Sadanoumi kept his thrusts more targeted and purposeful than the aimless roundhouses descending from Homarefuji, leading to a quick oshi-dashi win for the Sad Sea (Sadanoumi).

M4 Ikioi (1-0) vs. M5 Amuuru (1-0)
Amuuru has looked so good lately, a bit puzzling how little he had going on here. Both guys were looking pull, but Ikioi also remembered push, and as Amuuru was standing around with no effective offense, the oshi-dashi win came quickly for Oi! Oi! Oi!

M4 Endo (0-1) vs. M3 Aminishiki (0-1)
Man, did Aminishiki destroy his guy here. This was a relatively long one, but Aminishiki was never in danger--Endo's power-free attack never put him on the defensive. It was push, push, pull twice from Aminishiki, who knew Endo didn't have enough to respond to the pulls with a dominant force out. Then Aminishiki went for the belt, spun Endo around a bit to disorient him, and finished him off with an emphatic uwate-nage. For several basho now, Aminishiki has looked like toast, winning by what looks like mistakes. I feel like I've said this a hundred times before, but if Endo is going to be worth anything at a rank in this vicinity or above, he has to be able to beat Aminishiki soundly in something like this. He didn't come close. Ah, Endo. Will I ever tire of talking about you? Probably not until they do.

M2 Okinoumi (0-1) vs. S Myogiryu (0-1)
Very lame, passive tachi-ai by Okinoumi was matched by ultra wiggly, jiggly attack by Myogiryu, who got what he wanted: position underneath, arms in to push up with. He almost blew it by falling down at the end, but got the yori-kiri win a split second before.

O Terunofuji (1-0) vs. S Tochiohzan (0-1)
I would maintain that if not injured, Terunofuji would have dispatched Ichinojo much more quickly yesterday. His injury looks legit to me (I have two bad knees, and watching the way he gimps on it is painfully familiar). However, I would also maintain that today's loss had nothing to do with his knee. If he'd have been unable to dig in and lost that way, or crumpled too easily to one side, then yes. But he lost by playing to his opponent's strength: he gave up moro-zashi, two arms to the inside, right off the tachi-ai, and nobody likes moro-zashi as much or uses it to better effect than Tochiohzan. Once he'd given up moro-zashi, it was a simple matter for the Mountain of Terror (Terunofuji) to stand upright and say "you've got me, I give up, my knee just hurts too bad, man!" Ceptin' as, like I said, knees don't leave themselves open at the tachi-ai. I still think Terunofuji may not finish the tournament, but if he fights this easy, he could. And if this was a straight-up bout, he's got nothing and should withdraw right away.

M3 Toyonoshima (1-0) vs. O Goeido (1-0)
Toyonoshima didn't do much here aside from some pull attempts midway through, and I'll give Goeido credit for being tightly focused, moving forward aggressively without a lot of extraneous movement he often is prone to, and taking a convincing oshi-dashi win.

O Kotoshogiku (1-0) vs. K Tochinoshin (0-1)
I used to do a lot of theatre, and one of the things we learned is how do an effective choking scene. It is all up to the victim: the attacker actually pulls back, trying to NOT choke the victim, and the actor playing the victim pulls the hands of the "attacker" down onto his throat as much as he is comfortable with. It looks great because there is real physical effort and a real power struggle going on, and the audience does not pick up on the reversal of roles. Now, look at this match on replay if you have a chance: when Kotoshogiku is trying to belly-hump Tochinoshin over the bales, Tochinoshin is actually pulling on him. Tochinoshin holds Kotoshogiku's body firmly and wrenches him onto him several times, pulling Kotoshogiku off the ground. Tochinoshin is in the choke-victim role here, making the action, and Kotoshogiku's actions are essentially meaningless. After that, Tochinoshin is as compliant as can be in the gentle "throw" he receives for a tsuki-otoshi loss back in the center of the ring. Pure theatre. The crowd looked very happy.

K Yoshikaze (1-0) vs. O Kisenosato (1-0)
I'm not sure what is going on here. Yoshikaze stayed nicely to the inside and low at the beginning, but he had no sort of hold and is certainly outpowered in this match-up. Then, Kisenosato was able to twist around and get Yoshikaze close to the bales, which should have lowered the velvet on Yoshikaze. However, The Possessed (Yoshikaze) managed to beat Kisenosato with a pull, kata-sukashi. Not the brightest of wrestlers in the ring and a terrible reactor, it is possible Kisenosato wasn't prepared for the move, but he also just kind of stood there. Let me be honest: I don't care. In the case of Yoshikaze, I'm enjoying this crazy crap right now.

Y Kakuryu (0-1) vs. M2 Aoiyama (0-1)
Let's talk about yaocho a bit. A lot of readers assume that we have fixed notions of who is going to lose to who, and that we rigidly describe those patterns, real or imagined. The most popular accusation revolves around the idea that Sumotalk says foreign wrestlers do yaocho in every Japanese Ozeki bout (see Kotoshogiku/Tochinoshin above). I get the angst, but I want to caution that yes, that kind of fixing goes on, but that yaocho and mukiryoku are threaded throughout the entire banzuke on every given day, and can occur in unexpected pairings and unexpected ways. Look at this bout. There is no reason why Kakuryu would have to buy a win from Aoiyama. However, there may be reasons who Aoiyama would want to defer to Kakuryu, to make SURE the Yokozuna wins--even if he would have won anyway. Having a Yokozuna start out 0-2 is unseemly in this sport, and often forces withdrawals (that's the way Hakuho played it last time). My reading is that Yoshikaze legitimately beat Kakuryu yesterday, and I think that led to Aoiyama making sure the Yokozuna got a win today. Nobody has been more compliant over the last year than Aoiyama, and he brought zero fire to this match. He didn't at any point try to move forward, and when he was thrown at the end shitate-nage, similar to Tochinoshin, he rolled very nicely and gracefully. Just before being thrown, his arms--his calling card signature weapon--were just kind of dangling there. Mike and I will say this over and over again: we have to call it like we see it. And watching this, to my surprise what I saw was that Aoiyama didn't look like he was trying very hard. The sport is a web of complex obligations in the top ranks, not a fixed hierarchy of who must lose to whom.

Match of the Day: Y Harumafuji (1-0) vs. M1 Osunaarashi (0-1)
Whereas here I see a legitimate loss. Harumafuji is famously powerful in those wiry limbs, but I don't think he realized what he was in for when he let Osunaarashi get a hold of him. This kid is powerful too. Welcome to the pain of aging, and to jealousy of youth, Harumafuji. From the beginning, Osunaarashi's outside grip looked like a winner to me: I wondered why he didn't unleash a throw with it early on. However, his patience won him this match; if Kisenosato is very bad at reacting, no one will take advantage of mistake quicker and slicker than Harumafuji. But Giant Sand (Osunaarashi) didn't make that mistake. Rather than an ill advised too-quick throw (my overamped idea, not his), he gathered his wits and his potency and used that grip to pull Harumafuji powerfully towards him, yank him to the side like spinning the lazy Susan at the Chinese buffet, and force him out yori-kiri. This display of rippling strength against a Yokozuna was a thing of beauty.

M1 Ichinojo (0-1) vs. Y Hakuho (1-0)
Yesterday against Terunofuji and today against Hakuho the Iron Blob of Gravity Grease (Ichinojo) did a better job than in recent tournaments of making himself heavy at the straw: both opponents had troubling getting this massive slab of sumanity (not a typo) over the bales. However, you have to have more than that; Hakuho wasn't going to tire or make himself vulnerable by trying to force it, and Ichinojo didn't have anything going on except heavy resistance, and it only lasted a moment. Hakuho paused, tried again, and got the win easily, yori-kiri. He looked pissed off, too: there is something about The Mongolith's sluggish passivity that insults him. I'm getting tired of it too--I was ready to see Ichinojo as in instant Ozeki candidate upon his electric advent, but now I'm thinking Kotonowaka and a long, kind of boring career in the Maegashira jo'i for Ichinojo.

Let's revisit those storylines from the intro:

1. Which Ha will be best? Advantage Hakuho.
2. Yoshikaze late bloomer? it's alive...It's Alive...IT'S ALIVE!!!
3. Terunofuji: live? die? Repeat? Right now we're on "die."

I'll be here to extend the narrative tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I really look forward and sometimes depend on the start of the day 1 broadcast in order to get a read on how NHK and the Sumo Association are presenting the tournament to the Japanese fans, but whoever is making the call here in the states when it comes to the live broadcast apparently decided that it was more important that we watch "Weekend Farming Life" clear through to the end, which means I didn't pick up the action until the Gagamaru - Shohozan bout. Not only did that make it so I missed the introduction, but I also missed the first five bouts including the Takekaze - Mitakeumi affair, and I simply don't have time today to chase down these bouts on the innernet, so let's start the day with the much anticipated matchup between Gagamaru and the Fukuoka native, Shohozan.

Shohozan actually looked to get the left arm to the inside from the tachi-ai while it was Gagamaru who employed the tsuppari in sort of a role reversal moment. Gagamaru's tsuppari were good enough to force Shohozan to evade, and so he moved right sneaking back to the belt securing moro-zashi. Gagamaru was actually able to maki-kae out of it with the left arm, but Shohozan just played the momentum and spun Gagamaru down with a right hand belt grip. Gagamaru went down rather easily, and when you consider the dividends from having the Fukuoka rikishi win, it makes more sense.

Sokokurai and Sadanofuji hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai where Sokokurai opted to keep his can as far away from a Sadanofuji right outer as possible. With Sokokurai hunkered down and leaning back, the two danced around the ring for half a minute before the Mongolian was able to finagle a right outer grip and force Sadanofuji back to the edge, upright, and eventually across.

Takarafuji got the left arm to the inside against Tamawashi, who used tsuppari to shove Takarafuji out of the grip, but he couldn't do more with it than that, and so Takarafuji turned the tables timing a pull of Tamawashi's extended right arm turning the Mongolian to the side just enough to where Takarafuji was able to assume the left inside position for reals as we say in Utah and emphatically drive The Mawashi across the straw. Good stuff here as Takarafuji is allowed to flex his braun.

Tokushoryu and Kyokushuho clashed hard at the tachi-ai in the migi-yotsu stance, but it was Kyokushuho who came outta the fray with the left outer grip while he denied Tokushoryu the same grip on the other side, and it was textbook sumo from there as Kyokushuho forced Tokushoryu back and across.

Kaisei was able to withstand a brief neck shove by Homarefuji at the tachi-ai and just plow forward using his size and presence to thrust Homarefuji back towards the straw and out. Kaisei covered so much ground here that he gave Homarefuji no room to escape as the Brasilian scored the nice oshi-dashi win.

Kotoyuki took charge from the tachi-ai against Sadanoumi driving him back near the edge where Sadanoumi countered with a left kote-nage throw, but Sadanoumi wasn't planted well enough to the dohyo, and so Kotoyuki simply squared back up and continued to apply the tsuppari pressure. Sadanoumi evaded left once again, but Kotoyuki was right there barreling down on his opponent this time hooking his left arm up and under Sadanoumi's right arm sending him down to the dohyo in a curious fall. If I woulda known better, I'd say that Sadanoumi took a dive in the end, but Kotoyuki did kick his ass pretty good with the tsuppari attack.

Amuuru and Endoh hooked up in the hidari-yotsu affair from the tachi-ai where Amuuru grabbed the stifling right outer grip near the back of Endoh's belt while Endoh had nothing on his own right side. And not only was Endoh far away from the outer grip, but Amuuru's belt was coming unraveled rendering Endoh's left inside grip useless. At this point, Amuuru had the clear path to a powerful belt throw, but he just stood there for a few seconds and then brought his left arm near the front of Endoh's belt for no reason letting Endoh finally grab a right outer of this own. It was a curious move for sure, and I thought at this point that the fix was surely on, but this bout would take a few more twists and turns. After a pretty good display of gappuri sumo in the center of the ring from both parties, Amuuru abandoned his outer grip allowing Endoh to burrow in tight with both hand at the front of Amuuru's belt, but as he attempted to shove the Russian across the ring and out, Amuuru moved to his right at the end sending Endoh down to the clay. Amuuru really didn't employ a tangible move that would have sent Endoh down, but both guys were surely gassed at this point, and Endoh just couldn't finish his opponent off. I can't say whether or not Amuuru was intentionally mukiryoku here, but if he wasn't, his failure to attack with the early right outer grip was a huge mistake.

Aminishiki grabbed the early left frontal belt grip against Ikioi, but he failed to do anything with it while Ikioi countered with a right kote-nage throw and left inside that sent Aminishiki across the dohyo and into a pull stance. With Aminishiki retreating towards the edge, Ikioi easily stayed snug shoving Sheanky clear off the dohyo with some oomph.

In the sanyaku, Sekiwake Tochiohzan laid a royal egg against Toyonoshima. After striking well with a right kachi-age that knocked Toyonoshima back a step, the Sekiwake committed the cardinal sin in sumo, which is to align your feet, and so Toyonoshima was able to scoot right and offer a mediocre pull at the back of Tochiohzan's neck with the left hand that sent the Sekiwake belly flopping to the dirt. Tochiohzan should crush Toyonoshima these days, but he was done in by sloppy footwork. After the bout, Mainoumi chimed in from the mukou-joumen chair and said that he talked to Tochiohzan prior to the tournament and asked him about his condition to which the Sekiwake simply replied, "Katai desu," or I feel stiff. It showed today.

In the Ozeki ranks, Goeido welcomed softie Okinoumi who got his left to the inside briefly as Goeido looked to latch onto the front of Okinoumi's belt with his left hand, but before the two could really settle into hidari-yotsu, Okinoumi swept his left arm to the outside and went for a weak maki-kae with the right. As weak as it was, it scared Goeido into abandoning his left frontal belt grip altogether giving Okinoumi the right inside at the belt, but he quickly withdrew that as soon as he got it for no logical reason and went for a quick pull with the right as he retreated allowing Goeido to just bulldoze him back from there. Decide for yourself if Okinoumi was mukiryoku, but the real problem with this bout was an Ozeki who latched onto the front of his opponent's belt from the tachi-ai and applied zero pressure with it.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku offered a lame slap with the left hand against Aoiyama, who just complied today keeping both arms to the outside at the tachi-ai giving the Geeku the easy moro-zashi. Applying no defensive pressure, Aoiyama allowed himself to be driven upright and back in just a few seconds. As the Bulgarian neared the edge, he instinctively got the right arm to the inside with a maki-kae setting up the perfect tsuki-otoshi move at the edge...that never came. While I was biting my tongue in the previous bout, I can definitively say that this one was mukiryoku on the part of the Bulgar, but'cha gotta give the hometown favorite the shonichi win. If you look at the pic I took with my cell phone at right, you can see Kotoshogiku leaning forward, feet aligned, no effort to pin Aoiyama in. The natural move for Aoiyama at this point is to move quickly left pulling his right arm out of harm's way while thrusting his left hand into the Geeku's right side. It's so easy peasy Japaneasy of a move that when he doesn't even try it, you know his intent was to lose.

As great as Osunaarashi has looked the last few basho, he just dries up and wilts against the Japanese Ozeki for reasons I've explained ad nausea. Osunaarashi did come with the moro-te-zuki from the tachi-ai, but he was just going through the motions allowing Kisenosato to square up with the left inside, and with the two in hidari-yotsu, Osunaarashi just stayed upright and let the Kid force him back and across. I mean, don't you have to put up a little bit more effort than that? Just like the Aoiyama bout, Osunaarashi was primed for the counter tsuki-otoshi move at the edge, but he didn't even attempt it ensuring the victory for the Ozeki. I took a photo with my cell phone of the ending to this bout as well because both cases show the foreigners in prime position to at least attempt a counter move, but both refrained and just willingly took that last step back and across.

In the Ozeki-proper rank, Terunofuji's knee injury would be tested straightway against the slug of all slugs, Ichinojo, as the two hooked up in the immediate migi-yotsu position that saw Ichinojo grab the early left outer grip. With the upper hand, Ichinojo tested the quick force-out waters, but was thrown off balance just enough by a quick right inside scoop throw from the Ozeki. The counter move halted Ichinojo's momentum, and Terunofuji looked to take advantage with a powerful right belt throw that let the Ozeki burrow in deeper and grab the left outer grip. From here, Fuji the Terrible's superior sumo skills took over as he wrenched his hips cutting off Ichinojo's outer and assuming a stance slightly to the side of his opponent, which left Ichinojo nothing but a weak right inside to counter. At this point, Ichinojo already looked gassed, so Terunofuji applied the pressure for a few more seconds before making his force-out charge. It took over a minute, but Terunofuji simply dissected his opponent today. Knee injury?? Looked pretty good to me.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Harumafuji looked to receive a stiff test against Sekiwake Myogiryu getting his right arm to the inside from the tachi-ai while Myogiryu complied on the other side. Before the two could really settle into a belt contest, however, Myogiryu darted to his left and attempted a quick pull, but the move only created separation and gave the Yokozuna the better position. From this point, the two nervously hooked up in the grapplin' position expecting a quick pull from the other, but when it didn't come, Harumafuji ducked his way inside grabbing the solid left inner position that he used to knock Myogiryu straight upright and back across the straw with little argument. Myogiryu looked unsure of himself while Harumafuji never panicked.

Yokozuna Hakuho and Komusubi Tochinoshin hooked up in the immediate gappuri migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but the Yokozuna's left outer was on one fold of the belt, so he couldn't dig in on that side. Sensing the weaker outer from the Yokozuna, Tochinoshin mounted a force-out charge, but Hakuho meant bidness today digging in near the edge and then forcing the Georgian back towards the center of the ring. As he did, the Yokozuna pushed into Tochinoshin's lower left gut brilliantly with the right hand while he shifted his right hip back breaking off Tochinoshin's outer grip in as slick of a move as you'll ever see on the dohyo. Having cut off Tochinoshin's outer grip just like that, it was simply a matter of digging in, keeping the Komusubi away from the outer grip, and then setting him up for the spectacular outer belt throw. I cannot stress enough how precise Hakuho's sumo was today, and his cutting off Tochinoshin's outer grip was one of the best moves I've seen on the dohyo in a long time. To the trained eye, you watch stuff like this from Hakuho, Terunofuji, and the other two Yokozuna, and it just puts the rest of the field to shame.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Kakuryu looked to "pay back" Komusubi Yoshikaze after Cafe upset the Yokozuna in September. During the break between the zenhan and kouhan bouts, Shirasaki Announcer and Kitanofuji were previewing the matchup, and we learned that Yoshikaze actually has a two bout winning streak against Kakuryu. From the tachi-ai, Kakuryu offered a right hand to Yoshikaze's face, but he wasn't driving with the legs, and so Yoshikaze was able to apply pressure by moving forward. Kakuryu's response was to pull both arms to the outside and then go for a meager pull, but Yoshikaze had the momentum and easily bodied Kakuryu back to the edge before grabbing at the back of the Yokozuna's left leg in watashi-komi fashion scoring the two-second win. I guess it's the perfect way to end the day...an upstart Japanese rikishi defeating the highest-ranked Yokozuna. My opinion on the bout is this: if Kakuryu had wanted to win the bout, he would have employed de-ashi and the sumo smarts to do it. It wasn't as if Yoshikaze did anything at the tachi-ai to knock the Yokozuna off of his game, but just see in this bout what you like and don't let me ruin the fun.

Harvye's up tomorrow.




















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