Hon-basho Daily Comments

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
The Nagoya Basho is over, Yokozuna Extrashoveyou is the winner, and among all the injuries, the biggest had to be to the Sumo Association's reputation among objective fans who love the sport of sumo, and not the idea of sumo as a Japanese sport. Make whatever rules you want, guys, but stick to them. Kotomitsuki got beat by Kakizoe at a tachi-ai that should have been a matta. Kotooshu lost but was given the win, no discussion. Miyabiyama beat Hakuho, but no one in the Sumo kyokai noticed. Asa could have had two torinaoshi, should have had at least one, got squat. And he still won the tourney.

It has been debated by the Founding Fathers of SumoTalk, and Simon the Brave, and they all wrote eloquently and with fierce pride, and I can do no better. Enough. Besides, for those of us with slower Japanese skills, who often watch the English language broadcast, we can rejoice in not having to hear the worlds most annoying voice for two months, that being David Shapiro. I would rather watch Ali McGraw and Harrison Ford in a documentary about flies procreating than listen to that pedantic gobshite another basho, but the problem is that his partner is sometimes someone I DO want to hear (although I'd shed no tears if I learned Dave Wiggins got run over by a syrup truck, driven by a grandmother, of course).

Anyway, on Day 15, Hakurozan M14 kept a family tradition going and henka'd the oldest man in sumo for his 8th win. Congratulations, brilliantly done, and sleep well tonight, femme.

As for Kotonowaka, what is with all the bells tolling? His last 6 basho: M9 10-5; M5 9-6; M2 4-11; M9 8-7; M8 8-7; M7 4-11. He may end up oyakata soon, but I wouldn't bet on it. I say he lasts until, at least, Nagoya next year. And that is a good thing for sumo. The man has class and style and dignity, and saved the sumo association from having a Yokozuna with a broken neck last year by putting his hand down to avoid crushing Asashoryu's head, and was given the loss for his troubles. Love that sumo kyokai, they really know their stuff!

Aminishiki M9 took down Ishide M17 easily in seconds. Aminishiki looked great in week two, and I see him shoving his way into sanyaku by January, which is where a master tactician like him belongs. He has put the injuries behind and the weight on, so watch out! Ishide didn't hurt himself any this basho, getting his first kachi-koshi in just his second Makuuchi tourney.

Toyozakura the M16, gunning for Kotoshogiku M9, read the forward shift of the future Komusubi's weight, and stepped aside and let the Geeku fall. Toyo finishes 9-6, and Koto 8-7. Banzuke elevator going up for both!

Kisenosato, the 19 year-old M15, fell to a tough makekoshi loss against Iwakiyama. Both rikishi got the belt and would not let go, but Kise inexplicably crumpled as he was backing Iwaki to the bales, although Iwaki did give a superb twist at just the right moment. The announcers were spooging all over Iwonkey Kong, and saying he should be commended for his comeback from mid-basho injury and the sumo he did this fortnight, but let's not forget that he was many knowledgeable people's pick as the next sure fire ozeki only three or four basho ago. A 9-3-3 at M8 keeps me interested, and I am hopeful he will follow it up with some bad man sumo in September.

Kokkai M6 did his best Chiyotaikai imitation and used his flashing hands and forearms to bully out Takamisakari M11, who it should be said must have been thinking he needed to do macho sumo to get his possible prize, because he had several opportunities to step aside and let Kokkai (9-6) lurch past like Boris Karloff but he didn't. Kokkai will need more than shoving if he is ever to join Kotooshu up in sanyaku on a regular basis. As for Takamisakari (10-5), he should give us a nice 9-6 in September at M5. Ohmygod, it just kills me when he scratches his butt!

World Wide Web wonder boy Futenoh M3 (the announcers are just stupefied that this young man has such a complex and esoteric thing as his, oooh, own Web log!) got a walkover from the unfortunately injured Tasmanian devil Kaiho (see Mike's Day 14 comments for the grislies on that injury). Futenoh, you were a cool breeze this basho, and please, please, please don't pull a Hokutoriki and fall off the map starting from next basho.

A slight digression here. I feel that there are four rikishi currently in sumo who each best typify a certain aspect of the sport. They are certainly not the only rikishi who exhibit these traits, but they are the most exemplary. Tosanoumi-The Stoic. This guy gets henka'd more often than a Spanish bull, pulled at on his hair by nearly every man he fights, and stays cool and aloof through it all. He loses a lot, but man is he sumocool. Dejima-What Pain? Say what you want about Dejima's sumo, but he has weathered a load of physical ailments, often looking more like some character from a David Cronenburg film than a top rikishi, and has just keeps at it with tenacity and single-minded purpose. He is a warhorse. Kaizoe-Let's Get Ready To Rumble! Kakizoe typifies the intense little rikishi who doesn't muck around at tachi-ai (notice he is always ready with both paws down, licking his chops to get to his opponents ribcage--no mattas for this guy) and who hits you like the flu. And of course, Asashoryu-The Cock of the Walk, Best In Show, Once In A Generation. 

So, did Dejima M2 quit today? No, he lost for a makekoshi (and in case the NHK English announcer who said it is reading this, you don't "SECURE a makekoshi", Dr. Zeus) but he didn't take it lying down. Well, actually he DID take it lying down, because Tamanoshima landed on him. But my point is that Dejima did not step back and out even when he must have known he was about to lose. No, he said, Tama, baby, you're going to have to crush me out. You wanna do the man dance? Let's go, first dance is yours. So what if Tama put him on his back like a three dollar whore, the Dejyptian never quit! Tama finished at 5-10.

Kakizoe M1 animaled out HokutorikiM5 in seconds, then gently held his mawashi so he wouldn't fall to the ground. He finished the basho going 6-2 to reach 7-8. This guy may be tiny, but apart from Asashoryu, for the true fan of sumo no one is more interesting to watch. If you don't love Kakizoe you are a moron who should switch to watching Internet poker.

Kyokutenho M5 and Komusubi Miyabiyama went at it with kachikoshi on the line for both. Miyabi chose the wrong game plan, namely getting close to Kyoku and letting him grab his belt, and the Mongoli. . .I mean, Japanese nage-meister did just that, throwing the heaviest man in makuuchi with a sweet uwatenage worthy of the masters. Kyokutenho may be past his prime, but like Takanonami in his waning years, he can on occasion summon up some outstanding sumo.

September's East Sekiwake Kotooshu Komusubi and Wakanosato M2 had a quick, odd, sloppy and disappointing bout. Koto slipped to the clay, Waka secured his west sekiwake ranking for September, and the heavy dread settled on the audience as they realized Asashoryu was now fully certain to eat Tochiazuma alive and there would be no playoff.

But first, sekiwake Kotomitsuki may have saved himself from maegashira relegation with an inspired drubbing of Ozeki Kaio. It was all Koto as he quickly bent down and grabbed Kaio's belt, then backed the big 33 year-old up until he was out and happy to have the kadoban label excised from his rank. (By the way, I am in full agreement with the person who wrote it on Sumotalk earlier: Get rid of the Nietzsche kadoban, it scares me like a bad acid trip. Four in a career, or one every two years, something like that.) With his late but impressive run to 7-8, Kotomitsuki might get lucky, and the sumo elders might move Futenoh up to M1 only, leaving Kotomitsuki and Hakuho as the Komusubi in September. But why must this modern Tantalus play with us so? Just win baby, and get up to ozeki where you belong.

Well, that's it. Chiyotaikadoban will fall to sekiwake after September, and may try to regain it in November, but as I said last basho, he will be out by January. I never liked Chiyotaikai's sumo style or his personal style, but he was a pretty good ozeki for a long while, you have to give him that.

Oh, yeah, almost forgot, Asashoryu had NO TROUBLE with Tochiazuma, and any analysis you read that states otherwise is plumb wrong. As the late Johnny Cochran might have said, The bout was never in doubt! Tochi stayed bent over, swiping his paw at Asa for a few moments to fend off a mawashi grip, then Asa had enough and pushed him up and moved in, grabbed the belt and lifted him out. Yusho number 13, fifth in a row and an emphatic Genghis CAN! to the sumo kyokai.

See you in Tokyo and if I can somehow get Mike drunk maybe he'll acquiesce to letting me write on more than one day. Be well.

Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Though the drama coming into the final weekend of Nagoya is as high as it's been since May 2004, today's sumo lacked any real excitement. With four of the five rikishi still in the yusho hunt facing each other, the potential was there for a wild and crazy day today, but in the end, the rikishi favored to win did win, and the fifth rikishi in the hunt took himself out of the chase with a costly loss.

I'll begin with the Kotooshu - Takamisakari matchup as a win by the Komusubi would put that much more pressure on the Yokozuna in the final bout. Kotooshu, not known for a powerful tachi-ai, actually slipped out of the gate failing to hit Sakari hard and allowing the Robocop to slip to his left and grab Kotooshu's right arm with both hands. Kotooshu looked in deep trouble for a split second, but before Takamisakari could do anything, Kotooshu spun around his opponent and grabbed one of the quickest left outer grips I've ever seen. Kotooshu used his newfound momentum to easily dump Sakari to the dirt via uwate-nage. After a horrific tachi-ai, Kotooshu pulled off a very athletic move in maybe two seconds to illustrate just how inflated Takamisakari's yusho run has been. There's no comparison between these two rikishi at this point. Kotooshu moves to 12-2 with the win and puts the pressure on the Yokozuna. M11 Takamisakari falls to 10-4 and is mathematically eliminated from the yusho race.

With Kotooshu holding serve, the Asashoryu - Kaio matchup carried that much more drama. After a slow start this basho, Kaio has looked to have gained his old form back in the second week in Nagoya. Kaio actually won the tachi-ai knocking the Yokozuna back a step. Asashoryu went for a meek pull down as Kaio continued his charge, but I think it's safe to say that Kaio has lost a step. He couldn't continue the momentum gained from the tachi-ai and take advantage of Asashoryu's retreat. With some space between the two rikishi, Asashoryu used his speed to move to the right of the Ozeki and grab a quick uwate grip. He kept on the move spinning Kaio around once and then driving him back to the tawara. Just to make sure of the victory, Asashoryu delivered a sharp nodowa (paw to the throat) with his left hand as Kaio was driven across the tawara. I think the unnecessary shove to the throat against an opponent Asashoryu obviously respects was a sign of the Yokozuna's intensity. With the win, Asashoryu keeps pace with Kotooshu at 12-2 setting up a likely playoff bout with the Bulgarian on senshuraku.

Coming into the day, M2 Wakanosato was one behind the two leaders, so if he could topple M3 Futenoh, he could mathematically keep himself in the yusho hunt going into senshuraku. Wakanosato seemed to gain the slight advantage from the tachi-ai knocking Futenoh upright and getting his left hand deep on the inside of his opponent. Normally we would see a sukuinage throw at this point from Wakanosato, but Futenoh's right arm was raised straight up in the air making that impossible. Futenoh enjoyed a left inside grip of his own, which was effective enough to keep Wakanosato from forcing him out. Wakanosato realized the stalemate and went for the makikae (quick attempt to switch outer grip to inner grip) with his right hand, and although a successful makikae gives a rikishi an almost insurmountable morozashi grip, high risk is involved. Wakanosato got burned with the move today as Futenoh reacted with perfection knocking Wakanosato back and out before he could execute the move. Wakanosato falls to 10-4 with the loss and is out of the yusho hunt. Futenoh improves to 9-5, but is guaranteed a win tomorrow as his opponent, Kaiho, will undoubtedly withdraw after accidentally putting his right foot on backwards today, but more on that in a bit.

Though eliminated from the yusho hunt, both Ozeki Tochiazuma and M6 Kokkai looked to provide a compelling day 14 matchup. Kokkai delivered an excellent tachi-ai yet again but seemed a bit apprehensive to continue his forward charge. The Georgian made the wrong decision and next went for an offensive pull down of his opponent. The move failed, and while it didn't leave Kokkai in horrible position, his momentum was completely halted. As both rikishi hooked back up in the center of the ring, Kokkai produced his awkward two-handed tsuppari attack, but without the aid of the tachi-ai, the thrusts had little effect. Tochiazuma warded off all blows and eventually worked his way inside causing Kokkai (8-6) to go for the desperation pull-down this time. This one failed too giving Tochiazuma (9-5) the easy push out win. This wasn't a horrible bout, but it also didn't provide much chikara-zumo.

In the Sekiwake ranks, Kotomitsuki delivered a powerful tachi-ai driving M5 Kyokutenho back to the tawara. Backed up, Kyokutenho didn't put forth much effort to evade his opponent's second attack, so Mitsuki waltzed forward, grabbed the quick left outer grip, and dumped Tenho to the clay. Kotomitsuki (6-8) has shown some fire in his gut the last few days, but it's too little too late. Kyokutenho can redeem himself tomorrow with a win as he now stands at 7-7.

In the Komusubi ranks, Miyabiyama was manhandled today by none other than M5 Hokutoriki. Hokutoriki went with the left nodowa from the tachi that drove Miyabiyama straight back to the tawara. As Miyabi resisted at the straw, Hokutoriki (6-8) reversed his direction and pulled the Komusubi down to the clay by the throat. Like Kyokutenho, Miyabiyama 97-7) can still pull off a kachi-koshi tomorrow despite looking awful today.

In the Maegashira ranks M12 Tokitenku handled the slumping M4 Tosanoumi (4-10) by neutralizing his tachi-ai and then grabbing a mae-mawashi grip, which he used to easily force the former Sekiwake back and out with. That's three straight kachi-koshi performances from Tokitenku (8-6) if you're counting. M14 Tamaasuka (9-5) foreshadowed a changing of the guard in the division by attacking M7 Kotonowaka straight on from the tachi-ai, securing the morozashi grip, and forcing the veteran back and out with ease. I'll give Kotonowaka (4-10) one more basho in the division, but I'm pretty sure he'll be gone by the end of the year.

Another rikishi I can almost guarantee being out of the division by the end of the year is M10 Kaiho. But in Kaiho's case, it will be due to perhaps the ugliest injury on the dohyo I have ever witnessed. Today against M8 Iwakiyama, Kaiho dictated the pace of the bout from the tachi-ai gaining the morozashi grip and forcing Iwakiyama this way and that. As Kaiho went for the kill, he braced his right foot against the tawara, but as he did this, Iwakiyama magically slipped the hold on his belt and turned the tables evading to his left and throwing his weight against Kaiho forcing the much small rikishi back and down to the dirt. So while Kaiho turned 180 degrees to where he now faced the inside of the ring, the big toe of his right foot was stuck in the tawara causing that appendage to stubbornly stay locked in position so that it remained pointing towards the outside of the ring. It was like one of those horror stories where you hear of a doctor amputating the wrong leg only in this case, he took Kaiho's severed foot and sewed it back on to his leg backwards. Kaiho smartly didn't bother putting any weight on the foot and waited to be assisted off the dohyo. As I watched some of the digest shows on tv afterwards that replayed the bouts, the announcers said there was some concern whether or not Kaiho would be able to fight tomorrow. You think? I'm concerned that Kaiho may not ever fight again. I'll be shocked if he steps back onto the dohyo before the year is out. Both rikishi stand at 8-6.

M9 Kotoshogiku picked up a nice kachi-koshi today handcuffing M8 Ama at the tachi-ai and giving the Mongolian no choice but to retreat and hope for the defensive pull-down. The move failed resulting in Ama's first make-koshi in the division in his fourth basho. M9 Aminishiki picked up his kachi-koshi today when M15 Kisenosato attacked too high at the tachi-ai allowing Aminishiki the easy right uwate, which he used to bulldoze the youngster back and out. Kisenosato falls to 7-7, but should stay in the division regardless of what happens tomorrow.

And finally, M16 Toyozakura secured his kachi-koshi in not so fine fashion with a tachi-ai henka to his left allowing the cheap win over M13 Katayama (4-10). What, Katayama's 4-9 record coming in scared you? How about showing some nads on the dohyo next time?

So tomorrow quite simply sets up like this: Yokozuna Asashoryu and Komusubi Kotooshu stand alone at the top with 12-2 records. Asashoryu faces Tochiazuma and should win that bout with little resistance while Kotooshu gets a deflated Wakanosato. I fully expect a playoff for the yusho, and while Kotooshu and a few of the other rikishi's runs have added some good drama to the basho, it's all for not as Asashoryu dominates the Bulgarian for his fifth straight yusho. In his first basho as a Komusubi, Kotooshu looked a little nervous and overwhelmed. I dare say that the spotlight of a yusho kettei-sen with Asashoryu will bring more of the same.

Clancy Kelly will wrap things up for us tomorrow, and we should post a few post-basho reports in the coming week. Stay tuned and thanks as always.

Day 13 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
The Nagoya Basho has been controversial and we have even had a nice debate on Sumotalk about some of the judging decisions.  We have certainly had some interesting emails from fans!  However, in my opinion, the worst decision we have seen by far was the Takamisakari-Futenoh bout yesterday.  How in the hell they decided to give the bout to Circus is beyond me.  They seem to be picking the winners randomly.  It's a total joke.  It is not the possible conspiracies that bother me those exist or they don't but the clear lack of consistency in how they decide.  If ever there was a candidate for torinaoshi, it was the Takamisakari-Futenoh bout.  The Asashoryu-Kokkai decision was understandable because Kokkai did in fact win it (oh, yes he did!) and the Kotooshu-Kyokushuzan blown call was also understandable because they don't use the video judge if a mono-ii is not called for (which is ludicrous in itself the video judge should (in my opinion) be able to call for a mono-ii like any other judge) in that bout, clearly the ringside judges were not paying attention, probably focused on their Gameboys.

Yokozuna Asashoryu looked very mean pre-bout against Sekiwake Kotomitsuki, who looked equally focused.  If only that were true.  It turned out to be one of the easiest wins of the basho for the Yokozuna as he unleashed a slap to Kotomitsuki's face that was enough to stun him, and it was then a simple case of grabbing the arm and helping him along the way.  Asashoryu really looked pissed off today!  Some idiots in the crowd probably made it worse by chucking cushions at him as he walked back along the hanamichi.  I would like to see those tossers thrown out on their ears, personally, but unfortunately, I don't have any power!  When I am king, you will be first against the wall, my friends!  Asashoryu remains ominously poised at 11-2 with a big bout coming up tomorrow.  Kotomitsuki has fought like a total spanner this basho and deserves to have a make-koshi on the thirteenth day.  Unlucky for some!

Ozeki Kaio has remained quietly in the background with some noncommittal sumo this basho but he appears to be coming into his own in timely fashion.  He made a monkey of M6 Kokkai by refusing to bounce off the Georgian's tachiai (which is vastly improved this basho, is it not?).  He then quickly got migi-uwate and pulled off one of those lovely throws he does.  Excellent sumo from the Ozeki and I'd say he is fighting well enough to defeat Asashoryu tomorrow.  We shall see.  Kaio is definitely still in with a shout at 10-3.  Kokkai is fading a little at 8-5.  It will be interesting if they give him the Shukun-sho (along with Kotooshu, who is going to win at least two prizes).  They might not if he only finishes with eight wins and another rikishi already has the prize.  Then again, upsetting Asashoryu is no mean feat and some would consider him unlucky not to get it.

Ozeki Tochiazuma deserves credit for fighting on with an injured leg but M2 Wakanosato was clearly not in the mood to be charitable as he wrapped himself around the Ozeki's body after an effective hari-te at the tachiai.  There was a bit of a battle at the edge but Wakanosato was on a mission to stay in the yusho hunt, and he produced some of the best sumo I have seen from him.  Wakanosato is now at 10-3.  Tochiazuma will be happy to have got that kachi-koshi out of the way the other day at 8-5.

Komusubi Kotooshu has shown some nice nage and other waza this basho.  As Asashoryu's main contender for the yusho, today's bout against M5 Hokutoriki (5-8) was a must-win affair.  The Yokozuna will not have been happy to see Kotooshu take this one impressively with an effective tachiai and some good balance to avoid Hokutoriki's blatant pull-down tactics.  As soon as he got a grip of Hokutoriki's body, he threw him down with contemptuous ease.  Kotooshu (11-2) is now in with a real chance of taking the yusho with very winnable bouts against Takamisakari and Wakanosato left to complete.  He will, of course, avoid fighting Kotomitsuki, being in the same heya.  For the first time, I am starting to think it is a possibility.  Asashoryu knows he cannot afford to drop anything at all over the weekend.  It's a make-koshi for Hokutoriki.

Komusubi Miyabiyama has looked very average this basho and let's not forget that two of his wins have been fusensho (win by default).  Against M4 Tamanoshima, what would El Blubbo pull out of the bag?  A slow tachiai, a pull to the head, and then some tsuppari when Tamanoshima survived the tactic.  It was enough to take the bout, but it was pretty ugly to watch.  Miyabiyama is now 7-6 and one win away from joining Kotooshu at Sekiwake next basho.  Tamanoshima is now 4-9.

M2 Dejima needed to snap a disastrous four-day losing streak but he knew it would not be easy against M9 Kotoshogiku.  Indeed, Kotoshogiku did a fine job of holding up Dejima's charge but the former Ozeki had got morozashi and was not going to let go.  Kotoshogiku could do little but enjoy the ride.  Dejima staves off perdition at 6-7.  Kotoshogiku is still waiting for the pearly gates to open at 7-6.

Returnee M8 Iwakiyama was in a kachi-koshi battle with M3 Futenoh coming into today.  The bout began with a long stalemate straight from tachiai.  Futenoh then showed surprising power to force the huge Iwakiyama over the tawara.  It's a richly-deserved kachi-koshi for the 24-year-old.  I consider him my pet bunny rabbit.  Iwakiyama will have to wait another day for glory and stands at 7-3-3 .

Yet again we saw inconsistency from the judges in the bout between M12 Tokitenku and M9 Aminishiki.  A mono-ii was rightly called as they both fell at the edge at almost the same time but the replay showed that Aminishiki had in fact touched down first.  It was close but clear.  They called a torinaoshi.  Now how can they call this a torinaoshi and not the Takamisakari-Futenoh bout yesterday, when in that one it was impossible to distinguish the winner even on a replay?  Tokitenku won the re-match so justice was done but it could so easily have gone against him.  Just ridiculous.  Tokitenku is in with a good chance of kachi-koshi at 7-6.  Aminishiki stands at the same score.

M10 Kaiho has been strangely erratic throughout this basho.  He was on the case today against M17 Ishide, however, as he took control despite the super quick tachiai of his opponent.  After a nice bit of tugging on Ishide's arm, he got him off balance and swung him round for the easy okuridashi win. It's a kachi-koshi for Kaiho, which was certainly expected at this rank.  Ishide won't care too much about falling to 8-5.

M11 Takamisakari was obviously aiming for a special prize this basho standing at 9-3 coming into today's bouts, most likely the Kanto-sho.  They've got him up against Kotooshu tomorrow but he had another breeze (on paper) today in a match-up with M17 Takanowaka.  Crikey!  Do you think they're making it easy for him?  It certainly looked like it as Takanowaka just did not seem in this bout at all after a slow tachiai at which Takamisakari encountered no resistance in getting the hidari mae-mawashi.  It was then a simple matter of manhandling the small form of Takanowaka out.  With ten wins, Takamisakari is now hoping to get a prize, but I think he'll need to put icing on the cake and beat one of the yusho contenders.  The sansho committee will probably want at least eleven wins from a veteran Makunouchi rikishi who is fighting at a rank lower than he is capable of, but we are talking about Takamisakari here; they'd give him a prize just for beating his chest.  I wouldn't hold your breath on him beating Kotooshu, but he might pick up a win on Sunday.  You never know.  Takanowaka is facing a drop to Juryo as he falls to 6-7.

M14 Hakurozan managed to scrape a win against Toyonoshima in one of the messiest bouts I have ever seen.  One of these unfortunates had to give up a make-koshi today, and it is Toyonoshima who will have tears before bedtime.  Toyonoshima was unfortunate here as his tachiai was good and low, while Hakurozan's was high and frankly awful, but Toyo-sama was unable to get morozashi and the bout ended up looking like a school playground scrap.  Hakurozan fends off his make-koshi at 7-6.  Toyonoshima is now in damage control mode at 5-8.

With two days to go we have a very intriguing situation.  Asashoryu and Kotooshu both stand at 11-2, and Kaio, Wakanosato and Takamisakari stand at 10-3.  The yusho line could well be 12-3 because Asashoryu has a tough bout against Kaio tomorrow and Kotooshu will face a real struggle to beat Wakanosato on senshuraku.  With four out of the above five facing each other tomorrow, Waka knows he must win and hope for some good results in the other matches.  We could well end up with a multiple-rikishi play-off.  It really could be a very exciting weekend.  Let's hope so.

That's all from me this basho.  Mike will be reporting tomorrow and the formidable Clancy will be giving his take on the basho and, I don't doubt, all this judging nonsense on Sunday.  I can't wait!  I'll be back late next week sometime with a post-basho report.  Until then, thanks for reading.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Wow, talk about a wild 24 hours in the sumo world. The bouts progressed as normal today, but I think in the minds of the foreign fans, the debate continues regarding the ending to the Asashoryu - Kokkai match-up yesterday. You can read my rant, Kenji's comments, and a rebuttal from Simon here if so inclined. If not, read on as I attempt to comment on the day 12 bouts, which included another--you guessed it--controversial mono-ii.

Starting at the top, today we saw a very cautious tachi-ai from the Yokozuna, who seemed a bit shaken to me after suffering two losses in four days. Fortunately for Asa, he wasn't going to face a very potent tachi-ai from his opponent, M5 Kyokutenho. From the initial charge, Asashoryu quickly secured the right uwate on Tenho's belt and then with his left arm he smothered Kyokutenho's right arm towards his body completely denying Kyokutenho any sort of decent belt grip. With Asashoryu bent low to keep his belt as far away from Kyokutenho as possible, it was hard for the Yokozuna to maneuver. Still, Tenho was completely neutralized and could only wait for a chance to counter. After circling around a few times, Asashoryu stepped to his right side in a flash, pulled downward on Tenho's belt in the dashi-nage fashion, and used the left arm to pull down at the back of Kyokutenho's neck. As only he can, Asashoryu threw his opponent down hard to the dirt twisting his belt just so during the fall to make his victim flip over and land on his arse. It was a typical ending to an Asashoryu bout, but a very reserved start. Asashoryu moves to 10-2 and controls his own destiny if you account for his wining out and wining a possible playoff bout.

Standing alongside Asashoryu coming in was Komusubi Kotooshu who was paired against M6 Kokkai in a bout featuring the two rikishi to have toppled the Yokozuna this basho. The bout carried with it huge yusho implications and was probably the most anticipated bout of the day. Regardless of what happened today, I just wanted to see a fair fight (translation: no tachi-ai henka) from these two Eastern Europeans. We got it when Kokkai just clobbered Kotooshu back a few steps at the tachi-ai. The problem was sometimes you can hit an opponent back too far, especially if your legs can't keep up. With the two rikishi now separated, Kokkai went for the kill with another violent charge, but Kotooshu had ample time to prepare and simply evaded to his left avoiding a second impact. Kokkai applied the brakes at the tawara and turned around, but it was too late. Kotooshu was already on the inside of his opponent forcing Kokkai down to the dirt via yori-taoshi. This was a case where Kotooshu's superior technique bested Kokkai's superior strength. Kokkai has his kachi-koshi, his kinboshi, and probably a shukunsho prize waiting for him, but on the down side, at 8-4 he is eliminated from the yusho with the loss. Sorry folks...no 11-4 yusho line this basho. Kotooshu continues to be Asashoryu's equal--this tournament--improving to 10-2. With Hokutoriki tomorrow, it should be more smooth sailing.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki looked to put a chink in M2 Wakanosato's yusho armor today by starting his charge from closer to the tawara behind him than to his own starting line. When a rikishi implements these kind of shenanigans, he's lost confidence in his sumo. Nevertheless, as Kotomitsuki came out firing his tsuppari (after running his two meter dash to meet up with his opponent), he never let Wakanosato come close to his belt or get on the inside. Wakanosato is not an oshi guy, and he was simply outclassed today by a feisty rikishi who had nothing to lose except that painful eighth bout. In the end Wakanosato's only path was backwards and as he lamely retreated, Kotomitsuki was right there for the easy force out. At 9-3 Wakanosato is still in the yusho hunt, but he took a big hit today. Kotomitsuki at 5-7 picks up a big win despite a gimmick tachi-ai.

In another huge bout between our remaining Ozeki, Kaio displayed his best tachi-ai of the tournament hitting hard and delivering tsuppari to keep Tochiazuma at bay. With Azuma backed up a bit and struggling to get anything going, Kaio slipped to his right and secured his patented armbar grip around Tochiazuma's left arm. Everyone knew the kotenage was coming, especially Tochiazuma, so he somehow escaped the grip, but his body was turned away from Kaio transforming him into a sitting duck. Kaio pounced on the chance and slapped Tochiazuma out of the ring right in front of the head judge. This was Kaio's best sumo of the basho and maybe of the year, but you have to wonder if Tochiazuma's bad leg had anything to do with it. We'll really see what kind of shape Kaio is in when he takes on Asashoryu sometime over the last two days. At any rate, Tochiazuma at 8-4 is gone from the yusho race while Kaio at 9-3 still controls his own destiny if someone can take care of Kotooshu.

I've touched on 6 of the 7 rikishi who had a realistic yusho chance coming in, so I guess I better move next to M11 Takamisakari who was one off the lead and clean-shaven for today's bout. Today against M3 Futenoh, the Robocop actually neutralized Futenoh's charge quite well and managed to get his left arm deep on the inside of Futenoh. Futenoh countered, however, with his preferred hidari-yotsu (left inside position) and an excellent display of chikara-zumo ensued. Futenoh used his bulk advantage to force Sakari back to the tawara, but as he does so well, Takamisakari somehow slipped to his left and used his under-hyped strength to counter with a scoop throw of his own. This was the classic nage-no-uchi-ai at the tawara where both rikishi seem to crash to the dohyo at the same time.  The referee signaled in favor of Sakari, but a mono-ii was called to verify whether or not Takamisakari's right elbow hit the side of the dohyo before Futenoh crashed down. Do I even dare comment on this? When I watched the replay, I thought that both rikishi crashed down at the same time, but once again, you could argue either way for either rikishi. What's the logical thing to do in a situation like this? In my opinion, you order a rematch, but in the judges opinion, you give it to the crowd favorite and keep his slim yusho hopes alive. The explanation had to be one of the worst I've ever heard. "Uh...the ref favored Takamisakari because his inside grip looked to have the advantage...uh, but a mono-ii was called because Futenoh's outer grip looked to have the advantage...and...uh...we ruled that Takamisakari's inside grip was more advantageous." What in the hell was he even talking about? Who cares about the rikishi's grips? Who hit first? Another clear example of the judges fumbling around and then giving the call to the favored rikishi. Takamisakari is still in the yusho hunt at 9-3 while Futenoh falls just short of kachi-koshi at 7-5.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Miyabiyama looked to receive a bit of a breather today against Tosanoumi, but the M4 put up a valiant fight. Both rikishi came out firing tsuppari, and when the larger Miyabiyama's thrusts weren't taking the full effect he panicked and went for the pull down. Tosanoumi was right on top of the move and forced Miyabiyama back to the tawara where Lord Blubber as Simon calls him tried to evade but was just too beefy to escape a slapdown from Tosanoumi. I just never get tired of seeing Miyabiyama swan dive to the clay in all his girth. Three cheers for Tosanoumi (3-9) even though I have been impressed with Miyabiyama's 6-6 effort this basho.

Slipping down to the Maegashira ranks, how nice was it to see M8 Iwakiyama make a come back? Well, it was really nice for me since four of my Fantasy Sumo rikishi had withdrawn including Mount Iwaki. The Association could not have given Iwakiyama a better welcome back gift than M5 Hokutoriki. Hokutoriki briefly attempted his tsuppari attack, but Iwakiyama quickly forced the action to yotsu-zumo where the rikishi hooked up in the migi-yotsu position with neither maintaining an uwate. Hokutoriki is out of his league here, so after a few seconds of jockeying, Iwakiyama pulled Hokutoriki down to the dirt by the front of his belt. A 7-5 record for Iwakiyama ain't too shabby when you account for his three days off. Hokutoriki is 5-7.

Updating the status of the two rookies to the division, M14 Tamaasuka was denied a chance at kachi-koshi by a cowardly tachi-ai henka from M9 Aminishiki. Thanks for nothing Ami-chan.  Or should I could you Amy? Both rikishi stand at 7-5. After two false starts, M14 Hakurozan took my advice and went for M17 Ishide's head and neck from the tachi-ai. He had Ishide on the move for 5 seconds or so until he panicked and went for the pull down. At that point, Ishide forced the bout to yotsu-zumo and even though Hakurozan enjoyed a brief uwatenage, Ishide slipped the hold and brilliantly dumped the Russian to the clay. When will these kids ever learn? Hakurozan's back is now against the wall at 5-7 while Ishide picks up quiet kachi-koshi.

The most unorthodox bout of the day by far featured M8 Ama and M12 Tokitenku. Ama attacked low from the tachi-ai causing Tokitenku to go for the two-handed pull down. Ama survived, however, by grabbing Tokitenku's right ankle and lifting it up. With Tokitenku now hopping around on one leg, you'd think it would be easy-does-it for Ama; however, Tokitenku had a firm grip on the back of Ama's belt with both hands that he used to keep himself upright. For about 20 seconds, the two rikishi stood together on three legs hopping in circles in the center of the ring. When Ama finally realized he was getting too dizzy, he let go of the leg and used his low stance to force Tokitenku out in a flash. Both rikishi stand at 6-6. It was not textbook sumo, but it was worth a good laugh.

And finally, because I know you all can't get enough of my ranting about the judges, let me finish with the Takekaze - Toyozakura matchup This was a bout I seemed to have seen before: nice shoving match turned bad when one rikishi goes for the pull down and succeeds in pulling down his opponent but not before he possibly stepped out himself resulting in another judges conference. This one was easy as in Kotooshu - Kyokushuzan easy. The judges did make the right call, but sorry men in black, it's too little too late. Besides, who cares about Takekaze and Toyozakura? Both rikishi stand at 7-5 if anyone does care.

To summarize the day's events, Asashoryu and Kotooshu lead the pack at 10-2 with Ozeki Kaio, M2 Wakanosato, and M11 Takamisakari one loss behind. You'd have to give Kotooshu the edge because he's already fought all possible sanyaku on up, and with all of the withdrawals, the best the Association can do is give him Hokutoriki tomorrow, and then probably Wakanosato and Takamisakari the last two days. With that easy schedule and Asashoryu's usual dominance, it's pretty safe to say that between those two, there won't be more than one loss. The yusho line should end up at 13-2, and hopefully we'll get a playoff to decide the winner.

Day 11 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
Apart from the musubi-no-ichiban, today was crap.  Yawn, yawn, yawn all the way.  Who would have thought that the basho would suddenly explode into life after the pedestrian tripe I had been forced to endure all afternoon.  Yokozuna Asashoryu's 6-0 head-to-head record against M6 Kokkai coming into today's bout was a fair indicator of what was to come.  Or was it?  Asashoryu just bounced off Kokkai's excellent tachiai and was in serious trouble but he did amazingly well to come back into the bout.  The Yokozuna then seemed to be back in control and went forward nicely but, in similar scenes to the bout against Roho earlier in the basho, Kokkai managed to move out of the way of the Yokozuna's thrusts and Asashoryu went flying forward just as Kokkai desperately tried to keep his feet from touching anything but empty air.  The gyoji pointed confidently to Asashoryu's side of the dohyo but in a bout this close a mono-ii was inevitable.  The shinpan decided that Asashoryu's body had touched the dohyo first, which was indeed the case, and so we finally have a kinboshi.  Kokkai said in his post-bout interview that he was very happy that he could go forward against the Yokozuna from the tachiai.  I heartily agree.  Good sumo from the Georgian.  This basho is well and truly up and running and it is highly likely that it will run until senshuraku.  I am not saying that it is good when the Yokozuna loses, as that would go against the spirit of sumo, but at the moment, a close, exciting basho is just what the fans need after the total dominance of Asashoryu in recent times.  Hip hip hurrah!  The Yokozuna falls to 9-2.  Kokkai gets his kachi-koshi with a kinboshi.  How happy will he be tonight?

Ozeki Kaio looked worryingly weak in his loss to Wakanosato yesterday so I watched today's bout with some apprehension.  M5 Hokutoriki tried moro-te today but the veteran Ozeki brushed the attack aside with ease and took advantage of Hokutoriki's poor balance to get the straightforward oshi-dashi win.  Kaio can sleep safe in the knowledge that he will be an Ozeki next basho and keeps him nose in the yusho hunt at 8-3.  Hokutoriki falls to 5-6 after two tough days.

Today's was an important bout for Ozeki Tochiazuma as he looked for that vital eighth win, which would at least give him the option of going kyujo if his leg really is badly injured.  Sekiwake Kotomitsuki is just along for comic relief now his Ozeki aspirations have gone up in smoke. We saw a typically strong yet cautious display from the Ozeki as Kotomitsuki once again showed everyone how astonishingly erratic he is.  I have rarely watched a more frustrating rikishi than Kotomitsuki, who has talent in abundance, but just can't seem to string a few decent basho together.  Tochiazuma got his eighth win (8-3) and Kotomitsuki is now looking at a possible make-koshi as he falls to 4-7.  What the hell is he doing?

Komusubi Kotooshu picked up a shiroboshi yesterday despite clearly losing against Kyokushuzan.  I just don't understand why they say they have a video judge when in fact if they had bothered to use said judge, the mono-ii would have awarded Kyokushuzan his due.  M2 Dejima has been slowing down in the last couple of days after a decent start to the basho.  What sneaky little tricks would we see today from the Bulgarian?  None, actually.  The big beanpole showed some good de-ashi and wrapped himself Dejima to win by uwatenage, much as he did against Kakizoe the other day.  Dejima could do little except try a leg trip, which proved totally ineffective.  Resistance is futile.  Kotooshu is well and truly in the yusho race and goes to 9-2.  Dejima's bandages continue to unravel before our eyes at 5-6.

M2 Wakanosato was probably put off more than he was encouraged by a fan screaming his head off pre-bout against Komusubi Miyabiyama.  It was pretty annoying stuff.  He didn't need the fan in the end as the bout itself turned out straightforward with Miyabiyama not even bothering to put up a fight as Wakanosato wrapped up Lord Blubber's arms and bundled him out.  Wakanosato joins Asashoryu at 9-2.  Miyabiyama will be thanking his lucky stars for the two fusensho he picked up the other day as he goes to 6-5.

Although M8 Ama has quietly been putting up the numbers, his sumo has been unusually subdued this basho and he hasn't won as impressively as he usually does.  Against M4 Tamanoshima today he led with moro-te but found it difficult to get inside his bigger opponent's defenses.  As Tamanoshima began to push forward, Ama took hold of Tama-chan's right arm in a desperation move, obviously aiming to slip to the side at the edge, but Tamanoshima kept his focus and balance well to take the win.  Another poor showing from Ama but a kachi-koshi is not yet out of the question at 5-6.  Tamanoshima continues the sterling damage control work to go to 4-7.

M9 Kotoshogiku (7-4) made M13 Katayama (4-7) look like a Jonokuchi recruit in a mawashi battle that only ever looked like going one way.  Kotoshogiku's superior power completely overmatched Katayama, who crumpled to the dohyo after token resistance at the edge.

M11 Takamisakari has this week found himself in the unlikely position of challenging for the yusho.  I'd love to see him take his challenge to the weekend because the Japanese fans would be going loopy with joy but my hopes are not high after today's performance. Whatever happens, a Kanto-sho is on the cards if he can get ten wins.  M9 Aminishiki is a tricky proposition on any day of the week and he proved too much for Takamisakari as he made the crowd pleaser look lightweight at the tachiai and was in complete control throughout what proved to be a sloppy bout.  Takamisakari can kiss his faint yusho hopes goodbye as he falls to 8-3.  Aminishiki continues his good showing and improves to 6-5.

M14 Hakurozan's sumo has been far too erratic for my liking.  Some days he has looked totally dominant, while on others he has fought with all the power and passion of a slightly disinterested flamingo.  What would he bring to today's bout with M11 Takekaze?  Answer: a flamingo costume.  Hakurozan allowed himself to be brought up far too high at the tachiai and Takekaze made mincemeat of him, pushing him out in under five seconds.  This was standard Takekaze sumo, a normal day at the office to improve to an excellent 7-4.  Just not good enough from Hakurozan, who now stands at a dangerous 5-6.

M14 Tamaasuka has been having a very pleasant first basho in Makunouchi, thank you very much.  He has shown some decent sumo along with the inevitable mistakes that will come with inexperience at this level.  Meeting M12 Tochisakae today, he showed excellent dohyo sense as his opponent thrust forward following a brief tussle at tachiai.  Going backwards he knew exactly where the tawara was and swept Tochisakae past him for the hikkake (arm grabbing force out) win.  Tamaasuka is now 7-4 and is odds on for a kachi-koshi.  Tochisakae (3-8) went make-koshi today.

So, boys and girls, Asashoryu has a real battle on his hands now.  He needs to fight Kyokutenho, Kotomitsuki, Kaio and Tochiazuma in the final four days.  I guarantee he'll win the first two bouts but who knows what the weekend will bring.  I think Tochiazuma will probably fight on after the events of today as he now has a good chance at the yusho, being only one win off the pace.  Kotooshu and Wakanosato know that this could be their one ever chance to take the yusho.  It is worth noting, however, that in all of Asashoryu's losses this year, there has been a mono-ii, meaning that when he does lose, it's always close.  Real excitement is now in the air - it could go to anyone - but the Yokozuna is still the clear favourite in my eyes simply because he is in a class of his own.

I will be back on Friday for my final report from this basho.  Thanks for reading.

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
On one hand, this Nagoya basho has so much potential to become the best of the year with a break-out performance from Kotooshu and resurgent efforts from Wakanosato and Kokkai, but on the other hand, with so many key rikishi dropping out, the usual drama in the second week will probably be diluted.  Another rikishi bit the kyujo dust today in what is no longer becoming a surprise this tournament.  On to the action where I'll start with Yokozuna Asashoryu who faced...Maegashira 6 Hokutoriki?  On day 10?  This was reminiscent of Yokozuna Takanohana who dug deep into the Maegashira dregs late in the basho as so many high-ranking rikishi were in his own stable.  This bout was a joke with Asashoryu gaining morozashi and forcing Hokutoriki out so fast the M6 didn't even have time to think about how bad he sucked.  I think this was an example of an Asashoryu opponent taking the easy way out instead of showing some resistance and being awarded with an embarrassing loss.  The Yokozuna moves to 9-1 where he is in sole possession of the lead.

In the Ozeki ranks, Tochiazuma exhibited his best sumo of the basho in my opinion today against M5 Kyokutenho (5-5). Kyokutenho actually came with a right harite at the tachi-ai, but this easily allowed Tochiazuma to get his own right arm deep into Kyokutenho's left side. Instead of standing around waiting for his opponent to make the first move as he usually does, Azuma bulldozed Kyokutenho (5-5) back and out in a few seconds. I guess it helped that Kyokutenho is also one known to stand around. Tochiazuma moves to 7-3 with the win.

In the day's best matchup on paper, a pair of 7-2 rikishi hooked up in Ozeki Kaio and the resurgent M2 Wakanosato. From the tachi-ai, Kaio moved forward and to his left in an attempt to grab the quick armbar and dump Wakanosato with that patented kotenage throw; however, the M2 wasn't fooled and rewarded Kaio's failed attempt with a solid left uwate grip on his belt where Wakanosato smartly stood Kaio up as much as possible. Kaio is one of the best defenders in the game, but he could not grab the outer grip on Wakanosato's belt, and he also couldn't position himself for another kotenage counter throw due to Wakanosato's constant pressure towards the tawara (something Waka failed to do against the Yokozuna yesterday). Kaio was completely trapped, and the only direction he could move was back in hopes that he could somehow pull his opponent down or throw him at the tawara. In never happened as Wakanosato used perfect sumo basics to force Kaio out and keep the Ozeki from officially shedding his kadoban status. Kaio is a very shaky 7-3; he's not the same rikishi physically that we saw last year in September and November. I'm not sure he can remain active much longer. Wakanosato moves to 8-2 all but securing a return to the sanyaku for September. If someone can hand Asashoryu another loss (it's Kokkai - Asashoryu tomorrow), Waka is in great shape to challenge for the yusho.

In the Sekiwake ranks, Kotomitsuki was bullied around by M6 Kokkai. The two crashed into each other at the tachi-ai with Kokkai gaining the slight advantage knocking Kotomitsuki back a step. As Mitsuki geared up for a second clash, Kokkai met his charge with a sharp right paw to the side of Kotomitsuki's neck that sent the Sekiwake sprawling to the clay. Kokkai creeps up to 7-3 while Kotomitsuki is a hapless 4-6. Let's hope Kokkai brings the same kind of tachi-ai tomorrow against Asashoryu.

In the Komusubi ranks, Miyabiyama clashed with M3 Roho. After a stalemate tachi-ai where both rikishi seemed to bounce off of each other and trade places, Roho chose to back up instead of attack the Miyabiyama straightforward. Miyabiyama sensed what was coming and committed himself by going for the grand poobah thrust where a rikishi makes a huge lunge forward hoping to push his opponent out before he himself crashes to the dirt. Today's bout was extremely close and the gyoji pointed in favor of Roho; however, a mono-ii was called and Miyabiyama was rewarded the oshi-dashi victory. I myself thought it was a bad call as Miyabiyama's entire body had hit the dirt by the time you could see the sand fly up from the back of Roho's heel. I guess to put a positive spin on things, the judges awarded the bout to the rikishi who moved forward. I can't complain with that. Roho not only floundered his way to a 3-7 mark but also announced his withdrawal from the basho citing an aggravated right ankle. This is a bit of a copout in my opinion. Roho seemed to bounce right back up onto the dohyo when the gyoji originally pointed in his direction signaling that he had won. Miyabiyama continues to make the Komusubi look good this basho improving to 6-4.

Of course, Komusubi Kotooshu is contributing even more than Miyabiyama, and today he looked to be rewarded with a breather. No, not a fusensho (win by default); rather, he was paired with M1 Kyokushuzan. Kotooshu exhibited a cautious tachi-ai using his long arms to push at Shu's throat driving the Mongolian back. As is usually the case, Shu quickly retreated going for the quick and dirty pull down along the way, and he actually succeeded today as Kotooshu's hand clearly touched the dirt before Kyokushuzan had stepped out, but the gyogi pointed in favor of Kotooshu. A mono-ii wasn't even called which is a bit puzzling since this was more decisive than the Miyabiyama - Roho bout, but once again, the rikishi taking the initiative and moving forward is given the victory. With the "win," Kotooshu moves to 8-2 and officially becomes available to win a special prize. The Shukunsho is a lock with wins over Asashoryu, Tochiazuma, and Kaio, and he'll probably take the Ginosho as well having won 8 bouts with 7 different techniques. Kyokushuzan falls to 2-8.

In a compelling Maegashira battle between two 5-4 rikishi, M2 Dejima and M3 Futenoh locked horns today with Futenoh gaining his favored hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai. Dejima put up a good fight, but without a belt grip and with Futenoh maintaining the lower position, Dejima just couldn't get anything offensive going. In the end, it was a rather easy yori-kiri win for Futenoh who improves to a surprising 6-4 record after a 1-3 start. Dejima is even steven at 5-5.

M7 Kotonowaka attempted a tachi-ai henka today against M12 Tochisakae, but Kotonowaka's mobility is fading so fast, he couldn't even pull the cheap win off. Tochisakae pounced on his retreating opponent and easily pushed him out for the gimme win. Both rikishi stand at 3-7, and the only reason I mention this bout is because it's time for Kotonowaka to retire. He doesn't have anything left in the tank.

Our two newcomers this basho both displayed excellent sumo today picking up wins. M14 Tamaasuka halted the feisty M9 Kotoshogiku at the tachi-ai and neutralized his attack until the frustrated geeku went for a failed maki-kae affording Tamaasuka the morozashi grip and easy force out win. Both rikishi stand at 6-4. M14 Hakurozan did what he (and all the other Eastern European guys except for maybe Kotooshu) should do and that's going for his opponents neck at the tachi-ai. With his legs driving forward, Hakurozan just bulldozed M9 Aminishiki back and out leaving him in a crumpled heap at the edge of the dohyo. Both rikishi now stand at 5-5. Continuing with the Eastern European rikishi comments, you've seen Kokkai have his success this basho when he goes for his opponents head and neck. When he doesn't, he has lost. It' no coincidence.

M11 Takamisakari became the first Maegashira rikishi to capture kachi-koshi this basho. M16 Toyozakura came with the morote from the tachi-ai and for all intents and purposes strangled Sakari back to the tawara, but no one can take more abuse to the head neck area than the goofy M11, and somehow Takamisakari was able to evade the choke hold and make Toyozakura chase him around the ring. As he does so well, Takamisakari was able to generate something out of nothing and managed to pull Toyozakura (6-4) to the dirt to move to 8-2. Talk about an ugly kachi-koshi. The highlight of course was the customary interview after securing his eighth win. Takamisakari candidly commented on his feelings of elation after the win, the cut in his mouth, the whiskers on his face he hasn't shaved during his 6 bout win streak, and hopes for double-digit victories. He was seen afterwards leaving the premises in the mini-bus that shuttles him and the other special kids back home.

Call me crazy to mention the M10 Kaiho - M16 Toyonoshima bout, but these two rikishi put on the best display of yotsu-zumo this tournament. Both quickly hooked up in the hidari yotsu position with each maintaining a right uwate and left shitate. Most of the time when this happens you see both rikishi stand around like bumps on logs with the viewer having nothing to watch but the rikishi's enormous bellies expand and contract, but not so today. For nearly a minute, there was constant action as each rikishi desperately tried to force the other out. If you look at both rikishi, they're roughly the same height, but Toyonoshima holds the weight advantage. This would prove to be the deciding factor as Toyonoshima (4-6) eventually wore Kaiho (5-5) down, shook off Kaiho's uwate, and cemented the yori-kiri win.

And in the does-it-get-any-worse-than-this department, M17 Takanowaka (4-5) goes for the desperate tachi-ai henka to pick up the cheap win against J2 Tochinohana. Just great.

After 10 days, a bit of drama is brewing in Nagoya. Asashoryu leads the way at 9-1 while Kotooshu, Wakanosato, and Takamisakari stand one behind at 8-2. It is Asashoryu's basho to lose of course, but since he's already faced Wakanosato and Kotooshu, it will make it easier for those two rikishi to hang around.

Day 9 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)

Can you say carnage? I thought you could. With only three out of eight sanyaku rikishi winning yesterday, and one of those not being called Asashoryu, what you were left with was a basho with a new lease of life. But don't get your hopes up too high. Just because the Yokozuna lost yesterday does not mean he is about to start losing more. Asashoryu was uncharacteristically rash at the tachiai, allowing Kotooshu to get morozashi, but still almost managed to wriggle out of it. There aren't many rikishi around who can still make a fight out of it when the opponent has morozashi.

And now, coming into day 9, we surveyed the damage of Black Sunday: Kaio and Miyabiyama both picked up wins by default as Chiyotaikai and Hakuho pulled out. Asashoryu's competition this basho is now one Ozeki two losses behind with half a leg missing; another Ozeki one loss behind with only half a back; and a few other hopefuls. With Wakanosato facing the Yokozuna today, could he go from hopeful to real contender?

Nope!

Yokozuna Asashoryu got back to business with his no-nonsense tachiai (surely one of the secrets of his huge success). M2 Wakanosato was desperate not to allow the Yokozuna a right hand grip on his mawashi but Asashoryu waited patiently for the opportunity to arise. The chance came when Wakanosato attempted to (weakly) push forward but succeeded only in giving up his mawashi. Asashoryu (8-1) then wasted no time in going forward and pushing Wakanosato (7-2) out by yorikiri.

Ozeki Tochiazuma (6-3) was actually limping before his fight with M2 Dejima (5-4), which was not a very good sign. I suspect that the Ozeki is just desperate to get eight wins and then pull out so that he will not have to be kadoban with Chiyotaikai in September. It was a tense battle today as Tochiazuma achieved his objective of neutralizing the former Ozeki's charge. A stalemate ensued but Tochiazuma's hidari mae-mawashi grip was the key as Dejima was turned to the side following an ill-advised throw attempt, and Tochiazuma was easily able to force his opponent out.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki (4-5) met M3 Futenoh (5-4), the newcomer at the top of the banzuke, knowing he would provide a stern test of his Ozeki credentials. Futenoh again showed impressive power to easily hold the Sekiwake's charge and wrap himself around his opponent's body, pushing Kotomitsuki to the edge. He then pulled off the old reversing thrust trick so that as Kotomitsuki was expecting a pushing battle at the edge and was braced accordingly, Futenoh pulled back and slapped him down. It was intelligent sumo from Futenoh and he should be rightly proud of his performance so far.

For the second day running, M1 Kakizoe (2-7) cheated by flying in far too early he only beat Kotomitsuki yesterday because the gyoji did not call a matta when he should have done. Hopefully someone will have a quiet word in his ear. Komusubi Kotooshu (7-2) was ready for these tactics, however, and successfully neutralized his opponent's throw attempt by using his superior height to smother Kakizoe's body and force him down by shitatenage. Personally, I would like to see Kotooshu winning more by yorikiri or oshidashi, as although he is certainly impressive with his nage and slippery evasive techniques, he will need a lot more than that to rise to the summit.

M3 Roho (3-6) picked up a mystery injury as he inexplicably straightened up in serious pain mid-bout with M5 Kyokutenho (5-4). He did not look at all healthy as he made an attempt to walk back down the hanamichi, and eventually could not stand unaided. Looks like another kyujo. This is the basho of death.

M6 Kokkai (6-3) has so far been doing what he did not do last basho; getting those big lanky arms working effectively for him at tachiai. If only he had done the same against M4 Tamanoshima (3-6) today, who barely broke a sweat breaking up the slow thrusts and getting inside the big man's defenses to push him unceremoniously into the front row. This is exactly how Kokkai looked last basho awful. His fans will be hoping this was just an aberration. Kokkai would be well advised to watch some old videos of former Yokozuna Akebono to see just how this kind of sumo should be done.

M9 Kotoshogiku recovered well the other day from a three-day losing streak (straight after a ten-day winning streak extending from last basho) and impressed today against M15 Buyuzan, turning things around as his opponent had him pinned at the edge by getting a nice hidari-shitate grip, and then showing good dohyo sense to pull Big Mister Hairy around and over. He is a happy little bunny at 6-3, while Buyuzan is about to close the make-koshi door at 2-7.

M16 Toyozakura has been showing good sumo this basho but had a tricky opponent in M9 Aminishiki. The bout itself was a sloppy affair with neither rikishi able to get any kind of grip. Aminishiki (5-4) finally won with a powerful oshidashi. Toyozakura (6-3) just did not look in this at all.

M15 Kisenosato showed some of his promise today as he kept his balance well against tricky M10 Kaiho and forced him out nicely. Clearly he is learning not to overstretch at the edge as he so often has done since coming into the top division. It was good to see. The nineteen-year-old improves to 5-4. Kaiho falls to the same score.

M14 Hakurozan has reportedly been unhappy with his sumo this basho and it was easy to see why after an embarrassing defeat to M11 Takamisakari. The crowd pleaser, who picked up a fusensho (win by default) yesterday, looked to have benefited from the day off as he totally dominated the tachiai by coming in low and hard, practically carrying the hapless young Russian across the tawara in about three seconds. Hakurozan (4-5) can do better than this and would do well to show a little aggression. Takamisakari (7-2) continues to show good sumo, but it is all very well doing that at M11. He will need more bulk to pull this off at higher ranks in the future.

In a sign of how desperate this basho has become in terms of injuries, we had two consecutive fusensho before the final two bouts. That is a rare sight indeed. With Roho injured and possibly out from tomorrow, and Tochiazuma likely to pull out after two more wins if his injury is serious enough (internal bleeding has been whispered), then we will have almost no one left to fight, let alone challenge for the yusho.

Asashoryu now stands as the sole leader at 8-1. Behind him at 7-2 are Ozeki Kaio, Komusubi Kotooshu, M2 Wakanosato and M11 Takamisakari. Although it is true that Kotooshu has already fought all the Ozeki and Yokozuna, this is not really an argument because it looks like Asashoryu and Kaio will only have to fight each other due to the spate of injuries. The basho sparked into life briefly on Sunday, and it was good while it lasted, but it looks as though the Yokozuna is back to his usual imperious self. If Kaio drops one more win, I think we can safely say it will be basho over.

Day 8 Comments (George Guida reporting)
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a tournament. As Day 8 was winding down, all the cards were falling into place for Asashoryu. Iwakiyama dropped out of the tournament with a banged up shoulder. Kokkai fell to Wakanosato. Hakuho lost to a very impressive Futenoh, and Asashoryu's toughest opponent, Tochiazuma, lost again to drop an almost insurmountable 3 wins behind the leader board. Could I be blamed for looking ahead to Day 9's Asashoryu/Wakanosato musubi ichiban, thinking the Yokozuna would all but seal it up by tomorrow? And then came along Kotooshu.

In dramatic fashion, Komusubi Kotooshu pulled off the biggest victory of his young career by upsetting the Yokozuna in one of the closest finishes you'll ever see. Asa started off strong from the tachi-ai, with a right harite across the face and proceeded to immediately drive the Bulgarian to edge of the dohyo. Just when you thought Asa would steamroll Koto to an oshidashi victory, Koto was grace under pressure, using his long limbs to grab a hidari shitate and transitioning beautifully to a very deep hidari uwate. With the grip secured, Koto drove Asa back to the center of the dohyo where the two immediately went for a decisive throw. Despite Asashoryu's strength, athleticism and speed, he couldn't counter Koto's superior height and leverage when combined with excellent grip positioning on the belt. Both men crashed to the dohyo in an amazing heap, gunbai Kotooshu and Nagoya is awash in a sea of purple seat cushions!

But wait! Mono ii! Mono ii! At this point, I couldn't help but scream "The bridge is back!", remembering Asashoryu's death defying escape from defeat last year at the hands of Kotonowaka when he executed that amazing bridge. Would Asa's win streak remain in tact? Upon review, Asa's topknot touched the ground a fraction of a second before Kotooshu's hand hit the dirt. Asashoryu's body was almost vertical, his legs jackknifed contorting his body as much as possible to avoid losing the throwdown. Amazing as it was, it was make by a mage for the Yokozuna. Kotooshu (6-2), obviously surging with adrenaline, couldn't even speak in the post-match interview, able to stammer out only a few "Hai"s. The guy was amped like never before, and why not? A fantastic victory for this young star, and suddenly it's anything goes at Nagoya.

Is there anyone more impressive at 4-4 than M3 Futenoh? His victims include two Ozeki and you can now add a Sekiwake, namely Mongolian prodigy Hakuho, to the list. Futenoh is showing remarkable composure for his first time in the jo'i. Hakuho learned just how hard it is to push around this youngster. After failing to get any kind of belt grip, Hakuho whiffed with a yori-kiri attempt and couldn't do much after securing hidari yotsu. With Futenho locking in a deep overhand grip, Hakuho, who works better from a migi yotsu position, tried to overpower Futenoh with a right handed kotenage but was stuffed as Futenoh drove his weight and momentum into the Sekiwake, collapsing on top of Hakuho for the yori-taoshi win. 

Hakuho (6-2)was heavily favoring his left leg and ankle after the match. Just as I was about to compliment NHK on using their new "multiple camera angle" perspective this basho with reserve and tact, they go overkill with a four window split screen approach, trying to analyze where and when Hakuho hurt his angle. It added nothing to the analysis, coming across more like NHK techies wanting to show off their newest toy.

Komusubi Miyabiyama (4-4) came in low and hit hard and high, throwing Ozeki Tochiazuma (5-3) off balance and off his game. Although Tochiazuma managed to drive forward and keep the pressure on, Miyabi showed great "dohyo" sense by keeping his right foot teetering on the edge of the tawara and slapping down an out of control Tochiazuma for the hataki-komi win. Continuing today's curse of the left ankle, Tochiazuma was shown favoring his left leg and limped back to the lockers. At three losses, Tochiazuma will probably have to settle for the spoiler role the rest of this basho.

Local favorite and product of the mean streets of Aichi prefecture, Sekiwake Kotomitsuki (4-4) let down his hometown supporters in a big way with a very unworthy-of-Ozeki promotion self-destruction to M1 Kakizoe (2-6). Kotomitsuki was so far behind the shikiri-sen at the tachi-ai that another step back and he'd be in the front row. This allowed little Kakizoe to build up a huge head of steam and plow Kotomitsuki right off the dohyo before the Sekiwake knew what hit him for the oshi-taoshi win. Kakizoe was able to get in two full steps off the tachi-ai before Kotomitsuki had even stood up, making Kotomitsuki look totally unprepared. With four losses Kotomitsuki's chances of promotion to Ozeki have all but evaporated.

In their 40th encounter (!), Ozeki Kaio (6-2) struggled a bit with the always game M4 Tosanoumi (0-8) but did use a powerful kotenage to secure the win. Tosanoumi is already make-koshi and is set for a big drop in the rankings by the time the Aki basho comes to Tokyo.

M3 Roho (3-5) blasted Ozeki Chiyotaikai (3-5) right out of the gates for an impressive oshi-dashi victory. Chiyotaikai is bound kadoban once again, and how tired does that sound? Perhaps the Sumo Council needs to set a limit to the number of times an Ozeki can have kadoban status before being demoted for good.

In one of today's most critical encounters, M6 Kokkai (6-2) and M2 Wakanosato (7-1) faced off with both men coming in at 6-1 records. All I could think of in this match was the catch phrase from one of the X-Men's most fearsome archenemies, the blob. A mutant who had the ability to become virtually immovable at will and thus absorb tremendous impact, the blob was fond of saying "Nothing can move the blob!" While Wakanosato's pudgy muscularity doesn't justify "blob" name-calling, he was today in fact, nearly immovable, absorbing all four of Kokkai's successive charges, barely yielding a centimeter. With Kokkai going nowhere, Waka took the initiative and got an arm underneath Kokkai's left armpit trying to force a sukuinage throw but settling for oshi-taoshi. 

For those extra attentive viewers, did anyone notice one of Wakanosato's tsukebito as the camera followed him back to the lockers, namely a tall, handsome Caucasian who wasn't named Kotooshu? Well, if you didn't, Chiggedy-Czech yo'self before you wreck yo'self because that was Takanoyama, an up and comer Czechoslovakian in the Makushita ranks who we may see in Juryo within a year's time.

As I mentioned earlier, the Nagoya basho saw its third Makuuchi rikishi drop out of the tournament as Iwakiyama pulled out due to an aching shoulder. At 6-1 and displaying solid oshi-sumo, it's a shame to see Iwakiyama's out of action. The beneficiary of Iwakiyama's injury was Takamisakari, who hasn't won by fusensho (win via forfeit) in exactly three years. By the way, can anyone make winning by fusensho seem so intense as Takamisakari? His hyper-manic ki-ai was in full force even for a forfeit win, thus giving the Nagoya fans something to cheer about despite their disappointment in not seeing Robocop compete today.

While there are far worse injuries in sumo, does it not make anyone wince in pain to see M7 Kotonowaka (2-6) STILL visibly scarred from two months back when his face skidded along the dohyo? 

Taking a look at the leader board, suddenly a whole slew of possibilities have opened up. At 7-1, Asashoryu and Wakanosato square off tomorrow in a scintillating showdown that the Yokozuna cannot afford to lose.

One behind the pace at 6-2 are six rikishi including Kaio, who should be motivated again with Asashoryu's loss, Hakuho, Kotooshu, Kokkai, Toyozakura and believe it or not, Takamisakari. How off the charts would it be if Takamisakari clinched the yusho?

Day 7 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
The beat goes on for Asashoryu, now 7-0 this basho, 24-0 dating back to March, and 51-1 overall in 2005. My parents are visiting now, and promptly my dad has ruffled my feathers by stating "Yes but it's invalid because he has no competition". Forget this no competition business. Asashoryu is just doing his job, which is winning in a big way. Taiho did the same thing. His "rival" was Kashiwado, who yusho'ed a paltry 4 times compared to Taiho's 31. Is this competition? I could argue that it's not- that Taiho so dominated the field in his era that there was no one on his level. You may be saying "Kashiwado would have yusho'ed so many more times if Taiho wasn't around at the same time". If Asashoryu wasn't around today, somebody would be picking up the yushos, would they not? The bottom line is, not many rikishi in history have been 51-1 for the year in July, or strung together multiple 20 something win streaks regardless of era or "competition". This argument just doesn't hold up in my opinion. Today Sho beat an overmatched Tosanoumi, who basically succumbed to the Yokozuna's pressure and lost his balance, although the official call was "shitagenage". Tosa drops to 0-7. 

Tochiazuma (5-2) got pressured initially by Tamanoshima (2-5) but soon garnered the left outside grip for some leverage and held ground at the tawara. Couple this with planting his head low and all of a sudden Azuma has the advantage. Throw in a dashi-nage to spin Tama off balance and the resulting yori-kiri shows how this Ozeki can slowly but surely take over a match. 

Local fave Kotomitsuki (4-3) went mano-a-mano with Chiyotaikai (3-4) and came up victorious. After a solid clash at the tachiai, Mitsuki went blow for blow with Taikai and eventually turned the Ozeki to the side for an okuri-dashi win. Perhaps Mitsuki can use this win to turn his basho around. If Taikai doesn't do the same, it'll be his turn for kadoban in September. 

Eyebrow-bandaged Kaio (5-2) neutralized Roho's (2-5) tsuppari by interrupting the arm thrusts from below like he does so well, then unleashed a lavish kote-nage hook throw to dump the Russian. Short of his classic uwate-nage, this is a vintage Kaio-style win. 

Hakuho (6-1) got a left outside grip on Kyokushuzan's (1-6) belt to first stop any games from his Mongolian senior. Then he very carefully put the pressure on, eventually grabbing the right grip and winning by an easy yori-kiri. 

Kotooshu (5-2) continues to win, although it took him a tachai side-step to set it up today. After the henka, Oshu went straight for the front belt of Miyabiyama (3-4) and forced out the former Ozeki for a relatively easy victory. 

Wakanosato (6-1) is quietly building a strong effort. Today he stopped Kyokutenho's (3-4) three bout win streak to stay one back of Sho on the leader board. 

Speaking of the leader board, we've got Sho alone at the top now at 7-0 since Iwakiyama (6-1) suffered his first loss against Kotoshogiku. Standing alongside Iwaki at 6-1 are the aforementioned Hakuho, Wakanosato and Kokkai. Flash back to 1972 this basho and we'd see Takamiyama winning his first yusho marking the first ever yusho by a foreign rikishi. 33 years later in 2005, 3 out of the 5 rikishi atop the leader board are foreign, including one of the most dominant Yokozuna to ever grace the dohyo.

Day 6 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
For the second basho in a row, I am tempted to call it in favour of Asashoryu on the sixth day, but I don't want to give up hope yet. A number of rikishi are on his tail and stranger things have happened in the past. Let's just say it looks like it's all over, but perhaps a miracle is round the corner. Hakuho for one looks far more up for it this time and although his sumo has not been particularly inspiring, he hasn't looked even close to being touched, even when he lost on the first day when he would have won in any other parallel universe. The ever dangerous Wakanosato is still in there and he is capable of beating anyone on his day. Kokkai looks game as well and could surprise us all by lasting deep into the second week. Even Iwakiyama could provide us with some fireworks if he can keep his aggression going. No, I think there is still some life in the basho, but we are going to need a little good fortune.

Yokozuna Asashoryu was probably trying not to laugh in derision pre-bout against M1 Kyokushuzan. Surely he must have been thinking that this would be one of his easiest wins this year. However, as we all know, he was thinking nothing of the sort, because Asashoryu leaves nothing to chance, a quality Tochiazuma would do well to pay attention to. It ended up as a low-key battle where Kyokushuzan never looked like threatening the theatrics of yesterday. Embarrassingly easy stuff for Asashoryu as he breezes to 6-0. Kyokushuzan will be over the moon that he is 1-5 and on the way back down to low or mid-Maegashira, which is where he wants to be.

Ozeki Kaio has been fighting (and looking) like a blue whale this basho and Komusubi Kotooshu probably sensed blood in the water. However, as we all know, Kotooshu is not a shark and therefore would not be driven into a frenzy by the scent of blood. I think I've pushed this as far as it will go (and then some). Kaio gambled at the tachiai and tried to pull Kotooshu's left arm to the side, an unwise strategy that failed miserable as the Komusubi stayed on the case and kept pushing straight forward. There you go, then -- Kotooshu is a shark after all at 4-2, and Kaio has two great big harpoons sticking out of him with the same record.

Ozeki Tochiazuma has had two days to forget and faced a potentially tricky bout with the surprisingly well-balanced M3 Futenoh. It was a tense tactical battle that really could have gone either way but the Ozeki's superior power and hidari-uwate grip carried the day. After two disappointing losses, this was just the tonic Tochiazuma needed. However, he knows that even winning every remaining bout will most likely not be enough for him to take the yusho. This Ozeki usually does not try too hard in hopeless cases. Tochiazuma is a fair nightingale at 4-2. Futenoh is an annoying parrot at 2-4.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai is in deep trouble, make no mistake. He has only survived the last few basho by getting cheap wins in the first week and picking up the odd win against the tougher opponents in the second. He looked about halfway back to his best against M1 Kakizoe today in the sense that at least he went forward. Kakizoe hung in there despite the barrage and almost got the troubled Ozeki off balance at the edge, but the Jedi force was with Chiyotaikai as he found the power to teeter slightly less precipitously than his opponent. Chiyotaikai improves to 3-3 while Kakizoe looks to be in big trouble at 1-5.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki simply had to beat M4 Tosanoumi today but the wily old veteran did not make anything easy for the Ozeki-hopeful. Neither rikishi gave ground in a tense battle where no one had a decent grip. Kotomitsuki finally got migi-shitate and made it count as he forced Tosanoumi to step inadvertently out. They called it yorikiri in the end, and that's because it was. Kotomitsuki stands at a profoundly un-Ozeki-like 3-3 and Tosanoumi looks dead and buried at 0-6.

Sekiwake Hakuho (5-1) met genki Komusubi Miyabiyama (3-3) and succeeded in getting that powerful hidari-shitate grip. I just sat here waiting for the dashinage move he so loves to do. The inevitable attempt came and, even though it failed, it allowed him to get Miyabiyama off balance (and that's a lot of off-balance, folks) and opened the way for the yoritaoshi win.

M2 Wakanosato was in control for the entire bout against M4 Tamanoshima but made it harder work than it needed to be. His powerful hidari-shitate grip proved the key as Tamanoshima never managed to get his right hand onto Wakanosato's mawashi. There followed an attempted pull-down by Wakanosato, which failed, but allowed him to get Tama-chan off balance and opened the door to kotenage, and then finally to the sukuinage win. Wakanosato really should be an Ozeki. What is he doing messing around in Maegashira still? He remains in the yusho hunt at 5-1, while Tamanoshima falls to 2-4.

M2 Dejima has impressed this basho and so he was probably not too concerned about this bout with thus far disinterested M5 Kyokutenho. The Mongolian turned it on today, however, as he unleashed a nice little harite at the tachiai which allowed him to get the mawashi. For a moment I thought that Dejima would be able to win this one as he did so impressively against another belt specialist, Wakanosato, but Kyokutenho was having no nonsense from the former Ozeki and marched him out smartly. Both men now stand at 3-3. Dejima has already met the Yokozuna and all the Ozeki except for Tochiazuma so he will be pretty happy with this record.

M6 Kokkai must have wanted to murder Roho yesterday for his cowardly behaviour. I was having the same thoughts myself, I have to admit, because not only were we forced to witness a horrible henka, we had to see it against one of the co-leaders, in other words, one of the few rikishi who might keep this basho interesting. It was back to business as usual against M9 Aminishiki as Kokkai watched his much smaller opponent bounce off him at the tachiai. He then took advantage of the confusion to go for the pull-down win. It wasn't very pretty but Kokkai will not care in the slightest as he improves to 5-1. Aminishiki falls to a poor 2-4.

M8 Iwakiyama has been having a stormer but let's not pretend this run is happening for any other reason than the fact that he is ranked a few notches lower than his actual level. He has looked well up for it this basho, though. Nothing like a good start to get your confidence going. Against M7 Asasekiryu today he got hidari-uwate to his opponent's migi-shitate in a classic yotsu-zumo stalemate at the center of the dohyo. The Mongolian attempted a half-hearted trip but Iwakiyama was ready for that. Finally, he decided on going for chikara-zumo and proved to be the Mongolian's master as he straightened him up high and marched him out, falling on top of him in spectacular fashion at the edge. At 6-0, Iwakiyama is the closest challenger for the yusho. Yeah, right! Asasekiryu continues his lackluster basho at 2-4.

M11 Takamisakari has apparently been playing the Beatles to keep his spirits up. Judging by the quality of his sumo, he has clearly been listening to I Am The Walrus far too much. He got lucky today, though, as an unusually clumsy M8 Ama ploughed in at the tachiai, and ended up looking a prize arse as Takamisakari employed a lovely flick almost faster than the eye could see with his right arm which carried Ama below and past him until he crumpled to the dohyo. Circus improves to 4-2 (but I don't know how he has picked up four wins), while Ama stands at a disappointing 2-4.

M14 Hakurozan (3-3) will be wondering tonight what in the hell he was doing against M15 Buyuzan (2-4) as he did a sterling job of defeating himself. After a reasonable tachiai from both men, the young Russian tried a brief pull-down, and then went blundering forward only to find empty air as Buyuzan stepped to the side. Hakurozan's momentum carried him out of the dohyo. He will need to stamp out this kind of complacency if he is to really make it in this division. I recommend that he watch a video of the Yokozuna any bout will do and he will see that every bout must be approached with the utmost concentration, and every opponent with the utmost care and respect for what they can do to you.

M15 Kisenosato had already managed four wins coming into today's bout with M16 Toyozakura without looking all that impressive and he had no answer today to his opponent's devastating tsuppari attack straight from the tachiai. All Kisenosato (4-2) could do was attempt a feeble pull-down at the tawara but Toyozakura (4-2) brushed it aside. Now why doesn't Toyozakura fight like that every day? He would be a Yokozuna by now. Er, possibly.

Not the greatest sumo in history today, but most certainly not the worst either. The weekend bouts should tell us who really is hot and who definitely is not.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Yesterday on our front page we put the headline "In the bag?" regarding Asashoryu's quest for the yusho. After today, just go ahead and replace that question mark with an exclamation point in your minds. As former rikishi with yusho experience continue to lose, Asashoryu continues to toy with his opponents. Today's victim was M2 Dejima who was a shoulda-won away from having a perfect record coming into the day. He nearly beat Kaio on day 1 and then promptly took care of Wakanosato, Chiyotaikai, and Kotomitsuki after that. Still, Asa's patented hari-zashi tachi-ai stopped Dejima in his tracks, and before the mind could register what was happening, Asashoryu had secured the deep morozashi grip and was already looking for the tsuri-dashi win. He lifted Dejima off of his feet but was not close enough to the tawara to set him out. As Dejima landed, Asashoryu maintained his grip but this time positioned himself to the side of his opponent in the pre-tsuri-otoshi stance. The Yokozuna went for the move, but the timing was off and he could not get Dejima airborne, so he settled for the safe yori-taoshi win where he grabed Dejima's thigh a la watashi-komi as he forced him down to the clay intentionally landing on top of Dejima in the process. Asashoryu is a perfect 5-0 and really is playing around with his opponents like a cat badgering a wounded mouse. Dejima falls to 3-2, but his sumo has been excellent, and he is poised to return to the sanyaku if he keeps this up.

Some people may think it strange that we've been pumping up Futenoh's performance so far...hell, he was only 1-3 coming in, but today was a perfect example of why he's worth watching. Against Ozeki Chiyotaikai today, Futenoh was hardly intimidated as he easily brushed Chiyotaikai's "attack" aside and quickly forced the bout to yotsu-zumo. He kept a solid left shitate as Chiyotaikai tried in vain to escape and go for the slap-down. Futenoh showed great patience, and that shitate eventually turned into a solid uwate that Futenoh used to easily force out Chiyotaikai. The superior belt fighter prevailed here as both rikishi stand at 2-3. Chiyotaikai is in deep trouble. He went from anemic tachi-ai to bump on a log to desperate counter attacker. Remember Nostra-Clancy's statement last basho that Chiyotaikai would be retired by Christmas? Futenoh is 2-0 against the Ozeki so far. We'll see if he can make it a perfect 3-0 against Tochiazuma tomorrow.

Speaking of Tochiazuma, what in the hell was that today? I actually saw the results for this bout before I saw the replay. I thought Kyokushuzan must have pulled out some kind of shenanigan tachi-ai, but no, he hit Tochiazuma straight on. The Ozeki's habit of late is passive sumo reacting to his opponents' moves and counter attacking. Well, Shu wasted no time in attacking and grabbing a lightening-quick right uwate. As much as we rib Kyokushuzan on this site, he's a solid, solid belt fighter. He drove Tochiazuma back a step towards the tawara and with his left hand reached around Tochiazuma's left inner-thigh and lifted the Ozeki off the ground slamming him down right on the edge of the dohyo. Tochiazuma landed so hard I was surprised that he got up. Don't be surprised if that jolt Azuma took hitting the ground jarred loose one of his nagging injuries. Tochiazuma falls to 3-2 and is out of the yusho race. Shu picks up his first win to stand at 1-4.

Two days in I was thinking Kaio was the one who would more likely be retired by Christmas, but nothing helps one escape a difficult position more than the Kyokushuzan-Kakizoe one-two "punch." Today the Ozeki slapped down M1 Kakizoe with little effort. What I mean by little effort is Kaio displayed a horrible tachi-ai where he barely bent his knees. Kakizoe charged and aimed for the usual moro-zashi grip, and Kaio knowing what was coming, simply backed up and slapped the M1 down for the lazy, cheap win. Kaio's 4-1 is as ugly as Chiyotaikai's was last basho. Our three Ozeki are a mess right now, but he's going to replace them?

Not Sekiwake Kotomitsuki who is falling fast. I was quite certain that he'd be able to win at least eight this basho, but just like Hakuho and Wakanosato who have recently been considered for Ozeki promotion, Kotomitsuki is wilting under the pressure. Today against Komusubi Miyabiyama, Mitsuki could not handle his opponent's lumbering tsuppari from the tachi-ai. Miyabiyama drove Kotomitsuki back quickly from the tachi-ai, and with his opponent leaning forward to ward off the attack at hopes of getting on the inside, Miyabiyama reversed his direction of attack and slapped Kotomitsuki down to the dirt. Pull-down win? Yes. But I have absolutely no problem with a rikishi on the offensive and in complete domination switching gears to use his opponent's momentum against him. Great win for Miyabiyama today who moves to 3-2 after fighting a tough schedule the first 5 days. Kotomitsuki falls to 2-3 and looks to swap ranks with Miyabiyama for next basho.

In the other Sekiwake - Komusubi matchup, Hakuho developed quite a good strategy against Kotooshu. The Komusubi came a bit low at the tachi-ai as he has done a lot lately, so Hakuho wrapped one hand around the back of Kotooshu's head and the other arm around Kotooshu's right arm in an armbar grip. Hakuho just held Kotooshu down by the neck and arm and spun him around a bit before dumping him via kote-nage set up with that armbar grip. Hakuho moves to 4-1 and looks good today, but he has looked very suspect three days this tournament. Kotooshu falls to 3-2.

In the Maegashira ranks--no, in the entire Makuuchi division--the most anticipated bout of the day on paper featured M3 Roho and red-hot M6 Kokkai. But as these two approached the starting lines, didn't you just know that it would be horrible sumo similar to the Roho - Hakuho bout yesterday? I guess Roho was stil pissed off about yesterday's bout because he jumped immediately to his right at the tachi-ai causing Kokkai to just run himself into the first row. I don't even think Roho touched his opponent the tachi-ai was so ugly. Wait a minute...this could be the first time that the words "Roho" and "ugly" have ever been used in the same sentence. I'm not going to go off here as I would if Roho were ranked in the sanyaku or if he was an Ozeki, but what infuriates me the most is that Kokkai (4-1) wasn't given the chance continue his winning streak. Is there another sport in the world where one can win or score a point by cowardly running away from the opponent? Sumo is a martial art, so why allow someone to win without even touching his opponent? I guess I am going off on this, but today's act was just so wrong and cowardly. I don't see how anyone can defend the tachi-ai henka or not let it bother them. The last word on Roho (undeserved 2-3) for today is he is never going to be promoted to the sanyaku much less the Ozeki ranks with this kind of sumo...regardless of how many wins he racks up.

The other undefeated Maegashira rikishi coming in who was given a fair shot at extending his winning streak was M8 Iwakiyama. M10 Jumonji was the victim today as Iwakiyama just pulverized him from the tachi-ai with his tsuppari. Just like the Miyabiyama - Kotomitsuki bout commented on earlier, as Jumonji was driven back and braced his foot against the tawara, he leaned forward causing Iwakiyama to switch gears into reverse and use Jumonji's now forward momentum against him to throw him down to the clay via kote-nage. At 5-0 Iwakiyama is hot, but then I look at his rank and say "what do you expect?" Let's see him do this same thing next basho. Jumonji falls to 3-2, but thanks for at least giving your opponent a fair fight.

An interesting bout today featured M8 Ama and fellow countryman...er...uh...the artist formerly known as the Mongolian, Kyokutenho. Regardless of Kyokutenho just having obtained Japanese citizenship, it was obvious that some sort of national pride was on the line for today's bout. How do I know? Because Kyokutenho actually gave a damn to the tune of forcing the bout into yotsu-zumo and just crushing Ama back, out, and down via a wicked yori-taoshi. The reason Kyokutenho is ranked M5 and not in the sanyaku where he has the skills to be is because he just doesn't care anymore. Both rikishi stand at 2-3.

In the only bout this basho where the opening act will be better than the actual headlining bout, the Nagoya faithful were forced to choose today between Katayama's incredible shiko and Takamisakari's pre-bout shadow boxing. As expected the actual fight was anti-climactic as Katayama (2-3) failed to budge the gangly Sakari from the tachi-ai, so the Robocop just scooped his opponent under the armpit and threw him over. Takamisakari continues to receive huge ovations for everything but his actual sumo. He moves to 3-2 with the win.

The other newcomer, M14 Tamaasuka, used his youth and speed to strike at the tachi-ai and quickly evade to the side of M17 Takanowaka (2-3) positioning himself for an otsuke that set up the easy push-out win. Asuka creeps above .500 at 3-2. The other newcomer, M14 Hakurozan, also moved his record to 3-2 today by halting the feisty M16 Toyozakura's tsuppari attack by grabbing around both arms as Takanonami used to do every bout (coincidentally, Takanonami provided color commentary on the NHK broadcast today, but I digress). The Russian used the grip to kote-nage Toyozakura (3-2) to the dirt making it a good win for a Russian today as opposed to a horrendous win for the other Russian.

And finally, M15 Kisenosato continues his winning ways as he forced out M17 Ishide (3-2) by keeping in front of his opponent as Ishide circled around and around the ring. The teenager's lateral movement was perfect today as he moves to an impressive 4-1. Can Kisenosato keep this momentum up? He's been hot and cold in the past.

Well, the yusho is all but decided. It's now a matter of Asashoryu building on his 22 bout win streak. Kotomitsuki's Ozeki hopes are already dashed, so there's not much more for the Nagoya faithful to get excited about. No wonder the crowd seemed less than ten rows deep today. Take those hags in kimonos who apply their makeup with trowels away, and the crowd is maybe 7 rows deep. Still, I have to hand it to the Nagoya fans who are showing up. Why fork out a lot of money for sumo when you can watch music videos online of Shakira gyrating on stage for free?

Day 4 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Boy, is it ever slim pickings at the Aichi Gymnasium these days. I can't remember too many basho where the seats have been this empty. Guess sumo needs a shot in the arm not unlike the shot dished out today to Takamisakari's kisser by Jumonji. Jeez. Just when you think Robocop can't get anymore awkward, take a look at him trying to come out of a half conscious daze following a vicious harite. I'd say that one landed 'just so' at the tachiai. It snapped Sakari's neck back and promptly dropped him like a sack of potatoes. Upon bowing and turning to retreat down the lonely post-loss hanamichi, Sakari about lost his balance. Can you imagine if he'd have taken a spill onto the first row fans? I think Jumonji's got some vendetta against 'ole Taka. This makes two basho in a row where he's roughed up the poor crowd fave. Or he REALLY wants that extra sponsor money. 

Enough of that. Let's get down to some real sumo. How about little M8 Ama (2-2) waltzing out big M7 Kotonowaka (1-3) like it was nothing? Either the gritty vet's knee is really screaming, or there's something fishy going on there. 

And what of Kyokushuzan's (0-4) moro-te tachiai against Kaio (3-1) and subsequent game of 'stay away from me'. It worked for 2 seconds until he found himself outside the ring. 

Oh, then there's Hakuho (3-1) making Roho chase him around the dohyo until the Russian loses his balance. Now that's the stuff Ozekis are made of. 

Speaking of potential Ozeki, hometown hopeful Kotomitsuki (2-2) got drilled by Dejima and poor Buyuzan from right there in Toyohashi can't buy a win. 

Asashoryu's so bored he gave Kakizoe (1-2) an extra whack to send the M1 to the second row to jostle the dozing fans. His only apparent rival thus far, Tochiazuma (3-1), ate a harite of his own from Kotooshu (3-1) and later found himself in migi-yotsu position against the towering Bulgarian. Azuma had the upper hand for a short time, but after Oshu displayed good footwork to regain his balance at the rope, he caught the Ozeki off guard with his preferred grip and used the momentum to force out the Ozeki. 

Wakanosato (3-1) did beat Chiyotaikai (2-2) for the first time in the last 12 tries, but what's to like about the sumo of these two recently? 

And to think people are choosing not to shell out their hard earned money to come see this stuff. When Katayama's leg lift during the shikiri is the highlight of the Makuuchi division, we've got some excitement issues. 

Asashoryu, Kokkai and Iwakiyama stand unscathed after 4 days. My cynical mood concludes now. I will return on Saturday as good as new.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
After a slow start out of the gate, the basho is beginning to produce better sumo, but the reality is even after just three days, the yusho is down to a two-horse race. With Asashoryu in fine form as usual, the other contenders simply can't afford to lose this early on. Getting right to the action, Yokozuna Asashoryu was paired today against upstart M3 Futenoh, who also happened to be Asashoryu's rival in high school sumo. Futenoh was coming off of the biggest win of his career as he demolished Ozeki Kaio yesterday, and he would not disappoint again today against the intimidating Asashoryu. After a solid tachi-ai where neither rikishi was really able to gain a clear advantage, Asashoryu used his speed to secure the morozashi grip highlighted by a deep right shitate that frequently spells tsuri-otoshi for his victim. Game over, right? Wrong. Futenoh dug in his heels and refused to be pushed around by the Yokozuna. Asashoryu attempted the force out win, but he could not move Futenoh back and across the tawara. Finally, the Yokozuna wrenched his opponent upwards with a left inside belt grip that he used to dump Futenoh to the dirt, but he had to work for it. Asashoryu was never in any real danger as he was yesterday against Roho, but Futenoh gave him a better fight that even he could have expected. Futenoh is quickly gaining my respect. He looked lackadaisical in the lower Maegashira ranks, but up amongst the jo'i, he is proving that he's not intimidated. He is 1-2, but he has yet to fight a Maegashira rikishi, and his confidence really has to be sky high. I'm looking forward to his performance against the rest of the jo'i. Asashoryu is 3-0 as expected.

In the penultimate bout, Ozeki Kaio would be forced to bounce back from his shocking defeat yesterday by facing Komusubi Miyabiyama. Kaio came with his usual conservative tachi-ai, and Miyabiyama displayed his lumbering tsuppari from the get-go. Kaio could not get inside of Miyabi's thrusts and was forced to trade tsuppari with his opponent; however, Miyabiyama was not moving Kaio backwards either. At one point in the bout, Miyabiyama placed a perfectly timed pull on Kaio's arm as he extended it to push Miyabiyama, but the veteran Kaio was somehow able to keep his balance. After another flurry of tsuppari from both opponents, it was Kaio's turn to place the perfectly timed pull of Miyabiyama's arm setting up the easy kotenage throw down. This really was vintage Kaio with patient, defensive sumo until he found his opening. The kimarite was ruled hataki-komi, but whoever decided on that has been sniffing too much air outside of the sewage treatment plant within view of my hotel room's window here in Tokyo. Kaio improves to a shaky 2-1 while Miyabiyama falls to 1-2.

Ozeki Tochiazuma looked to receive a tough test from M3 Roho today. Roho attempted the same tachi-ai he used to defeat Kotomitsuki on day 1 where he delivers the sharp slap at the tachi-ai followed by the move to his left to grab the uwate, but Tochiazuma showed the difference between an Ozeki and a Sekiwake by surviving the tactic. With two rikishi who like to sit back and pick their spots, this bout turned into a pull-down fest where neither rikishi succeeded on the first try. The two rikishi ended up locking elbows and touching foreheads, which is a scary though in itself for Tochiazuma. The Ozeki refused to give the Russian a firm belt grip, and after 10 more seconds of grapplin' and more pull-down attempts from both parties, Tochiazuma backed up a bit and moved to his side allowing him to get into perfect position to push the slower Roho out with. This was a good win for Tochiazuma, but it was also a perfect example of the defensive-minded sumo he tends to display of late. Still, at 3-0, he is the only rikishi who has a prayer of ripping the yusho from Asashoryu. Roho falls to a respectable 1-2.

It has been a bit difficult to gauge Chiyotaikai so far this basho. He scored an unorthodox win against Kotooshu, and then a win over Kyokushuzan ranked this high up the banzuke means nothing. Today we got a little bit better read as the Ozeki faced M2 Dejima. Chiyotaikai fired away as usual with his tsuppari from the tachi-ai, but he could not budge the former Ozeki. After two or three seconds, Dejima made his charge and Chiyotaikai retreated moving to his right. Dejima read the move perfectly, and before Chiyotaikai really had time to put his hands behind Dejima's head, he was shoved into the first row suffering his first loss. Both rikishi stand at 2-1, and it looks as if Chiyotaikai will continue to struggle this basho.

In the Sekiwake ranks, Hakuho displayed the same form that he did at last year's Kyushu basho where he moved from side to side and slapped down at his opponents. Against M4 Tosanoumi today, Hakuho absorbed Tosanoumi's charge fairly well, but opted to retreat this way and that forcing Tosanoumi to chase him around. I counted five different slaps from Hakuho where he tried to pull down at the back of Tosanoumi's head. None of them worked, but with Hakuho darting around, Tosanoumi couldn't capitalize on the failed pull-downs. The two rikishi eventually hooked up at the belt, and after fighting off a few force-out attempts aided by a left Tosanoumi uwate, Hakuho dumped his opponent with a scoop throw. I see Hakuho working here. He knows Tosanoumi charges with his head low, so he wanted to go for the easy win. Tosanoumi didn't oblige and gave Hakuho a much tougher fight than Hakuho probably expected. Hakuho moves to 2-1, but today's sumo was anything but sound. Tosanoumi falls on hard times at 0-3.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki looked to receive a bit of a break today facing M1 Kyokushuzan. On one hand, it should be an easy win, but on the other hand, Kyokushuzan is as wily as they come, and you usually have to guess which way he's going to move. Kotomitsuki got it easy today as Kyokushuzan actually charged forward at the tachi-ai inviting a yotsu-zumo contest. Kotomitsuki took full advantaged and forced Kyokushuzan back as fast as if I was his opponent. This was so lop-sided Kotomitsuki actually had to pull up at the end to keep himself from flopping into the first row along with Shu. Mitsuki moves to 2-1 with the gimme today while Kyokushuzan falls to an expected 0-3.

In the Komusubi ranks, Kotooshu was bullied from the tachi-ai by a hard-charging M4 Tamanoshima. Tama looked to be in complete control as he forced Kotooshu back, but the Bulgarian used his lanky arm to lock his right hand on the mae-mawashi of his opponent and lift Tamanoshima up to weaken Tama's attack. Tamanoshima had Kotooshu pushed back to the tawara, but the Bulgarian's belt grip and height were too much for Tamanoshima to overcome. Kotooshu eventually turned the tables by lifting Tamanoshima off balance and pushing him down to the dirt. A 2-1 start is good for any Komusubi. Tamanoshima falls to 1-2 himself.

Dropping down to the Maegashira ranks, I only comment on the M1 Kakizoe - M5 Kyokutenho matchup because it was the ugliest bout of the basho so far. You had two 0-2 rikishi coming in who both resort to the tachi-ai henka when they need that desperate win. Kakizoe took the low road this time providing the henka drama, and while it wasn't executed well at all, Kyokutenho just fumbled forward at the tachi-ai allowing himself to be pushed to the dirt with little effort. I guess somebody had to win, but this was horrible sumo from both parties.

Anything but horrible has been M6 Kokkai's sumo this basho. For the third day in a row, Kokkai just crushed his opponent from the tachi-ai and had him pushed back and out in seconds. Ama actually charged well but literally bounced off of the Georgian's bulk and could do nothing. This was simple physics: the larger mass moving forward wins the bout. Kokkai has just been bludgeoning his opponents this basho with lethal harite slaps and fierce tsuppari, and I wonder why he doesn't do this while ranked higher up the banzuke. At 3-0 he may just get that date with Asashoryu. M8 Ama falls to 1-2, but is it possible not to root for this guy? Today's bout was a good example of the struggle Ama will face when he meets the larger, stronger rikishi higher up on the banzuke.

M8 Iwakiyama took a break from rolling barrels down the Donkey Kong girders today and pasted M11 Takekaze with a great oshi-attack from the tachi-ai aided by a meek pull-down attempt from Takekaze. This was so lopsided that Iwakiyama needs to get his arse back up the banzuke where he belongs. At 3-0 so far, that should be no problem. Takekaze suffers his first loss falling to 2-1.

M9 Kotoshogiku's 10 bout win steak (going back to last basho) came to an end at the Robotic arms of M11 Takamisakari. Kotoshogiku pressed the action easily winning the tachi-ai (who doesn't against Takamisakari?), but as Takamisakari retreated he wrenched upwards with his left hand under Kotoshogikui's right armpit (the kaina move) throwing the M9 off balance and subsequently down to the dirt. Kotoshogiku did lose, but I like that fact that he slammed the dirt with his fist and was pissed that he lost. I like that kind of fire. Takamisakari yet again pulls a magical win out of his tophat after generating zero momentum from the tachi-ai. Both rikishi stand at 2-1 and the Nagoya crowd goes home happy with a Takamisakari win.

M14 Hakurozan unleashed a vicious nodowa deep into M12 Tokitenku's neck at the tachi-ai, but Tokitenku brilliantly swiped at Hakurozan's left arm turning the Russian slightly to the side. The move allowed Tokitenku to get inside with the left hand, and with Hakurozan now standing straight up and turned, it was easy does it. Hakurozan forgot his de-ashi after a perfect start and falls to 1-2 as a result. It's simply inexperience and a mistake he will correct in time.  Tokitenku improves to 2-1.

Youngster M15 Kisenosato survived a sharp tsuppari attack from M12 Tochisakae at the tachi-ai and came back with some tsuppari of his own to spin Tochisakae around and out. Don't look now, but as soon as we let the air out of Kisenosato's balloon, he has responded with a 3-0 start. Tochisakae falls to 0-3.

And finally, M16 Toyonoshima thoroughly neutered M14 Tamaasuka today as he grabbed morozashi from the tachi-ai to set up the easy yorikiri over Tamaasuka. There was absolutely nothing the Makuuchi newcomer could do as he falls to 2-1. Toyonoshima picks up his first win at 1-2.

Coming into the tournament, I felt there were only four rikishi who had any chance at all to steal the yusho from Asashoryu: Tochiazuma, Kaio, Kotomitsuki, and Hakuho. With three of the four having already suffered a loss, it's up to Tochiazuma to foil Asashoryu's hopes. Still, even if Asashoryu does capture his fifth consecutive yusho, this can still turn out to be a great basho if the likes of Kokkai, Hakuho, Iwakiyama, and even Kisenosato can maintain their momentum.

Day 2 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
A brief word on yesterday: it was a bloody disappointing shonichi, wouldn't you say? With Sekiwake Kotomitsuki blundering into defeat like a cat with a catnip overdose (no disrespect to Roho, who did what he had to do), Hakuho capitulating with a whimper, and all three Ozeki looking wholly unconvincing, it was left to the lower-ranked rikishi to show good sumo. M17 Ishide looked very saucy, as did M9 Kotoshogiku in a storming battle with M9 Aminishiki. New boys M13 Tamaasuka and Hakurozan also impressed with good positive sumo. Let's hope the higher-ranked rikishi take note and get their fingers out. I was not in the slightest bit impressed with the Yokozuna's continuing need to be a total show-off with that totally unnecessary tsuridashi against hapless Komusubi Miyabiyama. I thought he had left this kind of crap, which is frankly more at home in a pro-wrestling bout, behind, but I was obviously wrong. Asashoryu is surely aware by now that one of the many responsibilities of a Yokozuna is to win in a dignified manner. He could easily have just placed Miyabiyama out of the dohyo. In fact, that was exactly what the presenters of the Japanese NHK broadcast were saying after yesterday's bout: Asashoryu already has the status and respect of everyone, so why show off and humiliate an opponent? Well, we can guess: Miyabiyama is the heaviest of the current rikishi so I suppose Asashoryu could not resist demonstrating his ability to do this. It sends a clear message, after all: this could happen to any of you!

Changing the subject slightly, Yokozuna Asashoryu said in a pre-basho interview that he was concerned about the fact that he has never fought a Yokozuna as a Yokozuna. He knows that when people look back at his dominant reign, there will be those who will say that even if he beats all the records, it would be meaningless because, unlike Taiho, Chiyonofuji and Kitanoumi, he had no serious rival. This is clearly not Asashoryu's fault but I agree with him here; he needs someone to come through soon, certainly in the next couple of years.

Moving to the day two action, definite non-rival M3 Roho stepped up to the gibbet. The Yokozuna came in strongly as usual but then actually tried to pull the Russian down, simply because he saw an opportunity--Roho was in a low stance and looked vulnerable. This tactic failed but the Yokozuna decided to go for his more usual tactic of going forward, but even then, he gambled and went for one big flying thrust. If Roho had had the presence of mind, he could have stepped to the side and humiliated his illustrious opponent, but it was not to be. We have a bit longer to wait for a kinboshi, it seems. Asashoryu continues his march to the yusho at 2-0. Roho stands at 1-1.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai, who, on top of all his other problems has been suffering from asthma since last basho, took on Komusubi Kotooshu today. The Ozeki switched to the side just after the tachiai and looked to be going for kotenage. Kotooshu looked completely out of it by this stage. Chiyotaikai then surprised us all with a rear footsweep (susoharai). We don't see him doing that kind of thing very often. The Ozeki stands at 2-0 without looking all that impressive. Kotooshu falls to 1-1.

M3 Futenoh's first ever bout against an Ozeki took place courtesy of Kaio. Futenoh looked a little nervous, but that was to be expected. He should not have been, however, as he delivered a blistering tachiai against the listless Ozeki and bullied him straight out of the dohyo in about four seconds. It was a display of good preparation as much as anything else as Futenoh went for migi mae-mawashi and lifted the Ozeki up so that he was too high to deploy an effective defense. Kaio (1-1) is clearly not in the mood at the moment and he had better wake up very soon or it will be basho over for him. Futenoh has a dream hatsu gin-boshi at the first attempt to go 1-1. I have never seen him fight so impressively.

M4 Tosanoumi must have had the memory of today's opponent's henka in the last basho clear in his mind in the pre-bout warm-up. I hope Ozeki Tochiazuma felt bad about it, too. At least the Ozeki came in straight this time but he still made hard work of the veteran, who hung in well. The outcome was never really in doubt, however, and Tochiazuma looked a lot more solid than he did yesterday. The Ozeki is a splendid prize peacock at 2-0. Tosanoumi is a half-eaten chicken at 0-2.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki knows that this basho is ashigatame, or, in other words, a step-up basho. He has not been given a specific number of wins to go for but he knows he will need at least eleven good wins to have a chance of being promoted, if not for the Aki Basho, then for Kyushu. As he is well aware that how he wins is now an important factor, he knows this means no more henka! Let's move on to today's action. After totally screwing up yesterday against Roho, he met M4 Tamanoshima in a must-win match. He delivered the goods with a strong tachiai and good attacking forward pushing and thrusting but he looked a little unsteady to me and was certainly open to a slip to the side by Tamanoshima. It didn't happen this time but the Ozeki hopeful will need to be a little more careful. We all saw what happened yesterday. Kotomitsuki's attempt is back up and running as he improves to 1-1. Tamanoshima falls to the same score.

Sekiwake Hakuho demonstrated his usual loss of concentration yesterday. Would we see the same against the ever-dangerous M1 Kakizoe today? No, we wouldn't. The Sekiwake bided his time as Kakizoe arsed around trying to get a grip of the Mongolian's mawashi, and took control to win with a nice uwatenage. Hakuho is back on track at 1-1. Kakizoe falls to 0-2.

Komusubi Miyabiyama went with his strengths today and swept aside M1 Kyokushuzan's usual morote attack with powerful thrusts of his own to the face and neck. It was embarrassingly easy for the Komusubi as he improves to 1-1. Kyokushuzan sets the tone for the rest of the basho and falls to 0-2.

M2 Wakanosato took M2 Dejima's charge very well but the former Ozeki showed that he is no longer the pushover on the belt that he used to be, and it is this recently (last year or two) acquired skill that is behind his current creep up the ranks. To be frank, however, Wakanosato should not be losing in this kind of battle to Dejima and will be disappointed to stand at 1-1. Dejima improves to 1-1 and will feel he deserves to be up there after his unlucky defeat to Kaio yesterday. Crikey! We don't often see Dejima winning by uwatenage.

M10 Kaiho almost got away with being chucked around like a doll by M9 Aminishiki but it wasn't to be in the end. Aminishiki came in strong and low and looked a clear winner once he got migi-uwate. Kaiho put up a fight and showed some good balance, but, ironically, it was balance that let him down in the end as he stumbled ignominiously to the dohyo. Kaiho will be worried at 0-2. Aminishiki goes to 1-1.

Fresh from a superb display against Aminishiki on shonichi, M9 Kotoshogiku met M10 Jumonji today, and it was another demonstration of great attacking sumo. Kotoshogiku employed impressive nodowa to give Jumonji not a whit of a chance. Oshidashi. Kotoshogiku resembles Darth Vader at 2-0. Jumonji looks more like C-3P0 at 1-1.

M14 Tamaasuka impressed again with a fearless clash of heads with M13 Katayama. After a brief tussle in the centre of the dohyo, Katayama took the initiative and drove forward but was fighting way too high. Tamaasuka showed maturity and poise to wait for his moment and used his opponent's momentum and poor stance against him to pick up a second win. It is a dream start and I have to say that I've liked what I've seen so far. Katayama won't panic yet at 1-1.

It was a case of veteran meets newcomer as M13 Tamakasuga went up against M14 Hakurozan. The young Russian led with an effective harite and took advantage of his opponent's distraction to get an ultra-firm grip with both hands on the belt. Tamakasuga did not stand a chance and was ushered out by yorikiri. Hakurozan (1-1) will be delighted with both the performance and, more importantly, the hatsu-shiroboshi. Tamakasuga remains winless and likely dispirited after two days of being in fights where he had no chance whatsoever.

M15 Kisenosato continued to get away with murder as he somehow beat a highly unfortunate (and speedy) M16 Toyonoshima. The young hopeful just could not seem to finish his opponent off, and this was in no small way thanks to Toyonoshima's excellent technique of slipping from defensive to attacking sumo at will. Toyonoshima will be gutted to be 0-2 after two days of impressive sumo. He does not deserve it. Kisenosato remains unbeaten but will need to show more consistency to keep this streak going.

As I mentioned earlier in the report, M17 Ishide (the second-lightest rikishi after Ama) looked impressive yesterday pulling off his own attractive brand of aggressive, straightforward sumo. Against M16 Toyozakura today he looked a bit keen to get off and was the cause of two matta. Perhaps this unsettled him a little because despite coming in with fast tsuppari to his opponent's face, he lost concentration momentarily and overbalanced. Chalk up an easy win for Toyozakaru (2-0). Ishide falls to 1-1.

All in all it was another strange day at the office. With the exception of Kotomitsuki, Futenoh and Dejima, the upper half of the banzuke was very unimpressive, and we are having to look lower down for quality and entertainment. Kotoshogiku in particular is looking in fine fettle, not to mention the two newcomers to the division.

Day 1 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
It may be Summer in Japan but the action was not so hot as we stumble out of the gates for yet another basho. I'm a "cup is half-full" guy, but I've got to tell you that I fell asleep watching the tape of today's bouts. Asashoryu looked bored as he slapped Komusubi Miyabiyama off the tachiai, quickly garnered morozashi and lifted him out for a ho-hum tsuri-dashi. No more tsuri-otoshi, I guess. As Kitanofuji commented, he's too mature for that now. 

The three Ozeki won, sure enough, but there was nothing impressive about it. Tochiazuma, who looks to be in the best condition of the three, took the full brunt of M1 Kakizoe's aggressive oshi-assault and promptly got backed up to the tawara. Luckily Azuma had grabbed the left  uwate and used it for an 11th hour uwatenage to dump Kakizoe to the dirt just in time. It was more like Kakizoe's feet couldn't keep up with his own offensive launched at the Ozeki.

Kadoban Kaio likewise fought a defensive battle against M2 Dejima, who bulldozed the Ozeki with his trademark de-ashi. Turned sideways and all, Kaio somehow pulled off a last ditch kotenage hook throw while in heavy retreat to escape an opening day defeat. Folks, the two bouts described here are hardly worthy of Ozeki status. It is a "W" for both, yes. In the days to come though, let's hope they start forcing their brand of sumo that got them to this rank instead of being pushed around by lesser foe.

Perhaps the only reason Chiyotaikai didn't play defense today was that it is practically impossible to do so against M1 Kyokushuzan, who is coming off a 12-3 performance in May (I had forgotten). Although suffering from bouts of asthma, the undertrained Taikai had no trouble slapping Shu out of the ring. It was obvious Kyokushuzan was afraid of Taikai by the grimace on his face and chin pointed to the sky. Can you see why I fell asleep?

Unfortunately, the remainder of the joi brought no more excitement. Both Sekiwake lost, including the highly anticipated hometown fave Kotomitsuki. M3 Roho slapped Mitsuki to set up a left uwate and promptly used it dump the 13-2 May yusho runner-up in about 3 seconds. Mitsuki's counterpart Hakuho continues to have no luck against M2 Wakanosato, who is now a career 6-0 against him. Hakuho pushed the pace but got dropped at the tawara for a similar 3-second defeat. 

Komusubi Kotooshu met M3 Futenoh in a bout of 2 rikishi coming off double digit win performances in May. But it was double the displeasure in viewing a 2-second pull down win by Kotooshu. How about some action here?

I guess I'll have to give kudos to M8 Ama, who took it to behemoth counterpart Iwakiyama and almost came away with the victory. Now here's a guy at 115 kilos not afraid of anybody. Let's count how many times he side steps his opponent this basho. 

Finally, let's give a hand to M14 Tamaasuka, who won a solid bout against fellow newcomer Hakurozan to pick up his first Makuuchi victory in front of his hometown crowd. Asuka even smiled in the interview and looked happy to be there, which is a breath of fresh air. That was enough to make my day in an otherwise action-challenged first day at Nagoya basho.

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