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Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Senshuraku Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
This report was written "live" from the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya. Good to be back fourteen years after my first ever sumo attendance, living in the area in 2001.

Mike has been telling you for a few basho now that the popularity of sumo is back on the rise, and I got to experience that first hand today. The most careful way to get sumo tickets is online well in advance. However, on the day of the match a limited number of open seats are available, even on popular days like today with the yusho on the line. I've never had a problem getting tickets this way, and figured showing up at 7:45 for the 8:00 ticket booth opening time would be sufficient. It is Nagoya, not a sumo Mecca, and the two wrestlers vying for the yusho, Hakuho and Kakuryu, are Mongolians and inspire more admiration than ardor.

I'm pleased to say I was wrong. The line was already a few hundred people (click here for a link to all my pictures from the day). At a certain point in the line someone was holding a sign saying that was where the tickets would run out. By my count, I was the 47th person after that. We extras were told that if there were any cancelled tickets, we could get those. However, the retired wrestler relaxing outside having a cigarette and the official line manager I spoke with both immediately said "kyou muri," ("impossible today")--they didn't want to give me false hope. The line lady said "it's crazy this year," and that the first in line arrived last night at 11:30--she was genuinely marveling at the difference to the last few years. Despite this wrecking my plan, I was happy to hear it. Meanwhile, I spoke with the lucky gentlemen at the end of the "there are tickets" line; they had gotten there at 6:40 a.m., so I was an hour late.

In the end none of us after the cut off sign, and even a few before (the lucky gentlemen in fact proving bitterly unlucky), were turned away.

However, I'm a veteran of buying scalped tickets, so it was plan B time. A few years back I scored four tickets for me and family off the street and two more at the both one morning to set up an impromptu sumo day. So, I set myself up at the subway exit, made a crude sign on the back of some work papers I'd brought to fill the gaps, and in my New Worlder way began cheerfully greeting passers-by and asking if they had tickets. Two hours of this netted lots of smiles, but no tickets. I decided I needed a spot closer in, and headed for the venue. When I arrived, a young woman stepped up and asked me if I'd succeeded--she'd seen me with my sign. She said she was looking, too. However, she was quiet, mild-mannered, had no sign, and I wondered how she was doing it. She said she approached certain people. Who, I asked? "Ayashii hito," she said: "strange people." This is the Japanese way: quiet and focused. She also was looking at online auctions. I knew I had my in; we soon agreed to go in on two box seats at 28,400 yen--just over $200. This began an odyssey in which she negotiated over text message, we hopped on the subway for another part of town, went to a combini where she paid the auction site, trooped all over the neighborhood in the glaring sun to find the shop where the tickets were held by a shipping company, and finally had our prize an hour and half after the decision was made. Success. This is how scalping usually works here: indirectly. You set it up by putting the word out there, then someone comes to you. The scalper are called "dafuya," and if we'd waited quietly at the venue I have no doubt that would have worked as well: they will find you.

As I said a few days ago, the biggest common denominator in Nagoya is heat. They give away free fans, and the venue is constantly aflutter with them; I kept mine busy as well, and consumed six regular bottles of assorted drinks, two glasses of tea, full two liter bottle of water, and still had a dehydration headache during this monumentally sweaty summer day.

The venue was also just simply busy: the halls packed, people lined up to buy souvenirs and food, attendants lined up to take us to our seats. Like Osaka, the venue is small: every seat feels close. Though I'd purchased a pretty good seat from the scalper, at first I sat at the farthest row in the corner because it was easy to write there, and I still felt closer to the action than I ever have in Tokyo. The place is intimate: wandering about for pictures to take, I was held back by an attendant so that Kakuryu could pass in front of me through the public hallway. (He's quick that Kakuryu, and I didn't get a shot.) I would also say that while Osaka feels dark and conspiratory in the best way possible, Nagoya feels light and airy, the seats a gray-blue color, the weekend, summer vacation audience cheery and frank in their enjoyment.

By the time all of my running around getting tickets, taking pictures, getting kicked out of two back-row seats by the actual occupants and getting back to my real (very good) seat, it was time for Makuuchi action. Today it was all about the yusho battle between the Yokozuna Hakuho, who gets it if he wins, and Yokozuna Kakuryu, who gets it if he beats Hakuho twice (the regular match and a playoff).

We'll start at the bottom and build up to it.

M12 Endo (9-5) vs. M10 Amuuru (8-6)
Endo got huge cheers in the ring entering ceremony, and there were 15 banners for him--still very popular. These guys went chest to chest; Endo got a left inside, while Amuuru appeared to be pushing him in the neck from the other side (it was here that I realized that being on the "mukou joumen" side, the gyoji was going to be happy to block my view rather than that of the national TV camera, facing us across the way. Endo surged forward nicely though for the yori-kiri win. It is an old song to sing, but now he has to show he can do this from a higher rank.

M10 Kitataiki (5-9) vs. M16 Takanoiwa (5-9)
Another good chest to chest battle here, with arms tangled up together pretty good. However, Kitataiki fell out of his grip at the last moment and lurched out the ring, ruled shitate-nage for Takanoiwa.

M15 Seiro (7-7) vs. M9 Homarefuji (5-9)
This started as a slap fest, but Homarefuji got some hard pushing going on thereafter, and had good commitment at the end, laying himself out flat while flying through the air like an arrow for the win; Seiro dropped over the edge just as Homarefuji belly flopped to the clay, mission accomplished, for the oshi-dashi win. Despite the make-koshi, Seiro will likely stick in Makuuchi for another basho, and I will be interested to see what he can do now that rookie jitters are over.

M9 Sadanofuji (9-5) vs. M15 Satoyama (5-9)
Sadanofuji knew what to do here. Satoyama went for his typical low tachi-ai, and Sadanofuji immediately stood him up with some concentrated shoves to the upper body and face. Once he had him upright, he went for a no-nonsense neck-breaker choke-hold; it was over in seconds in a convincing oshi-dashi win capping a very good tournament for Sadanofuji. For Satoyama, this may have been the last hurrah: the gimmick has run out of laughs, and another Makuuchi appearance isn't far-fetched but would be pointless: Juryo ought to have him figured out, too.

M14 Toyohibiki (5-9) vs. M7 Toyonoshima (6-8)
This one looked to be a carbon copy of the previous match: Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) exploded off the tachi-ai, got Toyonoshima bent like a banana with a Walter Payton stiff-arm to the throat, had his man at the tawara, and should have had this one. But, you could feel it happen even before it did: in classic Toyohibiki style, he couldn't finish it off, and fell down on his face to his right as Toyonoshima danced on the tawara; very nice "gyaku-ten" (come-back / walk-off) tsuki-otoshi victory for Toyonoshima. (And props to my helpful neighbor for the attentive kimari-te call.)

M7 Tamawashi (8-6) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (7-7)
Supported by the isolated cries of a few who buy this gas-bag's show-off shtick, Kotoyuki pranced about, slapping himself and, eventually, drawing more general applause with his ostentatious pre-match hoot. He and Tamawashi then had a good long stare down that drew more applause. Finally, I'm sorry to say Tamawashi let Kotoyuki destroy him with shoves and thrusts; it was a linear tsuki-dashi blast out. Big time crowd pleaser here.

M6 Kyokushuho (5-9) vs. M13 Hidenoumi (5-9)
This was almost completely blocked by the gyoji from my eyeline, but Hidenoumi scored an easy yori-kiri win by staying a little lower while Kyokushuho had him around the neck.

M5 Okinoumi (10-4) vs. M14 Kagamioh (9-5)
I was looking forward to this one; Okinoumi has had an excellent tournament, and Kagamio was an early leader who has faded. Who would finish off strong? Both had belt grips, and Kagamio tried to use his to turn Okinoumi and get his back to the straw. However, Okinoumi denied that with pure strength, making sure it was Kagamio whose back was to the bales. The end came quickly after that; the superior wrestler won here. Okinoumi simply overpowered his foe yori-kiri.

M6 Gagamaru (5-9) vs. M14 Takekaze (5-9)
Gagamaru left outer grip, strength, momentum, de-ashi, yori-kiri dumping off the dohyo of Takekaze, who had no business being at the belt with the behemoth. Good stuff.

M4 Aminishiki (5-9) vs. M11 Tokitenku (6-8)
One lonely support banner for this. Is it inspired by my sneaky fave, Tokitenku, lord of the hardbitten I-just-want-to-win club? Probably not.

Along with Takekaze, this is two thirds of the dirtiest trio of wrestlers you can find in this division, so I expected some fun from these two wicked veterans. However, this was an uninspiring affair, fought with trifling shoves at the upper body and chest. Aminishiki proved he still has a little gas left; in the end he simply slid Tokitenku the last meter or two on the soles of his feet and pushed him out. I didn't hear the kimari-te and neither did my neighbor, but I'm calling it oshi-dashi and so should they.

M8 Osunaarashi (10-4) vs. M2 Aoiyama (8-6)
During the dohyo-iri ceremony, Osunaarashi was staring right at me. It was kind of scary. He's made a fan of me with his gritty sumo and matter-of-fact demeanor this tournament, and I was excited to see these two beasts battle. I was also happy to hear a good level of support for Giant Sand (Osunaarashi) from the crowd. The match did not live up to the hype, however. Osunaarashi went for two hands to the chest, then evaded swiftly to his left. Smart move and worked well, as he quickly ushered Aoiyama out for the yori-kiri win, but I guess I wanted to see fireworks (like I saw last night in Gifu). Still, to finish up this injured tournament at 11-4, Osunaarashi had earned a few moments like this. The giant liver spots of bitterness on Aoiyama's legs grow a little bigger.

M2 Takayasu (5-9) vs. M1 Sadanoumi (6-8)
Sadanoumi is quietly building a career for himself; getting close to kachi-koshi at M1 as a still relatively new guy is not bad. Takayasu, on the other hand, has been hanging around these parts for a while, and no longer gets that caveated credit. I was rooting for Sadanoumi to show High ‘N' Easy who the new guy in town was. Slow tachi-ai from him, though, and he let Takayasu get a mighty inside left. From there Takayasu lifted him up and strained to get Sadanoumi over the tawara. It took long enough and they both showed enough quivering, visible effort to draw cheers, but this match was all Takayasu, yori-kiri.

M1 Tochinoshin (7-7) vs. M11 Kyokutenho (3-11)
Happy to say there was a huge cheer for Kyokutenho on the ring entering ceremony for what will probably be his last day ever. I was writing up the previous bout when these two got introduced for the actual bout, and had to look up to see what all the shouting was about: glad it was him again. Gracious, long lived, fun to watch in the ring, never dirty, and a king of the tall-man, reach-over sumo that is one of the styles I like best and that results in many at-the-edge turnaround victories, Kyokutenho has been a joy to watch for over a decade. I've been watching for about fifteen years; he is the last guy who was already there when I first started watching. Wow. Thankfully, Tochinoshin gave no quarter. They both got left outer / right inner grips, and it looked good for Kyokutenho early on. However, it comes for us all: Tochinoshin has infinitely more oomph then Kyokutehno, and turned him around, threatened tsuri-dashi by getting The Kyok' dangling a bit (oh, bittersweet irony: Kyokutenho was once a past master or tsuri-dashi), and placed him gently down outside the dohyo, for the last time. This was a fitting end: why go out any other way? When you go down like this, you know you're done. No favors. The crowd gave him a great, respectful sending off, applauding him loudly all the way down the hana-michi as he wiped away sweat, or, more likely, tears, as he headed out. My hands literally are stinging. Goodbye, and thank you.

M5 Tokushoryu (7-7) vs. K Myogiryu (7-7)
Another anticipated bout for me; both 7-7, so let's see it, boys. For both them, the question is: is you, or ain't you? Easy: Myogiryu IS, Tokushoryu AIN'T. Because Tokushoryu henka'ed--c'mon now, really? Do you want to show you are good, or show you aren't as good and are afraid? If you want to be here, be here. No henka on the last day in a match like this, please! Henka is fun and appropriate in some situations--I though Big Sandy had the right earlier today--but not you, Special Sauce, not here. So, glory glory, how happy I was to see Myogiryu pull out the calm, cool, and collected, recover, and force Tokushoryu out yori-kiri like the lump of lard he was in this bout. Very smooth tournament for Myog'; I hope for better from Tokushoryu in the future, or hope he goes away. He has potential, but once his henka was done, he had absolutely nothing.

K Takarafuji (3-11) vs. M3 Kaisei (6-8)
Battle of "meh," old and new. Takarafuji "meh" for this tournament, Kaisei "meh" for a career that hasn't lived up to his size. They're both the Brooklyn Dodgers this tournament: have to wait ‘til next time to see if they can mount anything. However, they went hard today and credit for that. Takarafuji had a left inner and Kaisei a long, long right outer (man, is that arm long), and they held steady chest to chest for a good long while. Kaisei then tried a maki-kae, and Takarafuji turned on a dime and took advantage to shove him around. Kaisei survived once at the tawara, but was tuckered out by this point, and Takarafuji did not lose focus, working his man out for the win.

M3 Ikioi (2-12) vs. S Ichinojo (3-11)
This one was sponsored by a snack company that produces something called "Baby Star," little compact dried, spiced noodles, with a poofy, child-faced baby mascot that kind of looks like Ichinojo, if you are feeling imaginative. Cool. Ikioi had no business being in this one; Ichinojo quickly got inside on the body and wrecked Ikioi yori-kiri.

S Tochiohzan (10-4) vs. M8 Yoshikaze (11-3)
I like both of these guys quite a bit, and look forward to seeing Yoshikaze imitate a blender with no top on in the jo'i again next time. Tochiohzan, however, has to finish strong here to have any credibility for the strong tournament he looked to be having just a few days ago. No dice. Yoshikaze hit him very hard off the tachi-ai, then evaded. Tochiohzan staggered past him and was easy pickin's from there for the push out.

To be honest, I'm happy with Tochiohzan at Sekiwake. If he ever makes it to Ozeki, he'll be Kotoshogiku inside of a year. Best Sekiwake run I ever saw was Wakanosato; if Tochiohzan can shadow that, that seems about perfect for his talent level.

O Kotoshogiku (7-7) vs. O Terunofuji (11-3)
Let me write this before this starts: I WANT to look forward to matches like this. Instead, I dread them, because for me there are two possible outcomes: Terunofuji wins and I think it was probably straight, or Kotoshogiku wins and I think it wasn't. Dumb? Maybe. I get it that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fair? Yes, because that is sumo's proven track record, and the unfortunate moment in the time-space-continuum Kotoshogiku has declined to. This is The Future (Terunofuji) against The Past (and a brief and mild one at that). But, crowd is happy, so I will be too. I'll root hard for this Kotoshogiku late-career pain to end and see if it does. If not, well, that's part of this sport's tradition too. Still, I could not agree more with Mike: I don't see the point of keeping Kotoshogiku at Ozeki for an additional tournament (or, if he wins, at least two more tournaments). Here we go: evasion to the left off the tachi-ai for Kotoshogiku, sprawl to the dirt for Terunofuji, hataki-komi. Well, at least he had to semi-henka to do it, which tells you where the story is at. And here is the true, true bottom line, all my whining aside: the crowd loved it.

O Kisenosato (10-4) vs. O Goeido (8-6)
And the crowd clearly supports… Goeido? And it isn't even close; I listed for Kisenosato calls and they were one in twenty, maybe. Sometimes I just don't get it, man. So, I'm rooting hard here for The Kid (Kisenosato) to keep Goeido's dubious but well-earned streak of no-nine-win Ozeki tournaments alive. Goeido kept one of Kisenosato's arms low and out of commission, and I was about to heave a sigh of satisfaction as Kisenosato was moving toward a yori-kiri win. At the last moment, though, Goeido wrenched The Kid's arm pretty good and dumped him to a tsuki-otoshi loss. Well, okay, that's fine too.

Y Hakuho (13-1) vs. Y Kakuryu (12-2)
Okay, this is pretty exciting. And, gratifyingly, it has 44 support banners, almost three times as much as the next closest, which was 16 for Goeido/Terunofuji. I scanned the crowd and literally could not spot an empty seat. Matters to me less than usual whether the outcome is fixed or not: I'm interested to see what happens in either case. Hakuho started it with a false start--hmmmm. Once the real action got started, Hakuho started with a phantom slap to the body, classic Hakuho, quickly followed by a lighting maki-kae to give him a left inside, which he quickly moved to a powerful-looking wrench-hold all the way back on the belt at the ass. Curiously, next time I checked that hand, it was back to the side a bit, but whatever. From here Hakuho looked in control. Then we were treated to a bit of theatre: Kakuryu drove Hakuho to the straw, Hakuho drove him back to the middle. Then they waited a bit. Finally, Hakuho went for it and moved Kakuryu across with as smothering a yori-kiri you would care to see.

A satisfying end to a satisfying tournament: still the best.

Now I need a couple more bottles of tea. See you in September.

In case you missed the link above, Harvye's day at the sumos in pictures

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Day 13 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Some excellent sumo today. Let's get right to it.

Storyline Hakuho:
Yokozuna Hakuho (11-1) still controls the narrative. These last few years he has enjoyed losing to "Ozeki" Goeido (8-4) a little bit as a good place to throw a bone. However, it now looks like he wants to win this tournament. With Tochiohzan fading and Goeido already at kachi-koshi, what did Hakuho have to lose? As the crowd whipped him up with their ridiculous rhythmic chant of his name, Goeido responded with an equally ridiculous, frantic tachi-ai with his arms flailing about like an overexcited bug. An attempt to distract The Storyteller? Hakuho no doubt thought, "this is going to be even easier than I thought." He stuck a paw in Goeido's face, surged into what I will dub "moro-zashi about the head," because he had both arms underneath Goeido's but chose to hold him up high 'round the noggin kinda like. He then advanced swiftly, and soon had Goeido, still doing his best sprayed-cockroach impression, wiggling about on the wrong side of the tawara, yori-kiri. It is so fun to watch Hakuho do his thing when he wants to do his thing. I love, love it. Maybe he felt a little insulted by the chant. He should have. "So you're an Ozeki? Today I'm going to show you what a Yokozuna is."

Storyline Kakuryu:
Up next was Yokozuna Kakuryu, also 11-1; the narrative seemed to be turning his way up until today, and I expected a win here. Alas, he was strengthless, guileless, and defenseless. Ozeki Kisenosato (9-3) stood up at the tachi-ai, but Kakuryu lurched forward upon him, grabbing a left inner belt in the process. However, he then also stood up too high, and Kisenosato grabbed him around the upper body and started to move him back. Right at the end Kisenosato reached in for a right outer belt grip, but it was academic at that point: Kakuryu had nothing going on here and was too straight up and unevasive to offer anything but an easy, linear yori-kiri force out win for Kisenosato. Kakuryu was pretty lackadaisical looking here, and was dominated.

That leaves Hakuho as the sole leader with one loss, and Kakuryu trailing behind with two. It is probably not over, as Hakuho too may lose to Kisenosato tomorrow, but the basho probably belongs to the best, as usual: Hakuho. We shall see.

Storyline Tochiohzan:
Meanwhile, what happened to the other narratives? They are taken care of. A few days ago, we had four co-leaders, and it looked pretty exciting. Would Kakuryu be the "comeback rikishi of the tournament?" Would Tochiohzan break out this basho and head for Ozeki? Would Terunofuji show Yokozuna-level stuff? Interestingly, the answer to all those is arguably "yes," even though the yusho narratives have fallen to the wayside for everybody but Hakuho. That is the key: these three don't NEED yusho narratives to accomplish the Storytelling goals. At 11-2, Kakuryu has had an excellent return-from-injury tournament that states the case that he is worthy of his rank.

Let's look at the other two. I do think the road was left open for Sekiwake Tochiohzan (9-3), but he blew it with the losses the last two days. Poor guy. Today, he was angry. Off the tachi-ai, he pushed M1 Sadanoumi (5-7) hard at the neck, rather than going for his usual dual inside grips. After separation was created, he stood and waited, giving Sadanoumi a bit of "you want a piece of this?" Then he worked to the inside as is his wont, and got Sadanoumi back to the tawara. However, he disengaged again, forsaking his dominant position because he wanted blood rather than just victory. He went back to wicked thrusts and sent Sadanoumi out with a convincing oshi-dashi with a bit of dame-oshi. He then glared at Sadanoumi from the dohyo. As he walked back to bow for the win, he gave his head a cocky little jerk. I don't think he had it in for Sadanoumi personally--I think he was mad at himself and at fate, and he brought that spirit into the ring for a little demonstration. He could have used that attitude--something Hakuho has inside him, ready to unleash at any time--the last two days instead.

But look where he stands now; he is 10-3 and in a position to build an Ozeki resume. The Storyteller has let a Japanese wrestler get close, kept the yusho prize for himself and his buddies, and given Tochiohzan a very nice second fiddle. Tochiohzan's narrative is still intact--the ending is not quite as happy as he hoped for, but it will be Enough.

Storyline Terunofuji:
A few days ago, I thought Ozeki Terunofuji (9-3) might get the yusho so the Mongols could accelerate his run to Yokozuna. That's not happening: realistically, even if he wins out, a third place 12-3 finish is not going to get any Yokozuna talk going. So, his narrative is that he is one of the top wrestlers, up there with the big boys, but that a now-now promotion would be a bit unseemly. That's still pretty good. Today he drew Sekiwake Ichinojo (9-3), who has looked terrible this basho, and made me wonder if he is more Blubber Whale than Mongolith, more Yamamotoyama than Baruto, more flash-in-the-pan than contender. Well...this was a good match for him.

Ichinojo was able to keep The Future (Terunofuji) off the belt early and body him back as they went chest to chest. He then got a right inner and left outer and tried to force the issue with forward de-ashi, but his grips brought him close enough that Terunofuji got a corresponding left outer / right inner. From there I thought they would settle into a long one, as they both have frequently done since coming up, but it was not to be so. The Mongolith tried another push, and Fuji the Terrible responded brilliantly: when Ichinojo's momentum stopped, The Mongolith had a moment of lack of focus as he regrouped--just a split second--and in that instant Teru pushed him off of him then backed away, pulling with his grip on the left, using Ichinojo's disequilibrium from the push. He whirled Ichinojo all the way around by his trapped right arm and spun him down in what ended as a full 360 degree turn for a kote-nage win. Although Ichinojo still looked a bit dumb and ponderous here, this was a better Ichinojo, and this match is what it should be between these two: a great bit of heavyweight chest-to-chest, belt-to-belt.

Storyline Endo:
This has crept up on us a bit this basho, but lookee here, if three loss guys are technically in play for the yusho, who is left? Quietly effective tournaments by M12 Endo (9-3) and M8 Yoshikaze (9-3) left them as the only other three loss rikishi out there, and they were paired together today. I would say Endo is a very good M12, probably a mediocre M8, and a bad M4. Tournaments like this one, where he looks good against bad wrestlers, are not enough to reform the narrative: when paired with good wrestlers, he still looks weak.

Endo moved forward, but had nothing going on: no plan of attack, no defensive move. He was just staring at Yoshikaze like a deer in the headlights. This kind of thing is puzzling: what, are you scared of Yoshikaze? The veteran sized it up and, after a few sticks and jabs, grabbed the deer by the horns and pulled and literally rolled him to the dirt, taking advantage of the mindless forward momentum his target buck had built. "Hatakikomi" means "chopped venison" in Japanese.

The Rest of the Story

M15 Satoyama (5-7) vs. M14 Kagamioh (8-4)
Kagamioh might as well be saying: "you wanna be a one trick pony? Fine, then I am going to ride you, pony." At this level, having one gimmick in your bag (a low tachi-ai) is not going to work; guys are going to adjust. To his credit, Satoyama tried adding some thrusts, but Kagamioh just said, "fine, you're that low, I'm going to pull you down by your head." Which he did, using also a good left arm wound around Satoyama's right for the sukui-nage win.

M13 Hidenoumi (4-8) vs. M9 Homarefuji (4-8)
Homarefuji is more experienced, and yet he had nothing going on here against Country Bumpkin (Hidenoumi); it is possible they had something worked out, though they both may be Juryo fodder either way. Homarefuji's arms were up high and he spent the whole bout upright, allowing Bumpkin to dominate him through easy upper-body moro-zashi for the oshi-dashi win.

M9 Sadanofuji (7-5) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (6-6)
I have never liked Sadanofuji before, but I have enjoyed watching him use his size, turn to the side, resist with feet apart and good balance, and get it done this basho. That's exactly what he did here. Kotoyuki was bashing him in the face, so Sadanofuji tried to maintain. Kotoyuki had him where he wanted him eventually, though: headed toward the tawara and disoriented, just defending. It was at this point, though, that Sadanofuji employed his turn-to-the-side, offer-the-hip, and spread-your-feet stability resistance. It was just enough; Kotoyuki looked like he had an easy win from here, but he overcommitted when he got Sadanofuji with his back to the bales; Sadanofuji stepped to the side and sent Kotoyuki flying deep into the crowd, okuri-dashi. Sadanofuji demonstrated good balance and ring sense here.

M11 Tokitenku (6-6) vs. M8 Osunaarashi (8-4)
This was a mutual henka off the tachi-ai, and when they caught up to each other it was advantage Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) as he drove Dirt Lord (Tokitenku) to the tawara. Dirty survived there with unusually demonstrative trip and kick tries--I think he was mad about the henka--and they were soon back in the middle of the ring, with grips on the far side and where on the camera side they played the longest game of "I want to hold your hand" since Paul started to grow out his hair. Sandy won this mini-battle, getting a grip on Dirty's wrist. Was that the key to the match? Maybe. From there, Giant Sand let go, put that arm inside and on the body, got Tokitenku more vertical, and drove him out; Dirty resisted hard at the tawara and consequently Sandy had to out-body him, planting him hard on his kiester, yori-taoshi.

M7 Tamawashi (6-6) vs. M16 Takanoiwa (5-7)
We often use the term "slap fest," and this was one. I always think, "why not punch instead?" Essentially, that is what Tamawashi did; he switched out slaps for a sudden hard right from the side to the back of the neck, KO'ing Takanoiwa for the hataki-komi win.

M11 Kyokutenho (3-9) vs. M6 Gagamaru (6-6)
Plumple-dumpling cutie His Roundess Lord Gaga stayed lower, got a nice left belt grip and what on the other side I'm not sure but probably there as well, and got the easy yori-kiri win.

M6 Kyokushuho (5-7) vs. M15 Seiro (6-6)
I wrote Seiro off early; what is he doing here at 6-6, fighting an opponent half way up the banzuke? Winning, that's what. We had a lot of pretty straight forward belt battles today, which was a pleasure, and this was one. Seiro had an outer left and a right to the body, but he was able to out-power Kyokushuho and drive him back. At the tawara he gave in on the force out and went instead for a momentum reversal back toward the center, pulling Kyokushuho down with a lovely uwate-dashi-nage throw.

M5 Okinoumi (8-4) vs. M10 Amuuru (8-4)
Sigh. Sometimes Okinoumi looks so good. Then he gets to the jo'i and sucks. He distracted Amuuru with a feint of hands to the face today, then came in hard and simply steered his overmatched foe around the ring. Amuuru actually had the better position, lower and with deeper grips, but he was disoriented from the aggressive tachi-ai and did nothing with it. At the edge Okinoumi, who controlled this one throughout, finished him with a nice uwate-nage dump out of the ring.

Let me pause to say there is a witch in the audience. She has been there, just behind and to the right of the gyoji, all tournament, with her white-powdered face, glum long black hair, and glum facial expression, like a flesh-eating undertaker patiently on the prowl. She turns up in nearly every pre- and post-match close-up. She looks like about as much fun self-mummification by eating only pine needle resin for eight years. Meanwhile, the pert, pretty young woman at the right salt corner is back today, looking lovely in sleeveless white, but in every close up there she is hidden by the wrestler and so it is back to the Dead Witch of Doom. They are both in this picture, in characteristic postures. Can you see them? Good against Evil!

M4 Aminishiki (4-8) vs. M10 Kitataiki (3-9)
Okay, I give up on you Aminishiki: here you faced an aging M10 with three times as many losses as wins, didn't have the power to move him back, tried a very bad pull, and were driven out of the dohyo with impressive oshi-dashi oomph. I am done with you.

M3 Ikioi (1-11) vs. M14 Toyohibiki (4-8)
Over the last four tournaments, Ikioi has been ranked M10 and M13, going a cumulative 18-12, and M2 and M3, going a collective 2-25. Someone plant this man at M8 and leave him there where he belongs. Today he did a little flailing pull action at the pathetically predictable Toyohibiki and was driven out straightaway, oshi-dashi.

M5 Tokushoryu (7-5) vs. M2 Aoiyama (6-6)
I did not like what Tokushoryu did here. He henka'ed to the left twice, once just after the tachi-ai, and once when he got too close to the tawara. Aoiyama got his revenge, though; after Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) grabbed him off the second henka and drove him across to what looked like loss land, Aoiyama stepped a little to his right and felled Saucy with a mighty sukui-nage grip of the shoulder.

M1 Tochinoshin (5-7) vs. M2 Takayasu (5-7)
After some sparring Takayasu got a nice outside left / inside right and duly drove Tochinoshin to the bales. However, like a male Monica Seles in a self-assertion class, Tochinoshin let loose a browling growl that would have made Bigfoot's lung-sick Uncle proud and drove the action back to the center of the ring. The ending was a little anti-climactic as they each were trying to throw each other by the back of the belt when Takayasu lost grip on his belt, spun around, ended up facing the wrong direction, and was ushered to the okuri-dashi loss, but this was good stuff.

M4 Takekaze (5-7) vs. K Myogiryu (6-6)
This has been a good tournament for Myogiryu; he didn't do much here but stick and deek and jab, but against Takekaze that's all you need; Takekaze fell down to the hataki-komi loss when Myogiryu picked the right moment to bonk him on the back of the head.

K Takarafuji (2-10) vs. M7 Toyonoshima (4-8)
I normally like both these guys, but not this tournament. They got into it pretty good; early on they were in a close hold and Takarafuji's hands were in no man's land; he literally twiddled Toyonoshima's tit for a few moments. That won't work here, Takara. After some more healthy messing around, in the end little Toyonoshima was in an underneath-hold with both his arms around Takarafuji's body, while Takarafuji was trying to pinch and smother him into oblivion from above and outside. However, Toyonoshima cleverly jerked out of it, grabbed Takarafuji by the arm, and threw him down kata-sukashi. Well, it was Takarafuji's first tournament in the sanyaku, and being absolutely awful as a debutant Komusubi is something of a tradition.

O Kotoshogiku (5-7) vs. M3 Kaisei (5-7)
And let us all sigh mightily as we must finish up with this one, where Kaisei declined to take a grip on the left, pulled his arm back to up around the shoulder, stood up, and lamely let himself be walked out backwards yori-kiri, where he threw his arms up in intended "woe is me I've been destroyed" defeat, but in so doing lost his balance and had to jump off the dohyo. That's what you get.

But! As I said, it was really quite a good day, with a lot of grappling, not a lot of pulling, and very little slapping. Hakuho's dismantling of Goeido was my favorite. Here's a final look at the leaderboard:

Hakuho 12-1
Kakuryu 11-2
Terunofuji, Kisenosato, Tochiohzan, and Yoshikaze 10-3

Mike is your irreducible soldier tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
While Kakuryu's return to sumo is the key component of this basho, all of the hype has been directed towards Sekiwake Tochiohzan and his flirting with the first Japanese yusho since 2006. Watching Tochiohzan go through all of this drama is a perfect case study to illustrate just how difficult it is to take the Makuuchi yusho, even when you get two wins over prominent rikishi for free. Not only do you have to take care of business against everyone else, but you have to be able to handle pressure on the largest stage possible. Some rikishi have it, and some rikishi don't, so when you think about everything that needs to come together in order for someone to hoist the cup, it makes Terunofuji's feat in May look all the more impressive.

Speaking of the yusho, we actually have a fantastic race going on that could extend to the final bout of the tournament, but I fear most sumo fans are missing the forest for the trees and simply riding the emotional ups and downs that occur after a Hakuho loss. We've seen some incredible drama since Hakuho intentionally dropped that bout to Tochiohzan on day 9, but it's faded fast the last few days, and I fear most people are craving another dose of Hakuho's magic in order to keep things exciting through the weekend.

With that said, let's get right to the action starting with the leaders, who shape up as follows:

10-1: Hakuho, Kakuryu
9-2: Terunofuji, Tochiohzan

Up first was Sekiwake Tochiohzan who would surely make mince meat of M5 Okinoumi. Or not. Tochiohzan failed to gain moro-zashi from the tachi-ai coming away with just the right inside, and as the two got fresh with their hands on the other side, Okinoumi pulled the trigger on a left kote-nage throw that sent the Sekiwake over to the edge. Tochiohzan actually slipped out of the throw, but his momentum just carried him across the straw for another bad loss. It's pretty evident now that Tochiohzan can't handle the pressure, and you gotta feel bad for the guy. His path to the yusho was completely set up with the likes of Goeido, Okinoumi, Sadanoumi, Kaisei, and one other scrub on senshuraku down the stretch, but so far Tochiohzan is 0-2. Unbelievable. At 9-3, he's outta the yusho race for all intents and purposes while Okinoumi is just one back of him at 8-4.

Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed Ozeki Kotoshogiku with a left slap to the face and the inside right completing the nice hari-zashi tachi-ai, and with Ozeki going nowhere fast, Hakuho just pivoted to the side and easily threw the Ozeki down with his right hand dug into the Ozeki's left pit and his left hand pulling down at the shoulder drawing the kata-sukashi winning technique. There's no sense beating a dead horse here as Hakuho moves to 11-1, but the real story now is Kotoshogiku's falling to 5-7. Fortunately he has Kaisei tomorrow because the Brasilian should let the Ozeki win, and then you know what's going to happen against Sekiwake Ichinojo on day 14, so let's see who they give him on senshuraku. I don't see the sense in keeping Kotoshogiku around another basho, but that's not my call.

The bout of the day featured Yokozuna Kakuryu vs. Ozeki Terunofuji, and like the Terunofuji - Hakuho bout yesterday, this one was decided in the first few seconds. Both rikishi clashed in the migi-yotsu position, but Terunofuji was too lackadaisical with his right arm allowing the Yokozuna to maki-kae with his left. Terunofuji was unprepared for the move and didn't even make the Yokozuna pay with a momentum shift, and after giving up moro-zashi carelessly, the Ozeki tried to get it back with a maki-kae attempt of his own, but Kakuryu was already burrowed in deep. Forced to fight defensively, Terunofuji pinched in hard from the outside, and the chikara-zumo bout was on. The Ozeki tried in vain to lift Kakuryu off his feet, but the Yokozuna's position was just too good, so the Kak threatened a couple of soto-gake leg trips to force Terunofuji onto his heels and eventually up against the rope. The Ozeki persisted well, but only had one direction to go...back. Still, he refused to go, and so Kakuryu shifted gears on a dime and threw Terunofuji back into the center of the ring with as sweet of a scoop throw as you please. It was a great display of sumo, but credit Kakuryu for the better technique. The win knocks Terunofuji off the leaderboard, but he's still 9-3 with an easy schedule down the stretch, and he should learn quickly that when fighting the Yokozuna, you have to win the first three seconds or you're doomed. As for Kakuryu, he skates to 11-1 and hopefully a showdown for the yusho against Hakuho on senshuraku.

Before we move on, remember when Kakuryu was making his Ozeki run, and he defeated Baruto in similar fashion to the way his dispatched Terunofuji today? Kakuryu was one of the few guys who wasn't scared to charge right into Baruto's craw, and he usually came way with the victory. There's no doubt those types of fights over the years have given him experience, and it's what enabled him to win today. And speaking of Baruto, remember how we used to think, "Just imagine if he had really good technique to go along with his size"? Well, Terunofuji is a prototype of a Baruto with good technique. The things is...Fuji the Terrible's technique is going to become great just like Hakuho and Kakuryu, and so when you couple that with his Baruto-like strength, he will rule the dohyo for a decade.

With the dust settled among the yusho contenders, it's really down to the two Yokozuna who both end the day at 11-1. We've seen stranger things happen I suppose, but I just don't see these two bringing the yusho line down to three losses. No reason to at this point.

Whose the better rikishi, Kisenosato or Tochinoshin? I realize that Kisenosato enjoys the higher rank, but that's all political. Watching the content of their sumo, Tochinoshin is hands down the better rikishi, and it isn't even an argument. The reason I start with that is to illustrate Komusubi Myogiryu's mindset as he approached Tochinoshin yesterday (he demanded moro-zashi and won in seconds) compared to his tachi-ai against Kisenosato today. At the charge, Myogiryu had moro-zashi there for the taking, but he brought this right arm to the outside keeping it high forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu. Not looking to charge forward, Myogiryu just allowed the Ozeki to drive him back, and in the process Myogiryu went for a stupid kubi-nage grip and then a half-assed kote-nage grip, but he just kept himself square and allowed himself to get forced straight back and out. If you had access to the reverse angle replay, you can easily see Myogiryu just pull his right arm out at the tachi-ai denying himself moro-zashi. Once again, compare Myogiryu's approach today against Tochinoshin yesterday, and it's easy to see the intentional inconsistencies. I know a lot of people think Kisenosato is a legitimate Ozeki, but he's not even close. He doesn't have the sumo content to back it up. He's not nearly as sloppy and bad as Goeido, but an Ozeki needing a Komusubi to go mukiryoku on him for the win?? Just weak as Kisenosato moves to 9-3 with Myogiryu falling to 6-6.

Closing out the Ozeki ranks, Goeido offered two average kachi-age into a low-charging M4 Takekaze before just backing up quickly and pulling Takekaze to the clay. Nice Ozeki sumo for ya as Goeido clinches kachi-koshi at 8-4 while Takekaze falls to 5-7.

There is no way that Sekiwake Ichinojo is trying his hardest. Even if you're out of shape, how difficult is it to latch onto a guy and just pull him in close (hmm, that sounded kind of creepy)? Today against M2 Takayasu, the two fiddled with migi-yotsu for about a second before Takayasu just moved left and pulled Ichinojo down far too easily. I'm not buying any of this as Ichinojo falls to 3-9, and I'm thinking more and more that the Association just can't afford FIVE dominant Mongolians at the top of the banzuke. Takayasu moves to 5-7 with the gimme.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Takarafuji was still unable to get deep to the inside of an opponent although he threatened the right inside against M3 Ikioi. Ikioi seemed to want to avoid a belt contest, however, and so the two danced around a bit before Takarafuji was able to score the easy pull down win. He's just 2-10 at the end of the day while Ikioi is even worse now at 1-11. Sheesh.

M1 Tochinoshin looked to establish the right inside position against M1 Sadanoumi, but Sadanoumi spun out of it nearly dragging Shin down in the process, but the Private kept his feet...and the right inside position, and after pulling his gal in snug, he grabbed the effective left outer grip and easily forced Sadanoumi back and across despite his protests. Both guys end the day at 5-7, which is decent from the M1 rank.

I was looking forward to the M3 Kaisei - M2 Aoiyama bout, but it was a total dud that saw Aoiyama just move right a second after the initial charge while Kaisei extended his right arm fishing for the inside. I really wanted to see a crunching tachi-ai, but it seemed as if both dudes avoided contact for the most part as Aoiyama scored the cheap pull down win moving to 6-6. Kaisei falls to 5-7, which is decent considering the number of bouts he's sacrificed.

M10 Amuuru and M5 Tokushoryu are both yotsu guys, but their affair today consisted mostly of mediocre shoves. Back and forth they went mixing in pull attempts until Tokushoryu finally skirted to the side of the Russian and yanked him over to the edge with a right kote-nage before finding the outside belt and escorting Amuuru out that final step uwate-nage style. For the second bout in a row, I expected a better fight from both combatants as Amuuru falls to 8-4 while Tokushoryu is flirting with KK at 7-5.

M7 Tamawashi was prolly delighted today to be paired against M13 Hidenoumi, and he greeted the rookie with two hands to the throat and then just shoved him this way and that. Hidenoumi made one serious attempt to get to the inside, but The Mawashi easily rebuffed him and spun him around sending Hidenoumi out from behind. Easy peasy Japaneasy for Tamawashi who moves to 6-6 while Hidenoumi's make-koshi is official at 4-8.

M14 Kagamioh and M8 Osunaarashi hooked up in migi-yotsu from the start, and with Kagamioh unable to apply any pressure, Osunaarashi just reached around and grabbed the left outer grip bullying Kagamioh back and across without argument. Both rikishi end the day at 8-4, and I'd love to see the Ejyptian win two more and vault up into the jo'i for September. If he's healthy, he'd be a great addition among the elite ranks.

M13 Chiyotairyu (8-4) withdrew this morning citing an injury to his heel giving M8 Yoshikaze the freebie and a 9-3 mark. I suppose it's possible that the yusho line will fall to two losses, and if so, Yoshikaze can stay in the hunt on paper if he keeps winning.

You know things are bad when you lose to M9 Homarefuji by tsuki-dashi, but M14 Toyohibiki could get nothing going and looked like a drunk salary man wobbling home after just barfing up his ramen as Homarefuji chased him around and pushed him out in short order. Both rikishi end the day at 4-8, but Toyohibiki has lost eight in a row here.

M9 Sadanofuji was 1-9 all time against M11 Kyokutenho coming in, but he showed the Chauffeur two hands to the neck before easily setting up the right inside and stifling outer grip. Kyokutenho could do nothing as the Sadamight scored the easy force-out win moving to 7-5 in the process. Kyokutenho fell to 3-9, and at M11, he's gotta win two of his last three to stay in the division. Even if he falls to Juryo, there's no reason why he shouldn't keep fighting. Being a foreign-born oyakata has got to be boring as hell.

And finally, M15 Seiro henka'd to his right against M12 Endoh, but it was half-assed, and so Endoh easily survived hooking up with his left to the inside. Seiro had a right outer grip but nothing established with the right, and so Endoh easily assumed moro-zashi and forced the rookie out with little resistance. Intentional or not, Seiro was quite mukiryoku today as Endoh shoots to 9-3 while Seiro is 6-6.

Harvye's back tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
At the start of the day 11 broadcast, NHK showed the leaderboard straightway, and then the discussion turned to the topic of how nice it was to finally have a leaderboard full of Yokozuna, Ozeki, and even a solid Sekiwake. Ever since Asashoryu's retirement, the leader boards of every basho have largely been Hakuho and then a hodgepodge of rikishi that really made no sense. Probably the most consistent dude on the leaderboard outside of Hakuho has been Kisenosato, but that was rarely set up with Kisenosato's earning things on his own, and even this basho, has Tochiohzan earned this record on his own? The answer is obvious, but it's still okay to have him here in my opinion since he represents the best rikishi Japan has at the moment. The leaderboard today is reflective of my intro from day 9 and how every basho from this point forward is going to contain the Yokozuna, Terunofuji, and then hopefully the rikishi from the sanyaku ranks who is fighting the best. And sure, it's okay to have Maegashira rikishi on the leaderboard as long as they are legit, but gone are the days when you have like nine dudes on there at the end of day 10 and there's no rhyme or reason to any of it. In my opinion, it's good for sumo to have a legit leaderboard like this, so we'll just have to see if the fans' reaction (measured by ticket sales) will be okay with it.

Before we get to the action, let's quickly review the leaderboard as we kick off the shubansen, or final five days of the basho:

9-1: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Terunofuji, Tochiohzan (Damn, that's a solid line!)
8-2: Kagamioh

As we turn our attention to day 11 and start with the leaderboard, the only piece of it that clearly doesn't belong is M14 Kagamioh. How can you have a guy whose never scored kachi-koshi in the division in 5 previous tries be a legitimate yusho candidate? Furthermore, Kagamioh's success this basho has been purely the luck'a the draw. He doesn't have a single win over a dude who had a winning record at the time he fought them, and now that he's being paired with guys who are having success in the division, you can see exactly where Kagamioh stands. Still, as long as he's on that board, we'll feature him first. Today he drew M8 Yoshikaze who was looking to secure kachi-koshi, and Monster Drink just laughed off his foe at the tachi-ai by ramming his head forward and then going for the two-handed pull move at the back of Kagamioh's neck that worked like a charm. Though I have nothing against him, thankfully Kagamioh is knocked off of the leaderboard as both rikishi now stand at 8-3.

Up next was Sekiwake Tochiohzan, everyone's darling this basho, and with his having already fought both of the Yokozuna and Terunofuji, it appeared that he may be the one in the driver's seat. As Harvye's has been preaching this basho and as I've mentioned all along, Hakuho is in the driver's seat...every basho...regardless of his record. Tochiohzan looked to have an easy path to victory against Ozeki Goeido on paper, but the Sekiwake failed to get moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, and as I've noticed the last few basho, Tochiohzan just doesn't look comfortable pressing charges unless he has the dual inside positions. Today, he got the left inside quickly, but his right arm was way too high. Still, Goeido's not exactly going to blow you off the starting lines, and so the Sekiwake was able to retool that right hand into a solid outside grip, but his yori-kiri offensive was timid allowing Goeido to retreat a surprise half step to his right and easily pull Tochiohzan off balance and down using a kubi-nage of all throws. Oh Snap!!

If you looked at Tochiohzan's face after the bout, you could see that he was visibly distraught as he should have been, and I can't help but to compare it to his face yesterday after Hakuho dove to the dirt: a look of indifference. No emotion, no adrenaline, nothing. The Sekiwake knew he didn't deserve that win, and it showed by the lack of any emotion on his face afterwards. Today, you could tell that he fully expected to win and continue this run because he was nigh unto tears after getting upset by Goeido. The result is that Tochiohzan still maintains a position on the leaderboard, but he's now at the mercy of Hakuho and the other Mongolians in terms of yusho hopes. They are beginning to mention on the broadcast of Tochiohzan's candidacy for Ozeki, and that makes perfect sense, so the Kasugano veteran needs to be of the mindset right now...let's get 33 wins over three basho first, and then we'll worry about the yusho. As for Goeido, he now stands at 7-4 after that nifty counter move today. Eight wins is a given, but let's see if he can get to nine now for the first time as an Ozeki.

Let's save the best for last and skip forward to the final bout of the day, Yokozuna Kakuryu vs. Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Both rikishi hooked up in the migi-yotsu position, and Kotoshogiku actually had the early left outer grip, but he did nothing with it nor could he deny the Yokozuna from grabbing his own left outer, and once the Kak had it, he used it to wrench the Ozeki around a few times and then out yori-kiri style. Really nothing more to see here as Kotoshogiku cannot fight at this level of the banzuke, and this was like a bout of pre-basho keiko for Kakuryu. With the win, Kakuryu assures himself at least a portion of the lead at 10-1 while Kotoshogiku falls to a precarious 5-6. Dude's gotta go 3-1 the rest of the way, and he starts that quest off against Hakuho tomorrow. For Hakuho to "slip up" in less than two seconds against Tochiohzan is one thing, but there isn't a single scenario where the Ozeki would be able to beat Hakuho tomorrow. None.

With Kakuryu safely through, let's now turn our attention to the grand poobah of this basho and every basho to come for the next foreseeable future: Yokozuna Hakuho vs. Ozeki Terunofuji. The beauty of this matchup is that Terunofuji is dominating the field along the lines of Hakuho, and it's clear that he is destined for greatness, and so I really look forward to this bout so we can see if Fuji is getting any closer to actually being able to best Hakuho straight up. From the tachi-ai, the two hooked up in migi-yotsu with both flirting with left outer grips, but Hakuho wisely wrenched Terunofuji upright on the Ozeki's left side 1) cutting off any attempt at a Fuji left outer, and 2) bringing Terunofuji's right hip down and close where the Yokozuna could grab the left outer grip. What a move from the Yokozuna, and the bout was basically over at this point. The two dug in for about 20 seconds with Terunofuji staying afloat due to Hakuho's mercy or Hakuho's maintaining just a single fold of the belt with his outer...or more likely a combination of the two, and every time Fuji would get close to his own outer grip, Hakuho would deny it with a change of pace. Close to a minute in with both rikishi in a seeming stalemate, Hakuho made his final charge leading primarily with his right inside shoved up tight and high into Terunofuji's left armpit keeping the Ozeki off balance enough to where he just couldn't counter. This was a great bout of sumo from both parties, but Hakuho had naturalized the Ozeki less than five seconds in, and the Yokozuna was never in danger scoring the yori-kiri win in the end. Great chess match as Hakuho sets the standard at 10-1 while Terunofuji falls down a notch at 9-2.

With the dust settled, let's review our leaders now as we prepare for the day 12 action:

10-1: Hakuho, Kakuryu
9-2: Terunofuji, Tochiohzan

With one of three bouts completed between the three Mongolians, there are still two losses out there in head to head competition, so there is still plenty of room for movement on that leaderboard.

In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Kisenosato and M3 Kaisei hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the start and then just basically danced around the ring a bit until the Brasilian let the Ozeki just force him back and across without argument. If you watch Kaisei here, there was no attempt to get a right outer grip, no attempt to lift the Ozeki upright, and no attempt to evade to either side as he got close to the edge. He just accepted that hidari-yotsu from the start and let the Ozeki have his way. I saw no effort whatsoever from Kaisei as he falls to 5-6 while Kisenosato is too little too late at 8-3.

I'm not quite sure what to make of Sekiwake Ichinojo this basho. Today against M1 Sadanoumi, the Mongolian had no pop whatsoever as the two hooked up in migi-yotsu, and after a few seconds Ichinojo lazily gave up the left outer grip to his opponent. After do-si-do'ing a few times back and forth, Sadanoumi launched a decent left outer belt throw that sent Ichinojo stumbling a step forward and then ultimately down to the clay. His bouts just don't look right to me, and I'm not sure if that's injury or if they're keeping him in check a bit so we don't end up with FIVE dominant Mongolians at the top of the banzuke. Remember how perfect Clancy's moniker of "The Mongolith" was when coined? When was the last time we've seen Ichinojo just dig into the dohyo like a slabba granite and lean in on his opponent until they got all tuckered out? Something's just not right with the dude, and I'm inclined to think they're reigning him in a bit to provide more--how shall we say it--"racial balance" at the top of the charts. Regardless, Ichinojo falls to 3-8 while Sadanoumi is 5-6.

Komusubi Takarafuji looks just plain awful this basho and hasn't been able to establish anything from the tachi-ai. M2 Takayasu took advantage pushing his hands into Takarafuji's neck before getting the left arm firmly to the inside in an effort to set up the right outer grip. After wrenching his hips a few times in an effort to shake Takarafuji off and grab the right outer, Takayasu suddenly switched gears and retreated while pulling Takarafuji forward and down leading with the left inside position. I always like to see guys win moving straight forward, but Takayasu took what was given today as he moves to 4-7 while Takarafuji is a ghastly 1-10.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Myogiryu looked to latch his left hand to the front of M1 Tochinoshin's belt at the tachi-ai, and he also got the right arm to the inside from the initial charge, and so Tochinoshin immediately went into defensive mode trying to shake off that left frontal grip. Myogiryu quickly moved that arm to the inside as well giving him moro-zashi, and there's really no one better than mYogiBear getting his opponents upright from the moro-zashi position, and we rarely see someone do Tochinoshin in as Myogiryu did today. Great stuff from the Komusubi as he moves to 6-5 while Tochinoshin falls to 4-7.

After the bout, the NHK Announcer suggested that he'd like to see Myogiryu try and put together an Ozeki run as well. I don't think that remark was off the cuff. Rather, it's clear that the current crop of domestic Ozeki are floundering around, and so there could be a movement in the works to hype guys like Tochiohzan and Myogiryu as potential Ozeki candidates to provide a softer landing when Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato retire. Isn't it ironic, though, that Tochinoshin is clearly the better candidate than Tochiohzan or Myogiryu, and yet, nobody mutters a peep about such Ozeki prospects in regards to him?

I thought one of the bigger upsets on the day was M5 Okinoumi besting M2 Aoiyama by keeping his hands in tight at the tachi-ai looking for something to the inside, and when he didn't get it, he timed a retreat nicely causing Aoiyama to overextend himself in his thrust attack, and Okinoumi gladly stepped to the side and and let the Bulgarian fall forward and down all on his own. They had to rule it something, so they said tsuki-otoshi, but this was more a case of Aoiyama having a bunch of extra weight hanging from his upper torso pull him down. Okinoumi is a quiet 7-4 from the M5 rank while Aoiyama is just fine at 5-6.

M5 Tokushoryu created some breathing room for himself against M9 Homarefuji keeping his hands in tight at the intial charge and then going for a quick pull that sent the hapless Homarefuji forward and down in mere seconds. I like it that Tokushoryu is 6-5 now, but I don't like the fact that he's distrusting his yotsu attack the last few days. Homarefuji suffers his make-koshi fate at 3-8.

M10 Amuuru picked up kachi-koshi today be getting the left arm inside on M6 Gagamaru before grabbing the right frontal belt grip that was so potent, Gagamaru couldn't even counter. Amuuru promptly kept YubabaMaru upright with the high left inside and his pulling up at the front of the Georgian's belt, and this one was over in maybe four seconds. As mentioned, Amuuru is a sweet 8-3 while Gagamaru is on the brink at 4-7.

M8 Osunaarashi employed a weak henka to his left against M13 Chiyotairyu, who didn't need to recover much after the move. With Chiyotairyu smelling blood, Osunaarashi moved left about one and a half times around the dohyo all the while with Chiyotairyu attempting to connect on tsuppari and the Ejyptian looking to capitalize on a pull. Osunaarashi isn't healthy enough to win with sumo like this, and Chiyotairyu finally locked him into moro-zashi and sent him flying off the dohyo right into the face of the chief judge (former Sakahoko) while Chiyotairyu himself crashed off the dohyo knocking Sakahoko silly. This was a sloppy affair throughout thanks to Osunaarashi's tachi-ai, but I liked the ending, especially Chiyotairyu's kachi-koshi at 8-3. Osunaarashi will surely find one more the rest of the way as he rests at 7-4, and how would you like to be the chief judge today with Osunaarashi's sweaty, hairy butt heading right towards your face?

M12 Endoh just wouldn't sit still as M12 Kotoyuki tried to pummel him from the tachi-ai with his usual balls to the wall tsuppari attack, and after withstanding the onslaught for a second or two, Endoh moved right going for a methodic pull that sent Kotoyuki off balance, and then as Kotoyuki looked to square back up, another evasive maneuver to the right and pull attempt sent Kotoyuki down to the clay for good. Endoh picks up the win and kachi-koshi to boot at 8-3 while Kotoyuki was just plain sloppy here as he falls to 5-6.

And finally, M13 Hidenoumi sold out today against M14 Toyohibiki henka'ing to his right and yanking the Hutt down a second in. I realize the rookie's lower back is ailing him, but this is just uncalled for. I hate to see the young guys resort to this cheap move so early in their Makuuchi careers. Both rikishi end the day 4-7, and Toyohibiki just can't get a break after that 4-0 start.

The bout I've really been waiting for occurs tomorrow with Yokozuna Kakuryu matched up against Ozeki Terunofuji. Fuij the Terrible is clearly the better overall rikishi at this point, but Kakuryu has tons of experience and knows how to pull a rabbit out of his hat better than anyone. It will be Terunofuji's brute strength against Kakuryu's overall ring sense, so let's hope it doesn't disappoint.

Day 10 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
The Storyteller (Hakuho) turned a page to the next chapter of the basho today. But what story did he tell? Sometimes, the story all starts to make sense late into it and you think, "ah! Why didn't I see it before?" It may be that because the storyteller is making up the story as he or she goes along, and, like you, found a good thread and simply started to follow it: an opportunity presented itself, the storyteller plays it up, and you follow it together, because it made sense to go that direction.

I see two storylines in utero. We have three dud Japanese Ozeki, and one "which of these is not like the other" Ozeki--Terunofuji, who already belongs with the other Yokozumons, not his fellow Ozeki. So, at this point 1) we need a replacement Japanese Ozeki, and 2) Terunofuji should move out into the higher ranks. As we head to the final third of the tournament, both of these storylines are in full play, and The Storyteller is warming to his rhythm.

As such, it has become an exciting tournament. As Mike and I have alluded to in the past days, the drama is which of the Mongols will emerge on top--and whether they will let a dark horse--in this case Tochiohzan--take it. At the end of today, all of that is in flux, and any of the four--Hakuho, Kakuryu, Terunofuji, Tochiohzan--could emerge with the trophy. Because of all the storytelling, there really is no frontrunner amongst them--they all have good stories. If Hakuho gets it, well he's gotten a lot, and the story is he kept it interesting but is still The Greatest. If Kakuryu wins, it means, hey, I really AM a Yokozuna, and it's a nice comeback story and restoration of that. If Terunofuji wins, The Future continues to be Now, and he soon goes up to join his brethren in Sacred Yokland, polishing off that narrative. And if Tochiohzan wins… this is the most compelling, because it would be the end of a many-years storyline of no Japanese yusho, completion of a storyline blown when Kyokutenho beat him in a playoff many years ago, blossoming of a New Japanese Ozeki story, and, well, the biggest surprise we've had in sumo in a long time. I am excited to see how it plays out.


The best that ever lived: Y Hakuho (9-0) vs. S Tochiohzan (8-1)
I suppose it should be disheartening when match throwing is not obvious, because that means we're not only getting swindled, we're getting fooled as well. However, when match throwing IS obvious, I always think, "can't you act better than that?" It's embarrassing. Here, Hakuho moved forward and deliberately fell down off of a weak little slide-to-the-side-and-push from Tochiohzan. Anytime anyone loses by putting down a hand, you should be suspicious, and here Hakuho nearly planted both. That is really all the commentary this nonsense deserves--though, of course, this bad match inspires good narrative: this worthless little bit of "sumo" resulted in a three-paragraph intro, because it made the storylines so interesting. That's the most common reason for The Storyteller's mukiryoku: better sumo would have made worse narrative, worse sumo makes better narrative.

But this guy could still be the actual yusho; his time is now: O Terunofuji (8-1) vs. M3 Kaisei (5-4)
Contrast that with this match. Slap! Went these two big bodies in a lovely tachi-ai. Terunofuji holstered out his big left gun and planted it into Kaisei's purple folds. Fuji the Terrible kept back and low just far enough that Kaisei couldn't quite use the inside right he sought. And then, though Kaisei is massive, Terunofuji abruptly toppled him with a big, bold uwate-nage. Oh! It was a thing of beauty.

What about MY story? Y Kakuryu (8-1) vs. K Takarafuji (1-8)
Yours truly is happy to call bout fixing in either direction, or at least air doubts. Certainly, Kakuryu does not need help, but I do think narratives get set up early in tournaments by legitimate sumo, then sustained by mutual agreement, sometimes unstated, and by unilateral action, sometimes supported by stable masters. I have no idea what Takarafuji is up to this tournament, or in this bout, but if you watch him here, there is no real attempt to get to the inside. Kakuryu spent this bout backing ever so slightly away and pushing Takarafuji upwards by the face, and so perhaps Lottery (Takarafuji) had to be defensive, but Lottery also often kept his hands back and never took advantage of Kakuryu's tentative and gradual retreat: Takarafuji looked like a guy waiting to lose. How did he plan to win? By pushing on Kakuryu's elbows? And then, when Kakuryu went for the pull on the head instead of the push on the face, Takarafuji's forward stumble and fall looked exaggerated on the one hand, "effortless" on the other. Either Kakuryu had Takarafuji psyched out, or Lottery is not scratching off all his numbers this time around. As a result, Kakuryu still has every bit as good a chance as the other three contenders to take this thing.

The Pretender: M14 Kagamioh (8-1) vs. M10 Amuuru (6-3)
Thank god we can finally take Kagamioh off the leaderboard. The God of Love (Amuuru) disposed of him easily here; they did a light tap-smack of a tachi-ai and both reached in for grips. In just an instant, Amuuru knew his outer left was a good one, and chose to move left a bit and jerk Kagamioh forward for what looked like a pull down, but my info says uwate-dashi-nage. Remember, Kagamioh had never had a winning tournament in Makuuchi before, so he has already done extremely well. Goodbye to all that.

Leaderboard round-up:
So, we have four guys tied for the lead at 9-1, and three of the four, the Mongolians Hakuho, Kakuryu, and Terunofuji, will do a lot of playing each other the rest of the way out. Tochiohzan has already faced all three (2-1), and hence has a clear path to victory should the others knock each other out. Or will he fade and just get kudos for getting close, which is the pattern that has dominated the last decade in the Mongolia vs. Japan sumo narrative? Time will tell, and my interest is legitimately piqued.

Matches of the Day

Power: M12 Endo (6-3) vs. M16 Takanoiwa (3-6)
Do you remember when we liked Endo and thought the hype was real? The competition is not good down at this level, but sometimes Endo gives me flashes of hope. Today he looked as powerful as I've ever seen, smacking forward off the tachi-ai with a juddering impact that only stopped him for a split second; he kept his arms low, ready to scoop up, and moved his legs resolutely one two, three four, and within seconds Takanoiwa was a goner yori-kiri; Endo even flipped Takanoiwa's feet off the ground he had so much momentum as he whipped him over the tawara.

Technique: M5 Okinoumi (6-3) vs. K Myogiryu (4-5)
Great stuff from Myogiryu here. One hand to the neck, then a so-quick-you-didn't-see-it blast to the inside for moro-zashi, followed by jack-hammering up and down pressure on Okinoumi for the decisive yori-kiri force out. Okinoumi can be lethargic, and this is the way to beat him.

Belt: M1 Tochinoshin (3-6) vs. S Ichinojo (3-6)
I think Hakuho woke Ichinojo up yesterday, as The Mongolith was anything but lazy early on in this one. However, he was also sloppy, and made unforced errors. Off the tachi-ai he chose to reach over Tochinoshin with his left arm rather than under, and that gave the grunting, growling Tochinoshin, who has been doing his best rabid-Chewbacca verbalization impression all tournament, superior position from the start with a right inner grip. Nonetheless, Ichinojo nearly threw his opponent out of the ring, disengaging Tochinoshin's hold, with a mighty yank on what belt he had. After that Tochinoshin was reduced to an inferior left outer grip. Nice recovery by ‘Shin in not losing right then and there--Ichinojo had him on the edge. But then they rested a bit--another mistake by Ichinojo, who needed to press his advantage. Once Tochinoshin was ready, he found Ichinojo was the tired one, as there's nothing to say but that Tochinoshin used superior remaining power in finally driving his fatty opponent out, yori-kiri. If you don't like this, off to ping-pong with you.

Pull: M11 Tokitenku (4-5) vs. M9 Homarefuji (3-6)
Tokitenku is one of my favorites. He's just so hard bitten. He reminds me of John Franco of the Mets, the grotty little reliever who simply would not throw you a strike: all nasty junk in the dirt, and fools kept swinging. Here Tokitenku simply maintained, with tight concentration, by keeping Homarefuji stiff-armed away from him as Homarefuji tried to batter him in the face. Finally, the dialed-in Tokitenku saw the moment of truth--I would not have seen it, you could not have discerned it, but HE found it, there in the ring amidst all the flailing--and zzzziip! pulled Homarefuji forward and down in a flash, hataki-komi. Most people can't stand Tokitenku. We all hate pull sumo. But I love Tokitenku, because when a pull is beautiful, it looks like this.

Interlude: "Ozeki"

O Kisenosato (6-3) vs. O Kotoshogiku (5-4)
Kisenosato is by far the superior rikishi, and he showed it here. I think this was straight up. I had my doubts when Kisenosato did not even move at the tachi-ai, whereas Kotoshogiku shot out at him like a fly being drawn into a frog's mouth on the sticky tongue. Which simile I choose because once Kotoshogiku got to Kise, he moved no further, stuck and powerless against that big body. He gaburu'ed gamely, but Kise hung on for dear life for a bit, worked his way to dual grips, and removed Giku from the dohyo forthwith, yori-kiri. I had high hopes that this would be the tournament Kotoshogiku would retire in (with honors--I did love him when he overachieved in his early sanyaku days). However, not enough people have done this to him.

"O" Goeido (5-4) vs. M4 Aminishiki (3-6)
Aminishiki got exactly what he deserved here. He leapt out to a high and mighty grand henka and tried to pull Goeido down by the head, but give Goeido credit: he read this one, stayed low but not down, and twisted swiftly to face his opponent; Aminishiki's foot then slipped and he went down on one knee. Good. Classless and totally unnecessary here from Aminishiki.

Meat ‘n' Mashed Potatoes

J2 Sokokurai (6-3) vs. M15 Satoyama (3-6)
If you are a Makuuchi wrestler and you get your favored grip against a juryo guy, you should win, right? Satoyama jumped in low again, and he got an inner left grip off of it. Sokokurai stayed low, too, but he didn't blast Sugar Mountain (Satoyama, with the barkers and the colored balloons) down, and he initially didn't have a belt grip. However, Sugar Hill couldn't do anything with him, and Sokokurai maintained, got a grip, and then pivoted Sugar Heap around and pushed him over backwards by the neck while tripping Sugar Grain, kiri-kaeshi, for the win.

M14 Toyohibiki (4-5) vs. M15 Seiro (4-5)
Flounder, noun: a strange flat fish. Flounder, verb: Toyohibiki charging into mid-air vacated by the henka-ing Seiro to a tsuki-otoshi loss. Meanwhile, someone throw Seiro back.

M13 Chiyotairyu (6-3) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (5-4)
Here is why Chiyotairyu is addicted to the pull. Today, as he laudably has so often this tournament, he launched himself like animate plague off the lines. This knocked the powerful Kotoyuki upright. From there, I think we're all hoping for a test of strength between these two powerhouses, but nope, Chiyotairyu knew this pull was going to work, and it did, easy peasy: Kotoyuki was too high, had too much forward drive, doesn't seem very smart, and hence was the perfect victim for a swift hiki-otoshi victory. The problem is Chiyotairyu gives in to this impulse far too often and against the wrong guys--here's hoping today wasn't his gateway drug to falling off the wagon.

M10 Kitataiki (3-6) vs. M11 Kyokutenho (2-7)
Kitataiki kept his arms too wide and hence through his aggressive tachi-ai essentially leapt straight into dual grips for long-armed Kyokutenho. Kyokutenho often STILL loses these days when the opponent is younger, but Kitataiki is no spring chickadee, and even though he eventually got grips too, it was hopeless as he'd given Kyokutenho the right to fight to his forte from the git-go. Kyoku turned him around and lifted him out, yori-kiri.

M8 Yoshikaze (7-2) vs. M8 Osunaarashi (6-3)
I didn't like this at all. Just a bunch of flailing with arms, as slappity a match as I've seen this tournament, and that horrible stuff where they stand staring and flinching at each other both afraid to come forward. Amazingly, this should have worked against Osunaarashi, as he was fighting to Yoshikaze's hyperactive strength, but it didn't: eventually Yoshikaze charged in, was a little too aggressive, Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) was no longer there, and Giant Sand got behind Yoshikaze and got an ugly oshi-taoshi win. Well, the battered Osunaarashi deserved a day off.

M13 Hidenoumi (3-6) vs. M7 Toyoshima (2-7)
This is just what Toyonoshima needed: an inexperienced, low ranked opponent who didn't try very hard. Toyonoshima has looked overmatched all tournament long, but here he just stayed low and pushed the befuddled Country Bumpkin (Hidenoumi) around after getting inside off the tachi-ai and disorienting Bumpkin with an early almost-successful pull. Like the match before them, there were times when Hidenoumi stood there looking at his opponent, afraid to come forward. Toyo's tank is empty, and Hide needed to fill it with some whup-ass. He didn't, and paid the price.

M9 Sadanofuji (5-4) vs. M6 Gagamaru (4-5)
Neptune (Sadanofuji) and Uranus (Gagamaru) glided towards each other, their gasses billowing voluptuously as their outer surfaces merged in soft, flabby merge. As the surfaces of the planets pressed into each other their rings entwined, holding them locked in celestial-body embrace for what seemed a Jovian year. But it has been a good tournament for Sadanofuji, and in the end he as Neptune lifted Lord Uranus upright and sent him floating back in the direction of Pluto, yori-kiri.

M7 Tamawashi (3-6) vs. M4 Takekaze (4-5)
What a bunch of ridiculous nonsense: slap! slap! slap! slap! slap! slap! slap! slap! slap! slap! slap! slap! slap! slap! One of them fell down! That would be Takekaze, who got a tsuki-otoshi loss and, despite being equally guilty, lay there looking disdainful. Is this sumo?

M3 Ikioi (1-8) vs. M6 Kyokushuho (3-6)
More crap. They slapped at each other, then Kyokushuho reached forward and pulled Ikioi down for a hataki-komi loss. Better offense (his slaps moved Ikioi backwards) and better defense (admittedly, his pull worked beautifully) by Kyokushuho, but.

M2 Takayasu (3-6) vs. M5 Tokushoryu (4-5)
These two worked hard to get the belt but neither could. So Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) decided to wrench on the arm he found at his side, and flopped Takayasu nearly out, face down on the tawara, with a kote-nage. A defensive move with lateral movement while at the bales, but nicely executed.

M2 Aoiyama (4-5) vs. M1 Sadanoumi (4-5)
Not bad at all to be near .500 at this rank for the undersized Sadanoumi. However, Aoiyama had no reason to lose here, and so pulled out the meat-thrusts, his signature ground-parallel pile-driver drubbing. Simple tsuki-dashi win for the guy with the biggest potential for day-in, day-out show-off-easy power in the division.

It was a good day of sumo. Really. Yeah, sometimes there's crap in there. But look at all the good stuff. Life has warts. But they're on skin.

Tomorrow Mike croons songs of love.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
A problem is starting to manifest itself in sumo that will create an interesting paradigm shift in the next few basho. And said problem is that you now have four dominant Mongolian rikishi at the top of the banzuke who just don't lose legitimately to anybody else except each other. At the start of this year, we knew Terunofuji would be great, but he was still figuring a few things out while fighting among the jo'i. Kakuryu was missing in action, and so you only had Hakuho and Harumafuji as worthy yusho contenders. It was quite easy for Harumafuji to drop bouts here and there along the way leaving the yusho race to Hakuho and then anybody else who could sorta stay close, and that was a scenario we've seen for the last year or so. Now, however, you have four guys with a legitimate shot to yusho every basho, and nobody else on the banzuke can really beat them, so even if a Harumafuji or a Kakuryu decides to lose a few bouts strategically early on, you still have the other guys to contend with.

With Harumafuji's early withdrawal this basho, it's eased the pain a bit knocking that number down to three, but he'll be back for September, and so the Association has an interesting dilemma on their hands because you can't just have all four of these guys dropping strategic bouts in order to keep things close (i.e. keep the Japanese rikishi in contention on the leaderboard).

If you look at the yusho race as it stands at the start of today, Tochiohzan is the only Japanese rikishi on the leaderboard. The problem is that he's one back of Hakuho and Kakuryu and tied with Terunofuji. Even if one of those threesome sacrifices a loss in Tochiohzan's favor, all three of them aren't going to do it in a single basho. So, Tochiohzan will eventually be saddled with another loss or two meaning the best he would likely finish is 12-3. That's a great record for sure, but in order for him to yusho outright, he'd have to have those other four guys all finish 11-4...something that simply won't happen. In fact, it's going to be almost impossible to keep all four of those guys from winning 12 bouts or less at a single basho. Sure, Harumafuji, Kakuryu, and even Terunofuji could all be "rusty" at a tournament and finish with 10 or 11 wins apiece, but Hakuho won't finish that low. Or, maybe Hakuho does decide to have one of his 11-4 finishes as he did in May. At least one of the other three will have a better record.

Perhaps it's easier to understand if I put it this way. Let's suppose we have Japanese rikishi A. In order for him to have a legitimate shot at the yusho, he must got 3-1 against the foursome. Maybe he can afford to go 2-2, but that means he can't lose any other bouts along the way. The problem is...there's so much parity beneath the foursome that nobody is able to make it to day 10 unscathed anymore. In fact, the last time a Japanese rikishi started out 10-0 was two years ago at the Natsu basho when Kisenosato started out 13-0. The Kid ain't any younger, and he certainly isn't any better, so an undefeated run like that is simply out of the question for anyone ranked Sekiwake or lower except maybe a healthy Ichinojo.

The bottom line is that hon-basho for the next little while will consist of: four Mongolians vying for the yusho; three Japanese Ozeki scrapping for about 26 wins collectively; and a good crop of solid rikishi trying to balance that fine line of securing kachi-koshi and ensuring / maintaining a sanyaku berth...all the while dishing out a win or two per basho to the Ozeki.

Now, way down in the banzuke there could be semi-interesting stories like the health of Endoh or Osunaarashi, but when the curtain rises on future hon-basho, we'll be watching these three mini-basho within the larger hon-basho, and I can't really see how anybody will rise up to break the trend.

With that said, let's focus our attention to the day 9 bouts and the yusho race at hand.  First up is M14 Kagamioh, and you can tell how seriously the Association is taking him as a leader by who they feed him. Today's foe was M9 Homarefuji, which means Kagamioh may as well not be on that leader board at all. Homarefuji offered two hands forward at the tachi-ai, but Kagamioh just slapped them to the side before rushing into moro-zashi and forcing Homarefuji back and out in no time. Kagamioh picks up his first ever Makuuchi kachi-koshi moving to 8-1 while Homarefuji falls to 3-6. Kagamioh draws a coupla genki rikishi down low the next few days in Amuuru and Yoshikaze, so we'll see if he can withstand those two.  Regardless, he's still on the leaderboard, and his smile as he walked down the hana-michi after today's bout as pricelss.

Next up was Ozeki Terunofuji who hit fellow Ozeki Kisenosato hard at the tachi-ai and could have easily gained moro-zashi, but he pulled his right arm back out settling for hidari-yotsu instead. Kisenosato had the firm right outer grip but nothing really to the inside with the other arm, and so Terunofuji used a serious of left scoop throws to spin Kisenosato around the ring and off balance. Kisenosato held on with that right outer grip, but Terunofuji just swung him around like a chew toy before driving his right shoulder and elbow into Kisenosato near the edge sending him down hard into a heap at the corner of the dohyo.

This was the first bout this basho from Terunofuji we've seen that was so wild, and I think he's doing what Hakuho largely does...don't go all out, get into a messy fight, and leave a small window open for your opponent. If your opponent can't execute sound sumo, then finish him off at the end as he has no business defeating you on the day with crap sumo.  Fuji the Terrible did just that in finishing Kisenosato off and moving to 8-1 in the process while the Kid's chances of hoisting the cup in the end are nil at 6-3. Trust me when I say that Terunofuji coulda grabbed moro-zashi in this one and finished Kisenosato off in about two seconds had he really wanted to do so. Anyway, Terunofuji keeps pace with Kagamioh at one off the leader.

Next up was Yokozuna Hakuho who executed a mediocre hari-zashi tachi-ai against Sekiwake Ichinojo slapping his face with the left while getting the right to the inside. Ichinojo countered with his own right arm to the inside, but Hakuho breezed his way to the left outer grip and began applying the pressure. Ichinojo went for a maki-kae with the left arm but was denied by the Yokozuna, who used the momentum shift to force the Sekiwake back near the straw, and after using a few more seconds to gather his wits, Hakuho executed the perfect force-out charge from there lifting his foe upright and nudging him across with the body. Simple sumo from Hakuho who skates to 9-0 and could end the day as the sole leader pending the day's final bout.

After his defeat of Ichinojo today, Hakuho gave his countryman a shove to the face after he was well across the straw.  The tactic is called a dame-oshi and is frowned upon in the sport, and frankly, I was surprised at how many media outlets tried to make a story out of this.  Here's the bottom line...it's a Yokozuna's duty to ensure that the guys around him fight hard, and Ichinojo hasn't been fighting hard this entire basho.  That push to the face was a message as if to say, "Get your ass in gear already ya fat slob!"  It's absolutely a Yokozuna's duty to send a message like that, and I'm sure Hakuho is as frustrated as the rest of us when we watch Ichinojo waste his potential.  I'm sure Hakuho wanted a tougher fight from the Sekiwake, and when he didn't get it, he let Ichinojo know.

In the day's final affair, Yokozuna Kakuryu wasn't looking to move forward against Sekiwake Tochiohzan, and after offering a few tsuppari to make it look legit, he kinda stood upright and backed up a step waiting for Tochiohzan to assume moro-zashi. The Sekiwake complied straightway and easily scored the yori-kiri win from there. Seemed like the Kak's only strategy today was NOT to move forward past the starting lines, and when his retreat tactics didn't include even a meager attempt at a pull, his intentions were clear. I mean, just look at the pic at right.  Kakuryu is making sure that he does go down to defeat without a fight.  Tochiohzan scores the predictable win moving to 8-1 while he knocks Kakuryu down a notch to the same level.

So, at the end of day 9, your leaderboard shapes up as follows:

9-0: Hakuho
8-1: Kakuryu, Terunofuji, Tochiohzan, Kagamioh

I don't see Hakuho bowing to Tochiohzan or any of the Japanese Ozeki (if he does lose, it should be to Goeido), but I do see him letting either Terunofuji and / or Kakuryu get him just to keep things inneresting down the stretch. Predicting yaocho is difficult, but it's obvious when it occurs, and frankly, the drama left in the yusho race is "how is going to be set up if it's not Hakuho?", not "whose going to emerge in the end?"

In other bouts of interest, M3 Kaisei meekly put his right arm to the inside against Ozeki Goeido at the tachi-ai, but the Ozeki's answer to that was to dart left and go for a stupid pull. At this point, a Kaisei looking to win would have done just that--win--as the Ozeki was completely compromised, but I guess Kaisei wanted to see how long he could keep this up without using his hands. He was eventually forced to latch back on, and when he did so, he had the stifling left outer grip and deep right inside position, but I'll be darned (as we say in Utah) if Goeido didn't flex his muscles by retreating and then felling the Brasilian with a right scoop throw! What were the chances?! Of course, Kaisei's dive at the edge was pretty sweet, so give him credit for that. Sometimes after watching bouts like this, I just stare to the heavens and plead, "Take me now, Lord! How much longer must I suffer at thy hands?" But if Job had to solider on, then so must I as Goeido moves to 5-4 while Kaisei falls--literally--to the same mark.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, M2 Aoiyama kept his arms out wide at the tachi-ai and played the part of practice dummy for Kotoshogiku. With Aoiyama just standing there doing nothing, Kotoshogiku was able to work his left arm to the inside whereupon he began bodying Aoiyama to the side before just dumping him with a left inside belt throw. I seriously don't think anybody is buying these "wins" by the Geeku, but it's just the way sumo has to be at the moment. Hey, don't look now, but Kotoshogiku is 5-4!! You gotta assume that one of the three Mongolians will give him one win, so he's got to beg for two more somewhere along the way. Aoiyama couldn't care less about falling to 4-5. He's not sporting that sweet settuh hooters because he goes to bed hungry.

M1 Tochinoshin used a wicked left hari-te at the tachi-ai that he just kept up high pressing into Komusubi Takarafuji's grill, and after a second or two, Shin was able to get his other arm to the inside. Takarafuji spun away and actually managed moro-zashi in the process, but it was so shallow that Tochinoshin was able to press in on him tightly from the outside. With Takarafuji having nowhere to go, Tochinoshin made his move wrenching his gal upright and then using the left outer grip and right inside position to drive Takarafuji back and across with some oomph. Love me some Tochinoshin despite his 3-6 record while Takarafuji's make-koshi is official at 1-8.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Myogiryu demanded moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M2 Takayasu and wasted no time in driving Takayasu back and across without argument. Myogiryu showed why he's the better technical rikishi today as he moves to 4-5. Takayasu falls to 3-6.

I only comment on the M4 Aminishiki - M6 Kyokushuho bout today because Aminishiki's sumo was identical to the way he fought Ozeki Kisenosato. Only today he somehow managed to hold onto his left outer grip, which he used marvelously to break Kyokushuho down with a dashi-nage tug eventually setting up the easy yori-kiri. I'm quite sure Shneaky could have done this same sumo against the Ozeki yesterday. Both rikishi ended the day at 3-6.

M8 Yoshikaze struck M5 Okinoumi hard from the tachi-ai getting the left arm in deep and knocking Okinoumi upright. Okinoumi attempted to counter with his own left to the inside, but Yoshikaze was on a caffeine high today spinning around the ring and maki-kae'ing with the right arm in the process, and once he had moro-zashi against the upright Okinoumi, the yori-kiri was swift and decisive. Yoshikaze is 7-2 if you need him while Okinoumi is still a respectable 6-3.

M8 Osunaarashi's moro-te-zuki tachi-ai had more effect today against M6 Gagamaru setting up the deep inside right and left outer grip for the Ejyptian. As Gagamaru tried to settle in and counter with an inside position of his own, Osunaarashi swung out wide dragging Gagamaru over to the edge with the outer grip before bodying his way into Gagamaru's girth and sending him across for good. Osunaarashi is sweet at 6-3 while Gagamaru is slow at 4-5.

You know I'm going to comment on M13 Chiyotairyu when he exhibits his freight train sumo, and today's victim was M7 Tamawashi who was blasted back by a left kachi-age and right paw to the neck, and with no footing beneath him, Chiyotairyu just plowed forward firing a few more tsuppari into Tamawashi for good measure just kicking his ass back and across the straw. Chiyotairyu moves to 6-3 with the win, and I wish he'd do this brand of sumo everyday. Remember, Tamawashi (3-6) was recently in the sanyaku, so there's no reason why Chiyotairyu can't get back to the sanyaku one day (he's a former Komusubi).

M9 Sadanofuji's tsuppari from the tachi-ai were lukewarm against M12 Endoh, and so Elvis latched onto the front of the Sadamight's belt with both hands keeping the left in place and moving the right to the inside. The two swapped positions in the center of the ring with Sadanofuji's left arm pinned in close, but he was able to eventually break off Endoh's right belt grip. Still, Sadanofuji had no mind to attack today and largely just stood there making things difficult for awhile before he finally allowed Endoh to latch onto the belt with the right hand again and drive Sadanofuji across the straw. I suppose Sadanofuji was a bit mukiryoku here as he falls to 5-4 while Endoh is sitting pretty at 6-3.

Talk about kicking someone when they're down. Not only is M13 Hidenoumi's lower back giving him trouble, but K10 Kitataiki executed a classless henka at the tachi-ai moving to his left and just dragging the rookie down by the head and belt. Dirty pool here as both dudes are 3-6.

M14 Toyohibiki's tsuppari attack wasn't good enough to really budge M10 Amuuru, so after a few seconds of defense, the Russian rushed in for moro-zashi and then shoved Toyo the Hutt over hard with a right hand to Toyohibiki's left side. It's rare you see someone do Toyohibiki like that, and after a 4-0 start, Toyohibiki finds himself 4-5 at the end of the day. Amuuru is cruising along at 6-3.

M12 Kotoyuki has paid attention to previous M15 Satoyama bouts because he just blasted the Imo off of the starting lines and pushed him down hard and onto his arse in less than two seconds. I'm not sure what Satoyama was thinking with his face-guarding tachi-ai with the right hand, but Kotoyuki just kicked his ass drawing the tsuki-taoshi kimari-te. Kotoyuki breathes a bit easier at 5-4 while Satoyama falls to 3-6.

And finally, M15 Seiro got a taste of own medicine as J1 Daieisho skirted left at the tachi-ai ending up with the left inside position after a few tsuppari, and while Seiro had the right outer grip, you have to have the inside with the other arm for it to have any effect. Daieisho was just too busy and never let the rookie settle into the inside position, so score the yori-kiri win for the J1 who moves to 5-4 while Seiro falls to 4-5.

Harvye deals tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As the day 8 bouts came to a close, I thought to myself, "Now that was a solid day of sumo." Then I remembered the same feeling from day 4 when Terunofuji, Kakuryu, and Hakuho closed out the day. It just felt right to have the best rikishi fighting last, and it also helped that we didn't have any significant yaocho on the day. It may just be me talking out of my arse, but I do notice a difference in the day's action when the rikishi fight in order of their true strength. Let's see if we have the same feeling after day 12.

Because we're starting a new week and because NHK is flashing the leaderboard, let's switch to the new format where we discuss the leaderboard and then other bouts of interest on the day. Just prior to the start of the Makuuchi bouts, NHK revealed their leaderboard for the first time that looked like this:

7-0: Hakuho, Kakuryu
6-1: Terunofuji, Tochiohzan, Kagamioh

Moving in chronological order up the leaderboard, M14 Kagamioh has never won eight bouts in a Makuuchi basho. He also doesn't have a signature style of sumo that you can really define, so this fast start has included some gimmick sumo. Case in point was his bout against M14 Toyohibiki today, a formidable opponent that Kagamioh simply evaded with a cheap henka to to his left where he grabbed Toyohibiki by the back of the head and yanked him down in less than a second. Kitanofuji, who provided color today, was right to call Kagamioh out for the cheap move. You can't just sidestep a tough opponent, and then Kitanofuji made a great point by saying, "If you're red hot during a tournament then you can't be doing that kind of sumo." I couldn't agree more, and it's why no one is really taking Kagamioh seriously at 7-1. In regards to justification for the move, they caught up with Kagamioh in the hana-michi afterwards, and he said, "As we lined up at the starting lines, I could see Toyohibiki backed up quite a bit, and so I decided to henka him." Lame ass excuse bro as Toyohibiki falls to 4-4.

Next up was Sekiwake Tochiohzan against fellow Sekiwake Ichinojo in a bout that saw Tochiohzan get the firm right arm to the inside, and while Ichinojo fought him off well on the other side, Tochiohzan backed up half a step letting Ichinojo walk right into a left inside grip and moro-zashi. Tochiohzan pressed the action form there causing Ichinojo to attempt a counter maki-kae with his right arm, but Oh had all the momentum and pushed Ichinojo out in about four seconds. I've kinda felt that Ichinojo has been a bit mukiryoku all basho, but it may be that he's out of shape. Regardless, Tochiohzan is a sweet 7-1 while Ichinojo falls to 3-5. After the bout, Tochiohzan was critical of his sumo saying the flow was good but that he needed to strike harder at the initial charge.

The best bout of the day by far was Ozeki Terunofuji vs. M1 Tochinoshin, and after watching this bout, hopefully everyone was thinking, "How in the hell does Tochinoshin have just two wins?" The answer is easy: he's trading wins for cash and why not? There are enough parties who will gladly pay it, and even if Tochinoshin was a sanyaku mainstay, he wouldn't be hyped in the same manner as a Japanese rikishi would, so focus on the cash and stay in the division for as long as possible. Just look at what Kyokutenho is doing.

Anyway, both dudes hooked up in migi-yotsu at the tachi-ai, but Tochinoshin took advantage of his longer arms by grabbing the left outer grip. Still, Terunofuji had his right shoulder at the perfect angle burrowed underneath Shin's jaw keeping the Ozeki in the bout. With Tochinoshin unable to really mount a force out charge, Terunofuji wrenched the M2 around just enough to where he was able to grab a left outer of his own. The only problem was that it was on one fold of the belt, and as soon as he got it, Tochinoshin's belt began to unravel taking away Fuji's stronghold. Tochinoshin tested the force out waters from there, but Terunofuji easily rebuffed him, and after gaining his wits a bit, he mounted a force out charge of his own that didn't finish his opponent off straightway, but it gave him enough of a momentum shift to reposition his outer grip on all folds of the belt, and from that point, the superior rikishi just bullied his way to the beautiful yori-kiri win in the end leading with that left outer belt grip. This was a terrific display of o-zumo, and it's a style that no Japanese rikishi are able to produce at the highest levels of the sport. With the win Terunofuji moves to 7-1 while Tochinoshin falls to 2-6.

M3 Ikioi denied Yokozuna Kakuryu an inside position from the tachi-ai, but the Yokozuna was able to tsuppari his way into the eventual migi-yotsu position coupled with the left outer grip. One of Ikioi's strengths is actually the right scoop throw, and after digging in for a few seconds, he took his chances on the move, and while it caused the fans to scream out in excitement at the momentum shift, Kakuryu survived it easily enough and reloaded with the left inside position and right outer grip, and now it was the Yokozuna's turn to launch an attack with the right outer grip sending Ikioi down and across the straw with a nice belt throw. Kakuryu moves to 8-0 with the win, and while you can't classify him as a heavyweight, it's been nice watching his technique this basho. As for Ikioi, he falls to 1-7, but has been putting up decent fights.

In the day's final affair, Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed M3 Kaisei in a bout where the two hooked up in the immediate migi gappuri yotsu position from the tachi-ai, and from this point, Hakuho's only focus was not making a mistake. He let Kaisei test the force-out waters a few times but rebuffed him straightway, and after about 20 seconds, the Yokozuna went for a force out charge of his own leading with the left outer grip that easily sent Kaisei across the straw. With the win, Hakuho keeps pace with Kakuryu at 8-0 while Kaisei is a respectable 5-3.

With the leaders all having won today, the leaderboard remains unchanged except for the additional win earned by each rikishi. As is usually the case, the basho never really begins until Hakuho loses, and something tells me we have a long way to go complete with more twists and turns.

In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Kisenosato had it easy against M6 Aminishiki who actually won the tachi-ai today getting the left to the inside quite easily, but he refrained from firmly establishing it, and then on the other side, Aminishiki had the clear path to the right outer grip but he refrained several times from just grabbing the damn thing. His instincts told him to get it, but he kept on whiffing all the while letting Kisenosato just force him around and out with about as weak of an inside left position as you'd care to see. Aminishiki just went through the motions here because he clearly won the tachi-ai and he clearly did everything he could not to grab that right outer belt. The result is Kisenosato creeping just outside of the leaderboard at 6-2 while Aminishiki couldn't care less about his 2-6 start. Before we move on, let me just say that Isegahama-oyakata could be sacrificing Takarafuji and Aminishiki this basho in an effort to balance out the sheer dominance displayed by Terunofuji.

We were "treated" to our first Ozeki duel of the basho that saw Kotoshogiku and Goeido square off in a bout where Goeido had the clear path to moro-zashi (you had to have the reverse angle to see how obvious it was), but Goeido withdrew his right arm and brought it to the outside gifting the Geeku the left inside position, and once obtained, Kotoshogiku began his force out charge. Goeido monkeyed around with a fake maki-kae with that same right arm, but he made no attempt to move laterally just letting Kotoshogiku force him back and out in a few seconds. As much as I bag on Goeido, there's no way he gets done in by Kotoshogiku like that, especially when you watch him abandon the clear moro-zashi from the tachi-ai. I guess in a round about way, you can see how Terunofuji's dropping that bout yesterday against Goeido trickles into this bout. The key for these two yayhoos basho in and basho out is to get them to eight wins, and with both of them standing at 4-4 after today's bout, you'd have to say that half the battle is over. Moving forward, these two are just going to have to trust that they're given those final four wins over the next seven days because as the competition stiffens (cool, I said "stiffens"!), these two are incapable of winning on their own. Sorry folks, that's just the stark reality facing sumo these days.

Rounding out the sanyaku, both Komusubi squared off today where Myogiryu looked to gain moro-zashi from the tachi-ai. Takarafuji fended him off okay, but Myogiryu's arms were in so tight that Takarafuji couldn't establish anything to the inside, a disturbing trend we've seen from him the entire basho. With Myogiryu having gained the momentum at the tachi-ai, he proved to be a pest getting his right arm to the inside forcing Takarafuji to go on the defensive with a left kote-nage throw, but the counter attempt had little mustard behind it, and so Myogiryu was able to push up into Takarafuji's pits to set up the right inside again, and the second time was a charm as Myogiryu hoisted Takarafuji completely upright and then drove him out of the ring with some force. Dominating win today for Myogiryu as he moves to 3-5 while Takarafuji is just 1-7.

They led off the broadcast today with a special on M1 Sadanoumi. The feed I got here in the US started midway through the piece, and so I don't have all of the background info, but I guess there's a junior high school in the Inuyama area of Nagoya that Sadanoumi visits each year during the Nagoya basho. One of the teachers--an Umemura Sensei--was talking about the impact the visits had on the students, and it was the type of documentary that I just wait for on the weekends.

The reason I even bring this up is because Sadanoumi's opponent on the day was M4 Takekaze, one of the weaker guys in this section of the banzuke. They knew that they would broadcast this piece on day 8, and so I wonder if they gave Sadanoumi a weak opponent today in order to help create more momentum with a higher chance of securing a win just after featuring him in the intro to the broadcast. It's just pure speculation, but I don't think they throw the features and pairings together ad hoc each basho.

Anyway, Sadanoumi failed to deliver today losing the tachi-ai to Takekaze and then being forced to play defense throughout as Takekaze pushed and then pulled, pushed and then pulled. It took about six seconds in all, but finally Takekaze scored on a pull down as Sadanoumi tried to get to the inside. The key to the bout was that Sadanoumi failed to establish his brand of yotsu-zumo at the tachi-ai, and he paid the price. Both of these dudes end the day at 5-3, and I still think Sadanoumi is worth the hype.

M5 Okinoumi is off to a quiet 6-2 start if you need him. Today against M6 Gagamaru, he secured moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and was proactive in forcing YubabaMaru straight back and out. In the process, Gagamaru (4-4) actually went for and got a maki-kae with the left arm, but Okinoumi's grip with the right hand was so good it didn't matter if it was an inner or an outer

Around this point of the broadcast, they focused on Juryo rookie Mitakeumi, who is off to a blazing 8-0 start in the division. The kid looks pretty solid although he used a henka today to defeat Chiyooooooh in cheap fashion. The reason I even bring him up is because he's getting a ton of hype in the media, and so he's your next Endoh. What I mean by that is I haven't seen him fight enough to know whether or not he's better than Endoh. Rather, regardless of how good he really is, he'll likely be hyped incessantly regardless of how much game he's got. Hopefully he's the rill dill as we say in Utah because the last thing we need is another freak show like Endoh watering down the integrity of the sport. And I actually like Endoh and want to root for him, but sometimes the yaocho are just downright ridiculous.

M8 Osunaarashi's weak moro-te-zuki tachi-ai of late actually worked a lot better today, but that's because he was fighting M12 Endoh. After pushing Endoh completely upright, Osunaarashi delivered a wicked right hari-te and then moved left grabbing the back of Endoh's belt and swinging him over and out in mere seconds. The fact that Endoh could do nothing against an ailing Osunaarashi is a good illustration of how he lacks power in this division. That win over Kagamioh was a gift in an attempt to make Endoh look stronger than he really is, but his true colors were on display today as both dudes end the day at 5-3.

M13 Chiyotairyu was a bit timid at the tachi-ai against M10 Amuuru, so even though he blasted the Russian back a huge step, Amuuru had the wherewithal to counter near the edge by pushing to the right side of Chiyotairyu's body with the left hand as Tairyu approached for round two. With separation now between the rikishi, Chiyotairyu's reaction was to go for a jump pull as Amuuru advance, and the move failed so miserably that Amuuru connected on a left roundhouse to the side of Chiyotairyu's head that sent him to the dirt in one fell swoop. Both rikishi end the day at 5-3.

They said prior to the M13 Hidenoumi - M11 Kyokutenho bout that the rookie was having trouble with his lower back and was receiving injections for the pain. That does explain a few things. I was really impressed with Hidenoumi the first few days, but lately he's just been standing there giving up the advantageous position to his opponents. Today against the aging Kyokutenho, he easily gave up the right inside position and left outer grip from the tachi-ai, and while Hidenoumi was able to enjoy the same grips, he couldn't apply any pressure, so he just slumped low in the middle of the ring waiting for Kyokutenho to just swing him around and down via a left belt throw. It's too bad because I really like Hidenoumi who falls to 3-5 while Kyokutenho ekes his way to a 2-6 record.

And finally, M15 Seiro knew that M15 Satoyama would duck in low, and so he just greeted him with two hands to the head, pivoted out right, and then literally pushed Satoyama down by the neck in about two seconds. When you're a one-trick pony like Satoyama, all it takes is a bit of planning for your larger opponent to beat you. Seiro is even now at 4-4 while Satoyama falls to 5-3.

See ya'll tomorrow.

Day 7 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
The Nagoya basho is all about heat. And I'm not just talking about what the Mongolians have been bringing on the dohyo. Notice all the people with fans? It is HOT in there. Getting from the train station to the venue is like swimming in an oven, the kind of Japanese summer heat where the waves of it press on you and your body parts them like water. You think, "I'm not going to make it." Then you get in the oversized gym that is the homely, homey Nagoya venue, and it is a little better. A little. Too stifling in there--so one of the Mongolians will bring in a little air, cool it off a bit today.

What is Nagoya known for? Expensive weddings, traffic accidents, and being rude are three things I've heard, though the last is unfair: the reality is that people here are practical, matter of fact, and rather plain, in a good way. If you're the fancy type, Nagoya is not for you.

Nagoya is also about cars (Toyota is not just a car company, but a city of that name where the company lives, squatting on the outskirts of the metropolis). Nagoya is a transportation hub, a business center, and a locus for sumo trouble--here it was that the gangsters sat in the front row and caused all that fuss. The Mongolians are causing trouble this basho. Peoples getting antsy watching the domination.

As a sidebar today, Sumotalk and the Chubu Regional Tourism Bureau team up to bring you a Nagoya Area Summer Holiday Special; we invited each pair of wrestlers today to visit a local hotspot before the matches. Tape of their visits will run later on NHK, one of those Obon specials where they send likeable people (we had to insist on Tokitenku, but they relented though he never smiled once during the screen test) to little towns to joke with the locals and be charmed and charming.

Let's head out on the local scene.

M14 Toyohibiki (4-2) vs. J3 Jokoryu (4-2)
The reason pulling remains so popular is that, unfortunately, it often works. Here Toyohibiki had the momentum, but still tried a pull; Jokoryu tried one at the same moment, but had better balance and the right momentum in his favor. Jokoryu gets a cheap, easy, dirty hiki-otoshi win. Afterwards they visited the TV tower in Nagoya's central park, sort of a local landmark. Like everybody else, they said, that's it?

M16 Takanoiwa (2-4) vs. M13 Chiyotairyu (4-2)
Very good stuff here. Chiyotairyu has been interesting this tournament because he has had some tremendous aggressive wins. This time he did not come hard off the tachi-ai, and hence got in a belt battle. It was a long one. I was thinking, "ah, he's pretty good, he'll win." Then I remembered, "no, when he was in upper Makuuchi this always ended in stupid pull attempts. He's a Juryo guy. He'll lose." To my delight, he worked hard, didn't pull, and eventually got a left inner grip. Looking good. However, Takanoiwa also got to the inside with a smooth maki-kae, and in an instant had Chiyotairyu wrenched upright and on his way out. But High Cliff (Takanoiwa) charged carelessly and didn't really have a grip, just an arm inside, and in a superb utchari, Chiyotairyu twisted at the straw and whirled Takanoiwa out. Looking good, Chiyotairyu. As a reward, these two got chosen to drive up into central Gifu Prefecture and visit the beautiful temple at the end of a line of massive, beautiful cedars and soak in the onsen at Tanigumi.

M15 Seiro (2-4) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (2-4)
Move forward, keep your opponent in front of you, bring your feet along, and keep pushing. That is a recipe so simple I could win with it. That's what Kotoyuki did for the oshi-dashi win. Afterwards they went to Nagoya-jo, the castle. Everybody said, "yep, it's a castle."

M12 Endo (4-2) vs. M14 Kagamioh (6-0)
I find a lot of these so-called shitate-nage wins, such as Endo got here, mysterious; it seems to be code for "the other guy fell down." Kagamioh had Endo around the head and was pulling him down from above, but his hands slipped off Endo's oiled noggin, and whoops!, Kagamioh swiveled about like a pickle in the jar when you're trying to fork it, and he who crashed to the dirt. It moves fast out there and so it is possible I just missed it, but this was a counterintuitive result: "wha' happen?" Later the two went to watch "ukai," or cormorant fishing, where they put a ring on a chain around the cormorant's neck, and it dives for fish it can't swallow and has to give to the guy in the boat. After his third beer, Endo told Kagamioh he'll have to bring a tighter neck-choker to their next match.

M15 Satoyama (2-4) vs. M11 Kyokutenho (1-5)
This Satoyama duck-under attack is bizarre--against the very tall Kyokutenho, it led to his head being clamped in Kyokutenho's armpit, and his arm hooked half behind his back where Kyokutenho had scooped it up. Awkward looking to say the least, but it worked like a charm. Kyokutenho was snarled up in a terrible snerl, couldn't get to the belt, and was too upright. Meanwhile, though he is tiny, Satoyama was dug in very deeply down there on Kyok's belt, and was able to wrench Kyokutenho all over, leading to a yori-kiri win. Unorthodox, but interesting to watch. Afterwards they went to Inuyama-jo, the oddly tall, skinny castle northeast of Nagoya, but they got kicked out when Satoyama tried to use the foundation as a teppo pole.

M11 Tokitenku (3-3) vs. M13 Hidenoumi (2-4)
These guys quickly got into migi-yotsu (mutual right inner and left outer grips), and Country Bumpkin (Hidenoumi), who reminds me a lot of Bushuyama as a silly-looking old rookie who has more in him than you at first guess, had an advantage simply by being younger and having more fire. He got Tokitenku upright and stayed conscious of his kicks; Tokitenku's leg kept flinching out like a limb of a stroke-victim octopus; it was too dangly and he couldn't get any purchase on it, so Bumpkin yori-kiri'ed him out. Nicely done. Afterwards they went and visited the meditating-position real mummy in the countryside temple in deep Gifu somewhere north of Tanigumi (if you ever get the chance, do a day at Tanigumi and in its environs); Tokitenku took out a contract to sub in for it after he retires.

M9 Sadanofuji (4-2) vs. M10 Kitataiki (2-4)
Sadanofuji has always been very "meh" for me, but this tournament I like the way he is using his size. This was a belt battle and in the beginning Kitataiki had the mo' in his favor, but Sadanofuji nicely kept one leg well back and turned his body to the side, giving him good anchoring power to resist the forward charge. He was able to push back, use his long limbs to get grips including a very nice inside left, tire the fading Kitataiki out, and move him over the bales for the yori-kiri win. Afterwards they took the drive up to the Japan Alps just because.

M10 Amuuru (3-3) vs. M8 Osunaarashi (4-2)
Watching Osunaarashi beat pretty good wrestlers the past few days on pure grit while injured leads me to the conclusion that he has a lot in him and could be a fun jo'i mainstay if healthy. The God of Love (that's Amuu-ru!) is pretty good himself these days. Amuuru was aggressive, stayed low, and burrowed his head in against Osunaarashi's chest. Eventually, when Osunaarashi pushed back too hard, trying to get away from the bales, Amuuru used that force against him and launched a hell of an uwate-nage that sent the compromised Giant Sand (Osunaarashi) sprawling. Beautiful stuff. These two were sent to see the world-class summer fireworks show in Gifu on the Nagara-gawa afterwards (word to the wise: next two weekends).

M7 Toyonoshima (1-5) vs M6 Gagamaru (3-3)
Who is the real Gagamaru? The plodding, stiff version we saw a year or so ago who was wheeled out of the ring so easily by even the weakest wrestlers and got banished to Juryo? Or the smooth, calm rikishi we've seen the last three basho, keeping his opponent in front of him and using his bulk to crush and move? Sadly, it probably doesn't matter against Toyonoshima, who has survived on toughness and resolve into his dotage, but looks not to have the strength to compete anymore. Gagamaru got grips on both sides, leaned down on Tugboat, and drove him out yori-kiri. Afterwards NHK sent them for a rest on the broad green lawns outside the odd modernist buildings of the Ando Tadao-built conference center in Gifu (yes: Gifu, eighteen minutes by train from Nagoya, is much more interesting than Nagoya itself).

M6 Kyokushuho (2-4) vs. M9 Homarefuji (2-4)
Like the Endo bout, this sukui-nage win by Kyokushuho made no sense to me. One minute Homarefuji is charging with a nice low posture, the next minute he is lying on the ground. Kyokushuho did smartly move left out of it, but still. Homarefuji left his legs behind? Later they were sent to the provincial town of Ogaki, which is famous for its water. For its water. Try marketing that for tourists.

M8 Yoshikaze (4-2) vs. M5 Tokushoryu (3-3)
Praise someone who seems to be fighting beyond their abilities, and you are likely to see them regress to the mean. Hence, my tentative but hopeful acceptance of Special Sauce's (Tokushoryu's) apparent early basho improvement has been justly followed by lackluster bouts in which he mounts no offensive strategy, like this one in which he let the undersized Yoshikaze simply get low on him and bull him out by superior will power and focus. Oshi-dashi. Afterwards the two were sent to climb Mount Kinka and visit Gifu-jo on the summit, but while Yoshikaze jogged up the popular "trail of a hundred turns," Tokushoryu fell asleep on the a bench waiting for his ticket to ride the ropeway.

M5 Okinoumi (4-2) vs. M7 Tamawashi (2-4)
I liked Tamawashi's strategy of trying to be at the neck, stay stable, and frustrate Okinoumi, but when he is on, Okinoumi's zen poise is formidable, and he stuck with his opponent, stuck an arm inside, and got a yori-kiri win. Afterwards Clock Puncher (Tamawashi) took Romantic Islands (Okinoumi) on a tour of the Toyota factory, but they STILL agreed Okinoumi has the better life.

M4 Aminishiki (2-4) vs. M1 Sadanoumi (2-4)
Very nice low posture and forward movement here by Sadanoumi. I am one of those whom Mike mentioned who really admire Aminishiki's unorthodox, tricksy ways of winning, but he has looked terrible, and correspondingly boring, of late. He looks to be losing his flexibility and speed, and it won't be long before the end for him. In this match he tried not one but two pulls against the smaller opponent, and they doomed him to the yori-kiri loss. Afterwards they were supposed to meet for their date under Nana-chan, the big, vaguely humanoid sculpture outside Nagoya Station, but instead Aminishiki jilted Sada, went home, took the bedroll off his leg, and laid down for an end-of-career nap.

M1 Tochinoshin (1-5) vs. M4 Takekaze (2-4)
Tochinoshin has never performed well in the jo'i. Some say he is able because he has the right strength, body, and technique but isn't interested enough in winning. I'm not sure. He's spent a lot of tournaments up here over two pieces of a career sandwiched around a bad injury, and it has been the same result both times. This is his 21st tournament ranked as an M4 or above; he has never had double digit wins from those ranks, and has managed his nine wins just three times. That's just 3 of 20 tournaments at better than 8-7. If he were good enough, I think he'd post occasional great results from AMIDST the jo'i; not just in getting to it. He was sloppy and almost fell down while chasing the evading Takekaze around the ring today; even when he finally got to him, his yori-kiri force out was tentative and lacked focus. After the match they were supposed to go to Atsuta Jingu, the most famous shrine in Nagoya, but, well, just couldn't get motivated and went out for beers instead.

K Takarafuji (1-5) vs. S Ichinojo (2-4)
There is a debate with Ichinojo. Does he fight passive and slow because that is his style, or because he's collecting equity, giving away tons of matches, and being passive is a way to do it? I've been tempted to think the latter. Today would seem to support that; he was very busy with maki-kae and working hard to get some forward momentum; once he got it he smartly and swiftly got hands on Takarafuji's neck and soon had him out, oshi-dashi. However, Takarafuji did nothing here, retreating and declining to reach in; it may have been mukiryoku on his part. Remember, it goes both ways, and the motives and the who-owes-who are often opaque to us. Afterwards they went to Nagoya's renowned aquarium and watched the big fish float around. I love it that the patrons often say "oishisou!" ("looks delicious!") as they watch the fish in the tanks, and that there is a sushi restaurant at the exit. Yes, really. They ate there; Ichinojo paid.

S Tochiohzan (5-1) vs. K Myogiryu (2-4)
Tochiohzan is very focused; he wants moro-zashi and practices the move as he gets in his crouch, bringing his arms up in a scooping motion: "okay, this is what I'm going to do." It is a good technique for focus and visualization. Myogiryu knew it, and worked hard to keep Tochiohzan upright and deny him dual inside position. However, Tochiohzan is the superior rikishi, and no stranger to adjustment, so he used Myogiryu's aggressive force to his advantage, timing a pull that sent Myogiryu running out to a hataki-komi loss. I don't like to see a pull, but this made sense for Tochiohzan where he stood in this match. Afterwards they went to one of the rare baseball games in Gifu Baseball Stadium, along the Nagara River, with a crescent moon rising above the silhouette of Gifu-Jo in the inky night sky above the black rampart of Mt. Kinka. Best baseball experience available in Japan.

O Kisenosato (5-1) vs. M2 Aoiyama (2-4)
A few tournaments ago Aoiyama was focusing on powerful, hissing thrusts, and I thought we might have something. However, he has abandoned that of late, going more for the body, where his lack of mobility makes him vulnerable to being shoved around. This bout neatly illustrates this: at first, Aoiyama went body to body with Kisenosato; Kise got a better inside position, and had Aoiyama on the ropes. However, Kise, much as I will still defend him as a legit Ozeki, has very poor instincts and has fought well below his potential throughout his career, and he blew the force out, causing separation. Freed and woken up, Aoiyama went back in hard, not to the body, but with those one-two-one-two full extension meat jabbing thrusts. When he did this, he had Kisenosato pounded convincingly out in a few seconds, oshi-dashi. Like Chiyotairyu should stick to his grenade-gone-off tachi-ai, Aoiyama needs to stick to his hissing thrusts. For their NHK tourism visit, they went to the razor blade factory in Seki. I'm sorry, I'm running out of venues and have no tie-in for that.

O Terunofuji (6-0) vs. O Goeido (3-3)
A sense of dread started to creep in as soon as I saw the names on the screen; I felt Terunofuji was going to find a way to lose today. Mike has been predicting some Mongolian losses over the weekend to keep things interesting, and I have the same prognostication. My sense of dread was complemented by annoyance, as the crowd got into a rhythmic chant in favor of Goeido. They sensed it too, for the wrong reasons: finally, anger took over for me. The other day I was on the train and there was Ichinojo's fat, happy face advertising some product on a hanging poster. Living here, you soon get the sense that Ichinojo is popular right now and riding the wave, less because of his sumo and more because of the clown aspect of his weight and demeanor. Meanwhile The Future (Terunofuji), by far the better wrestler, draws at best disinterest and at worst disdain and resentment. I watched the feature NHK did on him on day 1--to be honest, he was soft-spoken, boring mush. Way too earnest, and as charismatic as warm tofu. I thought, "oh crap. With pop like that the PR on this is going nowhere." And so here we are, with the crowd left rooting FOR the ridiculous Goeido and AGAINST Terunofuji--whom they should appreciate. Because. His. Sumo. Is. Awesome. Goeido got low and inside, shook up and down, denied Terunofuji any effective grip, and eventually tripped him while pulling him backwards for the soto-gake win. If you just watch Goeido, it looks very good. But here is also what happened: the gigantic Terunofuji, whose style is calm and who focuses on the belt and goes for long matches, and who has long arms to get easy grips with, stood tall and frantically jerked his arms around like a poisoned grasshopper, rather than using his strength and stature to demand in-reach This match was not his pace at all. Blue-skiers will say, yeah, Goeido dictated the pace of the bout, that's how you win. Cynics will say if you want to lose, fight to the other guy's strengths. My glass is half empty here. Afterwards Goeido offered to take Terunofuji out to a baseball game in Nagoya Dome: the worst baseball experience in Japan.

O Kotoshogiku (3-3) vs. M2 Takayasu (2-4)
Nothing to describe here but an unnecessary but totally effective henka here by Takayasu, sending Kotoshogiku tumbling across the dirt out of the charge. Kotoshogiku's bow afterwards was a classic of just-barely-perceptible. Their chemistry was a bit frosty as they toured the World Expo grounds later.

Y Hakuho (6-0) vs. M3 Ikioi (1-5)
The cornmeal-flour sack-cloth gyoji was back for this one, and watched Hakuho take his time, working on a very deep left outer grip that he used for a yori-kiri win. Because Hakuho is simply the best, they sent these guys to Shirakawa-go, where they have the thatch-roofed, massive, A-frame "gasshou zukuri" farm houses. Off season when not too crowded, in the deep snows of winter, or in frosty, tooth-achingly-cold clear-as-crystal late Fall days, this is the best tourist site in Chubu. Don't go for a day trip; take two day, go during a weekday, stay overnight at one of the older ones. Ikioi decided not to come home. Hakuho sighed and got back on the train to Nagoya, saying he's got responsibilities.

M3 Kaisei (5-1) vs. Y Kakuryu (6-0)
Kakuryu got on the front of the belt first, pulling up hard. That looked pretty good to me, but wasn't working, so he maki-kae'd swiftly and got an excellent deep inner left all the way around the back. A little gaburi action after that and this one was in the bag, yori-kiri. Afterwards the two went and saw the Great Buddha of Gifu, which is the third biggest Daibutsu (Big Buddha) in Japan--but everybody knows the world-famous first two, in Nara and Kamakura, and nobody has heard of the Gifu. Kakuryu was a little uncomfortable with this notion.

Hakuho and Kakuryu at 7-0 are mostly vulnerable to each other and to 6-1 Terunofuji. 6-1 Kagamioh is a non-factor. 6-1 Tochiohzan is your dark horse if The Storyteller (Hakuho) and his clique want to shake things up.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Man, have we entered the dog days of this basho or what?? The simple matter is that nothing matters until the three Mongolians lose. The problem is...there's no one on the banzuke who can beat them unless it's a total fluke, and so we just go through the motions watching everyone else lose here and there while the Mongolian triumvirate continues to cruise. I don't think the three Mongolians will end up undefeated until they all face each other, but until one of them loses, there aren't any interesting storylines brewing. I might have comments on two bouts that you wouldn't pick up just by watching, but here goes with day 6 anyway.

The day began with M14 Kagamioh reaching for the left outer grip from the tachi-ai and getting it straightway against J2 Kagayaki. Kagamioh's experience from this point took over as he stepped left and swung Kagayaki over and out before the Juryo dude even know what hit him. As if it isn't enough to have the triumvirate of Mongolians dominating at this point, Kagamioh is the first 6-0 rikishi this basho.

M13 Hidenoumi's opponents are learning quick that the outer grip is there from the taking, and M16 Takanoiwa exploited it today getting the left outer grip followed by the right to the inside, and with the rookie unable to counter with an outer grip of his own, Takanoiwa force him back and out just like that. Both rikishi are 2-4.

Can't say I've ever seen a tachi-ai like the one displayed by M13 Chiyotairyu where he smacked M15 Satoyama so hard his left arm went up and over the top to where he had the Imo in a reverse headlock. Fortunately he had the momentum and the right kote grip on the other side, so the yori-kiri came in short order. Satoyama (2-4) tried his usual ducking routine at the tachi-ai, but Chiyotairyu just clobbered him moving to 4-2.

M12 Endoh latched onto the right frontal grip that was so close to the center of M14 Toyohibiki's belt, he prolly snagged a few pubes in the process. Toyohibiki tried to counter with a right kote-nage throw, but Endoh had the left positioned well inside, and with that potent outer gained from the tachi-ai, Endoh was able to topple Toyohibiki with an inside belt throw. As Endoh executed the throw, he actually fell over to the dohyo as well, and that's a sign of his lack of strength. Still, he moves to 4-2, the same record as Toyohibiki.

Prior to the M11 Tokitenku - M12 Kotoyuki matchup, they showed a replay from the Hatsu basho where Tenku spilled Kotoyuki with a suso-harai leg trip from behind. And damned if Tokitenku didn't execute it again today!! Kotoyuki used his stiff tsuppari from the tachi-ai to thrust Tokitenku back in short order, and even though Tokitenku survived, Kotoyuki was right back at this throat. Getting his ass kicked to this point, Tokitenku went for another wild leg kick with the right leg catching Kotoyuki in the back of the left calf and sending him over like a stubborn tree.

M15 Seiro shaded left just enough against M11 Kyokutenho to grab the cheap outer grip, and Kyokutenho just couldn't fend off the right to the inside as well, and so the younger Seiro just yanked the Chauffeur over to the edge and forced him out in a matter of seconds. Seiro is even steven at 3-3 while Kyokutenho falls to 1-5.

M9 Sadanofuji laid the wood to M9 Homarefuji with shove after shove to his neck, but somehow Homarefuji was able to escape to his right, but the Sadamight had all the momentum and pulled Homarefuji down as he dangerously tiptoed the edge. Sadanofuji moves to 4-2 while Homarefuji falls to 2-4.

M10 Amuuru ducked a bit low at the tachi-ai as he is wont to do, so M8 Yoshikaze committed on the instant pull attempt yanking Amuuru off balance and sending him stumbling over to the edge setting up the easy pushout from there. Yoshikaze is a quiet 4-2 while Amuuru's hot start is erased just like that at 3-3.

M6 Gagamaru struck K10 Kitataiki hard at the tachi-ai flirting with the left to the inside, and as Kitataiki spun away, Gagamaru got the right inside as well giving him the brief moro-zashi. Kitataiki maki-kae'd with the right arm, but Gagamaru had the momentum using the left kote grip to keep his gal in tight and score the yori-kiri win. Gagamaru moves to 3-3 while Kitataiki is floundering at 2-4.

M8 Osunaarashi was powerless yet again at the tachi-ai against M5 Okinoumi and so Okinoumi had all the momentum as the two hooked up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position. The whole key to yotsu-zumo is to get your opponent as up right as possible, and this is where the bout was decided because Osunaarashi just didn't have the strength to bully his foe around. Okinoumi did and used his outer grip to lift Osunaarashi up off balance and then swing him around for the uwate-nage win. Great stuff today from Okinoumi who moves to 4-2 while Osunaarashi cools to the same mark.

M5 Tokushoryu got the left to the inside against M7 Toyonoshima, and these days, that's about all you need to do to beat Toyonoshima. Curiously, Tokushoryu decided to abandon yotsu-zumo and go for a pull, and while it didn't sink Tugboat, it did throw him off balance enough for Tokushoryu to square back up and push his foe across. Easy peasy Japanesey as Tokushoryu moves to 3-3 while Toyonoshima is a sickly 1-5.

M4 Takekaze fired straight into M6 Kyokushuho at the tachi-ai sending him back a step, and then he of course went for a swipe at Kyokushuho's dicky-do. The move barely worked, but it looked as if Kyokushuho was afraid to square back up in fear of being pulled, so as he timidly moved forward, Takekaze pulled his arse down to the clay for good. Ugly finish after a great start for Takekaze who moves even with Shuho at 2-4.

M4 Aminishiki had the sweet left frontal grip from the tachi-ai against M3 Ikioi, but he couldn't do anything with it, which is a sign that his yotsu-zumo days are done. With Aminishiki not advancing forward, Ikioi executed a quick right kote-nage that sent Aminishiki across the dohyo and rendering a big fat push-out target on his chest. Ikioi didn't miss scoring the oshi-dashi win, his first win of the festivities. Aminishiki ain't much better at 2-4.

M7 Tamawashi's shoves had zero effect against M3 Kaisei, and while they did keep him away from the belt, Kaisei just kept pressing forward cornering Tamawashi near the edge where the Brasilian finally delivered some powerful shoves to send The Mawashi back and across. Simple sumo as Kaisei moves to 5-1 while Tamawashi falls to 2-4.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan got the left arm to the inside against M2 Takayasu, and with Takayasu not pressing forward hard, Oh demanded the right inside with a sweet maki-kae, so all Tochiohzan had to do now was lift his gal upright and then dump Takayasu over with a left scoop throw. Textbook stuff as Tochiohzan moves to 5-1 while Takayasu is 2-4.

Sekiwake Ichinojo actually jumped to his right at the tachi-ai attempting a kote-nage, but it was weak and half-assed.  Who knows if it was intentional?  Due to the henka, Kisenosato stumbled forward a bit, but he forced his way back into the bout with some nice neck shoves and then a couple of hari-te, the type he used to deliver to Asashoryu when Kisenosato was still young and raw. After putting Ichinojo on his heels, the two entered a brief stalemate with the Ozeki maintaining an ottsuke with the left arm buried into the Slug's right armpit. After gathering his wits a bit, Ichinojo got his right arm to the inside, but there was no pressure applied, and so Kisenosato executed a maki-kae with the left giving him moro-zashi that set up the ultimate force-out in favor of the Ozeki. I thought this bout could have been straight up until Ichinojo got the right to the inside near the straw but just gave it up for no reason. Couple that with the kote-nage hold he had pictured at right, and that's two anomalies that stand out to me.  Who knows though?  I could go either way.  The important thing is that Kisenosato moves to 5-1 while Ichinojo has some work to do at 2-4.

Ozeki Terunofuji connected on a good hari-te with the right hand against M1 Sadanoumi's melon all the while getting the left to the inside capping off the effective hari-zashi tachi-ai. By the time Sadanoumi figured out what happened, Terunofuji had the right outer grip to go along with his left inside, and there's nothing Sadanoumi could do at this point. After using a few seconds to gather his wits, Terunofuji lifted his gal up tsuri-dashi style marching over to the edge where a left scoop throw finished the M1 off for good. It's almost as if the crowd is silent out of reverence, and Mainoumi made a great point also saying, "You don't really hear any applause after his wins, and I don't think the fans have grasped yet how powerful he is. He's so strong and impactful that I think the fans are just forgetting to applause for him."

Komusubi Takarafuji struck Ozeki Kotoshogiku well, but he didn't set anything up from it keeping both arms out wide and gifting Kotoshogiku moro-zashi. The Ozeki went for the immediate kill, and even though Takarafuji easily maki-kae'd with his left while back pedaling, he just stayed in front of the Ozeki and allowed himself to get forced straight back. Kotoshogiku moves to 3-3 with the gift while Takarafuji will get his one day despite his 1-5 start.

In a similar tachi-ai, M1 Tochinoshin applied no pressure against Ozeki Goeido offering his right arm forward like a limp rag and then putting his left up high around Goeido's neck as if to threaten a kubi-nage. It wouldn't came as Goeido just charged straight forward and had Tochinoshin forced back and across in less than two seconds. If you're wondering why Goeido doesn't fight like this everyday, he would if he could but it's up to his opponent whether or not he will just stand there as Tochinoshin did today. Looks good on paper as Goeido moves to 3-3 while Tochinoshin should change his name to Hoardin as in, "I'm just content hoardin all this cash."

Yokozuna Kakuryu came in low at the tachi-ai against M2 Aoiyama, but the Bulgarian rebuffed him well with some beefy shoves. The problem was that Aoiyama wasn't moving forward and applying pressure, and so Kakuryu was able to ultimately duck into moro-zashi, and once gained, the force-out win was academic. Kakuryu is a cool 6-0 while Aoiyama falls to 2-4.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho looked to get the right to the inside against Komusubi Myogiryu, but Myogiryu actually maki-kae'd with the right arm giving him moro-zashi. Problem was that Hakuho was driving forward hard with his legs, and he was able to body Myogiryu back and across before the Komusubi could even think about a counter move. Hakuho continues to lead the way at 6-0 while Myogiryu falls to 2-4.

You love him; you need him.  Harvye's back tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I knew it was going to be an interesting day of sumo in terms of the broadcast when I started watching the recording only to see that a typhoon was heading towards mainland Japan. I can't think of anything more annoying than typhoon news or a hot political debate that preempts the broadcast, but that's what we had to deal with today. With NHK being a state run broadcast company, they're obligated to cover such events ad nauseam, and when you really get down to it, we didn't really miss anything in terms of action. The only area that I do miss is the general theme that NHK uses to start off the broadcast. It let's me know what they want the fans to focus on, so I always enjoy keeping abreast of the direction in which they're spinning the narrative.

Even without the spin from NHK or the media in general, I can certainly see the direction the basho is heading, and if some of the top Mongolians don't lose soon, there won't be much to hype in the second week. Speaking of not much to hype, let's start off once again from the bottom of the division and work our way up where M16 Takanoiwa looked to get off the schneid against J2 Sokokurai by using a nifty kachi-age with the right arm from the charge that stood Sokokurai upright, and then as the Inner-Chinese-Mongolian is wont to do, Sokokurai began moving to his right around the ring, but Takanoiwa kept up the pressure with well timed tsuki managing to shove his sorta fellow countryman out in a few seconds. Since no one came away with a stiffie after this one, they only gave him the oshi-dashi technique instead of tsuki-dashi, but nonetheless, Takanoiwa is now 1-4!!

I do believe that M13 Chiyotairyu read my comments about his sumo yesterday because with another vulnerable opponent staring at him across the starting lines in M15 Seiro, Chiyotairyu executed the attack he shoulda done against Kyokutenho yesterday. Said attack consisted of dual thrusts from the starting lines fueled by perfect de-ashi, and Seiro was pushed back and out with so much force, he couldn't even think of moving laterally to counter. Chiyotairyu is feeling better now at 3-2 with the tsuki-dashi win while Seiro is struggling at 2-3.

M14 Kagamioh reached for and got the early left outer against M13 Hidenoumi, so all he needed now was to shore up things with his right arm to the inside, and with Hidenoumi unable to defend against anything Kagamioh did from the start, it took the Mongolian just a few seconds to gather his wits in the center of the ring, lift the rookie upright with the inside position, and then force him straight back and out for the textbook yori-kiri win. Kagamioh is our first 5-0 rikishi, but unfortunately he's not anyone that you can really hype. As for Hidenoumi (2-3), the kid's gotta learn a little bit of defense. He's been burned two days in a row now in this same exact fashion. I like what I see from him so far, but he can't be passive like this at the tachi-ai.

So here's the thing with M12 Endoh and the three Japanese Ozeki. When they face an opponent who their camps think they can beat straight up, nothing is worked out in advance. When they face a foe who's a tall order, somebody somewhere arranges it so that their opponents let up. Well, coming in today against M15 Satoyama, even I thought Endoh would be able to win straight up. Not so. Endoh failed to apply any pressure to Satoyama from the tachi-ai as both engaged in a tsuppari attack, and after a few seconds of this tsuppari-ai, Satoyama moved to his left and timed a perfect tsuki into Endoh's side sending him off balance and down to the disappointment of the crowd. Tsuki-otoshi at the hands of Satoyama. Oops. The result is that Endoh falls to 3-2 while Satoyama improves to 2-3, but if you go back and look at Endoh's other loss, it came against an 0-2 Chiyotairyu. That dude was floundering around the first coupla days, and I'm sure both sides thought, "We'll just let 'em go straight up," and the result was a total ass kicking in favor of Chiyotairyu.

I think M14 Toyohibiki got lazy today against M11 Kyokutenho because instead of knocking his foe off the line with some tough tsuki, Toyohibiki opted for a continuous push into Kyokutenho's upper body as he drove forward. Problem was, Kyokutenho had plenty of room to evade to his left, dip his left arm to the inside, and counter with a perfectly timed scoop throw to send Toyohibiki down to his first loss at 4-1. Ouch! As for Tenho, he picks up his first win at 1-4 and we've seen slow starts from the dude before only to have him go on this huge win streak. From the way he's been moving, I don't suspect that will happen, but that's why they strap it on.

M12 Kotoyuki aimed his potent tsuki directly into M10 Amuuru's upper body from the tachi-ai, and Kotoyuki was pressing so hard, that Amuuru couldn't duck in low in an attempt to grab the belt. Plan B was to evade to his left, but Kotoyuki was on his every move firing those tsuki into the taller Russian sending him back and across the straw without argument drawing the tsuki-dashi win! This was great stuff from Kotoyuki who moves to 2-3 while Amuuru continues to cool off at 3-2.

M9 Sadanofuji was lazy at the tachi-ai allowing M11 Tokitenku to easily gain moro-zashi. It almost looked as if Tokitenku faked dual hari-te that made Sadanofuji flinch just a bit, but regardless, Tenku had Sadanofuji in moro-zashi less than one second in. Sadanofuji countered with a right outer grip, but it was just on one fold of the belt, so the two dug in for nearly a minute before Tokitenku was able to get the Sadamight upright just enough with a left scoop throw attempt that ultimately set up the yori-kiri win. Too bad they're not paying Sadanofuji by the second as he falls to 3-2 while Tokitenku breathes a bit easier at 2-3.

M7 Toyonoshima got the left deep to the inside against M10 Kitataiki, but he couldn't secure moro-zashi on the other side, and so Kitataiki focused solely on a kote-nage throw against Toyonoshima's inside position with the left where Kitataiki grabbed Toyonoshima's limb with both arms and just wrenched Tugboat upright and over to the edge where he sent him across in the end. Kitataiki was a man on a mission today at 2-3 while Toyonoshima looks rudderless at 1-4.

M8 Osunaarashi offered his moro-te-zuki tachi-ai yet again, but there was no power behind it, and M7 Tamawashi knew it, but as The Mawashi charged forward, Osunaarashi wildly moved to his left and actually did a 360 on his way outta Dodge. As Tamawashi pursued with arms extended, Osunaarashi was able to tug at the right arm in desperation and actually pull Tamawashi out of the ring. This was ugly, ugly stuff from both parties, but credit Osunaarashi for finding ways to win despite his obviously injured left shoulder. Dude's an incredible 4-1 while Tamawashi falls to 2-3.

M6 Gagamaru caught M9 Homarefuji with a right paw to the neck that kept him away from the belt after which both guys traded shoves where Homarefuji tried to set something up to the inside while Gagamaru just looked to bully his smaller foe out. Homarefuji flirted with a belt grip a time or two, but YubabaMaru's shoves were too timely and potent, and after about five seconds, he caught Homarefuji with another right paw to the neck that sent Homarefuji over and out. Both fellas set at 2-3 after this one (as we say in Utah).

M6 Kyokushuho and M8 Yoshikaze looked to engage in a tsuppari contest from the tachi-ai, but there was just too much penchant for pull from Kyokushuho, and so Monster Drink was able to take advantage by staying lower and then timing a good push to Kyokushuho's left side that spun him 90 degrees, and from there it was shooting fish in a barrel for Yoshikaze who improves to 3-2 while Kyokushuho falls to 2-3.

M4 Aminishiki put both hands at M5 Tokushoryu's neck at the tachi-ai, but instead of trying to power his foe backwards, he instinctively shifted slightly to his right and opted for a pull. Tokushoryu had nothing developing offensively, but Aminishiki's evasive maneuver was just too slow, and so Tokushoryu just bulled his way straight into Aminishiki without a hold anywhere and forced him across the straw using his own backwards momentum against him. Problem was, they called a mono-ii and said both guys stepped out at the same time, and in the rematch, Aminishiki just henka'd left and escorted the charging Tokushoryu out from behind for the cheap okuri-dashi win. I know a lot of you are huge Aminishiki fans, but this was crap sumo from him...twice. Both guys are 2-3 at the end of the day.

M3 Kaisei grabbed the firm left frontal belt grip from the tachi-ai against M5 Okinoumi, and then he coupled that with another nice belt grip on the other side with the right, which was technically an outer, but the position of both belt grips were far enough to the front that the Brasilian easily lifted Okinoumi upright and dispatched him in maybe three seconds. This was total domination as Kaisei moves to 4-1 while Okinoumi falls to 3-2.

M4 Takekaze pushed hard into M2 Takayasu's neck at the tachi-ai and then just spun his wheels in an attempt to shove Takayasu back, but it was going nowhere and so Takayasu slipped back and left a half step before slapping Takekaze down in a few seconds with a left hand swipe. Too easy here as Takayasu moves to 2-3 while Takekaze is a hapless 1-4.

Like Toyonoshima, Komusubi Takarafuji is having serious issues getting to the inside of his opponents. Today against M1 Sadanoumi, the two looked as if they wanted to go yotsu, but they just kept bouncing off of each other with neither fully committing to a yotsu contest and neither really executing offensive tsuppari. So around the ring they danced once or twice before Takarafuji sensed he had his gal set up close enough to the straw, so he committed on that final push out. Problem was that it wasn't set up with anything, and so Sadanoumi was barely able to dart left at the edge and keep his footing while Takarafuji careless stumbled forward and stepped out first. There was a lot of action here; yet, I can't describe a single move because neither rikishi really committed to anything. Takarafuji's gotta beat an M1 like Sadanoumi if he wants to keep his sanyaku rank. He's in such a great position not having to fight his stable mates, but he's blowing it so far at 1-4. Sadanoumi is now one better at 2-3.

The most anticipated matchup of the day featured two undefeated rikishi in Sekiwake Tochiohzan--Japan's best--vs. Ozeki Terunofuji, and the two did not disappoint as Tochiohzan gained moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but Oh has had moro-zashi before against Fuji the Terrible and still came away defeated. Terunofuji showed why by pinching in hard from the outside and lifting Tochiohzan so upright in the center of the ring that he was able to finally finagle his right arm to the inside, and once established, Tochiohzan was in a pickle. Terunofuji wasted no time forcing his gal back, and near the edge Tochiohzan went for a desperate maki-kae with the left arm, but Fuji was applying so much pressure that the Sekiwake didn't have a chance. The force-out was academic from there as Terunofuji dominated Tochiohzan despite giving up the early moro-zashi. There's simply no one to stop Fuji the Terrible until he fights the Yokozuna late in week two. With the win, Terunofuji moves to 5-0 while Tochiohzan is still in the thick of things at 4-1. Look at this way for Tochiohzan...with one down, he's only got two more tough opponents to go, and he can beat Kakuryu if he gets moro-zashi from the start.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku found himself staring across the starting lines at M1 Tochinoshin, but he thankfully got the kinder and gentler version of the Georgian who kept both arms wide at the tachi-ai gifting Kotoshogiku moro-zashi. Tochinoshin pretended to dig in with a left outer grip and right kote-nage grip, but he made sure to stay directly in front of his foe allowing Kotoshogiku to bully him over to the side in front of the chief judge, and as soon as Tochinoshin brought his right arm up high feigning a pull (without moving laterally of course), the Ozeki was able to finish him off. Not a huge surprise here I suppose. I've been raving over Tochinoshin the last few basho, and this dude would easily be a sanyaku mainstay if he fought at full strength all the time, but I think he and Aoiyama are content to continue to hoard cash in exchange for wins that prop up the Japanese rikishi. Dead horse with this bout as Kotoshogiku ekes his way to 2-2 while Tochinoshin laughs all the way to the bank at 1-4.

I wonder if Ozeki Goeido's camp thought they could win straight up today against Sekiwake Ichinojo considering the giant slug has been so lethargic to this point. Their complacency burned them today as Goeido lowered his head while keeping his arms wide at the tachi-ai allowing Ichinojo to knock a forearm into him, and as he is wont to do at the first sign of contact, Goeido skirted to his left going for a meager pull, but even the plodding Ichinojo was able to keep up and send the Ozeki back across the straw with a final shove to the throat in a matter of seconds. Like the Endoh camp, Goeido's side gambled today and paid the price as both dudes end the joubansen at 2-3.

In the final Ozeki bout of the day, Kisenosato gave up moro-zashi to M3 Ikioi easily, but Ikioi refrained from a hard charge and then ultimately pulled his left arm back out for no explicable reason as the two moved around the ring. Kisenosato's only hope was a left kote-nage hold on Ikioi's right arm, and with Ikioi exerting no power with the right arm in an effort to lift the Ozeki up, Kisenosato launched a kote-nage throw that was so weak, Ikioi just dove to the dirt before Kisenosato stepped out of the ring. The mukiryoku nature of the Ozeki's foes is just laughable, and if you have access to the slow motion replays, it's even more obvious. The guys in the NHK booth today were wondering aloud to themselves why Ikioi didn't apply more pressure after getting moro-zashi, but what else are they going to say? The evidence is right in front of them...slowed down to a snail's pace.  Kisenosato was doing nothing to force Ikioi to abandon the move, and the announcers correctly identified the issue (Ikioi isn't exerting pressure), but they of course refrain from ever speculating on the real answer. Nothing new here to report as Kisenosato somehow moves to 4-1 (that's how they phrased it on the broadcast using "nantoka") while Ikioi is 0-5 and living off the fatted calf.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho was rebuffed a bit at the tachi-ai by M2 Aoiyama, but he was in no danger as he forced the bout to migi-yotsu as Aoiyama advanced. With both dudes now chest to chest, Hakuho pushed the action back to the center of the ring and then raised Aoiyama up just enough to where he could grab the left frontal belt, and once obtained, Hakuho confirmed his footing and then dumped Aoiyama across the straw with that outer grip from the front of the belt. Text book sumo here, and I think Hakuho could have demanded the inside position from the tachi-ai if he was going at full strength. Regardless, Hakuho is going through the motions at 5-0 while Aoiyama falls to 2-3.

Yokozuna Kakuryu faced Komusubi Myogiryu in a bout that resembled two rikishi with similar styles, and you could see them both looking to knock the other upright in order to set up moro-zashi. Both traded a few blows followed by failed attempts to get to the inside, and then on about the third round, Kakuryu simply timed a Myogiryu charge forward by moving to his right and pulling the Komusubi down by the back of the left shoulder ending the contest in about five seconds. This was good timing more than it was great sumo, and Kakuryu is showing that as rusty as he is, he can still beat just about anybody on the banzuke with ease. He's 5-0 while Myogiryu falls to 2-3.

At the end of the first five days (called the Joubansen), it's always a good time to take the pulse of the basho. The three Mongolians who matter are unscathed while Tochiohzan offers the best hope for the domestic rikishi. The problem is...it's not just Hakuho who has to lose in order for things to get interesting, but you've also got Kakuryu and Terunofuji now. My guess is that one or two of them will falter sometime between day 6 and day 8 to create some hype during the weekend, but let's just watch it all play out.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I realized today that my most anticipated days to come in the tournament will be day 8 and day 12. Sure, I don't know who the matchups will be on those days, but I do know that the three best rikishi on the banzuke will close out the day's action. It just seemed like we had a lot more balance today getting the three Japanese Ozeki out of the way before settling in for the Terunofuji bout and the subsequent Yokozuna action. I understand why we're being forced to watch this charade in the Ozeki ranks, but it sure ruins the continuity in the action on any given day when you build up to the sanyaku and see quality bouts there, and then all of a sudden we're forced to watch three bouts where both parties will not be fighting at 100%.

Without further delay, let's get to the action starting from the bottom up where J1 Daieisho provided the perfect blueprint on how to defeat M15 Satoyama. You know the Imo is going to duck in low at the tachi-ai, so you just focus your tsuppari attack on keeping him upright, and once he's standing up, he's the perfect target to shove across the straw. Daieisho is 4-0 with the tsuki-dashi win and at the J1 rank, we'll likely see him in September. I really like what I saw from him today as he knocks Satoyama to a 1-3 record.

M14 Toyohibiki kept M16 Takanoiwa away from the belt with some nice shoves from the tachi-ai, and as Takanoiwa persisted forward in an effort to grab the belt, Toyohibiki just pivoted slightly and slapped Takanoiwa down hard by the back. These dudes are two trains heading in opposite directions as Toyohibiki moves to 4-0 while Takanoiwa falls to 0-4.

Our two rookies clashed in M13 Hidenoumi and M15 Seiro where the Mongolian reached out wide at the tachi-ai gaining the early left outer grip while Hidenoumi took his chances by countering with the deep right to the inside. With Seiro not positioned well inside with his own left, Hidenoumi looked to wrench his foe upright and drive him back, but Seiro's outer grip was too good, and as soon as he dug in and got the left inside, he countered with a force out charge of his own driving Hidenoumi back before dumping him to the clay at the edge leading with that outer belt throw. Really great sumo from both parties today, and that's all I ask as Hidenoumi falls to 2-2 while Seiro improves to that same mark.

M14 Kagamioh henka'd to his right against M12 Kotoyuki going for the early kote-nage throw, and while Kotoyuki was able to survive that initial volley, as he looked to square is way back up and tsuppari his way in, Kagamioh next darted left and lifted up on Kotoyuki's extended arm spinning him over to the edge where he was able to finally charge in straight and score the force-out win. Kagamioh's henka was a definite game changer here as he cheaply moves to 4-0 while Kotoyuki has to be frustrated by his 1-3 start.

M11 Tokitenku employed a weak hare-te with the left against M12 Endoh, and instead of going for the inside with the right hand--which is why you do the hari-zashi thing in the first place, he just went for a lame pull with both hands high allowing Endoh to push Tenku back and across the straw in about two seconds. Near the edge, Tokitenku went for a final half-assed swipe that made Endoh flinch, but the Mongolian just stepped back the final step to make things official. I'll stop short of calling Tokitenku's sumo mukiryoku here and use the term "half-assed" instead. That's not to imply that I think he gave Endoh the bout; Tokitenku has been half-assed in this division for a couple of years now. He falls to 1-3 while Endoh's 3-1 start is pure gold in terms of PR.

I just cannot figure M13 Chiyotairyu out. After demolishing Endoh yesterday with his freight train charge, he had an even weaker opponent standing there in front of him today in M11 Kyokutenho. So what does he do? He forces the action to yotsu-zumo from the tachi-ai. Luckily, Kyokutenho is as limp as a dude...well, let's just say he's limp. From the initial charge, Chiyotairyu got the right arm to the inside and began pressing straightway, and as Kyokutenho attempted to mawari-komu around the perimeter to his left, Chiyotairyu stayed snug and eventually got his right arm to the inside setting up the easy yori-kiri from there. I'll take the win that moves Chiyotairyu to 2-2, but why not blast Kyokutenho back and out with your tsuppari attack? As for Kyokutenho, he falls to 0-4, and this 100th basho of his ain't so golden.

Sadanofuji focused his attack at the tachi-ai on tsuppari straight into Amuuru's neck in an effort to keep the Russian away from the inside and the belt. Amuuru defended well, however, and after about five seconds was able to duck in just enough to where his lanky left arm latched onto the front of the Sadamight's belt. This allowed Amuuru to close the gap and grab the right outer grip as well, but Sadanofuji maintained a tricky angle in the bout using his left shoulder to keep Amuuru from mounting an attack. So there the two stood in a stalemate in the center of the ring, so I thought I'd take advantage of the down time and listen to some Rush 2112. While keeping on eye on the bout, I rocked out to all 20 minutes of the title song, and just as I turned my attention back to sumo, Amuuru made a careless move by abandoning his right outer grip in an effort to do some handholding with Sadanofuji (and who wouldn't want to hold hands with the dude?!), and with the Russian's right outer grip non-existent, Sadanofuji was able to work his own left to the inside and counter with his own right outer grip, and once obtained, ballgame. Yori-kiri win for the Sadamight who moves to 3-1...the same mark shared by Amuuru.

M9 Homarefuji wanted no part of M8 Yoshikaze today, so he just henka'd him to his left and slapped Yoshikaze down before he could fully come out of his crouch. Dirty pool here as Homarefuji moves to 2-2 while the Monster Drink fizzles to the same mark.

M8 Osunaarashi is still going through the motions of his moro-te-zuki tachi-ai, but there's nothing behind it, and so today against M10 Kitataiki, the two ended up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position meaning both had right inners and left outers. From this point it's just a matter of who can get the other guy more upright, and Kitataiki attempted a move first but was rebuffed in short order, and so after gathering his wits for about 10 seconds, it was the Ejyptian's turn, and he had just enough in the tank to lift Kitataiki upright, force him over to the edge, and then dump him clear off the dohyo right next to the gyoji in waiting sitting between the two judges on the mukou-joumen side. For as battered as Osunaarashi is, his 3-1 start is quite impressive. As for Kitataiki, he falls to a paltry 1-3.

M7 Toyonoshima is simply unable to get to the inside of his opponents these days, and that leaves him with hardly any other options. Today against M7 Tamawashi, he admirably charged hard and used a tsuppari attack to knock Tamawashi back near the edge and upright, but Toyonoshima still couldn't get positioned to the inside, and so The Mawashi was able to tsuppari his way back into the bout and send Tugboat back towards the center of the ring. In desperation, Toyonoshima went for a quick pull of his attacking opponent, and Tamawashi was extended just enough to where he belly-flopped to the ring before Toyonoshima stepped out himself in front of the chief judge on the shoumen side. This was just plain ugly as Toyonoshima picks up his first win while Tamawashi falls to 2-2. It will be kinda nice to rid the division of guys like Kyokutenho, Toyonoshima, and Tokitenku in favor of younger blood like Hidenoumi and that Daieisho fellow we saw earlier today.

M5 Okinoumi and M6 Kyokushuho hooked up in the immediate migi-yotsu position, and I'm not sure what Kyokushuho was trying to accomplish here because he was too upright for his own good, but he didn't employ any sort of counter move. Okinoumi said thank you very much and just plowed the indecisive Kyokushuho back and across in mere seconds. Okinoumi is a quiet 3-1 just outside of the jo'i while Kyokushuho is still finding his sea legs at 2-2.

M4 Aminishiki henka'd left grabbing the cheap outer belt grip on that side, but M6 Gagamaru responded well bringing his right arm to the outside and countering with a persistent kote-nage throw that disabled Aminishiki from finishing off his bidness. With Aminishiki's momentum now halted, Gagamaru was able to square back up after the henka and work his left arm into play by clamping in on Aminishiki's right arm, standing Shneaky upright, and then escorting his gal back and across the straw for the kime-dashi win. Aminishiki is lethargic as both dudes end the day at 1-3.

Of the bouts that don't really matter, I was really looking forward to the M5 Tokushoryu - M3 Kaisei matchup, but Tokushoryu just folded going for a timid right choke hold at the tachi-ai and then immediately backing up from there offering a lame pull attempt. Kaisei wasn't necessarily on his heels from the choke hold, so when the shift in momentum came with Tokushoryu's retreat, he was onto him like white to rice scoring the easy and uneventful oshi-dashi win. C'mon, Tokushoryu. If you want to fight with the bigger boys, you can't wet your pants at the prospect of a tough bout. He falls to 2-2 while Kaisei is a sweet 3-1.

Not sure what M4 Takekaze's plan was against M2 Aoiyama today because the smaller Kaze is not going to beat him in a straight up fight. Yet, there Takekaze was engaging in a tsuppari affair with the larger Bulgarian. Aoiyama easily traded tit for tat, and as soon as Takekaze started spinning his wheels, Aoiyama executed the easy pull down in the center of the ring. Aoiyama prolly doesn't even need to shower after that one as he improves to 2-2 while Takekaze falls to 1-3. Before we move on, the more I watch Goeido flounder in the Ozeki ranks, the more I like Harvye's comparison of him to Takekaze. I think the two are very similar rikishi in size, style, and ability.

Komusubi Myogiryu was looking for moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Ichinojo, but the Mongolith had his right arm to the inside denying Myogiryu his quest. Myogiryu quickly shifted gears at this point and attempted to shove Ichinojo up high, and instead of trading tsuppari or even reaching for the belt, Ichinojo carelessly went for a quick pull. The problem is, he doesn't have the speed to get outta the way, and so Myogiryu took advantage by securing the moro-zashi he craved from the tachi-ai, and once obtained, mYogi Bear is the master of getting his opponent up high and on his heels before sending him back across yori-kiri style. Ichinojo was schooled today as he falls to 1-3 while Myogiryu is a cool 2-2 now if ya need him (and you DO!).

Sekiwake Tochiohzan was in a precarious situation today against Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Do you ride his current momentum to a 4-0 start or do you sacrifice it in favor of a much-needed Kotoshogiku win? Thankfully, Tochiohzan chose the former as the two clashed at the tachi-ai where you could just see that Kotoshogiku was at the Sekiwake's mercy unable to shove or establish anything on his own. After maybe a second, Tochiohzan just moved out to his left and slapped the Ozeki down to the clay sending him to a costly 1-3 record. What's more important to sumo right now? Propping up a sick dog in the Ozeki ranks who needs to be shot? Or getting a new guy in there who actually has some game? Easy choice as Tochiohzan soars to 4-0.

M3 Ikioi and Ozeki Goeido looked to hook up in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Ikioi not only pulled his right arm to the outside giving Goeido moro-zashi, but he backed up with arms up high as if he might attempt a pull. Didn't need to as Goeido read the situation and had Ikioi forced back and across in a bout two seconds. Total mukiryoku sumo on the part of Ikioi here abandoning his crucial position gained from the tachi-ai and then failing to go for any sort of counter move as he stayed square with his advancing opponent. Ikioi falls to 0-4 with the loss, but that record is inconsequential when compared to a bout that makes Goeido actually look like an Ozeki...to the untrained eye. Goeido is 2-2 thanks to the gift.

Ozeki Kisenosato and Komusubi Takarafuji hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu position where Takarafuji just gave up the right outer grip on the other side. From here, the Ozeki wrenched Takarafuji this way on that while Takarafuji dug in with his left inside, but he never attempted to counter by grabbing a right outer grip of his own. This was a methodic bout of sumo that lasted about eight seconds with Kisenosato scoring the yori-kiri win in the end. Takarafuji was mukiryoku here and never made a move to help set up a win, and if you can't see it, don't worry, I can. The things is...if Kisenosato was able to fight like this every day, he'd fight like this every day. Regardless, the Ozeki is 3-1 while Takarafuji falls to 1-3.

Ozeki Terunofuji reached out right at the tachi-ai for the early outer grip against M2 Takayasu while getting his left arm to the inside, but the position to the inside should have been the priority. As a result, Takayasu was able to grab the solid right outer grip and put Terunofuji on his heels from the beginning. After some wrenching this way and that, Terunofuji was able to finagle his right arm to the front of Takayasu's belt, and so he abandoned his left to the inside and wrapped it tightly around Takayasu's right positioning himself for a counter kote-nage if needed. The key at this point was whether or not Takayasu could force his left arm to the inside and gain moro-zashi because he's big enough and powerful enough to actually best the Ozeki if he has moro-zashi unlike smaller guys susceptible to kime-dashi. The problem for Takayasu, however, was that Fuji never stopped using his belly to nudge Takayasu upright bit by bit until the Ozeki had the firm right grip at the front of Takayasu's belt, a position that he used to turn the tables and finally force Takayasu back across the straw. It is so beautiful to watch Terunofuji work his way out of a jam like this, and now it's just a question of how long it takes him to reach the level of Hakuho. Fuji the Terrible is 4-0 after the win while Takayasu falls to 1-3.

Yokozuna Kakuryu had his hands full against M1 Tochinoshin who forced his way to the inside with the right arm while reaching around and grabbing a left outer to boot. Kakuryu knew he was in a pickle at this point and attempted a maki-kae with the left arm, but Tochinoshin was pinched in too tightly for him to complete the move. Still in trouble, Kakuryu next displayed a brilliant technique where he moved to his right quickly basically forcing Tochinoshin to trade places with him in the ring, and in the process, the Yokozuna wormed his left arm to the inside. It was an incredible move and you could only see it from the reverse angle, but the result was Kakuryu now in moro-zashi. He still had his work cut out for him, however, due to the advantage gained by Tochinoshin from the initial charge, but the Kak slowly but surely nudged Tochinoshin upright to the point where he was finally able to spin him over and score the yori-kiri win. Back to back, we were able to witness two Mongolians lose the tachi-ai to formidable opponents and brilliantly work their way into the upper hand before securing the yori-kiri win in the end. I love watching this kind of stuff and it numbs the pain a bit from having to watch the Japanese Ozeki clown around the ring day in and day out. With the win, Kakuryu is a solid 4-0 while Tochinoshin falls to 1-3.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho decided to just implement his usual charge against M1 Sadanoumi by demanding the right inside grip at the charge and shoring that up with the left outer grip on the other side...all the while using perfect de-ashi to drive Sadanoumi back and across the straw in about two seconds flat. Hakuho was so dominant here that he even had time to scan the crowd for hot chicks before the bout was entirely over.  And as much as I like Sadanoumi and can see the potential in him, that may as well have been me in there trying to stop the Yokozuna. If Hakuho chose to fight like this everyday, there would be no hope for anyone else, and that's why you see him monkey around with this or that on most days. The end result is Hakuho's moving to 4-0 while Sadanoumi falls to 1-3.

The best thing about day 4 was that after being forced to watch the three Japanese Ozeki bouts, we were treated to real sumo in the final three contests that featured Terunofuji, Kakuryu, and Hakuho respectively. It's ironic that it's the Mongolians who are preserving sumo and showing us just how beautiful it can be.

I know it's way too early to examine the leaderboard, but this is coming down to a four-horse race with the afore-mentioned Mongolians and Tochiohzan. It will be interesting to see how that all plays out over the coming ten days or so.

Back at you tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Hakuho is still the story. Or rather, the storyteller. Yes, I'm on the bandwagon like everybody else: Terunofuji is powerful, awesomely weighty, and is dominating opponents in an exciting slow-burn immolation that sends waves of delight through recently under-stimulated cortexes. But a lot of fun went out of it for me when he was given his rank of Ozeki--rather than earning it, which he could so easily have done, when Hakuho stepped in to narrate: "here is my next friend." Once again, some delight in the sport evaporated like an early summer morning mist in the fierce 6:00 a.m. May Tokyo sunlight when, instead of waiting--and it would only have taken another basho or so--Hakuho decided it was time for The Future (Terunofuji) to become The Present and have his first yusho. Hakuho put a cap in the drama like a Weegee killing in a Chicago alley, and did a political, not ring-sumo, handover of the trophy to Terunofuji: "lookin' good, youngster, here you go. Oh, we wouldn't want you to have to sweat too much. Wouldn't look quite right. We're all friends here at the top."

That perpetuated the killing frost in the highest echelons of sumo. Tendencies and reputations are set in the ring, but are truncated or codified/pickled for further use by face-saving decisions made outside of it. The Japanese Ozeki have been given a hard time lately for their weak, mukiryoku-dependent sumo, and fair enough, but the Mongolians should not be forgotten. That trifecta, now going quartet, has the power to do the manipulation, spraying an unhealthy pallor of back-scratching misting mold spores over the bouts. Don't forget that Asashoryu and Hakuho got muddied through the law courts on this, then insulted us with theatrical nonsense bouts for a few years. That Harumafuji and Kakuryu were assisted to their rank by Hakuho, that the whole pack has traded tournaments for years, collusionist, monopolist, racketeering, price-a-fixin, delusionating. And now, welcome to The Firm, kid Teru. Hakuho offers: "have a cigar, you're gonna go far. You're gonna fly high, you're never gonna die, you're gonna make it if you try boy they're gonna love you. Welcome to the machine."

Please, let him be. He didn't need any help. The fun of Fuji the Terrible's rise partially gave way to a sigh when he got his yusho a basho or two too early. Cold comfort for change, a balloon popped, a fierce blister lanced, that last day in May, and the pus ran all over this sport I love. Terunofuji: faux-zeki. Not on skill. On the way it was handed to him. That cheapened it.

But let us enjoy some sumo (and watch Terunofuji tear it up like he should):

M15 Seiro (1-1) vs. J1 Chiyootori (1-1)
Chiyootori doesn't really belong in Juryo, so far Seiro doesn't look like he belongs in t' Mak, and I was surprised Seiro lasted as long as he did in this one, which was a pretty simple matter of Bouncy Butt (Chiyootori) staying low, not aligning his feet, keeping Seiro from getting a solid grip on him, and then driving him out for the yori-kiri win.

M16 Takanoiwa (0-2) vs. M14 Kagamioh (2-0)
There was a time when I couldn't tell Tokushoryu and Kyokushuho apart. Now that is happening with Takanoiwa and Kagamioh: two smallish, not very good Mongolians, both carp feeding in a desultory fashion on the detritus at the bottom of the Makuuchi pool. Why, they were like mirror images facing each other today, two cliffs frowning at each other across Lake Kucherla. Anyway, the carp part: not much to see here as they did some low-slung arm grappling, avoiding the belt. Then High Crag (Takanoiwa) did reach in for the belt, which led to a momentum shift after which they both tried a bunch of pulls that happened to work out better for Mirror King (Kagamioh) for the tsuki-otoshi win.

M13 Hidenoumi (1-1) vs. M15 Satoyama (1-1)
Satoyama is just too small. Hidenoumi, whose name and body type makes me think of rough country bumpkins bloodied on drunken hikes through bramble patches, is big ‘nuf. He stayed low enough not to fall for Slipp'ry Potato's (Satoyama) tricks, got extension with his huge looking arms, and pushed Potato out oshi-dashi.

M14 Toyohibiki (2-0) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (1-1)
Battle of the large roundies, pt. 1. Aaaah: does the gyoji ever have the most beautiful kimono of palest, refreshing blue! They were round-housing away, a good strategy for these two, and Little Snow (Kotoyuki) was driving Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) back, but something very rare happened: Burp held on at the edge, evaded slightly to his right, and let the other guy fall out of the ring for a last-minute loss--which normally is his own sad specialty. Tsuki-otoshi win for him.

M12 Endo (2-0) vs. M13 Chiyotairyu (0-2)
Oh, my! Who knew Chiyotairyu could still do this? Phew! Rocketed off the straps like an iron-coiled jack in the box, exploded in Endo's face like your cigarette stub accidentally dropped in your gunpowder barrel, and blew Endo through the back of the kitchen wall like a Hollywood special effect. Battle of two of the most disappointing rikishi of the last two years, but today one of them remembered to bring the self we'd forgotten during his long drowse. Oshi-dashi win for Chiyotairyu; this was my match of the day.

M11 Tokitenku (0-2) vs. M11 Kyokutenho (0-2)
Battle of the Ancient Mongolians: dusted off from out of their shallow steppe graves, these two petrified wrasslers, desiccated to perfect preservation by years of grassland winds, danced the dance of the skeleton lords for your phantasmagoric pleasure. Kyokutenho worked on a little tsuri-dashi here, pickin' Dirt Lord (Tokitenku) up by the belt and letting him wiggle his widdle feet a bit (remember back in about 2004 or something when he did this to Asashoryu and nearly gave the tournament to Lil' Yokozuna Hokutoriki thereby?). But alas, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, he had to put him down. After that Tokitenku got dual belt grips and the methodical yori-kiri win.

M10 Kitataiki (1-1) vs. M10 Amuuru (2-0)
Amuuru works hard in the ring. You have a feeling each notch he's risen has cost much hardship and woe. He is an earner. Here, he had a very deep inside left and worked it for a long yori-kiri win. Excellent finish: Kitataiki resisted hard and committed himself at the edge. Amuuru was forced to body him over with equal commitment--no polite renunciations here--and they both ended up a few rows back. You like what you like, and ya' oughta like this.

M9 Homarefuji (1-1) vs. M8 Osunaarashi (1-1)
This was another top notch bout. Giant Sand (Osunaarashi) slapped Homarefuji upright, then grasped him by the back of the head and pulled him an octopus with a whelk; he used his now dominant position to drive Mountain of Praise (Homarefuji) swiftly back. But! Praiseworthy did a nifty turn and pull at the straw, and it looked like he was going to turn the tables for a nice win-toss. But! Big Sandy kept driving, used his planted legs for extra oomph, and had enough to make Homarefuji go out and down first in lovely off-the-dohyo fashion. They both hit the dirt there hard. Osunaarashi has my respect. After he fell right on his injured shoulder, he lay there a bit, and the look on his face was clearly "BY GOD THIS HURTS!!!" but he didn't moan around or lie there egregiously. He swallowed it, got back up, and went to go get his money.

M7 Tamawashi (1-1) vs. M9 Sadanofuji (2-0)
Like Tokushoryu of late, Sadanofuji seems to be learning to use his size, and we may see him creep up the banzuke a bit. Not today, though. Probably he did too much slapping. Tamawashi is a veteran, and he stuck with it, waited, and did a well-timed surge into and under both of Sadanofuji's armpits, leveraged Sada up like a human forklift, and drove Sada all the way across the clay, helpless, and out for a cool yori-kiri win.

M8 Yoshikaze (1-1) vs. M6 Gagamaru (0-2)
Gagamaru looks like a fat, smooth spaetzle from Schwaben, fresh and damp from the steam pot. But what is a Spaetzle doing up here in Makuuchi? Back, back, overstuffed maultasche! Lord Gaga was way slow off the tachi-ai, letting Yoshikaze set the pace. Yoshi did some whisk-broom ineffective pull attempts, but mostly worked on disorienting Yubabamaru (Gagamaru), which is effective on this un-agile roulade meatclump, and Yoshi got in hard and close on the body, uprighted Gagamaru, and took him for a short ride to watashi-komi loss-land.

M6 Kyokushuho (1-1) vs. M7 Toyonoshima (0-2)
My! Doesn't the gyoji look like a fresh, early harvest white peach in his orangy-pink-pale kimono? And my, doesn't he do a galloping aggressive yell not at all in keeping with such refined tastes: tata-gat-tata-gat-tata-gat-tata-gat! (Repeat about twenty more times as fast as you can)!! With that hoofbeat call a-cloppin', an inspired Kyokushuho leapt upon Toyonoshima like a little death demon, pogo-sticked up and down in his enthusiasm to smash him out, and back-spilled him down Wham! right on that clay rim, yori-taoshi.

M5 Okinoumi (1-1) vs. M5 Tokushoryu (2-0)
After day two Mike rightly praised Tokushoryu's aggressive poise of late, and after several basho of savaging him as a lump of lard, I was also ready to dole out the kudos today for making a lot of what he has (fat. Sorry I can't help it.). However, Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) disappointed by losing without any effective moves at all while battling the enigmatic Okinoumi, who sometimes looks lethargic and very meh, and sometimes, like today, looks like a cold-blooded killmaster, moving steadily forward, bringing de-ashi with him, and working for and then working with the belt for the yori-kiri win.

M4 Aminishiki (0-2) vs. M4 Takekaze (1-1)
It didn't take a bright student to think, "one of them is going to henka!" So of course, neither did, and they gave us a hard smacking, straight-ahead tachi-ai. And then they hunkered down to...whoa! There is the post-tachi-ai henka, with Aminishiki nimbly lurching (only he can nimbly lurch) to the side and sending Takekaze nifty-doodle cartwheeling. Tsuki-otoshi.

M3 Kaisei (2-0) vs. S Ichinojo (0-2)
Battle of the big roundies pt. 2. Ichinojo fights well slow. That may not make him a top guy in the long run (think Kotonowaka), but if that is what he does well he needs to do it, and he did here, getting back to the hold-'im-an'-wait-'til-he-tires of yesterbasho. It doesn't matter that Kaisei is huge and that hence go-slow should in theory work well for him, too: it isn't Kaisei's style, and in sports, making the other team or guy play your pace is best. Lo, Kaisei tired first, the muscles of his massive thighs quivering like jello, and The Mongolith delivered him to the other side of the bales yori-kiri.

S Tochiohzan (2-0) vs. K Takarafuji (1-1)
This is an excellent matchup. Think: if foreign wrestlers still weren't allowed, what would these two be? Tochiohzan would be a long standing, highly respected Ozeki something in the mold of Tochiazuma, and Takarafuji would be shin-Ozeki right about now. You'd be pretty excited for this match in 1995. I'm still excited about it: these guys are both better than two of the three Clownzekis. As for the match, Tochiohzan still has it: he loves moro-zashi, got it, and it was all he needed for the easy yori-kiri win.

M2 Aoiyama (1-1) vs. "O" Goeido (0-2) ("Heroes for Ghosts")
I was much distracted by the crowd today. In attendance in just-behind-gyoji-land was the spectre of Jerry Garcia, a man in a doo rag, several sculptures of palest cheese dressed in kimonos, a man with a twee Mexican moustache like a gangster in a John Waters movie, and a true beauty in black (did Derek Jeter forget her last time he was here?), or so I think, because they never cut to the close up I so wanted. Anyway, I wasn't payin' much attention, but: that's okay, cuz when I looked up it was Dancin' Dancin' Disco Inferno! Where I'd expected sumo, after a minute of Aoiyama giving Goeido a nice, gentle, intimate hug, there was Goeido, breaking out of it to twirl a dosie-do around Aoiyama and do that amazing hip dancehall move, "thrown on the ground with a light brushing phantom slap perhaps you touched him on the shoulder behind your back without looking as you go by (tsuki-otoshi??? Really????)!" Whoo, physics is amazing stuff! How did he do that? I mean, how!?! It is really amazing how you can roll your body around in midair like a tar barrel rippin' down Thunder Mountain, and have Thunder Mountain collapse in a puddle of dust behind you! Wow! It must be Ozeki sumo because...because...he won, like, by using, like, magic, man!

O Kisenosato (1-1) vs. M1 Sadanoumi (1-1) ("Hot Air for a Cool Breeze")
Kisenosato was way high on Sadanoumi, but he is bigger and still much better, and Sadanoumi couldn't or wouldn't move him, so Kisenosato could and would, yori-kiri.

K Myogiryu (1-1) vs. O Terunofuji (2-0)
Ungh. That's the sound to me of when Terunofuji, at the end of this one, flung Myogiryu to the ground like an immigrant miner discarding a particularly large lead ingot in the day's scrap pile. Myogiryu fell heavily and straight down like a dropped shotput. Blat. Kime-dashi. Don't get me wrong off the intro: boy, is this guy fun to watch in the ring. Which is where the action should be.

O Kotoshogiku (0-2) vs. M3 Ikioi (0-2) ("Hot Ashes for Trees")
Kotoshogiku: "ah, let me adjust my crack strap here. Okay. Now let me gingerly squat down with these old knees. Oof. There we go. Okay, let's try it!" Ikioi: "Okay you're pretty powerful there, mister. Once upon a time you really had it. I really respect that, man! I'm backing up now. You've got one of your arms inside, kind of. Good enough for me! Oh, you're falling down now? Okay, I'm falling down now, too, see, I'm even looking carefully to my left to see what I can do here, um, I know! I'll put my ARM down on the ground by stretching it out and pulling you towards me as I fall. There you go, man! Abise-taoshi! How about that man? Nice job. Way to be." Kotoshogiku: "[Sigh] Thanks."

Y Hakuho (2-0) vs. M1 Tochinoshin (1-1)
Hakuho is 18-0 against Tochinoshin. That's kind of interesting. Why? Let's speculate: no reason to lose. Wins by Tochinoshin fill no known agenda Hakuho has shown any interest in. And so, after two days of ridiculous standing around in a vain attempt to make it look like something is happening, today instead The Storyteller put us all to bed early: whap, slap, move, Tochinoshin on the ground like fresh fish. 19-0. Hakuho looked like Takekaze in this with the hataki-komi after the post-tachi-ai henka. The crowd had a good belly laugh about this one: "Oh ho ho! The other guy looked silly!"

M2 Takayasu (1-1) vs. "Y" Kakuryu (2-0)
Yes, I'm branding Kakuryu with the horns: give 'im quote marks on "Yokozuna." He just never earned it, and capped off his first few basho as The Invisible Yokozuna by becoming The Disappearing Yokozuna. Now that he's back he feels like a Komusubi or something. Kaku-who?, the crowds say. Oh, I like him all right, but he is to Yokozuna as Liechtenstein is to G7, Goerge Lazenby is to James Bond, Division Bell is to Pink Floyd. However. However! He's compelling this basho because, after two basho off and a series of lackluster performances, it looks to me like he's giving no quarter. He is light years less powerful than Hakuho, light years less dynamic than that wild man Harumafuji, so he doesn't make you go "oooh!", but Kaku-ooo can pull out a serious mix of subtle power and craft that most opponents can't beat. In front of a gyoji who looked like his kimono was sewn together from cast off corn-meal bags from the midden heap, Kakuryu did a combination of lurches to the inside, maki-kaes, kicks, shoves, and concentration to work out an oshi-dashi win. He looks like...an Ozeki...a real one.

Well, the leaderboard says...the leaderboard says it is day three. I had a lot of fun with the bouts today, and here's fingers crossed Mike too finds gold in them hills tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The day 2 broadcast started off with a short piece on former Ozeki Takanonami. After showing his career stats, Kariya Announcer and Mainoumi reminisced on the former Ozeki, and then they showed a classic bout between Takanonami and Mainoumi where the Ozeki won in a nage-no-uchi-ai when Mainoumi's mage touched down first. Mainoumi vividly recalled the bout and explained that Takanonami had what felt like super human power in his ability to lift his opponents upright. Takanonami's style was a bit unorthodox, but he used his body as effectively as anyone ever has and what the Sumo Association wouldn't give at the moment for one more Takanonami to come along.

As for the day 2 action, the day began with M15 Seiro looking for his first win in the division against M16 Takanoiwa, and he got it with an ugly brand of sumo where he put his hands to Takanoiwa's neck from the initial charge and threatened pull all the way. Usually a pull is a do-or-die tactic, but Seiro somehow survived as Takanoiwa failed to gain moro-zashi or really execute a decent pull attempt of his own when he put both hands up high against Seiro. I think Takanoiwa's been in enough of these fights that he could have taken advantage of Seiro's act today by easily getting to the inside, but he chose not to. Seiro ends the day at 1-1 while Takanoiwa is still winless.

In a compelling matchup between the behemoth M14 Toyohibiki and the pint-sized M15 Satoyama, the Satoimo ducked way low at the tachi-ai getting the left arm deep to the inside, and he sorta got the right to the inside across the way, but Toyohibiki used his sheer size to clamp Satoyama's right arm in tight and then push wickedly into his face with the left paw, and size won out here as Toyohibiki eventually shoved Satoyama into a heap clear off the dohyo. Satoyama had the better position, but there's only so much pain a dude can take when his neck is about to be ripped off. Toyohibiki is 2-0 while Satoyama falls to 1-1.

M14 Kagamioh and M13 Chiyotairyu did battle today where Chiyotairyu came blazing out of his stance with two low kachi-age attempts, and just when it looked as if he might have something going, Kagamioh shaded left causing Chiyotairyu to lose his balance and crash down to the clay. Chiyotairyu's gotta shove with his hands, not his forearms because Kagamioh had plenty of room to just sidestep his gal and score the easy win moving to 2-0 in the process. At 0-2, Tairyu needs to figger a few more things out. At least he went forward today, but he's got to keep his eye on his opponent and be ready to shift.

My most anticipated matchup of the day featured M12 Endoh against newcomer M13 Hidenoumi. I really thought Hidenoumi would lay the wood to Elvis today, but after getting his left to the inside, he was largely lackadaisical allowing Endoh to lower his head, fight off that left inner by the rookie, and then assume moro-zashi where Endoh pushed Hidenoumi back and out right in front of the chief judge aided by a lame pull attempt from the rookie. I haven't seen enough of Hidenoumi to know whether or not he lost his sumo virginity today, but he suffers his first loss falling to 1-1. Endoh scoots to 2-0, and any headline or hype that you can generate regarding Endoh is a good thing for sumo these days.

M12 Kotoyuki caught M11 Kyokutenho with a left paw to the throat and then focused his right hand directly into the Chauffeur's teet, and there was nothing the forty-something could do as he was pushed back and out in about three seconds. Kotoyuki picks up his first win while my Kantosho prediction for Kyokutenho (0-2) is showing great promise!

M11 Tokitenku kept both arms in tight gaining the shallow moro-zashi against M10 Kitataiki, but neither of the arms were really to the inside, so Kitataiki pinched inwards with force from the outside and simply bulldozed Tokitenku over and out kime-dashi style picking up his first win in the process. Tokitenku falls to 0-2 and is an old dog with no new tricks in this division.

M10 Amuuru continued his dominance over M9 Homarefuji using his long arms to thrust Homarefuji around from the tachi-ai. I'm not saying that Homarefuji has crocodile arms, but compared to the Russian's limbs, he just didn't have sufficient reach to neutralize Amuuru's attack. After a few seconds of shoving where Amuuru dominated, Homarefuji got frustrated and feigned a stupid pull attempt, and once he did, Amuuru got the left to the inside and right outer grip that eventually morphed into moro-zashi as Homarefuji tried to back out of it. Homarefuji's only chance against this taller opponent is to dive right into his craw from the tachi-ai and get deep to the inside. He didn't do that today and suffered his first loss as a result. Amuuru's 2-0 if ya need him (and you NEED him!).

M8 Yoshikaze lowered his head and tried to barrel into M9 Sadanofuji and shove him around, but Sadanofuji was just too big to really budge effectively. After dancing a bit to either side, Yoshikaze ducked in again looking for who knows what, and at that point the Sadamight just leaned down on top of him leading with the left elbow crushing Monster Drink to the clay and discarding him in the recycle bin. Like the last bout, this was an instance where the smaller dude just couldn't solve his larger opponent. Sadanofuji is a cool 2-0 while Yoshikaze falls to 1-1.

M8 Osunaarashi was way upright at the tachi-ai as he lamely put both hands towards M7 Toyonoshima's neck, but the Tugboat didn't capitalize, and so the ugly, evasive bout ensued where Osunaarashi managed to slip to the side and then swipe at the back of Toyonoshima's right arm tripping him forward and off the dohyo as he tried to square back up. This one was so awkward from Osunaarashi that he tumbled right out of the ring as well, but he'll take these wins any way that he can get them. Osunaarashi still looks as if he's ailing despite his first win while Toyonoshima may have let up here as he falls to 0-2.

M6 Gagamaru kept his head low against M6 Kyokushuho fishing for who knows what. Looking straight down at the sand the entire time and with nothing to hold onto after a few seconds, Kyokushuho just backed up a half step and easily pulled Gagamaru down to the dirt in the center of the ring. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that Gagamaru took a dive on purpose in this one. Normally I'm really geeked about the M6 rank but not this basho as Shuho moves to 1-1 with Gagamaru ending the day at 0-2.

M7 Tamawashi used tsuppari from the tachi-ai against M5 Tokushoryu in an effort to keep his beefy foe away from the belt, and while that tactic worked in forcing the bout to oshi-zumo, The Mawashi simply couldn't budge his foe, and the instant Tokushoryu abandoned any attempt at the belt and started countering with tsuppari of his own, you could see the tide turn on a dime. Tamawashi went from aggressor to someone looking for a place to hide, but Tokushoryu was onto him so forcefully that it only took a few beefed up shoves to knock Tamawashi clear off the dohyo in front of the chief judge. You can just see how Tokushoryu is ready to make a serious run to the sanyaku, and I've really enjoyed watching him fight the last few basho. He's a sweet 2-0 while Tamawashi suffers his first loss.

M4 Aminishiki and M5 Okinoumi both went for tsuppari up high at the tachi-ai, but with neither connecting, Okinoumi took the initiative to dive in and secure his left arm to the inside. Aminishiki countered rendering the bout to the hidari-yotsu style, but Okinoumi enjoyed the lower stance and kept Aminishiki upright with nowhere to go as the younger Okinoumi scored the straightforward yori-kiri win moving to 1-1 in the process. Aminishiki is still winless.

M4 Takekaze stayed low against M3 Kaisei getting the left to the inside, but Kaisei was just too strong on the other side denying Takekaze moro-zashi, and once Takekaze found himself in a belt fight with the much larger Kaisei, he was in a pickle. Takekaze's early left inside allowed the Brasilian to grab a firm right outer grip, and once he was able to establish his left arm to the inside, Takekaze had nary a pot to piss in. He knew it and just kind walked back on his own in the end...and how can you blame him? He was doomed as doom can be falling to 1-1 while Kaisei is a nifty 2-0.

In the sanyaku ranks, Sekiwake Ichinojo welcomed M2 Aoiyama who really took the initiative from the tachi-ai demanding the right arm to the inside and then just plowing forward until Ichinojo was driven back and off'a the dohyo altogether. Ichinojo had his own right inside...sort of...but his hands were lost at the tachi-ai, and by the time he got his right inside, Aoiyama already had the momentum. The difference in this bout was the dude who moved forward at the tachi-ai won. Simple as that with Aoiyama picking up his first win and Ichinojo falling to 0-2. I know the sumos are famous for being fat and all, but most of these guys are still quite athletic. Ichinojo is the exception to that rule when it comes to athleticism. He's got to show more from the start and not just stand there like a bump on a log. If you go back and watch this, the two clashed at the point just above Ichinojo's starting line meaning the Mongolith could barely get out of the starting gate.

In the Ozeki ranks Kisenosato looked to solve Sekiwake Tochiohzan, but the Ozeki let him get the left to the inside way too easily and with Tochiohzan flirting with moro-zashi on the other side, Kisenosato had no momentum. The Ozeki did manage to shove Tochiohzan out of moro-zashi, and it looked like the Sekiwake wasn't that hellbent in the bout after his fine initial charge, but as the two hooked back up, Kisenosato gave up the left inside yet again, and Tochiohzan added insult to injury by grabbing the right outer grip. Still, it didn't look to me as if Tochiohzan was determined to just finish the Ozeki off at the edge, but I suppose he supplied enough pressure that the Ozeki just gave up and basically walked out of the ring spinning to the side. I do think it's possible to have a guy let up in the ring and still win the bout, and I think that's what happened here. If you watch the replay from the opposite angle, Tochiohzan has the clear path the the front belt with the right hand that paired with his deep inside left would have allowed him to win via yori-kiri in mere seconds, but he kept holding up and keeping the Ozeki in the bout...for obvious reasons. Tochiohzan sails to 2-0 while Kisenosato is now 1-1.

With the gyoji barking out the cadence like a quarterback, Ozeki Terunofuji charged hard and grabbed the early front belt grip with the left at the tachi-ai against M3 Ikioi, and it didn't matter whether it was an inner or an outer as Ikioi tried to both maki-kae with the right and settle for the outside position. Ikioi eventually did get the right to the inside, but Fuji the Terrible already has his right to the inside and was advancing methodically leaving Ikioi little room to maneuver. Ikioi braced his heels against the tawara and dug in well, but Terunofuji was like an anaconda taking Ikioi's breath away inch by inch until he finally bodied him across in five seconds or so. Just look at the way he finishes Ikioi off at left....twisting his opponent with such force he has nowhere to go.  You can't give Fuji a frontal belt grip like that and hope to survive as the Mongolian Ozeki is a cool 2-0 with Ikioi falling to 0-2...but I will say it was nice to see an Ozeki opponent go all out.

Komusubi Myogiryu grabbed the early moro-zashi against Ozeki Kotoshogiku but then pulled his right arm out as he moved right. With Kotoshogiku in hot pursuit, Myogiryu abandoned his inside position altogether going for a weak pull instead, but the Ozeki was still unable to move laterally and set anything up, and next thing you knew, Kotoshogiku fell flat on his face to the dohyo as Myogiryu swiped at his back in an effort to escape. It's really hard to put it into words, but something didn't seem right in this bout either. Like Tochiohzan, Myogiryu had the stifling position early but then relented and then kinda ham hawed his way through the motions. Both sanyaku dudes still came out victorious over the Ozeki, but the flow of the bouts just didn't seem natural, and I think the two were letting up just a bit. Myogiryu coulda had the Ozeki forced back and out in linear fashion in mere seconds, but he just backed out of his favorable position...multiple times. Regardless of what Myogiryu's intentions were, he is 1-1 while the kadoban Ozeki is likely singing his swan song at 0-2. May as well boot the Geeku out to make room for Tochiohzan and / or Takarafuji.

If I had trouble describing Tochiohzan and Myogiryu's motives in two of the three previous bouts, that same theme seemed present to me with Komusubi Takarafuji against Ozeki Goeido. Normally, Takara Boom Da Ya is a bitch at the belt, and anyone can get there against the hapless Ozeki. Yet, Takarafuji opted to keep his arms out wide and then up high as he allowed Goeido to push him this way and that. Still, Goeido couldn't establish anything, and with Takarafuji sorta on the run near the edge, he went for an upward swing with the left arm against Goeido's right elbow while pulling with the right, and it was good enough to knock the Ozeki over and down before Takarafuji stepped out. Takarafuji picks up his first win while Goeido starts out 0-2, and I can't help but to point out another awkward finish uncharacteristic of an Ozeki.

Before we move on, let me just comment that the only Ozeki bout that looked natural to me was the Terunofuji - Ikioi contest. Ikioi was the only opponent who actually exhibited sound sumo and tried his hardest in my opinion. Sure, Ikioi lost, but he looked to counter Terunofuji's early frontal grip and then he dug in well at the edge. The flow of the bout looked right to me start to finish. I can't say that about the other three Ozeki bouts, and that's why I'm of the opinion that the opponents of the three Japanese Ozeki were not fighting 100%. I know they all won, but I just didn't see any chest to chest fighting or pressure exerted in those three bouts. Maybe I'm just seeing things, but I doubt it. In six total bouts so far, the Japanese Ozeki have one win.

Moving right along, Yokozuna Harumafuji's withdrawal gave M1 Tochinoshin the win by default, and after giving up a win yesterday to an Ozeki, it was good to see Shin get a freebie in return as he finishes the day 1-1.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho charged hard and hooked up in the migi-yotsu position against M2 Takayasu and then just settled in for a long stalemate. With both dudes reaching for left outers, the two danced in the center of the ring for well over a minute in a bout that resembled a dose of pre-basho keiko where Hakuho just toys with his foe. Hakuho could have beaten Takayasu in five seconds or less, but he just stood around and stood around and stood around making it look close. The problem was Takayasu wasn't close to solving anything, so after nearly two minutes, he went for a desperate right kote-nage throw that caused some separation, but Takayasu was so out of gas he just stumbled forward and off the dohyo with the Yokozuna escorting him out from behind. I think they said the bout lasted 1:44, but that was 1:39 of wasted time. Trust me. Hakuho moves to 2-0 with the win while Takayasu falls to 1-1.

In the final bout of the day, Yokozuna Kakuryu went for M1 Sadanoumi's throat and had the youngster upright and pressing enough that when Sadanoumi finally did come forward, the Yokozuna was there to welcome him with the right arm deep inside. From there, Kakuryu executed the methodic force-out charge and had Sadanoumi pushed back and across before he could really evade outta the hold. Par for the course as Kakuryu moves to 2-0 while Sadanoumi suffers his first loss.

I really don't expect the two remaining Yokozuna and Terunofuji to run away with this thing by the end of week one, so let's see if there are some twists and turns on the horizon. Harvye spells me tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The talk of the day 1 broadcast focused on Ozeki Terunofuji as it should have, and with Kitanofuji and Mainoumi providing analysis on the day, you knew it would be an enjoyable broadcast regardless of the actual sumo. NHK played a lengthy interview with Terunofuji, and then they replayed a few of his key bouts over the last few tournaments, but it can all be summed up best by Kitanofuji's comments after the interview.

During the interview, Terunofuji was asked how he was able to come this far this fast, and he attributed it to his new environment. And what he's referring to there is the fact that he entered professional sumo starting out in the Magaki-beya. However, Magaki-oyakata was forced to close down his stable citing health reasons, and so the Isegahama-beya absorbed the Magaki-beya and Fuji the Terrible along with it. Terunofuji understands the importance of belonging to this stable, but Kitanofuji was spot on afterwards when he said, "It's not only that. You just have to look at him, and you can see he's different." Kitanofuji was referring to Terunofuji's body and the content of his sumo, and it was evident today as we watched the four Ozeki fight in succession exactly what the former Yokozuna was talking about.

But first things first, we've got some dregs to wade through before we get to that point, so let's kick off the festivities starting with M15 Satoyama who ducked in low enough against M16 Takanoiwa that he was able to come outta the fray with the firm left inside position. From there, the Satoimo latched onto the front of Takanoiwa's belt and wouldn't relent pulling Takanoiwa down in the end dashi-nage style. A couple of things here. First, Takanoiwa forgot about Satoyama's unorthodox tachi-ai, and he paid the price. Second, the belts of both of these guys were unraveling in the ring signaling more of a cat and mouse affair rather than a bout of o-zumo. Still, that's Satoyama's style and credit him for a good day 1 win.

Our first rookie on the day stepped into the ring in M15 Seiro who looked to solve fellow countryman M14 Kagamioh. And solve him he wouldn't as Kagamioh grabbed the early left outer grip that he used to just step to the side and pull Seiro down to the dirt. There were some serious false starts in this one, which tells us Seiro probably isn't prepared for this division for a myriad of reasons. Regardless, bad start for the rookie who suffers a day 1 loss.

On one hand, I'm glad to see M13 Chiyotairyu back in the division, but on the other hand, if he continues to display sumo as he did today against M14 Toyohibiki, I can't wait for him to go back to Juryo. After a decent if not wild kachi-age attempt at the tachi-ai, Chiyotairyu was looking pull all the way with his palms facing his opponent, and the Nikibi sensed it straightway driving thrusts directly into Chiyotairyu's neck and chest simply kicking his ass back and off the dohyo.

M13 Hidenoumi drew a feisty day 1 opponent in M12 Kotoyuki, but damned if the rookie didn't take Kotoyuki's best punch at the tachi-ai and survive beautifully. With Kotoyuki going for the neck, Hidenoumi firmly stood his ground and frustrated Bob Barker after a few seconds, and you could just see the tide turn from a Kotoyuki looking for the neck to a Kotoyuki getting frustrated and thinking pull. The minute he went for it, Hidenoumi was right there turning the tables and scoring the easy pushout win. It will be interesting to see how good Hidenoumi is on offense because he was all defense today, but he showed great patience in fighting off Kotoyuki's best shots, and he was rewarded with a solid victory in the end. I can't say enough about this debut, which all but erased the bad taste in my mouth following Seiro's effort. Let's hope it continues for Hidenoumi.

M11 Kyokutenho stood still allowing M12 Endoh the clear path to the left inside and right outer grip, and while Kyokutenho could have worked his way into a counter right outer of his own, he just stood there largely upright letting Endoh work him back and across the straw without argument. Kyokutenho was a bump on a log today allowing Endoh to just do his thang in the basho's first mukiryoku bout.

M10 Amuuru used a beautiful right hand to M11 Tokitenku's throat followed up by an equally effective left tsuki causing Tokitenku to go into immediate pull-mode, but Amuuru was onto him like stink to bait pushing Tenku back and out in mere seconds.

Takanonami death

M10 Kitataiki and M9 Homarefuji hooked up in migi-yotsu where Kitataiki had the left outer grip, but Homarefuji's right shoulder was dug deep enough into Kitataiki's neck that the latter couldn't generate sufficient momentum to score the force-out win. The two danced around the ring a few times with Kitataiki persisting, but Homarefuji was able to slip at right near the edge and drag Kitataiki across with the inner dashi-nage move. That right shoulder and Kitataiki's bad legs were the reason Homarefuji was able to score the comeback win.

M8 Osunaarashi offered his usual moro-te-zuki tachi-ai against M9 Sadanofuji, but there was absolutely no power behind it. I think the Ejyptian had a bum knee coming in, but his heavily taped left shoulder seemed to give him even more problems. He just couldn't exert any power getting the left arm meekly to the inside, and when his early dashi-nage attempt with the right arm failed, he was outta moves. Osunaarashi admirably kept applying pressure, but it was too light, so when he went for a weak right outer belt throw using his left arm braced against Sadanofuji's jaw of all places, the Sadamight was able to counter easily with a left scoop throw to seal Osunaarashi's fate. As Osunaarashi picked himself up off of the dohyo, he gingerly kept his left elbow bent up and close to his body trying to keep any pressure off of the limb. This guy is just plain beat up, and while the spirit was willing today, the body just couldn't finish off the larger Sadanofuji.

M8 Yoshikaze was the aggressor today against M7 Toyonoshima using effective tsuppari to shove Toyonoshima upright and off balance ultimately setting up moro-zashi. Toyonoshima used that gut well to help fend off the attack, but Yoshikaze never ran out of energy bodying Toyonoshima down across the edge after a back and forth contest.

M7 Tamawashi and M6 Gagamaru ended up in the hidari-yotsu position today where The Mawashi kept Gagamaru up high enough that he couldn't barrel Tamawashi back and out. He tried for sure, but as the two near the edge, Tamawashi was able to slip to the side and fell Gagamaru with a counter scoop throw. Gagamaru looked to open the bout with tsuppari, and he would have done well to focus on a thrust attack, but Tamawashi was just too slippery today.

I thought the M6 Kyokushuho - M5 Tokushoryu bouts was a great indication of the banzuke. Kyokushuho as been floundering around in the lower half of the division the last few tournaments while Tokushoryu has been fighting many of the heavyweights. So when the two hooked up today, it was no surprise to see Tokushoryu demand the left inside position and right outer grip and simply outclass the Mongolian back and across for the sweet yori-kiri win.

M4 Takekaze used a great thrust with the right hand into M5 Okinoumi's neck to stand him upright, and as Okinoumi looked to press back forward and down into the bout, Takekaze read the move like a dirty manga and stepped back pulling Okinoumi down to the dohyo floor with ease. This was good stuff from Takekaze, and Okinoumi's got to be more cognizant of who he's fighting. You should never allow yourself to get dominated by Takekaze.

M4 Aminishiki latched onto the left frontal grip from the gun against M3 Kaisei and then immediately shifted around the ring trying to throw him off balance, but in the process, the Brasilian was able to work his right arm to the inside just enough that when Aminishiki went for the next evasive pull maneuver, Kaisei was able to burrow his shoulder into him and send him off the dohyo for good.

Komusubi Tochiohzan used a nice right shove at the tachi-ai to knock M3 Ikioi back a step setting up the firm right inside position, and the yotsu master was able to next work his left hand onto as solid of an outer grip as you please. Ikioi tried to worm out of the yotsu contest instead of going at it chest to chest, but Tochiohzan's left outer grip was so firm that Ikioi had nowhere to hide. In the end, Tochiohzan caught him in an attempt to spin away shoving Ikioi off the dohyo for good after about six seconds. This was excellent sumo from Tochiohzan and another good example of the truthfulness of the banzuke.

Without a marquee matchup on the docket today, the most anticipated bout surely had to have been newly-crowned Ozeki Terunofuji against heavyweight M2 Aoiyama. There's something about your first bout at an elite rank that makes you feel more pressure than usual, and it's not uncommon at all to see new Ozeki, new Yokozuna, or even new Makuuchi rikishi fall on day 1. And Terunofuji may have been feeling these nerves today because his tachi-ai was not good. He sorta went forward with the left shoulder fishing for the right arm inside, but Aoiyama rebuffed him easily so much so that too much separation was created between the two to Aoiyama's detriment. As Aoiyama looked to advance, Terunofuji's right foot slipped as he attempted to shore up his position causing an instant of excitement, but Fuji the Terrible settled back in with the left inside position and eventual right outer grip. Having won the tachi-ai, Aoiyama was committed to a forward-moving win, but as he backed the Ozeki up near the ropes, Terunofuji executed a powerful right belt throw sending Aoiyama down to his demise.

This was quite an impressive throw when you consider that Terunofuji was back pedaling, and Aoiyama is no light rikishi. It wasn't a great start, but it was definitely a solid finish as Terunofuji continues to be a presence in the elite ranks of this sport. Afterwards, Yoshida Announcer caught up with Fuji the Terrible and asked him about his early slip. The Ozeki said it was just that...his leg slipping a bit and not due to anything his opponent did. When asked if he was nervous, Terunofuji replied, "No...but I may have been a little bit stiff out there." Ota Announcer and Kitanofuji both laughed whereupon Kitanofuji said, "Isn't that what it means to be nervous?" It was an amusing moment, but I think everyone kind of laughed nervously at the remark because even with Fuji is bad, he's still way good.

It was almost embarrassing to watch Ozeki Kotoshogiku try and justify his rank against M1 Sadanoumi today, and when you send in the clowns, it's merely a question for their opponents of will they or won't they? Sadanoumi wouldn't today striking the Ozeki with the left shoulder, grabbing the left outer grip, and then pulling Kotoshogiku down to the dirt floor all in about a second. This was an embarrassing lost, and the last thing a kadoban Ozeki wants to do is lose on day 1...to a Maegashira rikishi.

Up next was Ozeki Goeido vs. M2 Takayasu, and once again, it was a question of would he or wouldn't he? Like Sadanoumi before him, Takayasu wouldn't easily halting Goeido's charge, getting his left arm deep to the inside, and then driving forward and sending the Ozeki down to his knees backwards at the edge of the ring. As Goeido was being driven back, he went for a stupid maki-kae but he could barely start the attempt before Takayasu shoved him down so hard it turned him around 180 degrees and left the Ozeki kneeling at the edge of the dohyo. I don't care who you are, an Ozeki does not lose to an M2 in two seconds and end up being spun around onto his knees. It's just plain weak, and it's dangerous to have Terunofuji ranked at Ozeki because people will start comparing Fuji the Terrible to the other three weaklings.

As Ozeki Kisenosato stepped into the ring, the crowd began cheering more loudly and clapping in unison. I mentioned this in my pre-basho report, but I've seen this sudden surge of optimism in the media surrounding Kisenosato and even talk of his vying for the yusho, so don't be surprised to see him have a breakout basho here. Today he drew a buzz saw in M1 Tochinoshin, but finally someone chose to give a win to an Ozeki. The two clashed in the immediate hidari-yotsu position, and Tochinoshin coulda had moro-zashi with the right or the outer grip, but he kind of kept that hand in no man's land for a few seconds until he had to do something. That something was grabbing the right outer grip, but he wasn't committed on the force out charge holding back near the straw until Kisenosato could grab an outer of his own, and once the Ozeki got it, Tochinoshin relinquished his right outer and just waited for Kisenosato to turn the tables with a "surprise" comeback throw at the edge dumping the Private across the straw. Sometimes when I describe these bouts, I'll say "in my opinion" to be nice, but this was blatant. Shin could have smothered the Ozeki back and across in mere seconds today, but he played along and waited for Kisenosato to finally defeat him in the end...to the delight of the crowd.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Kakuryu made his return against Sekiwake Ichinojo, and the Yokozuna looked rusty exhibiting a bad hari-zashi tachi-ai with his feet aligned. Instead of settling in with his initial right to the inside, he wisely backed out of it and spun Ichinojo around with a left outer. This created a bit of separation that allowed the Kak to duck and and shove the slug back and across the straw in four or five seconds. I'm not sure how hard Ichinojo was going in this one, but chalk it up to a difference in Kakuryu's speed.

In an entertaining affair that would resemble the type of sumo you'd often see if sumo had a middleweight division, Yokozuna Harumafuji charged low and hard right into a Komusubi pull attempt. The result was Harumafuji's driving Myogiryu back to the straw in less than a second, but for whatever reason Harumafuji backed up allowing Myogiryu to push him all the way across the ring. Now at the opposite end of the dohyo, Harumafuji used a left belt grip that he maintained throughout to drag Myogiryu over to the edge and fling him down as Harumafuji himself fell to the dirt in exaggerated fashion. This one was close and actually called for a mono-ii where it showed that HowDo actually hit down first, but Myogiryu's backside was parallel to the dohyo, so they upheld the initial decision in Harumafuji's favor.

Due to the mono-ii, they never showed a slow motion replay of the entire bout, but I didn't see a single offensive maneuver employed by Myogiryu. I certainly didn't see anything that would have caused him not only to dig in at the edge after the initial charge but to also send Harumafuji clear across the ring to the other side. I think this was an example of Harumafuji employing wild, sloppy sumo for show rather than his actually using sound sumo to defeat his opponent in a basic manner. The end result was an acrobatic looking bout that entertained the fans, but you know what they say...when a rikishi let's up in the ring, someone's gonna get injured.  Harumafuji is kyujo with an injured right elbow.

The day's final bout was similar in that Yokozuna Hakuho employed a head-scratching tachi-ai where he just stood his ground rebuffing Komusubi Takarafuji's advances. After Takarafuji bounced off the Yokozuna two or three times, the two traded places and a weak pull attempt from the Yokozuna allowed Takarafuji to push him back near the edge. Hakuho was able to dig in, however, and force the bout to migi-yotsu. Takarafuji actually had the left outer grip, but he was already out of gas and could do nothing with it. So there the two stood for pritnear 20 seconds before Hakuho was able to maki-kae getting the left to the inside and a right outer grip, and he easily dispatched Takarafuji from there. Like the Harumafuji bout, I thought Hakuho could have dismantled Takarafuji in two or three seconds, but adding theatrics and prolonging the bout making it look close provides fan service and gives the hint that the Japanese guys are closer than they really are.

Regardless, the fans had enough entertaining bouts today to keep them coming back, and so I'll be back tomorrow.




















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