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

Day 14 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
I think I've said something like this for about four reports in a row, so I might as well finish up by saying it again: it's been a quiet tournament. Like, winds of the deepest uninhabited Mongolian prairie quiet. Hakuho has been dominant, other contenders faded or withdrew early, and the pretenders wilted badly (just a few days ago Takayasu was still in this; now he's 8-5).  Day 14 or Day 13 is often the best day; this time around, I'm just hoping I have enough material to cover the box-like space on the homepage without the first match sneaking in there and spoiling the visual "wa." Yeah, it's been...  we'll, it's been. Just been. As Mike said, we are "without even a secondary storyline this basho." But, because I like sumo, before Hakuho cruises to career win number 23,490 and his 745th career championship, let's check in with whomsoever else.

M16 Gagamaru (3-10) vs. J2 Toyohibiki (4-9)
Well hello there, Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki). You disappeared to Juryo, and I'd thought we'd lost you forever. As no doubt we have, as you are 4-9. You are like a friendly ghost, visiting us here. But you are still good enough, the evidence today would seem to suggest, to pick Gagamaru up by the belt and drive him out, yori-kiri. He will join you in Juryo, and you can be ghosts of Makuuchi together. What more can one ask?

J1 Kyokushuho (5-8) vs. M14 Kotoyuki (3-10)
This is what Kotoyuki, who has lost his moxy, needed: a visitor from Juryo. He stood him up with tsuppari, then knocked him down, oshi-taoshi. He can check next basho to find out of yet more of his moxy is to be found lying around on the cutting room floor in Juryo.

M11 Chiyonokuni (7-6) vs. M13 Sokokurai (5-8)
Some pushing, then they both got right inside arms on the belt, stretched out long like taffy. Surprisingly, Chiyonokuni drove Sokokurai to the straw. It's Dark There (Sokokurai) managed to survive, but Chiyonokuni was up and in pretty good, and when Sokokurai turned the momentum back to the center, Chiyonokuni turned it against him by whipping him to the ground, uwate-nage.

M14 Sadanoumi (7-6) vs. M11 Daishomaru (6-7)
I've complained many a time about Daishomaru's pulling, but thankfully he seemed to have lost success with it of late, so we don't see it that often: guys got used to it and defended against it better. Why did it work here, then, hataki-komi? Because Sadanoumi wasn't trying, running his hands about in the air like a blind mime, or on Sadanoumi's chest like a teenager in a private moment with a department store mannequin. Daishomaru zippered him to the ground.

M10 Chiyotairyu (9-4) vs. M13 Takarafuji (8-5)
More such-and-such. More bla-ba-dee. Bonk, fall. Chiyotairyu hit Takarafuji in the face once or twice then fell down on purpose, "hiki-otoshi," as Takarafuji faded faintly backwards.

M15 Nishikigi (7-6) vs. M10 Shohozan (8-5)
Darth Hozan was looking nonchalant during the wait: "la di da, yeah, a match." That's because he's better. He slapped Nishikigi in the face, sped on in there, grabbed Nishikigi's belt, and zinged him past him on the way out, yori-kiri.

M8 Aoiyama (11-2) vs. M12 Takekaze (8-5)
"If Aoiyama doesn't try hard, Hakuho will be able to win the tournament," the announcers said at one point, their wane hope winking faintly through for just a moment, the last firefly on its death buzz through a garbage-strewn urban marsh. Meanwhile, Aoiyama wrecked Takekaze thoroughly, whackity-whackity in the facey schmacey, then even grabbing Takekaze by the belt for a moment, so confident was he, before slabbing his boobs onto Takekaze and lathering him back and out, oshi-dashi, like soap squeezed out of wet hands.

And with that, the yusho cannot be decided today, and we'll get to see Hakuho win tomorrow instead.

M6 Ichinojo (6-7) vs. M12 Arawashi (7-6)
Ichinojo moved quickly, wrapped Arawashi up with a comfortable left overhand, and removed a compliant Arawashi in an instant, yori-kiri. Look at those records. Speculate.

M5 Chiyoshoma (5-8) vs. M9 Okinoumi (4-9)
Nothing to play for, so good. Long rights inside, cans back. Test of strength. Nage-no-uchi-ai. Okinoumi finally woke up out of his Padmenoumi love-trance (for Darth Hozan?), because this was a good one and it took everything Okinoumi had. He plain out-powered Chiyoshoma on the uwate-nage at the edge. And went on to raise Luke and Leia, and the galaxy was different.

M15 Chiyomaru (8-5) vs. M4 Kagayaki (4-9)
Oh, Chiyomaru, you are so round. You are so bulbous, so smoothly orb-like. So silly looking, so fat, so neckless. So real-world unhealthy. Your knees cry out in existential protest. Lint gathers in a sweaty, trapped ring where your jowls sink into your shoulders like a bowling ball resting in a vast tray of pudding. Kagayaki slid "ol' puddin' bowl" back to the straw and tried to gaburi him out, a bit of Kotoshogiku there, but Chiyomaru balled down and resisted, presenting a pregnantly round, immovable object, and pivoted the line 180 degrees. He then loaded up and used his weight to drive Kagayaki out, oshi-dashi. There is no doubt he has made the most of what he has in this tournament and in this match. Meanwhile, inside his body, there is probably a neck, floating free somewhere, lost.

M3 Ikioi (3-10) vs. M9 Tokushoryu (4-9)
Nothing to play for, so good. Ikioi absorbed a series of punchy tsuppari, then was driven dangerously backwards to the bales. But he was able to stagger to his left a step or two, then showed his power, lifting Tokushoryu further left, through the limpid ether, and dumped him, shita-te-nage, to the unforgiving soil.

M8 Ishiura (6-7) vs. M2 Hokutofuji (7-6)
If the last two 6-7 vs. 7-6 matches were any clue, this should have belonged to Ishiura. Thankfully, not. Lo! Ishiura put his hands on Hokutofuji's shoulders, slung his body back, and was ready for opportunities. Hokutofuji made sure those opportunities never came, moving those feet forward one by one, pushing, and boom!, oshi-dashi kicking Ishiura out of there in front of him like a lump of chum stepped on by a steel-toed boot on a greased fish-processing factory floor.

M1 Shodai (4-9) vs. M7 Takanoiwa (4-9)
I wanted to say "nothing to play for, so good," but I was afraid Shodai had already been in the "it always matters" category for a few tournaments now. And Takanoiwa is as bad as classics Takarafuji and Aoiyama in the "I'm just here to help" mystery lane. So I was worried--and very happy when "nothing to play for, so good," materialized after all. This was an active, jerk-and-pull, chest-to-chest, on-the-belt battle. Takanoiwa was lower and had better holds, whereas Shodai was standing up straighter and had more loose-mawashi problems with Takanoiwa's unraveling belt. So, in the end, after being all the way back at death's door himself, Takanoiwa was able to turn things around, scoot Shodai across the ring with a good frontal hold, and found himself a yori-kiri win in this hard fought back-and-forther. If only everyone could have losing records all the time. Or something.

M7 Daieisho (4-9) vs. M1 Takakeisho (3-10)
Takakeisho did as he ever does, pushing hard, backing up, pulling, repeating. Fortunately for him Daieisho is small enough that this was effective in readying Daieisho for the push-out--although it looked like Daieisho also just kind of gave up near the end. Oshi-dashi. Meh.

K Yoshikaze (9-4) vs. M6 Onosho (9-4)
Yoshikaze has been a ton of fun the last couple of years in his late career renaissance bloom. Like Don said, you rarely get cheated with him in the circle. Today he stuck out his lower lip as always and took on the salt-shouldered Onosho. It was a good, thumping tachi-ai, and Yoshikaze looked a little startled at the force of it--knocked him back. No matter--he tsuppari'ed his way back to the center. But then he ducked in on the body, and that was probably a mistake. Onosho grabbed his belt in turn and showed him his power. Onosho's form was solid throughout: "shita-kara shita-kara semete imasu," said the announcer: "from below, from below, attacking." Yes. Yori-kiri win for Onosho. To be honest, I have in general found Onosho to be a yawn-fest, about as exciting as aloe-yoghurt. But I liked this.

M2 Tochinoshin (8-5) vs. K Kotoshogiku (6-7)
"A chance for Tochinoshin, Captain of Georgia, to show his quality." Or to cravenly take the ring and give it to Denethor, played by Kotoshogiku in today's re-enactment. But lo! Tochinoshin remembered that Sauron is bad, leaned his bulk on Kotoshogiku, and moved forward with a stifling overhand left. In the end he dumped Denethor to the cold stones of besieged Gondor's deathly courtyard, uwate-nage. As Sam said, "you have shown your quality sir--the very highest." And so passes Kotoshogiku, steward of Komusubi.

S Tamawashi (6-7) vs. M4 Ura (6-7)
Ah, and so you see it. Tamawashi, a terrifying bruiser with thunderous power and speed, didn't move forward at the tachi-ai. Why? Fear. Not fear of Ura's greatness, but fear of what will happen if he over-commits. Fear of Ura's tricksy ways. It's not just henkas and pulls and leg grabs that get the job done for guys like Ura; it's how much that past history saps the attack power, the explosive ability, of their opponents. However, Ura is still developing, and Tamawashi's strategy worked perfectly. Safe with the lame tachi-ai because Ura chose to back up, after sizing up Ura for a moment of comfortable separation, Tamawashi let Ura come in, then tumbled him like tennis shoes in the dryer, hataki-komi.

M5 Tochiohzan (10-3) vs. S Mitakeumi (8-5)
Chestnut Heart vs. The Bully. Chestnut Heart (Tochiohzan) moved forward, but didn't have hands inside: not his favored position. So he withdrew for a moment, pushed Mitakeumi in the face, and got one arm in. From there, he was able to work. I happen to think both these guys are usually very good, but Tochiohzan looked like the more experienced operator today, with lots of good tools still strapped to his belt. He removed Mitakeumi firmly, yori-kiri.

Y Hakuho (12-1) vs. O Goeido (7-6)
Child's play. Hakuho held Goeido by the cheeks, then dropped him on the ground, hataki-komi. Like, really. Okay, not really. That's just what it looked like before the replay. Here is the more precise truth: Hakuho forearm-barred Goeido in the face, then grabbed him by the back of the neck and pulled him down. Same difference. These two wrestlers looked like different species. Like that time I saw a praying mantis catch a passing dragonfly and eat the whole thing, except for the wings, and a few legs that it dropped by mistake. It ate most of the legs though, too.

Hakuho's win eliminated Harumafuji from contention. The only way he does not take the tournament: tomorrow Aoiyama beats Yoshikaze, Harumafuji beats Hakuho, and Aoiyama beats Hakuho in a playoff. Not happening.

O Takayasu (8-5) vs. Y Harumafuji (10-3)
So, this became theatre. Of one kind or another. Not that it wouldn't have been anyway. These end of the day matches, you know. Harumafuji, however, took it well enough. He hit Takayasu only lightly, enough to grab him by the arm, then spun him around pretty good by that arm before pushing him down on the bales and rolling him off the dohyo like a whiskey cask, having been immobilized by that elbow-popping hold. Tottari.

Tomorrow Mike's rock 'n' roll is so loud he gets banned from CBGB.

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Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As I was scanning the wires yesterday for news and pics, the top headline stated that Hakuho was likely to obtain Japanese citizenship in the near future and then create the Hakuho-beya. There is actually a finite amount of shares in oyakata stock (I think there's 105 shares, but go elsewhere for the exact amount), and so rikishi can't just up and decide to create their own stable and call it something other than the name that is listed on their share of oyakata stock. The one exception is granted to the dai-Yokozuna, who are allowed to create their own stable and maintain it until retirement from the Association, and so the lead story was that Hakuho was going to become a Japanese citizen and then open up his own stable.

The article didn't give any timeline, but my gut reaction when I saw the headline is that this will be Hakuho's excuse to retire sooner rather than later.  The Yokozuna has nothing left to prove in the sport, and it's clear that the modus operandi for the Sumo Association right now is to build up the Japanese rikishi, so it'd be a win-win situation for everyone.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Hakuho reach the nice round number of 40 yusho and then hang it up saying that he'd like to focus on building up his own stable.  I guess we're jumping the gun a bit since Hakuho is still vying for yusho #39 here in Nagoya, so let's get right to the day 13 action.

Despite their difference in size, M12 Arawashi held his own at the tachi-ai getting the left inside established before quickly grabbing the right outer grip against M16 Gagamaru, and Arawashi's skills are so superior that he easily pivoted to his right setting up the spectacular uwate-nage throw from that side. As I was typing these comments, Fujii Announcer and Mainoumi were talking about the exact same thing...the difference in the weight of these two is vast, but Gagamaru wasn't able to take advantage of that at the tachi-ai. Good to see we're all on the same page although I will let Mainoumi spin the white lies when we get to the fake bouts. Arawashi moves to 7-6 with the win as Gagamaru falls to 3-10.

At this point of the broadcast, they introduced the Makushita yusho rikishi, a dude named Yago. I believe the kanji for "yago" means "bulging neck," but I can't be sure as I seem to have forgotten some of my Japanese. During the interview of Yago, they asked near the end what he was aiming for, and he answered that he wanted to do "dosshin to shita" sumo...just like Kisenosato. I was pretty sure dosshin meant something like "bruising," but then when he said "just like Kisenosato," I was like...what, you want to do the kind of sumo out there that will get you your ass kicked every day?  But what do I know?  Either I'm forgetting my Japanese or this protocol droid has already had his mind wiped and reprogrammed to fit the system.

Up next was M14 Kotoyuki who chased M11 Daishomaru around the ring with his tsuppari attack as Daishomaru moved right, and just when Yuki thought he had his gal up against the straw, Daishomaru suddenly moved left timing a tsuki-otoshi into Kotoyuki's right side that sent him down into a heap on the dohyo. In true Kotoyuki fashion, he decided to stop, drop, and roll off the dohyo altogether, but I think even the Japanese fans are tired of his shenanigans after the final bell. Daishomaru improves to 6-7 while I won't miss Kotoyuki next basho as he falls to 3-10.

M11 Chiyonokuni used a brief flurry of tsuppari against M14 Sadanoumi before the two hooked up into the migi-gappuri yotsu position, and you had the livelier Chiyonokuni battling the better yotsu guys in Sadanoumi, and while the bout was brief, this was a classic yotsu bout where both rikishi attempted to life the other off balance and force them across. Chiyonokuni, who took charge from the tachi-ai, had the advantage at the edge as both dudes tried to wrench each other out, but the pressure from Kuni was too great leaving Sadanoumi a desperate left tsuki-otoshi attempt before he was forced out altogether. This was one of the better bouts of the basho as both rikishi land at 7-6.

M10 Chiyotairyu just blew M13 Sokokurai off of the starting lines and continued his hard oshi charge, but it wasn't tsuki-dashi overpowering, and so Sokokurai was able to evade to his right and fire a counter tsuki-otoshi shove into Chiyotairyu's left side, but the Inner China Mongolian or whatever you call him was half-assed with the counter move allowing Chiyotairyu to recover from the shove and push his foe out for good. Sokokurai was mukiryoku here as Chiyotairyu soars to 9-4 while Sokokurai falls to 5-8.

M9 Okinoumi won the tachi-ai against M15 Nishikigi getting the left to the inside, but instead of trying to force his foe back, Okinoumi went for a dumb pull that allowed Nishikigi to just body Okinoumi back and across with zero argument. Nishikigi didn't have a decent grip anywhere, and they actually ruled this one oshi-dashi even though Nishikigi didn't fire a single shove, but you have to come up with something when the bout is fixed. Nishikigi receives the gift at 7-6 while Okinoumi falls to 4-9.

M15 Chiyomaru absorbed M7 Daieisho's tsuppari charge well, and then fired back with shoves of his own to keep Daieisho from advancing. Of course, it didn't look to me as if Daieisho even cared about moving forward and he stood toe to toe with Maru firing ho-hum shoves into his foe until all of a sudden Chiyomaru just grabbed the inside position and left outer grip, and Daieisho just let himself be walked staight back and out without attempting a counter move at the edge. Intentional or not, Daieisho was mukiryoku here as Chiyomaru picks up kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Daieisho falls to a harmless 4-9 from the M7 rank.

M12 Takekaze charged with an extended left kachi-age against M7 Takanoiwa, but his body wasn't behind the forearm chivvy, and so Takanoiwa moved right and then darted left catching the veteran Kaze with a perfect shove to the side for the...shita-te-dashi-nage win?? I'm not sure what the dude who decides the kimari-te was watching, but I want whatever he's smoking. Takanoiwa didn't touch Takekaze's belt, so the real winning technique was a nice shove to the side as Takanoiwa moves to 4-9 while Takekaze falls to 8-5. With Takekaze safely at eight wins, I'd be surprised if he's able to win another bout the next coupla days.

I've been calling the majority of M6 Onosho's wins yaocho of late, and I thought today was a good indication of just how far along this kid ain't. Against M10 Shohozan, the Sith Lord scored on quick right hari-te and then had his left arm inside lifting Onosho upright before just kicking his ass back and out of the ring in maybe two seconds. Shohozan picks up kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Onosho falls to 9-4.

M6 Ichinojo was quick at the tachi-ai getting the right arm inside of M9 Tokushoryu before grabbing the stifling left outer grip, and with Tokushoryu about as far away from a left of his own as you could be, Ichinojo had the clear path to the yori-kiri. If he had wanted it. Problem was he didn't, and so he stood there like a bump on a long waiting for Tokushoryu to maki-kae, so now from the hidari-yotsu position where Tokushoryu now had the outer grip, the Mongolith just stood there and let Tokushoryu score the easy win. At M9, Tokushoryu was 3-9 coming in, and if he loses this one, he's 3-10 and in danger of being demoted to Juryo, so why not pad your billfold if you're Ichinojo who falls to a harmless 6-7 record from the M6 rank. I thought it was funny yesterday how Don called us out a bit by saying, "Don't compare this crap to WWF. We at least made everything look legit."  He's right, so apologies to Sir Roid.

Two guys whom I've always liked but for whatever reason have been forgotten met up today in M5 Tochiohzan and M13 Takarafuji, and the two gave us a pretty good chess match as brief as it was. Oh was looking for moro-zashi of course, but Takarafuji kept his left arm in tight denying it, and so Tochiohzan pushed hard and upwards into Takarafuji's left shoulder keeping him upright, and then he used his right arm inside to force Takarafuji over and out. This was correctly ruled oshi-dashi in the end as Tochiohzan pushed out his foe who was trying to escape, but I appreciated this nice bout of sumo between two good veterans. Tochiohzan is in double-digits at 10-3 while Takarafuji falls to 8-5.

M5 Chiyoshoma stayed calm at the tachi-ai firing tsuppari into the top of M8 Ishiura's shoulders as the latter was ducked down low, and with Ishiura continuing to hunker down, Chiyoshoma just switched from feisty shoves to a strong pull, and he felled Ishiura to the dohyo in mere seconds. This bout was uncontested as Chiyoshoma limps to 5-8 while Ishiura falls to 6-7.

M8 Aoiyama began his bout against M4 Kagayaki with his usual shoves, but then he decided to move right and go for an ill-advised pull. The move caught Kagayaki off guard sending him stumbling forward, but not before he planted his left arm into Aoiyama's guy and pushed him around and out. This was a split-second finish but Aoiyama's left foot clearly touched outside the dohyo before Kagayaki crashed down, but they ruled in favor of Aoiyama.

The judges did call a conference, and video replays clearly showed that Aoiyama stepped out first, but it seems as if they were only focused on Aoiyama's right heel, which was on top of the straw and whether or not it grazed the sand before Kagayaki fell down. It clearly didn't, but in the process they totally missed the small detail of Aoiyama's left leg, which in and of itself must weight 40 kilos. The chief judge's explanation was about as clear and concise as the sumo these days. He stuttered and paused and looked confused until he finally said, "Aoiyama's heel didn't touch out." Everyone still knew that Aoiyama had lost...even Aoiyama, so everyone still stood there for another few seconds until the chief judge said, "Uh, Aoiyama won." The announcement rightfully drew boos and jeers from the crowd, and Kagayaki was legitimately pissed as he walked back down the hana-michi, but give Aoiyama the win at 11-2 while Kagayaki falls to 4-9. I thought that Kitanofuji had the best take afterward when he said, "I just wish they hadn't have awarded him with the win after that kind of sumo." Couldn't agree more.  After some of the bad calls we've seen today from the judges and the dude who determines the kimari-te, I'm thinking more and more that it's not just Andre the Giant filling up on tequila prior to his work duties.

Looks like M1 Takakeisho's new tactic is a sneak attack tachi-ai. I know, I know, you're thinking Japanese? Sneak attack? Never heard of such nonsense. Anyway, with M1 Shodai crouched there at the starting lines with both fists ready to go, Takakeisho was moving his head left and right left and right as if he was trying to bait the runner at first into going, and then all of a sudden he just charged straight forward. As bad as that tactic was, the sumo that ensued was even worse.

The sneak attack did catch Shodai off guard leaving him flat-footed, but Takakeisho wasn't able to apply pressure with his shove attack, and so Shodai moved left and then right without either rikishi really touching each other. Now that there was separation with both dudes squared back up, Takakeisho did his one push forward two steps back moving left before Shodai caught up with him getting the left arm inside and the right outer grip, but the angles were all wrong here not to mention the footwork, and with Takakeisho having the clear path to victory with the left arm inside keeping Shodai up high, he just kept moving to his left and at the slightest touch from Shodai that came in the form of really nothing that I could see, Takakeisho just twisted around stiff as a board and fell backwards to the dohyo. Now, I've seen some fake falls in my time, but this one ranks right up there with the best of 'em. Good night, the sumo here from both parties was so bad, I literally had to watch in super slow motion to try and detect anything. What a pathetic display of sumo, and what a pathetic dive to the dirt as Shodai is gifted the win moving him to 4-9. As for Takakeisho, he falls nicely to 3-10.

You know, M4 Ura has received enough gifts this basho that he needed to defer in this one to his rickety senpai in Komusubi Kotoshogiku. After completely whiffing on a hari-te with the left, Kotoshogiku still looked to get that arm to the inside, and Ura just complied kinda latching onto that extended left arm and just backing up straight out of the dohyo as he pulled Kotoshogiku along for the ride. The Geeku did crash down beyond the straw, but Ura has made sure he stepped well beyond the bales before it happened. Look, everyone knows that I'm not a fan at all of Ura's sumo, but Harvye was spot on a few days ago when he called the Ura - Goeido bout when he said if Ura just stands there and doesn't move side to side then you know he's throwing the bout. This was such an easy yaocho call, but I get it. Ura will get his, so let's continue to provide a soft landing for Kotoshogiku as both rikishi end the day at 6-7. The crowd is going to root for Ura regardless of his rank, so perhaps they will see to it that the Geeku gets his kachi-koshi.

Is it possible to have two guys trying to throw the bout in favor of each other?? Nothing made sense in the Komusubi Yoshikaze - M3 Ikioi bout where Yoshikaze looked to latch on with the left frontal grip, but before he could fully secure it, Ikioi backed up in right kote-nage mode, but his grip was too far over the top, and he kept his body in front of Cafe instead of positioning himself from the side. This gave Yoshikaze the clear path to moro-zashi with Ikioi standing near the edge, but he didn't do anything with it either. Ikioi next kind of walked to his left and then loaded for another right kote-nage as he continued to shade left, but it was half-assed again as he now turned back right, and so with both guys going towards the opposite side of the ring, they kicked up their legs as if to fake a leg trip or kake-nage, and at that point, Ikioi just hunkered down low as if he was going to fall, and then he lunged forward and down pushing off with is left leg. Just so you don't think I'm losing my marbles calling this one, just watch the replay (I've also tacked on the Takakeisho dive as a bonus):

Watching the replay was like two gentleman trying to let the other guy go first.

"Go ahead, I insist."
"It is I who insist. After you!"
"I wouldn't allow it. Do go first."
"No, I shan't"

I was like, "Somebody just win the bout already!!" The result after this strange bout was Yoshikaze's moving to 9-4 while Ikioi fell to 3-10. Afterwards, Mainoumi said that Yoshikaze was really dialed in this bout. Yeah, right. Like when he had moro-zashi with Ikioi at the edge? Dialed in dialed shmin.

M2 Tochinoshin used a nice right kachi-age at the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Mitakeumi setting up the right inside, and with Mitakeumi unable to defend himself or move laterally, Shin set himself up on the other side with a stifling left outer grip. From there, Tochinoshin just paused in the center of the ring even though he had quite a few options open to him, and the longer he stood there, the more I was thinking that he was going to let Mitakeumi win. It turns out that he was likely making it look as if Mitakeumi was down for the struggle because Mitakeumi was unable to counter or exert any power to throw the Private off of his game. After twenty seconds or so, Tochinoshin finally drove Mitakeumi over to the edge, and finally Mitakeumi showed some life attempting a counter utchari, but Tochinoshin was just too big and powerful and rewarded the Sekiwake by crushing him down to the dohyo yori-taoshi styel. It took Mitakeumi a bit to gather his wits and stand back up from that one as both rikishi end the day at 8-5.

M2 Hokutofuji henka'd to his left against Sekiwake Tamawashi firing a left thrust into the Sekiwake's side, and Tamawashi's response was to just stay up high and pretend to fish for a pull attempt as he let Hokutofuji just push him out with ease. Yes, Hokutofuji did henka here, but it didn't phase The Mawashi. He was just mukiryoku giving Hokutofuji the win and a 7-6 mark. As for Tamawashi, he's in danger from falling from his Sekiwake perch at 6-7. Can't have another Monglian be promoted to Ozeki you know even though Tamawashi is clearly the superior rikishi to guys like Takayasu or Goeido.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Harumafuji charged with his head low, and Ozeki Goeido's only response was to go for a lame pull, but the Yokozuna meant bidness and gave the Ozeki the bidness easily pushing him back and out in less than two seconds. Nice Ozeki sumo from Goeido as he falls to 7-6. Or not. As for Harumafuji, he improves to 10-3 with the win.

And that brings us to Hakuho, who deservedly received the bulk of the attention during the broadcast today. I think it's clear to see that without even a secondary storyline this basho, they're going to milk the Hakuho record-breaking performance for all it's worth and then regroup for September. There are a few graphics worth checking out from the past few days, and from left to right, NHK showed these two charts.

First is the top three rikishi with the most career wins. At the time NHK showed the graphic, the order was this:

1,047 Kaio
1,046 Hakuho
1,045 Chiyonofuji

Then, the number at the far right in parenthesis shows the number of basho it took to earn those wins. Kaio took 140; Chiyonofuji required 125; and Hakuho has only needed 98 basho. Furthermore, you think of all the bouts that Hakuho has dropped the last few years, and that basho number should be more like 95 or 96. As great of a Yokozuna that Chiyonofuji was, Hakuho just obliterates him.

The second graphic was displayed today, and it showed a list of the current Japanese scrubs as follows.

This list reads:

Hokutofuji 102
Ura 109
Takakeisho 120
Mitakeumi 126
Daishomaru 134

Takakeisho is the youngest rikishi on that list, and he is 22 years old. At the same age, Hakuho already had 260 career wins just in case anyone is counting. Hakuho's greatness has been un paralleled, and it was nice to see him get a bit of run today.

With that background, there was no way he was going to let Ozeki Takayasu beat him today. As he has been wont to do, Hakuho moved to his right at the tachi-ai not really going for a kill shot but just throwing a wrench in things, and as Takayasu looked to square back up, the Yokozuna just drove a few choke holds into the Ozeki's neck while keeping him upright with a nice right tsuki. As Takayasu moved laterally, Hakuho kept up his strategy of choking with the left and firing tsuki with the right, and there was nothing that Takayasu could do here as Hakuho played with him like a cat toying with a mouse, and after about eight seconds, he just dumped the Ozeki to the side and down with the pesky right tsuki to the side.

The crowd appreciated the effort, and then there was a nice scene as Hakuho walked down the hana-michi to a small crowd waiting in the wings including his beautiful wife and children. It was just altogether a nice scene, and I suppose it's these little nuggets that keep me watching the sport. The gold is there if you can find it, but damn if we don't have to wade through a lot of shat to get to it. The result of the bout is Hakuho's moving to 12-1 with Takayasu's falling to 8-5.

As we head into the weekend, you have Hakuho at 12-1 with Aoiyama at 11-2. I just don't see Hakuho soiling this moment by losing to Goeido tomorrow, but sumo these days is completely unpredictable, so I guess we let Harvye sort it all out then.


Day 12 Comments (Don Roid reporting)
I've noticed that in pro wrestling, no matter if a wrestler was a heel (bad guy) or a baby face (good guy) if he's been gone for any length of time and makes a return to TV, he's always given a great baby face ovation. It's been since January when I last wrote for Sumotalk, so in my mind I'm walking down the ramp into a jam packed arena full of crazy, rabid fans hanging from the rafters, who are in shock and awe of my triumphant return. In reality I'm just sitting in a student dormitory building in Poland in front of a not-fully functioning HP laptop and my caffeine buzz is starting to wear off.

At any rate, it's great to be back and I'm surveying the scene a little bit here. So where are we coming into day 12? Kakuryu - out, Kisenosato - out, Terunofuji - out, Goeido and Takayasu will be lucky to escape with eight wins. Harumafuji will only be in the race if Hakuho flies off the handle again. It looks like it's Hak's basho for the taking. My guess is he won't start mysteriously dropping bouts at this point. Goeido and Takayasu are so far behind, it's not worth it for him and I don't see why he'd go out of his way to scratch the back of either Aoiyama or Onosho. I think that he would want to finish the tournament strong and break the all time career wins record without any controversy abound.

For me, so far the highlights of the tournament have been Mike referencing Richard Simmons' "Sweatin' to the Oldies", Hakuho's bizarre bout with Takakeisho and Harumafuji taking Kagayaki's temperature on day 8. So let's get to the bouts.

The opening Makuuchi contest featured (M14) Kotoyuki, a guy I've been keeping a close eye on as of late. I've noticed that on two different occasions this tournament, maybe more, he's been turned around backwards. This has really got to be the worst possible position to be in, in sumo. It's almost impossible to recover from. The reason I bring this up is because I think he's using this technique to throw bouts. If someone gets turned around with their back to their opponent, it's pretty obvious they're going to lose. So, if he is throwing bouts, it's almost like you can't blame him for losing, because he got turned around backwards. I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I'm watching each day of the tournament and making some rudimentary notes of my observations and I can see that he's been turned around backwards a lot more often this tournament than he should have been, seeing as he's been in the top division for like four years now. I think he was also using that overly dramatic and unnecessary stumble into the four or fifth row yesterday as a "distraction" to hide the fact that he threw the bout.

Anyway, today he took on (M11) Chiyonokuni and HE got turned around this time. Only it didn't look phony to me at all. These two guys looked like they were really tearing into each other and Chiyonokuni's turning around was a desperation move by him to stay in the ring at the edge. He recovered nicely and deposited Kotoyuki hard on the outside of the ring like a sack of buckwheat. He looked pretty shaken up afterwards.

The next bout of interest for me was (M16) Gagamaru vs. (M10) Shohozan. Shohozan had the upper hand from the get go. Gaga tried to counter with a kotenage, but Shohozan slipped out the back door and Gaga came tumbling down on his shoulder pretty hard.

Some solid sumo today from (M12) Arawashi after the circus bout we saw not too long ago. And by the way, let's get one thing straight, it's not even fair to WWE to say that his obviously thrown bout was "like a WWE match". At least the guys in WWE actually make an effort to make it look somewhat real most of the time. His opponent was (M9) Tokushoryu who got side stepped, but not henka'ed, by Washi and then driven out in perfect form that even Hakuho would be proud of.

(M14) Sadanoumi then took on (M9) Okinoumi in almost an exact repeat of the previous bout. Maybe it was just a glitch in the Matrix or something. Okinoumi make-koshi.

(M8) Aoiyama has only finished in double digits five times in his thirty-six top division tournaments so he's got to be feeling pretty psyched coming into today, especially since, on paper anyway, it's day 12 and he's in contention to win the yusho. (M13) Takarafuji, who reminds me of a boring Takamisakari for some reason, would make no successful attempts to deal with the longer arms of the Bulgarian. One big push at the end rocked him backwards and when he came rocking back, his momentum carried him all the way to the ground as all +400 pounds of Aoiyama had shimmied to his (Takarafuji's) left in the meantime and there was nobody to catch him on the rebound.

All throughout my career in wrestling I was always David in the land of the Goliaths, so I generally find myself rooting for the underdog. (M8) Ishiura is clearly undersized for the division, but he's in great shape and is probably quite strong. He took a page out of Ura's book today and tried to get low and keep his hips away from (M15) Nishikigi, but the Nish-ster clamped down on both of Ishiura's arms like a vice. Ishiura fought his way free like a fish flopping around on the bottom of a boat and pushed out Nishikigi for the win.

The next bout of interest for me was (M12) Takekaze taking on (M7) Daieisho. Takekaze was looking for his kachi-koshi today and got it after he took a step backwards and pulled Daieisho down.

(M10) Chiyotairyu vs. (M6) Onosho was legit from my view as both guys looked to have genuine emotional reactions after the bout. Chiyotairyu basically used the same exact strategy as Takekaze, only it took him a few more steps backwards. Onosho couldn't catch up to him and hit the deck just as Chiyotairyu was tip-toeing at the hay.

Quick story - one day Andre the Giant was in Mexico in the mid-to-late-eighties and he'd been drinking tequila all day. During the match that evening he had "Bad News" Brown trapped in the corner with his back facing him. So they're both in the corner of the ring, looking towards the center, Brown behind Andre. Andre is holding the ropes on either side of him and then jets his pelvis forward and drives his ass backwards into Brown's abdomen. Brown crumples to the ground and at this moment Andre loses complete control of his bowls and literally sits down on Brown, shitting all over him, ...  a 500 pound (225 kg) giant sitting on him with diarrhea leaking out of his tights everywhere onto the chest and face of "Bad News" Brown.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Okay, so even though I'm a HUGE fan of (M4) Ura, there's always something I was afraid would happen. We all know people who have absolutely no idea about sumo at all, right? For these people a winning strategy is simple: "He's so fat, why doesn't he just sit on him?" Well, why doesn't he? It sounds silly, but this is something I was waiting for with Ura. I was waiting for Ura to get low in his crazy stance, try to get close to one of these behemoths and for that person to just fall on top of him and squash him like a gnat on an elephant's ass. We almost saw it today and it was a hair away from getting really ugly and really dangerous.

(M6) Ichinojo had trouble keeping up with the feisty young upstart, but once he got his hands on him and started putting the pressure on, Ura's leg crumpled and so did he under the immense weight of Itchynojo. Luckily for him, the Mongoloid hadn't been drinking all afternoon, nor did he have a case of Montezuma's revenge.

(M3) Ikioi vs. (M5) Chiyoshoma - Nothing to see here folks, keep it movin'.

As if (M1) Takakeisho's day 4 debacle with Hakuho and Mike's subsequent written lambasting were not embarrassing enough, somehow this guy continues to find ways to outdo himself. This time he ended up doing the splits while getting felt up by (M2) Hokutofuji. Let me just say this - if the ending of this bout was scripted and predetermined, this is truly a sick, sick sport.

(K) Yoshikaze vs. (M2) Tochinoshin
In a perfect world where everyone's healthy and fighting hard, this is the bout I would be looking forward to most on day 12. I love both of these guys' fighting spirit. Yoshikaze is like a buzz saw, a whirlwind, who can often times legitimately beat anybody. Tochinoshin is a powerhouse who digs in deep, is not afraid to go chest to chest and is very hard to force out at the edge. This clash of styles could have made for a classic battle, especially as they were both 7 - 4 coming in, but both of them, especially Tochinoshin, who has a long history of injuries, were not physically up to par.

It was still quite an interesting fight, one of the best of the day. Tochinoshin was employing a different strategy, perhaps because he was not as mobile and as powerful as he usually is. He tried to keep his distance from Yoshikaze and used his long arms as weapons, slapping and pushing at his opponent, who is known to haphazardly charge in. This neutralized Yoshikaze, kept him at bay and prevented Tochinoshin from having to keep too much weight on his leg. Yoshikaze ate at least ten to fifteen solid palm strikes to the head and neck during this match, but took it like a champ, trying to keep his wits about him, just waiting for an opening to force Tochinoshin out.

Once Kaze did manage to start moving Tochinoshin backwards, he didn't put up much of a fight. I don't think it's because he threw the bout, but rather to avoid sustaining any further injury to his leg, he let up. Yoshikaze kachi-koshi.

I wonder what's motivating former Ozeki (K) Kotoshogiku to keep fighting. Is it the money? Does he think he can regain Ozeki? Is he content to stick around as long as he doesn't drop back down to Maegashira? Maybe he just enjoys doing sumo. I mean, what else is he going to do, serve up Squishees at the Kwik-E-Mart? Right now he's one loss away from being booted from sanyaku, so I guess we'll find out sooner rather than later. (M1) Shodai who is already 3 - 8 didn't have much of a reason not to throw the bout to the Geekster, so he did and Kotoshogiku lives to fight another day. Tomorrow Geeku fights Ura, who's injured, so he'll probably survive until day 14 as well. After that he'll continue to fight lower and lower ranked opponents, so he may just squeak by this tournament and retain Komusubi for the Aki.

For as many times as we've seen (Ozeki) Goeido land flat on his face, today the tables were turned as (M4) Kagayaki wasn't even looking where he was going and where he was going was down, and quickly, as Goeido side stepped, shoving him on the right shoulder.

The next bout was all over the place. It would be an act of futility to try to break down absolutely everything that happened during this 22 second encounter, but for the majority of the match both (M5) Tochiohzan and (Ozeki) Takayasu slapped, thrust and slammed into each other, with neither really gaining any advantage. Towards the end Tochiohzan had the Ozeki by the throat moving him backwards, but then suddenly backed off and went for a pull, nearly pulling the hair. Takayasu seemed stunned by this momentarily and Tochiohzan was able to lift Yasu's left arm and get a grip on the knot on the back of his mawashi. Now having Takayasu at a very awkward, sideways angle, he was able to force him out easily.

(Yokozuna) Hakuho was an absolute terror on the dohyo today. Perhaps he was inspired by all of the hullabaloo surrounding the Floyd Mayweather - Conor McGregor fight coming up in August because he was throwing the heavy leather up there today. His forearm strike at the tachi-ai had bad intentions behind it. (S) Tamawashi smartened up quick and tried to get the hell out of Dodge, but Hakuho was hot on his trail, trying to round up the varmint. Hakuho squared up and slapped him hard twice, first with a right, paint brushing him across the face, then with a left palm strike above the right ear of Tamawashi. He followed up with another quick 2 - 1 combination and before Tamawashi even had a chance to realize what the heck was going on, Hakuho was already under his right armpit, driving him out of the ring. Maybe if Hak fought like this every bout people would wise up and start stepping up their game. That was an awesome match. With that win Hakuho ties Kaio for the most career wins record and after he gets done trashing Takayasu tomorrow he'll hold nearly every record there is worth holding in the sport.

(S) Mitakeumi seems like a guy that has quite a following. I don't follow the Japanese media, but it's pretty clear that after he wins, they always make sure to put a camera on the crowd and his cheering section. (Yokozuna) Harumafuji evidently didn't get the memo, though, as the most devastating tachi-ai in the sport plowed head first into the virgin Sekiwake, popping his cherry. From there he was like putty in the hands of the Yokozuna who immediately secured a left hand outside grip, spun Mitakeumi around and drove him out.

After they were clearly on the other side of the bales, Harumafuji put his hand on Mitakeumi's throat for an awkward couple of seconds, burning a hole through him with his eyes as if to say "I let you off easy". Somehow he did it with an air of good sportsmanship though. I'm not sure how, but he did.

So that wraps it up for day 12. Hakuho still leads at 11 - 1 with Aoiyama trailing one loss behind. Thanks to Kintamayama for uploading the bouts on Youtube and to Sumotalk for having me back. Enjoy the rest of the tournament. Tomorrow Mike returns to lay waste to day 13.

Day 11 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
"What matchups is everyone looking forward to the rest of the way? Who do you want to see fight whom? What matchups at the start of the basho are you interested in?"  That is the rhetorical question Mike threw into his intro yesterday, and I will give you a non-rhetorical answer.  None, nobody, and none.  That is cynical, yes, but with the theatrics the sport has gone through the last year and a half, the truth is none of the match-ups seem to matter much. Mike's comment about Kotoshogiku vs. Goeido being a white elephant gift is also spot on:  that match has no non-theatrical value. No sports value.  It cannot be evaluated outside of its political context.  I also thought his comment on Tamawashi and Harumafuji essentially practicing out there hit the nail on the head--a smaller, chummier theater, less political and more personal, but a theater none the less.  It is not that I don't look forward to sumo as a whole:  it is that each individual match-up is so potentially clouded by falsity that anticipating any particular one feels like making a fool of one's self.  You may get a good match.  Or you may get a bunch of nonsense.

I started and stopped this intro several times with thoughts in those vein.  Started, because that's the truth.  Stopped, because I always remind myself, okay, then why am I doing this?  If there is value in the sport, bring it out.  So that's what I'm going to do.  That first paragraph serves as caveat and acknowledgment.  What follows, however, are some things that trend upriver.  You have to get out the sifter to find the gold, but it's in there.

Hakuho. Dude is 10-0, looking great, about to win the all-time wins record, and most likely headed for 40 yusho.  It is a pleasure to see him work, and as much frustration as I've had with his sunset phase, he's still something to admire, and I can't help but root for him.  Every day now, I have a little thrill of anticipation:  did he win?  It's good to have that back.  He won't get close to 70 straight wins--but what if he could?, a little voice asks.  We need that kind of thing.

Standing back.  Hakuho started it with his awesome challenge to Takakeisho, but we've seen it in a few other bouts as well. Tamawashi pulled it off the other day, and in contrast to Mike I loved Takayasu's schooling of Ura yesterday.  Is this a trend?  It should be.  If guys are not going to fight straight up, the biggest, best guys have a chance to respond, "nuh uh. Homie don't play dat."  I've loved watching the elite of the sport demand that their opponents compete.  More of this, please.

There are a handful of second-tier individual performances worth watching, too this tournament.  Mitakeumi's 7-3 as a young Sekiwake is impressive; he comes in for a lot of criticism here, but I still like his aggression, and think his bullying attitude, while it wouldn't endear me to him in person, is something a wrestler needs in the ring.  Hokutofuji at 5-5 at M2 is a good showing as well.  And Tochinoshin's amazing effort and grit to go 6-4 at M2 has been compelling.  Mike was right to laud Tochinoshin's epic victory yesterday--that's the kind of thing we're here for.  You can say:  this?  This is a man.

So, god help us, let's enjoy some sumo.

M14 Kotoyuki (3-7) vs. M12 Takekaze (6-4)
Kotoyuki's sloppy tsuppari aggression would seem like a good match for Takekaze's pull and evade strategies, no? At first, it looked like Kotoyuki knew that enough to be cautious enough to overcome it. But no. As Kotoyuki was pattering away with the tsuppari, near the edge Takekaze stepped to the side and Kotoyuki walked out on his own momentum, tsuki-otoshi. Kotoyuki also ran ten meters up the aisle and fell face forward into the crowd. Looked kind of unnecessary. I will not miss Kotoyuki.

M13 Sokokurai (4-6) vs. M11 Daishomaru (4-6)
Sokokurai is smart, and he kept his feet wide apart and his arms stretched out at full length against Daishomaru's shoulders to protect against the pull. Nevertheless, Daishomaru got at least two good wrenches in there, and it was interesting to watch Sokokurai spasm and recover, just barely, twice. After those moments, Sokokurai stopped advancing at all: "okay, I'll be even more careful." There was a long pause while Sokokurai waited in safety and Daishomaru hoped to get a chance to pull him anyway. He didn't. Sokokurai gathered himself, pushed carefully but firmly, and scored the oshi-dashi win. That's a lot of ink for something as defensive and un-compelling as this. But this match shows how things get this way: both guys had strategies that fit their skills and either worked or almost worked, so why wouldn't they? Sumo today.

M12 Arawashi (5-5) vs. M10 Shohozan (5-5)
Shohozan got up, in, and under on both sides and easily pushed Arawashi out, oshi-dashi.

M16 Gagamaru (3-7) vs. M9 Okinoumi (3-7)
Okinoumi really should be able to win this match-up easily, and it is a sign of his bad tournament that it took him some time to do it and had to finish it going backwards. They went chest to chest; the early push favored Okinoumi, but Lord Round Ball, Gagamaru, was winning push two. There is a lot of girth and weight there. No matter: Okinoumi turned the line, wisely decided his left grip on the belt was too tenuous, and tumbled Gagamaru down by the arm on the other side, uwate-nage. But he should have been able to win offensively, not defensively.

M9 Tokushoryu (3-7) vs. M15 Chiyomaru (6-4)
Both guys stood way high at the tachi-ai, and Tokushoryu is taller, so this made him an easy target for Chiyomaru in the tsuppari battle that followed: there was just lots of him there to go after. In the end Chiyomaru also snuck a right arm inside around the body, giving him more control, and continued pushing with the other hand until the oshi-dashi was accomplished. Both of these guys look fundamentally ineffective to me, but Chiyomaru has made the most of what he's got and what has been open to him this tournament.

M14 Sadanoumi (5-5) vs. M8 Ishiura (5-5)
Ishiura evaded nicely to start, but then he seemed to wait and watch his handiwork a bit. Sadanoumi turned to him and ran right into moro-zashi, so it was still advantage Ishiura. But hey, Sadanoumi was moving like a freight train forward and made Ishiura look like a little mashable spring pea out there, because he just kept on truckin' and blew Ishiura right over the straw, yori-kiri.

M8 Aoiyama (9-1) vs. M15 Nishikigi (5-5)
Ugly, bad match. Aoiyama's thrusts looked in slow motion, and did not move M15 Nishikigi back. Um, what? Then Aoiyama chose to try to swipe him to the side. Didn't work. So then he went in on the body, looking for belt. Not his forte. Against an M15? Predictably, Nishikigi dominated from there even though he was going backwards, rotating the fulcrum of the attack-line in his favor and causing Aoiyama to step out just before Nishikigi himself was pushed down. Uninspiring uwate-nage win for Nishikigi.

M7 Takanoiwa (2-8) vs. M11 Chiyonokuni (4-6)
Hoo boy. Since when does Chiyonokuni dominate Takanoiwa with neck shoves? And then Takanoiwa got all discombobulated and fell out to the side, putting his hands down on the dirt for the hataki-komi loss. Yep.

M13 Takarafuji (8-2) vs. M6 Onosho (8-2)
Very similar to the previous match. Takarafuji let himself be too easily bounced backwards off of some chest shoves by Onosho, then after the second one Takarafuji bailed out of there and jumped onto the ground on all fours off a little pull by Onosho. Hiki-otoshi win for Onosho.

M10 Chiyotairyu (7-3) vs. M5 Tochiohzan (7-3)
Oh man, I'm getting tired of this. In this one, whole lot of wranglin' goin' on, guys batting at each other's arms, then Chiyotairyu slipped and put two hands on the ground at some distance from Tochiohzan, giving Tochiohzan the hiki-otoshi win. Are we having fun yet? That's three in a row.

M7 Daieisho (4-6) vs. M4 Kagayaki (3-7)
This started with rapid-fire tsuppari by both parties, which I am not partial to. However, it turned out pretty cool: big, tall Kagayaki caught hold of little Daieisho, and then tried to crumple him downwards. It was like a guy pushing on a spring: boing, boing, boing went Daieisho, gripped from above, as Kagayaki pushed him around the ring and pressed down on him. Eventually this worked, as Daieisho sproinged right out of the ring under Kagayaki's pressure, yori-kiri.

M3 Ikioi (2-8) vs. M6 Ichinojo (4-6)
Chest to chest, with hands on belts on one side, holding hands on the other, grappling for position and with some body action. This went on for some time, and did not favor Ikioi. Strong as Ikioi is, Ichinojo was too big of a load not to win a fight like this when he wants to. The Mongolith drove Ikioi out, yori-kiri.

M2 Tochinoshin (6-4) vs. M2 Hokutofuji (5-5)
Lo! Two of our heroes from the intro. At first I thought Tochinoshin must still be tired from yesterday, because he chose to start with non-linear evasion, and got a belt grip that way. However, it was excellent stuff from there, as Tochinoshin looked like a cowboy trying to pick up a pretty big steer that just didn't want to go back in the pen. Inch by inch, with a classic sumo hold of a left overhand grip on the belt and a right arm on the body inside under the armpit, Tochinoshin worked that steer back, over, and out, yori-kiri. Hokutofuji bowed very deeply after this one, and that was deserved.

M1 Takakeisho (2-8) vs. K Kotoshogiku (4-6)
At least Takakeisho is right in there for once, I thought, as Taka surged forward and sought to push Kotoshogiku back. However, they then played a game of biceps-paddycake or something, exchanging arm positions up high as Takakeisho regrettable decided to try to pull Kotoshogiku and went scooting backwards under tight follow by Kotoshogiku. Even more regrettably, after Takakeisho essentially misfired with all this and was driven to the straw, it worked for him in the end: Takakeisho paddycaked Kotoshogiku right on the head and managed to pull him down that way, hataki-komi, though he had both feet on the tawara and should have been a very easy finish-off. Man, is Kotoshogiku ever toast.

K Yoshikaze (6-4) vs. M1 Shodai (3-7)
There was a cool moment early on here where Shodai lifted Yoshikaze up and back and held him at bay with one strong left arm--guy does have potential!--but guess what, Yoshikaze is still the better wrestler, and he came back at 'im, low and driving, and got his left arm first onto the belt at the side, then all the way to the back, deep, deep around, as Shodai was standing upright too high and was easy yori-kiri prey.

O Takayasu (8-2) vs. S Tamawashi (5-5)
A tale of two matches here.  Takayasu bully-bodied up and quickly drove Tamawashi to the straw: made it look very easy. However, he didn't have any grip to work with and was standing up straight, and it was Tamawashi who made it look easy after that.  He jammed Takayasu off him with one strong push to the left, then battered him back with one, two simple, strong pushes, driving the Ozeki out, oshi-dashi.  I think Tamawashi showed who is the better wrestler here.

M4 Ura (6-4) vs. O Goeido (5-5)
Looking at their records, I thought it was incumbent on young Ura to drop this one, and so he did, allowing himself to be pushed methodically straight back out in linear fashion, oshi-dashi.  No evasion?  From Ura??

M5 Chiyoshoma (4-6) vs. Y Harumafuji (7-3)
Ooh, it looked painful. Chiyoshoma was pawing and swiping at Harumafuji, who leapt forward like an ungainly frog, trying not to fall to it. Then Harumafuji looked up in Chiyoshoma's face for second, whispered "hey, look'um, I gots yer arm!" with his eyes, and wickedly twisted and pulled said arm and sent Chiyoshoma tumbling to the dirt, tottari. I do think this was real, and when Chiyoshoma bowed he kept his head up, looking at Harumafuji, and the rueful look on his face was, "wow; someday I want to be able to do that, too." You go, boy. Maybe you will.

Y Hakuho (10-0) vs. S Mitakeumi (7-3)
I probably watched this a dozen times so I could try to explain it, and I still can't really tell you what Hakuho was doing here. He gave Mitakeumi a nice light little slap in the face, and pounced in for happy-looking right outside and left inside grips. However, he never shored up the right, and almost immediately totally let go with the right, letting Mitakeumi pivot him right ‘round 270 degrees. Now, I'd like to say this was because of good pressure by Mitakeumi, but Mitakeumi was upright and a lesser grip: one weak piece of outside right belt. He was also retreating when Hakuho started his pivot. It ended as it must: the 270 degree turn put Hakuho's back to the tawara, and Mitakeumi easily bodied him over with a few seconds of struggle, yori-kiri. So there you go.

Sigh. Should I go back and rewrite my optimistic intro?  Nah. Let the chips fall, even when they're flicking them in our face.

Don warns us off the undertow tomorrow.

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
On days when I don't comment, I just sit back and enjoy the broadcast. I can't say that I always enjoy the sumo, but it's so interesting to me to hear the NHK announcer and then various oyakata offer their spin..er..uh comments after the bouts. I'll use my fast forward button strategically to get through it all in about 40 minutes or so, but yesterday I was almost all the way through the bouts, and I was like, "Wait, I'm not seeing any yaocho today." This hit me during the Ozeki bouts, and I when I realized it, I went back to the start of the tape and re-watched the entire thing specifically looking for rikishi whom I thought were mukiryoku. And believe it or not, I could only find one. I thought that Hokutofuji eased up for Ikioi, and that was it. Well, that was it until I got to the Harumafuji - Ura bout. The Yokozuna clearly let up for Ura yesterday when he chose to stick with that dumb forearm sideways push attempt, but hey, that's only two bouts of compromised sumo in 19 contests, and I'll take that any day.

Today got off to a rocky start in terms of legitimacy, and just as I was about to curse the sumo gods for giving Harvye all of the good days this basho, things began to even out, and we were actually treated to the best bout of sumo that we'll see the entire tournament. We get bouts like this about once a basho, and they usually involve Tochinoshin, and I can say with confidence that the Tochinoshin - Ichinojo bout today will become one of the top five bouts of the year.

On that note, what matchups is everyone looking forward to the rest of the way? Who do you want to see fight whom? What matchups at the start of the basho are you interested in? I can't think of a single matchup that I look forward to these days, and I'm afraid that it's a sign of just how watered down sumo has become. Take Harvye's list of possible yusho candidates that he posted early on. He had all the right guys in there, but what's become of that list? It's just so bara-bara as they say in Japan, or shot to pieces, and it's like that every tournament now, which is a sign of serious instability. As boring as it may have been, wasn't it more interesting when you knew the yusho was coming down to two guys...maybe three?

Let's move to the tape starting the day off with M13 Takarafuji and M16 Gagamaru who hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Takarafuji grabbed the easy right outer grip, and as the two looked to dig in, Takarafuji dumped his opponent with a light inner belt throw easy as you please. Gagamaru is quite top heavy, so we'll chalk up his easy to fall to that. Takarafuji picks up kachi-koshi at 8-2 while Gagamaru falls to 3-7.

M12 Arawashi reached for and got the left outer belt against M14 Sadanoumi, and he also had the right frontal grip but let that go, and before the two could settle into a chest to chest fight, Arawashi went for one of those stellar outer belt throws where you drag your opponent right into your own body and then just fall over as your to opponent tries to keep up with you. Obvious yaocho here as both rikishi end the day at 5-5 thanks to Arawashi's graciousness.

M12 Takekaze struck M15 Nishikigi at the tachi-ai and went for that immediate swipe of Nishikigi's dickey-do, but it had little effect in knocking Nishikigi off balance, so with Takekaze having backed himself up to the bales, Nishikigi had the clear path to victory, but he lamely jumped forward leaving both feet and extending his arms just crashing himself to the dirt while offering a lame shave towards his foe. Takekaze moved right and to avoid the load coming his way and barely swiped at Nishikigi allowing them to rule it hiki-otoshi, but this was our second thrown bout in as many contests.

M13 Chiyonokuni was his usual spirited self today blasting M11 Daishomaru back with a right uppercut that sent Daishomaru back to the straw. Course, Daishomaru was looking for any excuse to back up and pull anyway, and he attempted one evasive pull moving right, but Kuni squared back up easily getting an arm to the inside that he used to score the easy force-out win. Finally, some spirited sumo from at least one party as both guys end the day at a paltry 4-6.

M13 Sokokurai and M10 Shohozan were involved in a lame bout that looked like a false start that should have been called back because Sokokurai got the left arm inside and pushed Shohozan over and back with no argument whatsoever. When I watched the replays, however, the tachi-ai was legit, and Shohozan just threw the bout in Sokokurai's favor. Don't ask me to explain the politics behind this one; I just know that Shohozan's intent wasn't to win the bout. When a guy thinks he was jobbed because they failed to call a false start, he'll always at the ref and then the head judge as if to say, "What gives?" There was no bewilderment or sour look on Darth Hozan's face today, however. He just calmly walked back over to his side, bowed, and then stepped off the dohyo as if he were picking daisies. Sokokurai moves to 4-6 with the gift while Shohozan falls to 5-5.

From this point, the yaocho thinned out nicely, so let's get to M9 Okinoumi who gained moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M15 Chiyomaru. Despite the advantageous position, Padmenoumi wasn't pressed in tight enough allowing Chiyomaru to back up and maki-kae into a migi-yotsu contest with the right hand so from that point, the two leaned in chest to chest for over a minute before a light charge from Okinoumi allowed Chiyomaru to grab a left outer of his own leaving the two in gappuri yotsu. It was clear that Okinoumi didn't have the gas to move Chiyomaru's bulk across the straw, and so it was Maru who turned the tables using his own left outer to force Okinoumi out and back after a minute sixteen. Chiyomaru has actually had some toughness to him this basho as he moves to 6-4 while Okinoumi continues to flounder at 3-7. I guess he's still got some real estate between him and the Juryo division, so there's no call for urgency.

Can you imagine a bout between M8 Aoiyama and M10 Chiyotairyu where both dudes tried to win with their tsuppari attack? What I mostly mean by that is Chiyotairyu would try and win with tsuppari and not go for a single pull. It wouldn't happen today as Aoiyama scored a potent kachi-age with the right at the tachi-ai causing Tairyu to switch gears from tsuppari mode to pull mode, but his attempts were lame, and Aoiyama just used perfect de-ashi to follow his opponent back and slap him silly across the bales. Aoiyama moves to 9-1 with the win while Chiyotairyu falls to 7-3.

M14 Kotoyuki draped both hands around M8 Ishiura's melon at the tachi-ai in a beautiful and effective moro-te-zuki, and the move easily stood Ishiura upright, a position from which he's extremely vulnerable even against a rikishi like Kotoyuki, and Yuki didn't disappoint as he continued to move forward scoring the ridiculously easy oshi-dashi win. Ishiura actually stepped out early with sloppy footwork, and while you could technical say he was mukiryoku with that move, I think it was more of knowing his goose was cooked and not wanting to take more abuse. He falls to 5-5 while Kotoyuki ekes forward at 3-7.

Neither M7 Takanoiwa nor M7 Daieisho wanted to go chest to chest in their affair today, so you had Daieisho with his hesitant tsuppari attack and Takanoiwa looking for any excuse to retreat to either side and swipe his opponent off balance. This type of movement happened for ten seconds or so before Takanoiwa was able to pounce into moro-zashi and go for the force-out kill...which still didn't have that much force. Daieisho was able to maki-kae with the left as he was being driven back, but Takanoiwa pinned him in close and scored the eventual win in a bout where neither rikishi looked genki. Speaking of not being genki, Takanoiwa barely creeps forward to 2-8 while Daieisho falls to 4-6.

M6 Onosho and M9 Tokushoryu hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Tokushoryu made zero effort to dig in or move laterally and go for a counter move. I mean, Onosho is one of the smallest guys in the division; yet, he look liked Hakuho out there today due to Tokushoryu's lack of effort. As they showed the replays from all angles, Tokushoryu made no attempt to do anything with his left arm to the inside, and all the signs were there pointing to mukiryoku sumo from Tokushoryu including his aligning his feet the entire way back. Onosho picks up kachi-koshi at 8-2 while Tokushoryu falls to 3-7.

I really want to like Onosho because you can actually define his brand of sumo unlike guys like Mitakeumi, Shodai, or even Goeido, but so many guys are letting up for him that it kind of sours my mood towards him.

M5 Tochiohzan got the right arm inside at the tachi-ai against M3 Ikioi as he also looked for the left inside that would have given him moro-zashi, but Ikioi focused his attention in cutting it off as he crept back and to his right looking to spring the counter trap. It came in the form of a pull attempt, but Tochiohzan was in too close and was able to extend himself in do-or-die fashion and push Ikioi back and out before Oh crashed down to the clay. Tochiohzan moves to a quiet 7-3 while Ikioi suffers make-koshi at 2-8.

In the bout of the basho, M6 Ichinojo and M2 Tochinoshin hooked up in migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai where the Mongolith had the left outer grip, but Shin moved just enough back and to the side to where he was able to finagle a left outer of his own, and the gappuri yotsu contest was on! Ichinojo made the first move from the center of the ring trying to lift Shin clear of his feet setting up a tsuri-dashi, but Shin is just too bigga load and had solid positioning enabling him to fight it off. As the two dug in again to reload, Ichinojo next tried another tsuri attempt, but this one wasn't as much an attempt to life Shin off his feet as it was to knock him upright so he could belly him back, and it worked moving the Private closer to the straw, but Tochinoshin simply moved sideways back to the center of the ring before testing the left outer throw waters. Ichinojo survived that, and so the two dug in again. At the one minute mark, Tochinoshin tried a yori charge leading with the left outer that came close, but Ichinojo survived forcing the action back to the center of the ring.

After re-grouping yet again, both rikishi tried to shake their hips and break off the other's outer grip, but when that didn't work, they dug in for another spell, and once they reached the two minute mark, Tochinoshin went for another charge leading with the left but quickly turned on a dime going for a nice dashi-nage that threw Ichinojo off balance just enough to where he was able to drag him down. The applause from the crowd was not wild, but it was appreciative with a few prolonged whistles to boot, and you watch sumo like this and wonder what could be if everyone was allowed to fight straight up all the time. I already know that this bout will have no equal the rest of the tournament as Tochinoshin moves to 6-4 while Ichinojo falls to 4-6.  Before we move on, I tried in vain to find a picture of this bout on the wires but to no avail.  Of course, the crowd the NSK is playin' to is not guys like me.

Is it me, or does it seem like everything about sumo is getting older?

Fresh off of his poor showing against both of the Yokozuna on consecutive days in the musubi-no-ichiban bout, M4 Kagayaki struck lightly against M2 Hokutoriki before moving left, but Hokutoriki was there easily getting the right arm to the inside and lifting Kagayaki off balance. From this point, Kagayaki looked to grab the left outer grip while Hokutofuji focused on positioning his right arm, and then on a dime, Hokutofuji moved right attempting a classic shoulder slap-down that Kagayaki would survive, but as he regained his feet and looked to bulldoze Hokutofuji back and out, Fuji simply moved right again giving Kagayaki a slight love pull sending him out of the dohyo altogether and flopping to the arena floor. Hokutofuji is 5-5 with the win while Kagayaki has taken his share of lumps this basho falling to 3-7.

M1 Takakeisho came with his usual one step forward two steps back sumo that allowed Komusubi Yoshikaze to tsuppari his way inside during the two steps back and easily get inside with the deep left arm, and from there, Cafe looked to get moro-zashi, and as Takakeisho fought thought off, Yoshikaze just propped his opponent upright and half tsuri-ed him over to the edge before dumping him across the bales with ease. Stealing candy from a baby here as Yoshikaze moves to 6-4 while Takakeisho suffers make-koshi at 2-8.

Sekiwake Mitakeumi has this horrible habit of aligning his feet at the tachi-ai, and he did it again today, but how is he ever going to fix that flaw if no one ever applies pressure against him? Today against M1 Shodai, he was in no danger of any pressure being applied, and it's not because Shodai was going to let him win. In a straight up affair, Mitakeumi was able to recover from his bad tachi-ai by backing up and shading left, and when Shodai was too hapless to follow and apply any pressure, the Sekiwake latched onto the left outer grip and just stayed with his lateral momentum swinging Shodai down dashi-nage style. Mitakeumi moves to 7-3 with the win while Shodai falls to 3-7. Before we move on, examine the pic at right and look at the rikishi's feet at the tachi-ai. Shodai's balance is perfect while Mitakeumi's is horribly flawed, and yet, Shodai didn't have the game to take advantage, and Mitakeumi will continue to struggle with his footwork because no one will make him fix it. There are so many elements to a bout of sumo that most fans simply overlook.

Anticipating the Komusubi Kotoshogiku - Ozeki Goeido matchup is like opening up a white elephant gift at Christmas. You have no idea what you're gonna get; you just know that it will suck. And today didn't disappoint as the two butt heads before Kotoshogiku moved left latching onto the left belt grip that he used to pull Goeido forward and out in one fell swoop. Kotoshogiku moves to 4-6 with the win while Goeido is just hapless at 5-5.

Today's sumo from M4 Ura was downright embarrassing, and I hate it that I'm going to have to put up with this nonsense for the foreseeable future. The problem was that Ura's intent was to throw the bout, and so he was just using all of these unnecessary theatrics. Today against Ozeki Takayasu, Ura just backed up and moved left around the dohyo like a clown as the crowd predictably oohed and aahed. I ask at what?? Takayasu played it correctly standing there and making Ura come at him, and Ura did just that grabbing an arm here or a leg there, but each time Takayasu was able to fight Ura away, and then he'd back up to the edge and make another suicide charge towards his opponent. I mean, this one was getting to the point of being WWF bad, and I'm not going to attempt to describe it blow by blow. In the end, Ura snuck in and grabbed a hold of Takayasu's right leg, and he easily could have scored the ashi-tori win here, but he let go and then flew down exaggeratedly at the Ozeki's kubi-nage attempt. This bout was everything that's wrong with today's brand of sumo. First, you have an Ozeki who didn't deserve his rank. Next, you have Ura who doesn't deserve his rank and is being gifted wins left and right. Finally, you have a bout that was fixed from the start, and so the smaller guy purposefully hammed it up to give the crowd a show. This is not a straightup sport as Takayasu picks up kachi-koshi at 8-2 while Ura falls to 6-4, and I just think it's sad that this is the type of sumo that gives everyone a boner these days.

After a light tachi-ai, Yokozuna Hakuho and M5 Chiyoshoma hooked up in the migi-yotsu position where both rikishi seemed content to just dig in for awhile as Hakuho maintained a left outer grip. Chiyoshoma was had at this point and had no means of escape, but Hakuho let him hang around awhile before just scoring the methodic yori-kiri win moving to the 10-0 in the process. As for Chiyoshoma, he falls to 4-6, and in the useless trivia department, Hakuho's win puts him at 1,046 for his career, one more than Chiyonofuji and one less than Kaio for all-time wins. My guess is that Hakuho will yusho this basho and then find his way to 40 career yusho before retiring shortly after that. There's only one major record he doesn't have (Futabayama's 69), and I just don't see it being allowed to happen. It'd be sweet if he would run off 70 and then retire on the spot, but that's wishful thinking.

Yokozuna Harumafuji came with a nice hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the left and getting moro-zashi thanks to Sekiwake Tamawashi's pulling his right arm from the inside out, and with the Yokozuna in moro-zashi, it was just a matter of time. Like the last bout, Harumafuji let Tamawashi hang around for awhile, and once he went for the force out charge, Tamawashi was able to counter admirably with a right kote-nage, but it wasn't enough as the Yokozuna finished him off largely in thanks to Tamawashi's carelessly letting his feet slide right out of the dohyo. When the elite Mongolians fight, it's the equivalent to both of them dicking around in the ring during keiko. It looks good, but neither of them are going all out. Harumafuji whistles Dixie to 7-3 while Tamawashi falls to 5-5.

Before Harvye rocks yer world tomororw, here's the leaderboard at the end of the chuubansen:

Day 9 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
With the hurly burly of the first few days, I had an idea this tournament was going to be an exciting one with an unpredictable yusho race. There is still time for surprises, and some people may be excited by the apparent yusho race between yesteryear (Hakuho) and the latest piece of the future (Takayasu). I don't see that as an actual race--Hakuho can determine how that story will be told--but I suppose that is what we have. The wild, multi-sided fight for the yusho I foresaw never materialized: instead, Hakuho continues to play Burning Phoenix, and the tournament has been all his. The decks cleared for him early, leaving us with a quiet tournament. With four Makuuchi withdrawals, there are only 19 matches after 16:00 every day instead of 21, and as a long time watcher I have to admit it does feel different: it's like, "that's it?" A calm little tournament. As on Day 5, let's see where we stand with my predicted most/least likely to yusho line-up:

Harumafuji: 6-2
Kisenosato: withdrew
Hakuho: 8-0
Kakuryu withdrew
Takayasu: 7-1
Goeido: 5-3
Mitakeumi: 5-3
Shodai: 3-5

Harumafuji remains a dark horse, but it's really down to "Hakuho or not." For the purist, we can mention that Aoiyama is nominally one off the pace at 7-1, and Takarafuji, Onosho, and Chiyotairyu come into today with two losses each. Watch 'em if you need 'em.

M13 Takarafuji (6-2) vs. M15 Nishikigi (5-3)
Takarafuji got low, but so did Nishikigi. Also, unfortunately Takarafuji clearly had the pull on his mind. Once he did that, Nishikigi went after him pretty good, and Takarafuji was briefly in danger. But, Takarafuji is the better rikishi by quite a bit, cleaning up in the lower ranks as predicted, and it was a simple matter for him to jump out of the line of fire, grab Nishikigi by the back of the belt, and usher him out, okuri-dashi.

M14 Sadanoumi (3-5) vs. M12 Takekaze (5-3)
Takekaze looked to evade, but he didn't go far enough and Sadanoumi was way too quick, onto him like slime on fish: in his grill on the body and with both arms inside. A smothering and emphatic yori-kiri force-out win for Sadanoumi. You may evaluate Takekaze's weak strategy and execution as you wish.

M12 Arawashi (5-3) vs. M13 Sokokurai (2-6)
Arawashi is the better guy here, and he looked to get aggressive: trying to get down and in, trying to shake Sokokurai off his belt, trying to maki-kae into a better grip. But I say "trying" because none of that worked, and Sokokurai dominated with belt grips on both sides, one inside, one out, and scored the uncharacteristic powerful, simple force out win, yori-kiri. Whelp, so it goes.

M16 Gagamaru (2-6) vs. M11 Daishomaru (4-4)
Gagamaru was careful on the tachi-ai, fearing the pull or henka, and that often dooms guys, as they lose the initiative. However, it was the smart move, as Daishomaru didn't take advantage of it. Gagamaru kept his head down and his feet apart, and a few thrusts in the face later and he had Daishomaru turned around, running away, and losing okuri-dashi. Good.

M15 Chiyomaru (4-4) vs. M10 Shohozan (5-3)
Chiyomaru just looks like a joke to me. So round, so unlimber. It's like the only real problem you would have is getting your arms past his belly to find the belt in those folds of fat. We see beach balls like this from time to time, and they always get bounced right back to Juryo. If it were me I'd whap him once, get to the side, and tip him down. But Darth Hozan was too tough for that, and seemed to want to prove he could knock him straight out. A bit of self-martyrdom. Tough guy stupidity. He got him close to the edge, and there were some nice moments there where Shohozan blasted into Chiyomaru as hard as he could: wanted the mano-o-man force out. There was also an epic "get off me" shove-back from Chiyomaru. Chiyomaru even took a moment to have a tiny bit of Hakuho's "come on in, buddy" moxy from the other day: he appeared to decide, "okay, you're going linear force me out? I'm bigger'n a cannonball dude. Bring it." Chiyomaru waited for Shohozan at the tawara and let him try to knock him straight over the bales: he couldn't. Hey, this was fun to watch and I give Shohozan credit for trying. It was all manly-manly in this one from start to finish for him. But in the end it led to bad sumo from his opponent, and if I were Chiyomaru I'd have done the same: after a while Chiyomaru found the right moment to pull Shohozan down in front of him, hataki-komi. If all you're going to do is bang your head against a rubber wall, eventually someone's got to put you out of your misery. Chiyomaru had to be happy with the way this one turned out: not many guys are going to play this directly to his limited strengths.

M10 Chiyotairyu (6-2) vs. M14 Kotoyuki (2-6)
You want some fireworks? These two punchers were sure to provide, and after two false starts they came at each other pretty amped. Kotoyuki won the tachi-ai with a solid, fast shove, but Chiyotairyu hit him squarely back in the face once, twice, and that was all she wrote: dramatic and impressive turning of the tables that made Kotoyuki look pretty bad. Chiytotairyu's third thrust wasn't even in the face: it was a disdainful coup de grace shove to the body while already turning away to walk back to his corner, and a well-earned tsuki-dashi kimari-te in his favor. Chiyotairyu's valedictory demeanor seemed to be, "really? You don't belong here with me, dude." Times are very bad for Kotoyuki right now.

M8 Aoiyama (7-1) vs. M11 Chiyonokuni (3-5)
Aoiyama looked to destroy Chiyonokuni six ways to Sunday, but he was overconfident. First he blasted him with those crazy thrusting arms. Then he thought he could pull the already crumpling Chiyonokuni down real quick. When he couldn't, he decided to smother him out with his body: mistake. Because he's not good in there, and Chiyonokuni is lithe and retreated fast and hard and laid Aoiyama down full length in the dirt with a push on the shoulders. It really looked like Chiyonokuni, with blood streaming from his nose from the initial contact, had survived and won. Lo! Chiyonokuni's toe had kicked up out-of-the-dohyo sand just before Aoiyama's lumber crushed the ferns, so it turned out to be a yori-kiri win for Aoiyama after all. This was tough stuff on both sides, worth the price of admission.

M7 Takanoiwa (1-7) vs. M8 Ishiura (4-4)
Takanoiwa seems to have spent the tournament loitering in the handkerchief store or something, because we sure haven't seen him in the ring. This was a battle of who could keep to the side better, and that was Ishiura, who leapt out there right away and, as they spun this way and that, hips facing each other, looking for belt, Ishiura used his kinetic grace to get said belt and sling Takanoiwa down, shita-te-nage.

M9 Okinoumi (3-5) vs. M6 Onosho (6-2)
Okinoumi tried a forearm to the face, which did nothing. Onosho ignored it and kept moving forward, hand on the front of the belt at first, then putting his head down and driving Padmenoumi out, yori-kiri. Okinoumi are you really this bad? Probably not.

(That's a clean sweep for our "leaderboard" rank-and-filers: Aoiyama remained at one loss, and Takarafuji, Chiyotairyu, and Onosho all held at two.)

M6 Ichinojo (3-5) vs. M7 Daieisho (4-4)
Daieisho tsuppari'ed for awhile, genki and laborious. As if that was going to do anything. Ichinojo decided to step forward, and whoops!, there went Daieisho, pushed out of the ring, yori-kiri. Them's the breaks when standing in the shadow of The Mongolith.

M9 Tokushoryu (3-5) vs. M5 Tochiohzan (5-3)
Hopelessly bad effort from Tokushoryu, who kept his arms up in the air while Tochiohzan grabbed him around the chest. Tokushoryu did manage to turn around and get his back to Tochiohzan, rotating in his grip like a sweaty tuna, but that left him dead to rights for the quick and embarrassing okuri-dashi loss.

M3 Ikioi (1-7) vs. M2 Hokutofuji (4-4)
These are two guys going in different directions, and it was interesting to see Ikioi, known for his strength, bash into Hokutofuji at the tachi-ai and get stopped clean, like he'd hit a concrete wall. However, he did a good job of staying out of the direct line of Hokutofuji's attack, and Hokutofuji couldn't get a belt grip with any leverage: he had his left arm stretched way across Ikioi's back. So Ikioi wrenched him over to the ground with a nifty shitate-nage throw using that there-for-the-taking arm as leverage.

M1 Shodai (3-5) vs. M2 Tochinoshin (4-4)
You may notice I haven't been calling Shodai The Next Yokozuna as much of late. He's looked very Vanilla Softcream again this tournament. And yet he's got three wins at M1, which is not bad for week one. See what I mean? Maybe you do, maybe you don't. I'd rather not, frankly. Anyway, big, powerful Kodiak bear Tochinoshin got one massively powerful grip on the belt, then another, while Shodai did likewise, and they then tried to have their way with each other. And let it be today as it should be in nature: grizzly bear (Tochinoshin) easily outmuscled vanilla softcream (Shodai), yori-kiri, in a fun display of power. Yay.

K Kotoshogiku (3-5) vs. S Mitakeumi (5-3)
Talk about two guys going in different directions. Yeeps. But Mitakeumi took pity on Kotoshogiku, and instead of embarrassing him by destroying him belt to belt, body to body, insulted him be henka'ing effectively to his right and swiping him right to the dirt, hataki-komi. The strange ways of kindness.

S Tamawashi (4-4) vs. M1 Takakeisho (2-6)
The announcers said they were excited to see whether Takakeisho would display his "hageshii oshi-zumo" (violent shoving sumo). Yeah, whatever. I remain more interested in Tamawashi's actual violent shoving sumo, with said shoves being destructive and in your face. This one turned out to be a humiliation of Takakeisho similar to Hakuho's "here I am" takedown from a few days ago. Takakeisho did drive Tamawashi back to the straw, but then he backed up, as his wont, looking to do some barking, woofy little pulls. Tamawashi didn't bite: he stood there, legs apart, hands ready, waiting for Takakeisho to come back in, looking like some kind of martial arts god. Adonis against the blob. When Takakeisho responded to this fresh challenge and came at him (sort of; swiping down while feinting in), Tamawashi began to batter him hard in the face, showing young 'Keisho a better meaning of "shove." If "shove" is also a synonym for "skull shivering head blow." Tamawashi was clearly toying with him at this point, and eventually it got Takakeisho turned around. Tamawashi then attacked in full, and flung Takakeisho sideways off the dohyo, like a grumpy stevedore tipping an empty barrel into the harbor, oshi-taoshi. Takakeisho's upper body literally bounced off the rim of the clay as he travelled into oblivion. Man, oh, man: that's what I'm talkin' 'bout.

O Takayasu (7-1) vs. K Yoshikaze (4-4)
Yoshikaze was very quick to get a left inside. Takayasu tried to twist him down by the arm, but nothing doing. It broke off Yoshikaze's grip for second, but Yoshikaze was right back in there and thrust, pushed, and kicked Takayasu bodily out of the ring, no kidding, real quick, yori-kiri. Interesting: the decks clear even further for Hakuho.

Will he react?

M5 Chiyoshoma (3-5) vs. O Goeido (5-3)
Ish. They had a nice, hard hitting tachi-ai that was called back for a false start, so Chiyoshoma thought he'd go all theatrical and spring high in the air like a jack-in-the-box with a sundered spring. Goeido did a good job of staying with him, actually getting a good mid-air shove in, but Chiyoshoma had what he needed and as he came down twisted Goeido to the dirt by the neck, kubi-nage, as they both crashed in ugly fashion. Just a mess. Chiyoshoma can beat Goeido, and there is no need to do it like this.

M4 Ura (5-3) vs. Y Harumafuji (6-2)
"Will Ura get his first kin-boshi?" the announcer excitedly said before the match. A little premature, perhaps, one might like to think. The sumo world needed a good destruction of Ura by Harumafuji here. It was not to be. Ura, as is his wont, went in extremely low. Harumafuji tried to do the same, but was still a foot above the little man. Meanwhile, Ura had shifted to the side and grabbed hold of Harumafuji's forearm. From there, without a lot of options all of the sudden, Harumafuji decided to try to use that forearm to push Ura out, hopping sideways. However, without his body square to him, there was little chance of that working. Instead, as you might expect, Ura was able to pivot further and sling Harumafuji into the waiting dirt, tottari. Mike had it right: Ura is going to go far, because he is hard to defend against his unorthodox techniques. That is essentially what I meant when I comparing Ura to early-career Asashoryu: Ura just looks fundamentally different from everybody else, and has an energy that makes him a wearying opponent. Nothing in their techniques or physiques is particularly similar: it is a feeling about the way they frustrate their opponents with the unorthodox that makes me compare Ura to a young Asa.

And the decks clear even FURTHER for Hakuho...

The announcers at this point referred to Hakuho as "kachippanashi no Hakuho": "nothing-but-wins Hakuho." "That Hakuho with all those dang wins." I think they were being more poetic than literal here: yep--they're getting tired of him again.

Y Hakuho (8-0) vs. M4 Kagayaki (3-5)
Hakuho very, very easily kicked Kagayaki's can. Looked him close in the eye, hit him a couple of times, stood there looking very much like a Yokozuna, while Kagayaki slipped and stumbled and slid comically about like a fat damp straw scarecrow in a tornado, then whacked Kagayaki to the mud at his feet, a farmer with a scythe clobbering a rotten hayrick, hataki-komi. I think Hakuho wants this tournament.

Not even a blind idiot god from the nether realms can make Mike his vassal tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I got a kick out of Harvye's report yesterday in how he classified each bout as either ankake spaghetti status or miso-katsu status.  As I was reading along, I was thinking to myself, "Hey, I could do something similar to where I call the bout legit or fixed."  I guess I do that in my analysis of each bout every day, but after watching the action today and looking over my notes, I counted 11 bouts out of 19 where one rikishi either took an obvious dive or let up for his opponent.

Talking about bout fixing in sumo makes so many people nervous, and many will try and explain it away by convincing themselves, "Well, if they're not orchestrating the yusho, then there's no reason to be throwing bouts, and so it all must be legit."  If that's the extent to which your brain can reason and function, then I guess I understand why a lot of people are able to treat sumo as a straight up sport, but if you're able to analyze common movement and physics on a higher plane, then you can accept the fact that bout fixing is occurring everyday despite the yusho rikishi or despite someone's promotion.

What am getting at here is that two blatant yaocho occurred today back to back, and I couldn't begin to tell you the reasons why one rikishi deferred to the other. For example, why would M15 Nishikigi take a dive against M11 Daishomaru?  Nishikigi was 5-2 coming into the day ranked at M15.  The dude has to kachi-koshi in order to stay in the division, so why would he even consider throwing a bout?  As for Daishomaru, he's M11 and 3-4 coming, and even if he finishes the tournament 6-9, so what?  He's still in the division.  And yet, the bout between these two was clearly compromised in Daishomaru's favor.

I guess I could spend time here trying to guess as to why Nishikigi took a dive, but I'm not about the why as much as I am the what, and as you'll see here in a second, Nishikigi clearly took a dive against Daishomaru. In fact, it was so obvious, they weren't able to determine a winning technique until right before the next bout...the deadline when they had to come up with something.

Coincidentally, the next bout was even more blatant as you'll see in the slow motion replays I have coming up, but this bout featured M10 Chiyotairyu vs. M12 Arawashi.  Coming into the day at 5-2, Chiyotairyu was in no trouble of demotion.  He's certainly not going to yusho, and what's the point of buying bouts to set up a special prize?  As for Arawashi, he was 5-2 coming in and certainly had room to fall, so is he doing it for money?  Who knows and who cares?  I'll let lesser minds worry about the why.  In my reports, I expertly analyze sumo...period (or full stop for my British friends), and I only call the action based on actual moves employed in the ring.  When heavy yaocho involves prominent rikishi then I will make attempts to speculate as to the political reasons behind the bout fixing, but just because I can't explain why a bout was fixed, it doesn't mean that it didn't happen.

The final obvious fixed bout today that I'll show in slow motion replay was the M7 Daieisho - M5 Tochiohzan bout.  Once again, both of these guys came into the day one win or loss above/below .500, and neither rikishi is in danger of demotion to Juryo fighting from the M5 and M7 ranks. I have no idea why their bout was arranged; I just know that it was.  This one was actually more obvious live, but I'm including it in the clip for everyone's reference.

So, in this order watch Nishikigi just fall away from his foe despite no contact from Daishomaru that would warrant such a crash; watching Arawashi begin his exaggerated dive even before Chiyotairyu made any downward contact: and then watch Tochiohzan gain moro-zashi and then just dive to his right putting his right elbow to the dirt as Daieisho with his feet aligned and in no position to put leverage into a throw tried to catch up with a kote-nage:

Not only is the visual evidence obvious in those bouts, but the commentary after fixed bouts is fun to listen to as well. The guys in the booth just can't explain the outcome using any plausible explanations, and so they fumble around and just pull clichés out of the air, and that's the reason why Kitanofuji and Mainoumi are staples on the broadcast:  they're the best spin doctors out there.

I'm starting out with this intro today for the following two reasons:  1) over 50% of the day 8 bouts involved one party whose intent was to lose, and 2) a sumo bout can be declared as yaocho even when the politics behind the fixed bout isn't blatantly obvious.  Hey, Itai said 80% on any given day, so just be glad my number is closer to 50%.

The day began with M13 Takarafuji accepting M14 Kotoyuki's challenge to a tsuppari contest, and you know you're in trouble when your opponent beats you handily at your own game. In this case, Takarafuji stood his ground well as Kotoyuki tried to bully him back and out, but Yuki's punches just weren't connecting, and so Takarafuji stayed on the move fishing for pulls and then finally pounced with some effective pushes of his own that spun Kotoyuki sideways and enabled the easy okuri-dashi win. Takarafuji was shooting fish in a barrel here as he moves to 6-2 while Kotoyuki falls to 2-6, and at the end of the day when I looked back to determine the best bout of the day, I think this was it.

M15 Chiyomaru was all upper body in his tsuppari attack against M12 Takekaze using light, upright shoves until Takekaze actually worked his way into moro-zashi.  From there, a stalemate ensued for who knows how long. I just fast-forwarded it until I saw Takekaze score the force-out win.  My opinion here is that Chiyomaru was mukiryoku in favor of Takekaze as Maru falls to 4-4 while Takekaze moves ahead at 5-3.

M16 Gagamaru seemed satisfied to align his sumo to M11 Chiyonokuni's style, which means the bout was all over the place with shoves here and pulls there. Neither rikishi really seemed to have the upper hand, and I thought Gagamaru had a few opportunities to score on a pulldown if he wanted. All of his attempts were half-assed, however, and after about 12 seconds of wild sumo, he just let Chiyonokuni push him out.  If you were to ask what Gagamaru's style is, it's chest to chest yotsu-zumo all the way, but he didn't even attempt to get to the belt once, and it wasn't as if Chiyonokuni dictated anything. Regardless, Chiyonokuni ekes forward to 3-5 while Gagamaru falls to 2-6.

M10 Shohozan caught M14 Sadanoumi with some nice shoves into the neck standing Umi upright, and it enabled Darth Hozan to get the left arm inside, and as Sadanoumi looked to duck back in, Shohozan pivoted right grabbing the outer grip and using it to fling Sadanoumi over and down in about four seconds. Nice tactical sumo here from Shohozan who moves to 5-3 while Sadanoumi falls to the opposite mark at 3-5.

M9 Tokushoryu and M13 Sokokurai hooked up in hidari-yotsu with both rikishi wrangling for position. Sokokurai actually had Tokushoryu upright with the left arm inside opening the pathway to a right outer grip, but as the momentum of the bout moved the rikishi laterally, Sokokurai lowered his position and just put his left hip forward gifting Tokushoryu the right outer grip, and from there nary a counter move came as Tokushoryu scored the easy force-out winning moving to 3-5. Sokokurai falls to 2-6.

M7 Takanoiwa and M9 Okinoumi hooked up in migi-yotsu and looked to both dig in jockeying for position, but after a few seconds, Okinoumi pulled his right arm to the outside and tried to maki-kae with the left...a move that made no sense, and so Takanoiwa easily dumped him with the right outer grip dashi-nage style.  Intentional or not, Okinoumi was mukiryoku here giving Takanoiwa his first win at 1-7 while Okinoumi himself falls to 3-5.

M8 Ishiura henka'd to his left against M6 Ichinojo, but the Mongolian easily squared back up with his foe. Problem was he didn't latch onto his opponent, so he let Ishiura weasel around and get the left arm inside. Yet again, Ichinojo never bothered trying to grab his opponent or establish any position, and with his arms clumsily waving back and forth, Ishiura's left inner became an outer, and he used that to drag Ichinojo across the bales without much of a fight.  If Ichinojo wanted to win here, he would have crushed his smaller foe, but Ichinojo graciously gave his opponent the win as Ishiura moved to 4-4 to the delight of the crowd while Ichinojo falls to 3-5.

It was a matter of time before M8 Aoiyama decided to drop a bout, and it was M6 Onosho who benefited today. Aoiyama came with his usual tsuppari, but his feet were going in the wrong direction. If you watch Onosho's feet at the tachi-ai, he's not looking to move forward at all, and he doesn't have the leverage to move Aoiyama back; the Bulgarian just retreated of his own volition keeping his arms out of harms way and letting Onosho scored the easy oshi-dashi win in about three seconds. There really wasn't even a kill shot here, but that will happen when the foreign rikishi is mukiryoku. Aoiyama falls to 7-1 with the loss but still sports the best pair'a jugs in the sport. Onosho improves to 6-2 and continues to be gifted his rise up the ranks.

M2 Tochinoshin henka'd left grabbing the early uwate on that side against M3 Ikioi, and before Ikioi could square back up, Tochinoshin used his long arm to grab the front of the belt, and there was nothing Ikioi could do here as Tochinoshin escorted him back and out with ease. Tochinoshin moves to 4-4 with the ill-gotten win while Ikioi falls to 1-7.

In a hidari-yotsu duel between the two Komusubi in Yoshikaze and Kotoshogiku, it was Yoshikaze who grabbed the early right outer grip, and his response once obtained was to turn himself around, maki-kae out of the right outer grip into moro-zashi, and then just pull Kotoshogiku on top of him and down as Yoshikaze collapsed beyond the straw. I should have added this one to my slow motion replays of obvious yaocho because Kotoshogiku did nothing to set up the win.  It was all Yoshikaze from the beginning, and it was comical to see him pull the former Ozeki down on top of him.  They had to rule the bout abise-taoshi because Kotoshogiku didn't cause Yoshikaze's fall with his hands (that would have been oshi-taoshi), and Kotoshogiku didn't have a typical yori grip or position anywhere to warrant yori-taoshi. Yoshikaze falls--literally--to 4-4 with the gift while Kotoshogiku's pride is restored a bit at 3-5.

The yaocho would continue as Sekiwake Tamawashi and M1 Shodai hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Tamawashi had the early right outer grip, but he abandoned anything on the left side and just stood there as Shodai looked to counter with a left scoop throw. The throw had no leverage behind it, but Tamawashi just went along with it and dove to the dohyo floor landing softly on his left elbow. NHK dared only show one replay of this one, and even the crowd was rather silent.  Look, you can tell when a throw is the result of chikara-zumo (power sumo), and you can tell when a Mongolian gives up the advantageous position and takes a dive against a softie like Shodai. Tamawashi falls to 4-4 while Shodai inches forward to 3-5.

It's actually pretty hard to call yaocho when two rikishi are involved in a tussle who always benefit from it as M1 Takakeisho and Sekiwake Mitakeumi do, and so I did not classify this one in my fake category. Takakeisho struck the Suckiwake well from the start knocking Mitakeumi back a step, but Takakeisho can't take one step forward without going two steps back. Still Mitakeumi was too hapless to take advantage, and as he advanced forward, Takakeisho actually caught him with the only good move of the bout, a left inashi at the back of Mitakeumi's right arm and side, and that knocked him off balance to the point where Takakeisho smelled blood and rushed in pushing Mitakeumi over and down bouncing him onto his arse right there at the edge of the dohyo. Sheesh, when Takakeisho kicks your ass legitimately, you should probably be concerned as Mitakeumi falls to 5-3 while Takakeisho improves to 2-6.

As long as we're on a yaocho roll, let's continue with M2 Hokutofuji who kept both arms out wide and then went for a dumb pull against Ozeki Goeido jumping in the air as the Ozeki just caught him with two shoves into the belt, and this one was over in less than two seconds.  Such a retarded tachi-ai from Hokutofuji who falls to 4-4, but you pretty much have to be that bad in order to allow Goeido to win in linear fashion as the Ozeki moves to 5-3.

If you've got room to stomach one more yaocho call, then let's move to the Ozeki Takayasu bout where he faced M5 Chiyoshoma in a hidari-yotsu contest. From the tachi-ai, Chiyoshoma had his foe upright, and he actually grabbed the right outer grip but let go of it almost as quickly as he got it, and so both rikishi dug in across the starting lines fishing for outer grips. After about a five second stalemate, Chiyoshoma raised his right arm as if to go for a maki-kae, but instead of actually trying to get it inside, he just kept it high and outside at the level of Takayasu's shoulder rendering him the easy force-out fodder from there. If fact, Chiyoshoma was so mukiryoku after the fake maki-kae that Takayasu scored the forceful yori-taoshi win in the end. After that early loss, Takayasu now finds himself at 7-1 while Chiyoshoma graciously falls to 3-5.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho continued his henka spree moving left against M4 Ura, and as Ura squared back up and looked to duck to the inside, Hakuho caught him with a few nice shoves to the head knocking Ura off balance, and as Ura looked to dive back into the bout, Hakuho got his right arm up and under Ura's left, and the pint-sized rikishi couldn't escape from there. Hakuho subsequently reeled his foe in close enough to where he grabbed a fold of a left outer grip, but he used his right arm deep to the inside to flip Ura up, over, and down across the straw.  Ura actually put up a noble fight here, but the Yokozuna is just too big, fast, and strong, and it showed in the end as Hakuho remains perfect at 8-0 while Ura falls to 5-3.  Before we move on, I read afterwards in the funnies where Kitanofuji said, "In the near future, I don't think Hakuho will be a rikishi whom Ura can't beat."  I actually agree with him.  Ura is one of my least favorite rikishi on the banzuke, but he's sneaky enough and fast enough that he may be able to sneak inside to the point where he can trip the Yokozuna up.  It would never happen with straight up sumo, but it could happen legitimately in a cat 'n mouse affair.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji was content to stand there and absorb any blows that might have come his way from M4 Kagayaki, but Kagayaki was timid in his charge and never did use de-ashi. Harumafuji focused on on shoves to Kagayaki's head only, and I thought the Yokozuna was leaving himself vulnerable, but Kagayaki just wouldn't come forward and fight. After a few seconds of wild sumo, Harumafuji managed a left outer grip that he used to sling Kagayaki around to the edge, and with Kagayaki standing upright, the Yokozuna grabbed him by the butt crack, and at that instant, Kagayaki just dove forward and down. I couldn't detect sufficient throwing motion from the Yokozuna to warrant a fall like that from Kagayaki, so chalk it up to fear...fear of getting your ass kicked by a Yokozuna or fear of having a Yokozuna check you for worms.

More often than not we see this spasmodic sumo from Harumafuji, and today was another example as he moves to 6-2 while Kagayaki falls to 3-5.  No word on whether Harumafuji was caught sniffing his left fingers as he walked back down the hana-michi, but it did provide an unnatural ending to a day of horrible sumo.

Let's hope Harvye has more to work with tomorrow.

Day 7 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Basho venue Nagoya has its own famous foods of course.

On the one hand there is the cheerful local monstrosity ankake spaghetti. The sauce is a sweetish, sticky, gloppy version of regular tomato sauce, somehow reminiscent of both ketchup and sweet-and-sour-pork sauce, cloying and thick. Typically the toppings are, for example, some candy-bright red sliced wieners, perhaps some vegetables, usually everything as colorful and flashy as the State Fair. Corn, mushrooms, fried egg, whatever. The noodles are pan-fried, thick, white, and soft, the farthest thing from al dente. All the better to eat in too-great quantities, quickly and indiscriminatingly. Ankake gives the impression of being something that might have been designed for children, or fearful eaters, or college students doing their very first cooking, using a hot plate. I don't know why, but somehow it reminds me of Kisenosato or Goeido.

Then there is miso katsu. The miso of Nagoya is reddish and strong, and what they like to put it on most is a breaded, deep fried pork cutlet, which comes on a bed of thin-sliced cabbage. The most famous shop in this vein is Yabaton. The other day I was in Nagoya and went there. I was torn between the version served sizzling in an iron skillet and the "waraji," served on a normal plate. I don't know what "waraji" means, but it sounds a lot like "bad uncle." I chose the sizzling version. It was so good I went ahead and had a full plate of waraji too, and that was so good I had to close my eyes while eating: Deep. Fried. Pork. Cutlet. With miso sauce. Mmmm, mmm heavenly good. An aggressively unfancy, downscale, food-food. Somehow, the iron skillet misokatsu was like a heaping helping of Hakuho, and the waraji a howling blast of Harumafuji.

Those with less adventurous tastes can always have a big, safe plate of ankake spaghetti. Those ready to be stunned can have a big plate of sizzling misokatsu. Let's have some of both.

M13 Takarafuji (4-2) vs. M13 Sokokurai (2-4)
Sokokurai had Takarafuji pretty well on the run for much of this one, but Takarafuji looked a lot like Sokokurai usually does, getting out of the way just in time by changing the line of the match when at the edge. In the end Takarafuji lurched in, grabbed Sokokurai, and gave him a good fling to the side. It didn't quite get him out on its own, but with the momentum involved Sokokurai ran out of the ring. Okuri-dashi win for Takarafuji, who predictably is having a very good tournament in these parts. Ankake.

M16 Gagamaru (1-5) vs. M12 Takekaze (4-2)
Simply and effectively, Gagamaru beat the crap out of Takekaze with a few bombardment blows, oshi-dashi, as Takekaze retreated from him after his smothering and powerful tachi-ai. Misokatsu.

M12 Arawashi (4-2) vs. M15 Chiyomaru (4-2)
Chiyomaru was good at keeping the much superior Arawashi off him with neck and face shoves for a while, but where are you going to go with that? He was retreating while doing it, and what he wanted to go with was the pull. When he tried that, Arawashi emphatically pushed him out, oshi-dashi. Misokatsu.

M11 Chiyonokuni (1-5) vs. M15 Nishikigi (5-1)
Nice performance from the hyperkinetic Chiyonokuni, who dictated the pace of the match throughout but had to use a series of techniques to get the win. He started with a little retreat and face shoves, then briefly had morozashi. However, he is too small to do much good inside, so abandoned it for a big time overhand right grip. He used that to spin Nishikigi around and around while pulling down on his head with his left hand before finally pushing him out, oshi-dashi. Misokatsu.

M14 Kotoyuki (1-5) vs. M10 Shohozan (4-2)
A whole lot of pushin' and shovin' and flailin'. Kotoyuki has looked absolutely terrible doing this for several tournaments running now, but somehow it worked for him in this one; he landed lots of spammy blows to the neck, face, and finally, to the chest, oshi-dashi. Ankake.

M10 Chiyotairyu (4-2) vs. M14 Sadanoumi (3-3)
Linear, simple, easy force out for Chiyotairyu, like he was working against a practice dummy rather than a man. Oshi-dashi. Ankake.

M11 Daishomaru (3-3) vs. M9 Okinoumi (2-4)
Daishomaru evaded, then pulled on Okinoumi's head, so it was good to see Okinoumi survive this and destroy Daishomaru with aggressive pursuit and removal, oshi-dashi. Ankake.

M7 Takanoiwa (0-6) vs. M9 Tokushoryu (1-5)
Tokushoryu got the initial push, but Takanoiwa counterattacked on the belt. That didn't last long; pretty soon he'd let go of his sweat-slippery, too-round foe, and Tokushoryu did a little hop out of his way and pulled him down, hataki-komi. Ankake.

M6 Ichinojo (3-3) vs. M8 Aoiyama (6-0)
I was looking forward to this battle of the brutes, and it was a manful, linear force out that Aoiyama started with the arms but finished with his belly and chest, arms stuck uselessly in the air, massive bulk bashing forward repeatedly into Ichinojo's own quivering behemoth-ness. This surging fat-slabbery knocked Ichinojo right out of the dohyo and down into the crowd, like a spent fuel tank being illegally discarded in the town dump-pit, oshi-dashi. Misokatsu.

M8 Ishiura (2-4) vs. M5 Tochiohzan (5-1)
Ishiura won by cleverly ducking under Tochiohzan's whistling tachi-ai attempt to knock his melon off. Successfully underneath his surprised opponent, Ishiura drove forward with his hand on the back of Tochiohzan's belt, then reversed momentum on a dime and face-planted 'Ozan into the clay, shitate-nage. Ankake.

Meanwhile, between all the sumo, today's NHK in-booth entertainment was 58 year old actress Yoshiko Miyazaki as guest. She oohed at the action on the dohyo, and was very polite and very nice. There was a segment where another minor celebrity beamed in from elsewhere appeared on screen and told her riddles that she guessed at. The announcers were at pains in their own earnest and ever so pleasant courtesy. It was like having tea with an aunt or teacher you really like but don't have much in common with. Ever so nice. "Well, that was nice," everyone says after you leave. Nice, nice, very nice. Nice. Yep. So, that was going on.

M5 Chiyoshoma (3-3) vs. M7 Daieisho (2-4)
Chiyoshoma watched and waited, then reacted wildly to Daieisho's pull, staggering dramatically, and put his hand down on the dirt, hataki-komi. Ankake.

M6 Onosho (5-1) vs. M4 Kagayaki (2-4)
Onosho put his head down to try to torpedo Kagayaki off the ring, and Kagayaki said, "you wanna be a torpedo? Here you go." He grabbed Onosho's belt overhand with his left, pulled real hard, and sent him out of the ring with force aplenty, linear missile death uwate-nage. Misokatsu.

K Yoshikaze (4-2) vs. M2 Hokutofuji (3-3)
Nice head bonk on the tachi-ai, and they bashed their heads together once or twice more, too, in this aggressive one. However, it was a pull that keyed it, as Hokutofuji bailed out and assailed Yoshikaze with a wicked head downing; it was dangerous, as Hokutofuji had to dance along the tawara to survive, but it sent Yoshikaze block over heels akilter to defeat, tsuki-otoshi. Ankake.

M4 Ura (5-1) vs. S Mitakeumi (4-2)
Without his tricks, Ura really ain't much. He stayed low here and had some push, but Mitakeumi is big and strong and not stupid, and didn't let Ura get at his legs or break his focus. Mitakeumi gathered himself and advanced with hard thrusts and malice aforesight, crumbling Ura's house like a mudbank in a slashing rainstorm, oshi-taoshi. Ankake.

S Tamawashi (4-2) vs. M2 Tochinoshin (2-4)
Tochinoshin was in big trouble here, standing up straight at the tachi-ai and getting into a belt-'im-in-the-head and thrust-'im-in-the-neck battle, which is Tamawashi's forte, not his. However, Tamawashi was too close in, and when he missed on one of his remove-your-face attempts, Tochinoshin found Tamawashi's waist right there in front of his sniffer, and as they were both conveniently standing by the tawara, Tochinoshin grabbed him by the belt and removed him, yori-kiri. Ankake.

O Takayasu (5-1) vs. M1 Shodai (2-4)
Takayasu whapped into Shodai with a stunning tachi-ai whose slap could be heard in farthest Malawi. Five or six follow-up neck shoves to the blinded and staggering Shodai and Takayasu had left Shodai lying on his back in the aisle in front of the first row of cushions like a dead beluga, tsuki-taoshi. Misokatsu.

M1 Takakeisho (1-5) vs. O Goeido (3-3)
Bam! Nice head-ramming on the tachi-ai, then a wind-mill felling of Takakeisho right in front of Goeido, hataki-komi, like wheat being drawn into a thresher. Ankake.

K Kotoshogiku (2-4) vs. Y Harumafuji (4-2)
Harumafuji wanted to destroy Kotoshogiku in this one, but he was overconfident and didn't finish it right. Then he had to try again. Basically, he grabbed Kotoshogiku amidships and slung him to the bales. When he tried to pick him up and toss him out, though, he found he didn't have belt on the other side: just empty air. Meanwhile, Kotoshogiku had an arm inside and drove Harumafuji across the ring; Harumafuji slid into the bales in turn, now out of control and desperate. But he wanted to win. Being who he is, Harumafuji gathered himself and once again slung Kotoshogiku fully about in the ring, in the process twirling him to the dirt, kubi-nage, while Kotoshogiku kind of pathetically held onto his knee and looked kind of sad and old and well beaten. Ankake.

Y Hakuho (6-0) vs. M3 Ikioi (1-5)
Hakuho evaded, retreated, and twisted Ikioi to the dirt with a nice, simple tsuki-otoshi pull on his shoulders. Ankake.

Tomorrow Mike churns all the matches in his cyclotron.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The news heading into day 6 was the withdrawal of Kisenosato and Ozeki Terunofuji. Terunofuji cited left knee problems, which I'll tell you right now is a farce, and then Kisenosato cited aggravation to his left shoulder and then a right leg or ankle injury as well. Kisenosato himself is a farce, and the Sumo Association finds itself in quite a precarious situation.  Kisenosato's haplessness has clearly been exposed, even to the dumbest of the dumb, but what's the resolution to his situation? He's either forced into retirement or you continue to use heavy and obvious yaocho to prop him up in his current rank.  And it's really as simple as that, so it will be interesting to see what choice they make.

As they were gravely discussing Kisenosato's withdrawal at the start of the broadcast, the NHK announcers brought up his "gyakuten yusho," or come from behind win at the Haru basho, and you'll remember the last three days of that tournament saw Harumafuji kick Kisenosato's ass so badly they had to take him to the hospital afterwards. Then on day 14 Kisenosato did nothing as Kakuryu escorted him over and out in a few seconds only to have Kisenosato come roaring back on senshuraku defeating Terunofuji twice with amazing throws and techniques we haven't seen from him in at least five years. The ending to that basho was so phony as my dad likes to say, but we've gone from that pinnacle in Kisenosato's so-called Yokozuna career to rikishi not deferring to him every day, and the result is a rowboat stuck in the middle of the ocean where Cap'n No Sato ain't got no oars.

Fate has definitely been cruel to me this basho because Kisenosato has only lost on days that Harvye has reported disallowing me to make fun of him further, and it may have been smart of him to withdraw today because he was pitted against Kotoshogiku, a dude who desperately needs wins himself and who probably wasn't gonna cooperate. Regardless, Kisenosato has an interesting decision to make. They got him his yusho, and they got him his promotion, and with nowhere else for him to go, it appears to me that the rank and file guys are doing the cash-grab against Kisenosato eyeing those kensho banners being marched around the ring and thinking, "I've put up with enough shullbit the last few years and done my time. I'm goin' for the cash today." Then there's the kin-boshi factor as well. If a Maegashira rikishi defeats a Yokozuna--even a fake Yokozuna, he's awarded a monthly cash bonus per kin-boshi for the rest of his career, so guys are taking the money and running.

I guess I'm going on like this because there is no such thing as a yusho race anymore, and so what do you talk about during the dog days of the basho? How about the memory lane video from day 5? They walked us back to 1993 when the Hanada brothers had created a fever pitch in sumo, and if you remember back then, the internet was still largely a twinkle in Al Gore's eye, and so no one had the online distractions that we have today. The '93 Nagoya basho ended with three rikishi stuck at 13-2: Akebono, who was ranked Yokozuna by then; Takanohana who was an Ozeki; and Wakanohana who was ranked at Sekiwake.  What happens when three guys are tied is they draw straws to see which two guys will fight first, and then it's basically winner stays in until someone wins twice in a row.  It's called a tomoe-sen, and I can't remember the last time we saw one of these, but they're pretty cool when sumo is legitimate, and the tomoe-sen from '93 drew a 66.7% number on television!!  Think of that.  These days they get a stiffie when they can pull a 25% number at any point during senshuraku, but back then, two thirds of every television set turned on that Sunday afternoon were tuned to sumo.

Anyway, they showed about a minute's worth of footage including the tomoe-sen, so I'll post it here for everyone's entertainment:

What was your impression watching Akebono annihilate those two brothers like that?  Watching with the eyes I have now, it reminded me of how the Mongolians are able to throw around the Japanese rikishi at will these days...when they choose to do so, and I'm starting to think that Akebono and Musashimaru were reined in a bit back then similarly to how the Mongolians are being reined in today. By the time we hit Musoyama's only career yusho in January of 2000, I knew the fix was in. Musoyama was my guy, but I knew that rikishi were throwing bouts his way that tournament; I could just feel it. Coincidentally, it was shortly after that basho when Itai came out of the yaocho closet and spilled the beans, but by the middle of the last decade, I had seen enough sumo that I began to decipher the real bouts from the fake bouts.

What I'm getting at here is after watching Akebono destroy those two brothers like that, it is my opinion that they reined the American in and built up the Hanada brothers to keep sumo's momentum as high as possible.  And that's not to say that the Hanada brothers didn't have game because they did.  Kaio had serious game; Tochiazuma was a great rikishi; and even Chiyotaikai was a playuh.  But, could those guys ever really stop Asashoryu and then Hakuho?

These days, ain't no Japanese rikishi who got game, and so the yaocho is blatantly obvious and downright laughable most times, but I suspect that knowing what I know now, if I were to go back to the 90's and watch it all over again, I would no longer be watching through the glass darkly. Just my two yen.

Day 6 began with Sadanoumi and Nishikigi hooked up in hidari-yotsu with neither dude owning an outer grip. Hidari-yotsu is actually Nishikigi's strong suit, and it helped when Sadanoumi refused to grab the right frontal grip even though he had Nishikigi wrenched upright and his hand was right there early on in the bout. With Sadanoumi standing there like a bump on a log, Nishikigi used an inner belt throw to just drag Sadanoumi over and out. I'm inclined to think that Sadanoumi was mukiryoku here. He's the better belt fighter than Nishikigi, and he had Nishikigi right where your want him...upright and far away from an outer grip while you've got the clear path to the frontal outer grip of the belt as seen in the pick at right.  As long as YaochoTalk is in session, I may as well give you all your money's worth as Nishikigi soars to 5-1 with the gift while Sadanoumi is content at 3-3.

N15 Chiyomaru's tsuppari attack was completely ineffective against M13 Takarafuji because the latter was trying to win. Takarafuji didn't even employ a waza. He lightly moved left, offered a few swipes at Maru's extended paws, and then worked his way inside enough about five seconds in to shove Chiyomaru upright and out for good.  Both rikishi end the tussle at 4-2 if you need them.

M13 Sokokurai henka'd to his right against M16 Gagamaru throwing him off balance just enough, and before Gagamaru could square his girth back up, Sokokurai moved back left and dumped Gagamaru with a nice left scoop throw. Sokokurai's game is to move laterally, so when he doesn't do it, the fix is usually in. He moves to just 2-4 here while Gagamaru falls to 1-5.

M12 Arawashi easily survived M14 Kotoyuki's tsuppari attack at the tachi-ai latching onto the right frontal grip and escorting Yuki over and out in mere seconds using that right frontal and left inside. Too easy as Arawashi moves to 4-2 while Kotoyuki continues to circle the drain at 1-5.

M11 Chiyonokuni and M12 Takekaze bumped heads at the tachi-ai before Chiyonokuni stood upright and was pushed back and across by the smaller Kaze. It's kind of rare when Chiyonokuni doesn't move laterally in a bout, especially against someone so vulnerable as Takekaze, but whatever. One of the documentaries they did early on in the basho was about Takekaze's celebrating his 38th birthday, so I think deference is being given to the veteran this time around. Takekaze moves to 4-2 with the win while Chiyonokuni obviously found his Ritalin prescription this morning calmly bowing to 1-5.

With not much going on in the ring, I thought that NHK hit a homerun with their trip down memory lane today, especially in regards to their key demographic (old people). They rewound clear back to 1971 showing a bout between Yokozuna Tamanoumi and Yokozuna Kitanofuji, who also happened to be in the booth today. After an epic 2 1/2 minute confrontation, Tamanoumi scored the win capturing his 6th yusho in the process, but the next clip regarded his sudden death at the age of 27. They showed Kitanofuji back then in tears after learning of his rival's death, and then Kitanofuji was quite somber live again as he recalled those moments from over 40 years ago. Personally, I love stuff like that because it's legit.

M10 Shohozan came with a nice slap with the right hand, but he forgot the sashi part of hari-zashi as M11 Daishomaru monkeyed with a possible kote-nage grip. The two ultimately became separated before Shohozan really delivered a big face slap with the right. Pissed off, Daishomaru tried to chase Shohozan out and even came close with a shoulder swipe, but the force was with Darth Hozan today as he was able to survive the pull, get up and under his opponent, and then push him across and out. Don underestimate the power of the dark side as Shohozan moves to 4-2 while Daishomaru falls to 3-3.

M9 Tokushoryu henka'd to his right, but he's really too big to henka, and M10 Chiyotairyu showed why putting on the brakes and moving left on a dime to escort Tokushoryu back and across without argument. Chiyotairyu looks nice at 4-2 while Tokushoryu falls to 1-5.

At this point of the broadcast, they introduced the theme on the day:  the various yukata that the rikishi wear during the summer.  Fresh off of his coincidental win today (wink, wink), they brought Nishikigi into the interview room where they asked him poignant questions about his yukata.  Any guess as to what demographic they are playing to here?  Look, NHK knows their audience, so credit them at least for working it. For those of you whose gadar was piqued at the mention of Nishikigi's fashion, for the record he was wearing a beautifully woven Chiyonokuni yukata.  When the interviewer asked him if he had plans to have his own such yuakata designed, he replied an astounding...wait for it...yes!  Next canned question: any thoughts on the design? Uh, yes, I think I'll go with a bear theme.

My reaction to the whole thing was as follows:

In an ugly bout, M8 Ishiura tried to burrow in from the tachi-ai, but somehow M9 Okinoumi was able to get an arm under and keep him at bay, and after a slight pause, Okinoumi began slapping Ishiura silly all the way back to the straw where Ishiura suddenly darted to his left causing Okinoumi to step forward and out. Problem was that Ishiura's heel barely grazed the sand beyond the straw before Okinoumi stepped out so they reversed the judge's original call in favor of Ishiura and gave the win to Okinoumi, who moved to 2-4 with the win. After the bout, Kitanofuji was explaining that Okinoumi hasn't been able to do keiko the last few basho, but I missed the reason why since I was still daydreaming about yukata designs. As for Ishiura, he fell to 2-4 with the hard-luck loss.

M7 Takanoiwa henka'd lightly to his right, but M8 Aoiyama easily recovered and chased Takanoiwa to the edge with his beefy shoves, and on the ropes--literally--as Takanoiwa looked to duck back into the bout, Aoiyama switched gears and pulled his sorry ass to the dohyo in one swipe. Don't look now, but Aoiyama is 6-0, so I guess it's time to start paring him against the coddled dudes like Mitakeumi and Takayasu. For his troubles, Takanoiwa falls to an 0-6 mark.

M7 Daieisho and M6 Onosho were in a stalemate from the tachi-ai, but it was Onosho who backed up a half second after the charge and pulled his foe forward and down without much affair. Pretty boring stuff here as Onosho moves to 5-1 while Daieisho is 2-4.

M5 Chiyoshoma fired a few tsuppari into M6 Ichinojo's chest, but it the had effect of trying to move a brick wall, and so Chiyoshoma moved left looking for a pull. Ichinojo who shows great footwork when he's not throwing bouts easily survived and looked to hook up with the left inside and right arm around the outside of Shoma's left, but Shoma weasled out of that with a kote-nage attempt, so around and around the two went again. Ichinojo once again tried to grab Chiyoshoma with the left inside, but Chiyoshoma maki-kae'd out of it, spun around his foe, and then dumped him with an outer belt grip. This was quite an entertaining bout that displayed the ability of the Mongolian rikishi as both dudes end the day at 3-3.

M4 Kagayaki looked to take charge against M5 Tochiohzan forcing him back towards the straw with his tsuppari attack, but there wasn't enough beef behind his shoves allowing Tochiohzan to eventually duck under and get moro-zashi. Kagayaki attempted to back out of it and maki-kae with the right, but Tochiohzan was too quick on his feet and followed Kagayaki around the ring before ultimately slapping him down. In short, Oh won here because he changed the pace of the bout set by Kagayaki at the first from an oshi affair to a belt affair. Tochiohzan quietly moves to 5-1 while Kagayaki falls to 2-4.

M4 Ura henka'd to his right, and M1 Takakeisho's attack is so lightweight that Ura easily felled him in a half second. What a terrible display of sumo all around here. First, you have a guy in Ura who doesn't even dare go straight up against a cream puff like Takakeisho, and then Takakeisho fell at the first sign of contact.  Ura moves to 5-1 with the easy win while Takakeisho and his glass jaw fall to 1-5.  I was reminded why all of this seems to thrill the Japanese people when I saw this guy sitting in the front row after the Ura bout who was wearing a jacket made of purple drapes from a hotel room back in the 70's.  I mean, he does know it's summer in Japan doesn't he?

Komusubi Yoshikaze half-heartedly henka'd to his left grabbing the left outer grip, but all he did with it was drag Sekiwake Mitakeumi to the center of the ring where he let the grip go for no reason. Actually, he did have a reason, which was to let Mitakeumi win, and so he just stood there allowing Mitakeumi to get the left inside and right outer grip that he used to force the listless Yoshikaze back and out. At least half of the rikishi involved in this bout were trying.  Both rikishi end the day now at 4-2, and it's kinda too bad that Mitakeumi felt compelled to lose to Kisenosato early on because this dude has more crowd hype behind him than anyone. I suppose Hakuho could see to it that he drops a few the rest of the way, but then Mitakeumi would need the continued coddling as well.

Sekiwake Tamawashi pummeled Ozeki Goeido from the tachi-ai with his tsuppari attack causing Goeido to pick up his things and run sideways, and Goeido actually moved quick enough and offered a swipe that allowed the Ozeki to get moro-zashi, but Goeido doesn't know what to do with it, and so he hurried a force-out charge that Tamawashi easily countered by using a tsuki-otoshi at the edge sending Goeido out and off the dohyo altogether. There have been multiple instances where Goeido has actually found himself in prime position, but he didn't know how to handle it. It's probably like that Shogi champ from a few days ago when the girls start calling. What I do now?!

In short, no one can run from the long arm of the law as Tamawashi improves to a ho-hum 4-2 while Goeido falls to 3-3. Fortunately for Goeido all of the top-ranked guys are withdrawing so he won't have to face them. What I mean is that the yaocho in his favor will be less obvious when the rank and file let him win as opposed to the Mongolians.

Speaking of withdrawals, M1 Shodai picked up a much-needed freebie with Terunofuji's absence today moving the overly-hyped dude to 2-4.

Ozeki Takayasu actually exhibited a pretty nifty tachi-ai knocking M2 Tochinoshin upright, but his footwork was terrible, and he wasn't able to capitalize, and so the far better rikishi, Tochinoshin, burrowed into the left inside position with the right outer grip at the front of the belt, a similar hold that he had against Kisenosato. Takayasu was in trouble here and had no path to victory...except Tochinoshin's letting him out of the grip, so now it was a question of whether or not Shin would let him win. In short, the bout lasted 1 minute and 35 seconds, and Tochinoshin did let him win. Shin had all kinds of options here, but he never shored up his right outer grip maintaining a hold of just one fold of the belt, and when Tochinoshin finally did make an offensive move (because Takayasu couldn't), it was a half-assed dashi-nage. After waiting awhile, Takayasu finally went for a left shite-nage, and Shin just let go of his outer allowing the faux-zeki to pull him and then get the right inside and left outer girp, and from there, Shin offered no resistance as he just went along for the yori-kiri ride. Total yaocho here as Takayasu now improves to 5-1 while Tochinoshin falls to a harmless 2-4.

Kisenosato's withdrawal was announced at this point, and Kotoshogiku didn't get a freebie from this one. He would have dominated Kisenosato had they fought, so give him the deserved win anyway as he limps to 2-4.

Yokozuna Hakuho met M2 Hokutofuji with a solid right hari-te and then moved left pulling Hokutofuji forward by the back of the right shoulder and out in one fell swoop. Pretty boring stuff here as Hakuho has no equal moving to 6-0 while Hokutofuji falls to 3-3. Storyteller is right, especially this basho.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji ducked in low and tight against M3 Ikioi drawing a quick pull attempt from Ikioi, but there was no way the M3 was going to finagle something here, and Harumafuji easily pushed Ikioi back and out in two uneventful seconds using his backwards momentum against him. Harumafuji moves to 4-2 with the win while Ikioi falls to 1-5.

Day 6 was a pretty poor day of sumo overall. The highlights to me were all produced by the foreign rikishi. The Chiyoshoma - Ichinojo matchup was good, and then I thought Tochinoshin's demonstrating how easy it is to get the upper hand against Takayasu was good as well. You can't really leave out the Yokozuna and how ridiculously easy it can be for them, and while this may sound biased towards foreign rikishi, what was the highlight from a Japanese dude? Prolly Tochiohzan.

Thank the gods we have a foreigner reporting for us tomorrow in Harvye.

Day 5 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Mike pointed out all the turbulence on Day 2, and though it has settled down a bit, with King Bring It, Hakuho, the clear skills and moral leader out there at this moment, there has been a startling clearing of the decks among the eight guys I listed, in this order, as most likely to take the yusho on Day 1:

Harumafuji: 2-2
Kisenosato: 2-2
Hakuho: 4-0
Kakuryu 2-2, withdrew
Takayasu: 3-1
Goeido: 2-2
Mitakeumi: 2-2
Shodai: 1-3

Here's hoping Hakuho continues to be The Man.

M16 Gagamaru (1-3) vs. J1 Kaisei (3-1)
In this slow-motion battle of the lumberbellies, we actually got a nage-no-uchi-ai "who's gonna throw who at the straw." Of sorts. Because Gagamaru didn't stick with it for more than a second before he put his hand down to stop it all, and Kaisei was barely even bent over at the waist. So, points for Kaisei, and hairshirt and flagellation for Gagamaru.

N14 Sadanoumi (2-2) vs. M14 Kotoyuki (1-3)
Kotoyuki looks like toast in this division. His tsuppari don't drive anyone back, and once he gets off line he is very easy to push out, or he falls down. He survived a little longer than late in this one, buffing away with his hands at Sadanoumi, but it went nowhere and fell apart as usual as out went Kotoyuki, okuri-dashi.

M15 Chiyomaru (3-1) vs. M13 Sokokurai (1-3)
A whole lot of pushing and shoving for a few seconds, then belt grabs. A moment to consider, then Chiyomaru manfully bellied his foe up and forced him out, yori-kiri. Just bigger?

M12 Arawashi (2-2) vs. M15 Nishikigi (4-0)
Nishikigi did not move at the tachi-ai, and this one was all Arawashi from there. Arawashi tried to get a frontal belt grip, couldn't find anything there, so tried the pull instead, and that worked, ending up in an uwate-nage, as Nishikigi didn't seem interested in moving either backward or forward.

M11 Chiyonokuni (1-3) vs. M13 Takarafuji (2-2)
Standing up, pulling, pushing at Takarafuji's head... I've never liked Chiyonokuni's potential much, and it's in matches like these that you wonder how he ever gets any wins at all. Not good on the belt, not powerful, too small... all Takarafuji had to do was stick with him, move his feet forward in good sumo basics, and the match was his, oshi-dashi.

M12 Takekaze (3-1) vs. M10 Shohozan (2-2)
Takekaze employed a mini-henka, trying to take advantage of a riled-up Shohozan (there had been a false start, and hey, Darth Hozan is always riled up). It wasn't enough, and Shohozan started following him around the ring and shoving at him busily. That went on for a while, and I figured Takekaze's chances were increasing by the second: he's always looking for that moment when you're overextended or off line, and bam, it's over with a pull-down or evasion and fall-down. But it never happened and Shohozan finally slapped him out, oshi-dashi. This looked a little over-dramatized and under-fueled.

M9 Tokushoryu (1-3) vs. M11 Daishomaru (2-2)
Kind of a battle-of-the-useless, and a copy of the last match with the reverse ending: Tokushoryu followed Daishomaru around, ineffectually trying to push him out, and eventually Daishomaru did what I'm surprised Takekaze didn't: stepped to the side and watched as Tokushoryu flobber-blobbed to the dirt in an ungainly pratfall, hiki-otoshi. I'd say "ole!" but it was more like Daishomaru said, "oh here sir, let me get the door for you."

M8 Aoiyama (4-0) vs. M9 Okinoumi (1-3)
Just as I had completely given up on Aoiyama, here he is with a workmanlike undefeated start. In this one he plowed into an unmotivated Okinoumi and drove him straight out, oshi-dashi, in linear fashion. Okinoumi also gave up before it was over. Like, whatever, man.

M10 Chiyotairyu (2-2) vs. M7 Daieisho (2-2)
This was a fire-on-fire battle, as these guys both like to move forward hard. Chiyotairyu is the more explosive (if the less effective), and as they chose to both go at each other, Chiyotairyu had the early momentum lead, driving little Daieisho back. And give Chiyotairyu credit: he also then went ahead and grabbed Daieisho around the body first and then by the belt, and finished this one off with a good-looking uwate-nage throw.

M8 Ishiura (2-2) vs. M6 Onosho (3-1)
Onosho sure has a lot of wild arm action. He was batting crazily at Onosho's head, but to no avail. Fortunately for him Ishiura decided to pull him, and Onosho reacted immediately with explosive forward movement and blasted Stone Ass (Ishiura) out, oshi-dashi. I want Onosho to calm down, though.

M5 Chiyoshoma (2-2) vs. M5 Tochiohzan (3-1)
Chiyoshoma offered some ineffectual face slaps, then grabbed on to Tochiohzan up high and hung on for dear life, because Tochiohzan sure likes it in there. Easy yori-kiri win for the moro-zashi man, Tochiohzan.

M7 Takanoiwa (0-4) vs. M4 Kagayaki (1-3)
Boy, why does it look so easy sometimes? You tell me. Kagayaki just walked forward while keeping his arms in tight, and that was enough to drive Takanoiwa right out, oshi-dashi, like he was a big of fluff instead of hunk of iron flesh casing. Lot of this kind of strange looking, too-easy match today.

M6 Ichinojo (2-2) vs. M3 Endo (2-2)
Endo withdrew with an injury, and that's too bad because he's always entertaining. It would have been fun to watch Ichinojo clobber him.

M2 Tochinoshin (2-2) vs. M4 Ura (3-1)
Tochinoshin kind of slapped at Ura and approached him cautiously, like a man about to get bitten by a rabid dog. There was a comical moment where he sidled forward bit by bit, both hands up on the air: "now boy, good doggie, goooood doggie... " That was when he lost, because Ura put an end to all the hesitation and rushed in and grabbed Tochinoshin by his bad knee and knocked him over and out, ashi-tori. This was one where Tochinoshin would have done better to stand his ground like Hakuho did yesterday and say, "okay little man, let's see what you've got."

S Tamawashi (3-1) vs. S Mitakeumi (2-2)
Sorry I forgot to write up the Tamawashi /Yoshikaze bout two days ago, but I loved it that Mike just stuck a big 'ol picture of the match in there, text-free. I'm thinking I should leave one match blank every day and we can have a "tell your own story" visual break in the narrative. Anyhoo, there was a whole lot of slapping and chokeholding going from Tamawashi, while Mitakeumi creaked only slightly, like a shipboard mainmast weathering the storm. Tamawashi storm-surged in too far and too quick, however, allowing Mitakeumi to push into him underneath and reverse the momentum on a dime. Mitakeumi drove him swiftly out, oshi-dashi.

O Terunofuji (1-3) vs. K Kotoshogiku (0-4)
Terunofuji put his left arm on top of Kotoshogiku's shoulder and pumped it up and down like a dude filling up the water pail at an old fashioned water pump. That was the whole of his strategy, because then he stood slack and malleable and let Kotoshogiku drive him way, way out; afterwards he lay on his back in the crowd a good while as if to say "I'm too embarrassed to stand up." Not embarrassed by his bad sumo, but by being a part of this farce too long and too hard. Yori-kiri. I do think the guy's knees are mostly shot, however.

O Takayasu (3-1) vs. M1 Takakeisho (1-3)
Takayasu's side of the story is this: "la di da, hit 'im in the face. La di da, tsuppari. La di da, step to the side, okay, dude fell down tsuki-otoshi, whatever, good." Takakeisho's side of the story is this: "I'm still thinking about yesterday."

M1 Shodai (1-3) vs. O Goeido (2-2)
I have to say Shodai looked hapless in this one. First he was driven all the way to the straw unceremoniously. There he survived, and managed to drive Goeido in turn almost all the way back across, as well as almost knocking him down, but somehow lost hold of him. Then he kind of waved his arms at Goeido like a blind man looking for his dog. Got caught sideways to Goeido. Etc. Finally, Goeido did one final push-back on him and knocked him over flat on his bum, yori-taoshi. Goeido was a survivor here, but this bout was all about Shodai not putting it together.

Y Kisenosato (2-2) vs. M3 Ikioi (0-4)
This one involved Kisenosato standing up too straight and kind of reaching over the top for belt and not getting it. He had some momentum, but Ikioi had him wrapped up on the body on the left and overhand on the right. Ikioi also just looked stronger and better, wrenching Kisenosato around by the armhold he had on the right and flinging him out of the ring kote-nage, tumbling Kisenosato into the crowd where he disappeared in a pile of audience members like Waldo in a kid's book.

M2 Hokutofuji (3-1) vs. Y Harumafuji (2-2)
Harumafuji looked to drive an inferior and inexperienced opponent straight out, and when that opponent bounced off the tawara, Harumafuji decided, "well, okay, I'll just dump you over from under the armpit, then." So that's what he did. Sukui-nage.

Y Hakuho (4-0) vs. K Yoshikaze (4-0)
Hakuho looked pumped today; I think he knew what he did yesterday was cool and was feeling good about it. Yoshikaze looked doomed. Hakuho bumped him hard at the tachi-ai while sliding out to Yoshikaze's side and grabbing him around the rear on the butt button. He shoved hard on that, driving Yoshikaze most of the way past him and to the straw. Yoshikaze wasn't out yet, but at that point he just stood there like "aw, crap." So Hakuho delivered one final shove, okuri-dashi. As always, it's the Storyteller's tournament to win.

Tomorrow Mike goes all Andy Hawkins on his guitar.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The news of the day was the withdrawal of Yokozuna Kakuryu citing an injury to his right ankle, and with this being Kakuryu's third kyujo this year, there are now calls for his retirement. Izutsu-oyakata is on record now saying that if he goes kyujo again this year then he'll likely be forced to retire. It sucks for the Mongolian because he's getting injured as a result of letting up for Japanese foes in the ring, so whaddya gonna do? For as long as I've been watching sumo, I've heard the phrase that letting up in the ring causes injuries, and we're definitely seeing that in play here.

Kakuryu's withdrawal of course means nothing to the outcome of the basho. I'm not saying that the yusho winner is already decided, but there was no way Kakuryu was going to have an effect on the yusho race other than giving strategic Japanese opponents political losses, so I think I speak for everyone when I say we won't even notice his absence.

While the sumo wasn't great today, there are some fascinating topics to cover, so let's get right to it starting with M15 Chiyomaru who blasted M14 Sadanoumi back from the tachi-ai with his tsuppari attack, but he couldn't quite finish him off allowing Umi to press the bout to the belt getting the left outer grip and right inside. Credit Chiyomaru, however, for positioning his own right to the inside and demanding a left outer himself, and as the two dug into the gappuri yotsu-zumo contest, it looked to me as if Sadanoumi couldn't get around Maru's gut to try and wrench him out, and so it was Chiyomaru who turned the tables scoring the yori-kiri win.

This was actually a great bout of sumo and the perfect way to start the day as Chiyomaru moved to 3-1 and Sadanoumi fell to 2-2. The problem was that hardly anyone saw it because there was this huge disturbance in the arena during the fight drawing everyone's attention. The last time I saw such a disturbance in an arena was at a Guns N' Roses concert when this chick just ripped off her shirt and bra and started running up and down the arena floor, so I was like sweet...a Nagoya hottie. Where is she? Turns out that the hottie was this kid:

That is none other than Fujii Souta, a fifteen year old kid from the Nagoya area who is taking the Japanese Shogi world by storm. I know, you're saying there's a Japanese Shogi world?  Actually, it's more than just he shogi crowd. The dude has the entire country in a frenzy. He turned pro at the age of 14, and now at the age of 15, he holds the record for most continuous wins at 29 straight. Personally, if I was a really successful chess player, I'd be worried about whether or not I was ever gonna get laid, but this is Japan, and for whatever reason, they go crazy over such things. I mean, I've seen the prime minister enter the arena; I've seen Paul McCartney enter the arena; and I've even seen quite a buzz when Asashoryu enters the arena, but none of that remotely compared to the uproar when this kid entered. In fact, it was almost as if a wall of the arena fell down and a huge wind storm was blowing through the place. I had no idea what was going on during the bout, but nobody was watching the aforementioned bout.

I think it's all quite indicative as to how sumo can continue to succeed like this despite the bout fixing occurring at every turn. The Japanese people are just wired differently, and if they can get all hot and bothered over a kid like this, they can certainly ignore the minor technicality that none of the home-grown rikishi can do jack in the ring. I mean, whose the best Japanese rikishi right now? I'd say the most impressive kid is Hokutofuji; yet, he doesn't even belong in the same division as the top foreigners.

As Harvye likes to say, Anyhoo..

M16 Gagamaru stood toe to toe with M14 Kotoyuki and outclassed him in a shove match although there weren't that many punches thrown. With Kotoyuki doing nothing and looking to evade and pull, it was Gagamaru who scored the easy hataki-komi win the first time Yuki came in close. Kotoyuki's sumo has just been embarrassing of late as both rikishi end the day at 1-3.

Speaking of embarrassing sumo, M13 Sokokurai falls into that category as well although Sokokurai's act is intentional. He's been throwing bouts left and right all basho, and he let up again today for M15 Nishikigi. Despite a nice paw to the throat and getting his right arm to the inside early, Sokokurai pulled that arm back out wide for no reason and let Nishikigi establish himself with the left inside and right outer grip. From there, Sokokurai made no effort to dig in as he backed up towards the edge going for one of those fake kote-nage counter throws where he actually drags his opponent into this body instead of positioning himself to the side. I know that nobody else saw this, but Sokokurai was mukiryoku here as he falls to 1-3, and I wonder if they're going to do another exhibition this summer in Morioka as the hometown kid from there moves to 4-0

Prior to the M12 Arawashi - M12 Takekaze matchup, Fujii Announcer was explaining the "washi" in Arawashi's name. It comes from Mongolia's state bird, the eagle, and Tamawashi also has the "washi" in his name. Fujii was explaining that Arawashi and Tamawashi are best friends outside of the dohyo, and when the two of them fight, the loser is always dubbed as a fraud. It's a pretty boring story, but how ironic that Fujii Announcer would tell that story and use the term "fraud" in today's sumo landscape.

Like Sokokurai before, Arawashi is also throwing bouts left and right the last little while, and today it was easy to see. I mean coming into the bout, if I told you it would go chest to chest, who would you say would win? Takekaze's tachi-ai was poor and his feet were completely aligned, but Arawashi refused to get inside keeping his arms out wide until Takekaze moved forward into moro-zashi. Still Takekaze was doing nothing and so Arawashi (2-2) faked a right kote-nage where he just threw himself down to the dohyo as Takekaze (3-1) tried to follow along. Tell me, how do you get the kimari-te kata-sukashi from a guy who had moro-zashi against his opponent?

Never fear. NHK is offering plenty of distractions to the trivia-starved Japanese so they don't have to consider such questions, and today's trivia nugget was this beauty: All of the Makuuchi rikishi with ANIMAL kanji in their names!!

M13 Takarafuji is another one of those guys who holds a cardboard sign in front of the venue that has "will throw bout for food" scribbled on it with a Sharpee.  At least I think it says food, but something tells me they're all doing it for caish. Today against M11 Daishomaru, he refused the left inside even though it was there for the taking and just kept his arm there limp allowing Daishomaru to execute an inashi that threw Takarafuji to the side and back, and there was no resistance or counter move from Fuji as Daishomaru just walked his way to the easy win. Both rikishi end the day at 2-2.

What, we actually had a nage-no-uchi-ai this tournament??  Indeed we did, and it was between M9 Tokushoryu and M11 Chiyonokuni of all rikishi. It definitely wasn't a classic, but I'll take it. The two hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Tokushoryu looked to charge first, but the ever restless Chiyonokuni wanted to end things quickly going for a counter right kote-nage at the edge as Tokushoryu tried to fell him with a left scoop throw. It was close, but they called a mono-ii and declared that Chiyonokuni's right toes scraped the dirt before Tokushoryu put his right hand down, so gunbai to Tokushoryu as both rikishi end the day at 1-3.

M8 Aoiyama came with a right kachi-age against M10 Shohozan keeping Darth Hozan away from the inside throughout using a series of shoves and pulls. Shohozan got close once with the left inside, but Aoiyama backed out of it and continued his offensive eventually driving Shohozan over and out oshi-dashi style. Easy win here as Aoiyama improves to 4-0 while Shohozan falls to 2-2.

M10 Chiyotairyu looked to pulverize M8 Ishiura out of the gate, and he would have if Ishiura hadn'ta ducked low and into moro-zashi. Having been foiled a second in, there wasn't much Chiyotairyu could do as Ishiura employed a nice komata-sukui throw, which is basically tripping your opponent over with a hand to the groin. Fresh!! Both dudes here also end the day at 2-2.

At this point of the broadcast, NHK took us on a trip down memory lane back to 1977 when two Yokozuna battled in Wajima and Kitanoumi. I'm actually going to post the clip to YouTube and link to it here, and I want everyone to watch the bout and then contrast it to what the so-called elite Japanese rikishi are doing today. I'm sure a lot of people read my stuff and go, "How can you call that much yaocho every day?" It's easy. I was raised on sumo like the video below basho after basho and year after year, so when things turn on a dime, I notice the contrast. I mean, why would anyone ever go for a kote-nage throw while standing in front of your opponent? It's unconscionable, but we see that literally every day now. My Western mind notices, and the Japanese people allow themselves to be distracted by 15 year-old chess nerds. Okay, to the video:

I think they showed that prior to the M9 Okinoumi bout to make up for his piss-poor sumo of late. And as soon as I typed that, Okinoumi came out and beat M7 Daieisho. Course, the bout was way ugly as Okinoumi used a right kachi-age from the start before both dudes became separated. Daieisho looked to push his opponent back from there, but Okinoumi used his long arms to stand his ground, and when Daieisho failed on a pull attempt, his balance was compromised allowing Okinoumi to finally offer a shove of his own that knocked Daieisho over in the center of the ring. It was ugly, but I've liked Okinoumi over the years, so I was happy to see him pick up his first win at 1-3. Daieisho was knocked to 2-2 for his troubles.

M5 Chiyoshoma jumped to his right at the tachi-ai in a wild henka that was quite sloppy, but M7 Takanoiwa just couldn't keep his balance and square back up. He tried in vain to reach for Chiyoshoma's leg to trip him up, but he ended up doing the splits right there in the center of the ring as Chiyoshoma walks away with the quick and dirty win standing at 2-2. As for Takanoiwa, he falls to 0-4 after the grease job.

With M4 Ura stepping into the dohyo, they panned the excited crowd and I saw this treat for a lady:

I mean, she does know that she's not a rebellious 16 year-old girl anymore doesn't she? Sometimes I look at these people, and I have no answer other than it's obvious that Richard Simmons' Sweatin' to the Oldies series was never imported into Japan back in the 90's.

Back to the sumo, Ura ducked left at the tachi-ai throwing M6 Onosho off balance, but Ura doesn't have the game to finish his opponents off upright, and so Onosho was able to survive and fire shoves into Ura's head, but he wasn't connecting with the body with Ura ducked so low, so near the edge, Ura was able to finagle his way into a shoulder pull that knocked Onosho to the edge causing him to step out. If you watched the flow of the bout live, it was hard to see Onosho step out, so when he knocked Ura out of the ring for good, it looked like a win for Onosho, but the OhKnowShow clearly stepped out before firing that kill shot, so give Ura the win as he moves to 3-1 while Onosho falls to the same 3-1 mark. Before moving on, I should probably clarify a statement I made about Ura on day 2. I said something like 90% of his wins are handed to him. I think the better way to phrase that would have been only 10% of Ura's wins in this division are earned with straight up sumo. For example, he knew the fix wasn't in today, so what does he do? He goes for the henka. I won't fault him for that, but what I'm getting at is the dude doesn't have the game in this division to win more than 10% of his bouts with straight up sumo, so the next time you see him beat Ichinojo or Terunofuji by yori-kiri in linear fashion, you'll know the fix is in.

Speaking of M6 Ichinojo, he offered a nice left hari into M4 Kagayaki's face before latching onto his outer belt with the same left hand. Ichinojo briefly had the right inside as well, but he pulled that out latching it around Kagayaki's left simply smothering the youngster over to the side and out. Ichinojo has sold plenty of his own bouts the last little while, but I see him working here staying close to .500 as he finishes the day 2-2. As for Kagayaki, he falls to 1-3 with the loss.

M5 Tochiohzan came with a nice right kachi-age that completely rebuffed M3 Endoh at the start, and Endoh's reaction was to go Tochiohzan on Tochiohzan and offer a dumb pull attempt. Problem was it had no effect, and Oh was able to fire a right paw into Endoh's chest that stood him up on the edge but not out. Still, Endoh ain't got the game to recover from a pull, and so he just stood there graciously as Tochiohzan finished him off. Oh moves to 3-1 if ya need him while Endoh is a ho hum 2-2. To put Endoh's game into perspective, he's actually a guy that Ura DID beat straight up.

Sekiwake Tamawashi kept his arms out wide at the tachi-ai and failed to fire a single shove into Komusubi Kotoshogiku, and when I saw that, I was sure he was going to throw the bout, but the Geeku couldn't take advantage despite forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu, and so as The Mawashi danced towards the edge of the dohyo with his left up high keeping Kotoshogiku off balance, the former Ozeki just slid down to the dirt for yet another loss. I think that Tamawashi was willing here, but Kotoshogiku just couldn't score the kill shot, so give the win to Tamawashi without his even trying as he improves to 3-1. As for Kotoshogiku (0-4), even the cows heading to the slaughterhouse are like, "You wanna come with us?"

Ozeki Takayasu came with a sloppy right kachi-age that all but missed against Sekiwake Mitakeumi, and this ususally spells moro-zashi for the other guy, and while Mitakeumi had his right arm inside and the path to the left outer belt, he just stood there like a bump on a log as Takayasu went for a weak pull and shoulder slap followed by some light shoves that sent the defenseless Mitakeumi back and across for good. I suspect that Mitakeumi was mukiryoku here, but it's hard to tell when you have two guys fighting who are always involved in fake bouts. There was a lot of action here but few concrete moves that can actually be described. Regardless, Takayasu improves to 3-1 while Mitakeumi has cooled off a bit at 2-2.

M3 Ikioi came with a fake right kachi-age and then quickly pulled both arms out wide just standing there upright at Ozeki Goeido's bidding. Goeido actually had the front of Ikioi's belt from the start, but he let it go...a sign that he has no clue what to do in the ring. Never fear, though. Ikioi went for one of those aforementioned right kote-nage throws where he forgets to position himself to the side of his opponent and instead stands straight in front of him allowing himself to be forced back and across without argument. A ridiculously easy yaocho call here as Ikioi takes one for team Osaka at 0-4 while Goeido is buoyed up to 2-2.

Ozeki Terunofuji came with a sloppy right hari-te that signaled he was in a sloppy mood today against M2 Hokutofuji as the two eventually hooked up in migi-yotsu, and instead of grabbing the left outer grip or doing anything for that matter, Terunofuji just stood up high and waited for Hokutofuji to force him back. The Ozeki offered little resistance here, and even the applause at the end was light because there was nothing to applaud. It was clearly yaocho as they continue to prop up another Japanese youngster. The announcers had a tough time with this one after because it just doesn't make sense. How many guys are able to beat Terunofuji like that in linear fashion? Regardless, Hokutofuji moves to 3-1 while Terunofuji is picking daisies at 1-3.

Kisenosato and M1 Shodai hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Kisenosato had the smothering left outer grip on Shodai's...sagari!! It didn't matter, though, as Shodai just played along letting Kisenosato just force him back and out. I'm sure none of the fans in the arena caught it, but Kisenosato was so hapless he couldn't even grab the outer grip and just continued to hold onto the sagari. Of course, you know how much leverage you can get from an outer grip on the sagari!! This bout looked like two 6th graders nervously slow dancing for the first time as Kisenosato is gifted his 2-2 mark while Shodai falls to 1-3.

At this point they announced Kakuryu's withdrawal, which gave Komusubi Yoshikaze the freebie moving him to 4-0.

Yokozuna Harumafuji shaded left against M2 Tochinoshin going for the quick and dirty outer grip, and he easily just dragged Tochinoshin over from there. They ruled it uwate-dashi-nage, but half of it was also Tochinoshin just stumbling forward and down as a result of the change-up thrown his way from the Yokozuna. Both furries end the day at 2-2.

Which takes us to one of the strangest bouts I've ever seen, but looking back on it, to me it was the greatest moment in sumo since Terunofuji's organic rise to the Ozeki ranks. Yokozuna Hakuho offered a quick slap of M1 Takakeisho before the youngster backed up, and over and over Takakeisho would look to come in with those faux shoves of his and then back up. It's actually the brand of sumo we see from him most of the time...push and back up; push and back up. The Yokozuna wasn't playing along and seemed frustrated by it all, and about 10 seconds in he just stood fully upright and extended his arms in butsukari-geiko fashion waiting for the youngster to come and get him.

In all my years of sumo, I've never seen a guy do this in a live bout, but when you're a Yokozuna, you can do what you want. Let me rephrase that: when you're a legitimate Yokozuna, you can do what you want. With Hakuho standing there in that fashion, Takakeisho had no choice but to dive in and take his medicine, and once he did, Hakuho got the left inside and right outer grip and used it to just drive Takakeisho back and out without a fight. The win propelled Hakuho to 4-0 while Takakeisho fell to 1-3, but more importantly than that, I think Hakuho made a clear statement today that he's sick and tired of all the shullbit going in here. I mean, it's one thing to prop these useless Japanese rikishi and force them up in the ranks, but when you throw a guy into the ring against a Yokozuna and he doesn't even dare fight it's a problem.

Sumo is a sport that's supposed to go chest to chest, and if you're an oshi guy like Chiyotairyu, then you try and blast your shoves into the other guy's chest. Takakeisho was all bark and zero bite today pretending to shove, but he was really just looking to get out of there. Hakuho was smart to let the bout come to him, but when Takakeisho wouldn't come to him, I think he just got frustrated with the whole situation and finally said, "Bro, it's butsukari-geiko time, and I'm conducting it." Takakeisho had no choice but to finally hook up with the Yokozuna, and when it happened, he stood there limp as a goldfish swimming upside down in the dirty bowl. He's actually lucky that Hakuho didn't send him down to the arena floor, but I think the Yokozuna was too disgusted by it all.

I mean, you have a guy like Kotoshogiku whose not even on his last leg these days, but when he fights Hakuho, he still goes chest to chest. The Geeku knows that he has no chance of winning, but he still goes hard. I guess you could say the same for Kisenosato. He knows he ain't gonna win of his own volition, but he still fights. Takakeisho on the other hand is a cupcake and is not worthy of fighting the Yokozuna during a hon-basho. If watching this brand of sumo gets to me then I'm sure it gets to the Mongolians who have to put up with this shat day after day after day. I mean, I watch that day 1 bout where Takakeisho defeats Terunofuji in linear fashion, and it disgusts me. Where was that same drive from Takakeisho today? It's non-existent because the kid has been propped up in the division without earning squat on his own, and I think it just got to Hakuho during the bout. At least show the Yokozuna the respect of putting up a fight.

If anyone thinks that I'm making a big deal out of this, why haven't rikishi done this before? I mean, Hakuho literally stood straight up...mid-bout...and then extended both arms forward. At first I thought he was doing the WTF? pose, but then it occurred to me he was ready for butsukari-geiko. I thought it was a classic moment in sumo. Normally if a rikishi were to stand straight up like that...say while gifting a win to Goeido as Mitakeumi did...his opponent would just crush him out of the ring, but the fact that Takakeisho didn't even dare get closer when the Yokozuna stood up like that is indicative of how scared and how unprepared he was to be in that situation. I loved it, and as high as my respect for Hakuho was coming in, it's that much higher now after witnessing that scene. Plain and simple: we're all tired of the constant shullbit.

On that note, I shall turn the reins back to Harvye for yet another day of the unknown.

Day 3 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Just before heading home for work, a colleague mentioned to me that certain museums in Kyoto and Osaka have decided to stay open one night a week in summer or some such. "Finally!" he opined. I agreed, and engaged in a brief rant about sumo finishing its workday at about the same time I finish mine. He groaned in sympathy and blamed it on tradition and Shinto, and I riffed briefly on gangsters, though this likely has probably nothing to do with start time, and we picked up our briefcases (okay, I'm the only dork with a briefcase; he has a backpack) and went our separate ways.

When living in the United States, after the dishes are done I will frequently plunk down in the living room and turn on a baseball game. I may have the volume low or even off, and do other things while "watching" (actually mostly just listening; thank you, brilliant Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder, or Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo, to name just four), but it's an enjoyable activity. They show me some advertisements and make their coin, and I get my relaxment. If sumo were on in the evenings here, would I do the same? Absolutely. Instead, doomed by my work day, like most everybody else, I almost never get to see a weekday match live, and god forbid I'd actually want to go to a match, which would require me taking a half day off (though I work close enough to one of the venues that if they started Makuuchi at seven I could be on time no problem).

So it's puzzling to me why sumo doesn't just do this. Stuck in their ways? I guess. But let's say they told NHK, "hey, we're moving Makuuchi to a 19:00 start time--or even 20:00--and we'd love to have you compete for the contract too, but of course we'll be talking to the satellite people, etc." What would happen? Would NHK laugh in their faces and drop them like handball or lacrosse, telling them the only reason they're on TV at all is because NHK is a state monopoly and doesn't care about profits? Maybe. But I don't think so. Have you seen NHK's programming at night? They'd surely be happy to fill it with sumo. Or some cable channel would say, "hell, yeah, prestige programming, we'll get recognized as the big time now." I predict a feeding frenzy: it is an assured money maker, methinks.

Another objection might be, "yeah, but they're better off on public TV, where the general public is guaranteed a chance to see them, than hidden on satellite and only available to elite affluent viewers." Wrong. The Japan Series, their baseball championship, is often only broadcast on cable, amazingly, and baseball has not shriveled up here and died. And would you really like to argue that your local football team (yes, "soccer" or NFL), would be better off if stuck broadcasting only on whatever your country's national provider is? Do you really want to see the NFL wedded moldily to PBS? Bayern Munich only allowed on ARD? Wow, what a vision. And yet that is what we have in Japan: the free market is largely dead with sumo, and some kind of unhealthy NHK/state/sumo partnership keeps sumo floating in the non-competitive nether-lands. This is killing them, and one I really don't get. It is not in the interest of sumo, NHK, or the government. Yet they're all-in, all of them, in a little cabal.

End it.

M15 Nishikigi (2-0) vs. M15 Chiyomaru (2-0)
Chiyomaru just looks kind of silly: big and round and unlimber. I'm already like, "how did he get two wins?" Nishikigi thought the same, as he pushed him around easily and knocked his blubberness over, oshi-taoshi. And that's three wins for him.

M14 Sadanoumi (1-1) vs. M16 Gagamaru (0-2)
Glooooorp! Gagamaru kind of stood up and left his arms wide open, and received the gift of Sadanoumi gloorping into his fatty embrace like a slow-motion torpedo being absorbed into a sea of yoghurt. Shllllup! Sadanoumi trundled Cottage Cheese Festival (Gagamaru) out of the ring, yori-kiri.

M14 Kotoyuki (0-2) vs. M13 Sokokurai (1-1)
Sokokurai stood up, kind of moved out in a henka, kind of didn't, and then, when he realized, "oh, crap, I blew that," grabbed hold of one of Kotoyuki's arms and tugged at it a little bit, like a man gingerly removing a stack of 10,000 yen notes from the grip of a Japanese post-office ATM. Meanwhile, Kotoyuki realized, "hey, this is easy!" and pushed Sokokurai right out, oshi-dashi.

M12 Arawashi (2-0) vs. M13 Takarafuji (1-1)
These two fellows came together and clasped arms and hands together near the belly like a couple of Mafioso making a very personal deal. Half love, half hate. They made a good show of manfully pushing at each other then. Arawashi pushed so hard one of his legs flew up in the air, zoing! But he pushed too hard, or so fate said, because Takarafuji stepped to the side and let him go and he touched ground, hiki-otoshi.

M12 Takekaze (1-1) vs. M11 Daishomaru (1-1)
On the one hand, I usually disdain the henka. On the other hand, sometimes it is fun to watch. Takekaze leapt up and past, springy fat leprechaun, and put his hand down on the back of Daishomaru's head like a senior citizen who has lost his cane but found a convenient countertop to lean on. Daishomaru seemed to then wait for the springy gremlin o' Ireland to use that to finally push him down, which Takekaze dutifully did with a valedictory swat or two, hataki-komi. Kind of amusing, but questionable effort from Daishomaru.

M10 Chiyotairyu (1-1) vs. M10 Shohozan (2-0)
The henka has its place, because if I were Darth Hozan I would have evaded in this one. He didn't, and Chiyotairyu is such a weak foe, Hozan had him going backwards anyway. In an uncharacteristic moment, though, Chiyotairyu evaded successfully, stepping out of the line of fire and knocked Shohozan down, tsuki-otoshi. This was a limp effort by Shohozan, but Chiyotairyu's pivot and thrust down of Shohozan by the head did look kind of nifty.

M11 Chiyonokuni (0-2) vs. M9 Okinoumi (0-2)
Okinoumi looked bored as he chested up and worked on an overhand right. He was the stronger man, though, and got Chiyonokuni to the edge. There, Okinoumi fell to Fate. We've called him a lot of things over the years to signify his oddly accepting, fire-free demeanor, from Padmenoumi to Lake Placid, and that showed up here as Chiyonokuni had the better will to win, and the move to do it: he turned beautifully, shifted his body weight and his grip from one side of Okinoumi's body to the other, stood on one leg like a twirling figure skater, and threw Okinoumi down with a brand new shiny right overhand grip, uwate-nage. As Jeff Probst yells on Survivor, "THAT is how you DO it!!"

M8 Aoiyama (2-0) vs. M8 Ishiura (1-1)
Ishiura kind of reminded me a cat here, batting playfully at a "mouse" you've made out of an old sock and some pillow stuffing. The problem is that Aoiyama is not a mouse, and Aoiyama kind of reminded me of a guy killing a bee: careful now, careful now, bam! you're squished. Hataki-komi.

M9 Tokushoryu (0-2) vs. M7 Daieisho (1-1)
Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) grabbed Daieisho by the head a bit from time to time and circled this way and that. Yes, that was this big fat man's strategy. And eventually he fell down, tsuki-otoshi, as Daieisho had no problem sticking with him and waiting for that to happen. And thus it is proved that Tokushoryu is not a weeble because and if he wobbles he will eventually fall down.

M6 Ichinojo (1-1) vs. M6 Onosho (2-0)
Ichinojo: "I am standing... I am watching... I am waiting... " His big-dollop-of-Baby-Huey impression. Onosho: "okay, I am driving against you, hitting you in the face, roundhousing my arms to keep you off me, settling for the wide open inside position on your body underneath, and driving you out yori-kiri."

M7 Takanoiwa (0-2) vs. M5 Tochiohzan (1-1)
Chest to chest stuff here, with Tochiohzan having a right inside and Takanoiwa a left outside. However, Takanoiwa let go to try for a straightforward push out, and wasn't close enough to the straw or well positioned enough yet. So Tochiohzan went back at him and worked him out, oshi-dashi.

M4 Ura (2-0) vs. M4 Kagayaki (0-2)
Heh heh... it will take me awhile to live down that "Ura reminds me of Asashoryu" comment. Well, call me Monet, I'm an Impressionist. Anyhoo, Ura did nothing special here, just stayed low and pushed, and Kagayaki stayed high and pushed back, and knocked the little man over, oshi-taoshi. Give Kagayaki credit for staying focused, but Ura is going to have to be more aggressive, move around more, and dig into his bag of funny tricks more often if he wants to get his "Asashoryu as painted by Salvador Dali on a crabby day" mojo back.

M5 Chiyoshoma (1-1) vs. M3 Endo (1-1)
Little head bumping tachi-ai from these fellows, then Endo moved out and to the side, and Jim Chiyoshoma Carrey said, "ooh, oooooh, I'm falling, I'm STUMBLING here, oooh, aaaahhh!!! I'm falling down, crap, CRAP!!!! I can't help it, I'm going down, OOOOH, you got me, man, you got me, I FELL, see, I FELL." (‘cept of course he didn't actually fall, just swiped one hand on the ground like he was brushing away some ants, but with all the acting, Looked Pretty Good Didn't It? ... um no, Jim, IT DID NOT!) And by the way, I hate the "tsuki-otoshi," or "thrust-down" ruling most times, because there was no thrusting, and Chiyoshoma did not go down much. For example.

S Tamawashi (2-0) vs. K Yoshikaze (2-0)

S Mitakeumi (2-0) vs. O Goeido (0-2)
Oh! My! God! There is plenty of bad sumo to go around most days, but the highest level of embarrassingly bad shullbit is often associated with Goeido. Something had to give here; Goeido did not want to start out 0-3. So Mitakeumi gave. But it all fell apart in a stupid way. Goeido was busily advancing, and Mitakeumi was standing there tweedling his oodle-boddle, which means precisely nothing, when Mitakeumi decided to make an ineffective pull that involved him going backwards but not pulling Goeido down. They both seemed to think he had gone out at that point--no doubt intended to--but he hadn't. So he stood at the edge of the ring like a guy waiting for the light to turn green, duh, sun's sure bright today, ho hum, and waited for Goeido to come over and push him the rest of the way out, a little sheepishly-looking if you ask me. Even Goeido looked pained after this one.

O Terunofuji (0-2) vs. M3 Ikioi (0-2)
Good match here. Ikioi got his right inside, and Terunofuji put his left on top and pinched him about the body in hard general, and it was on. Round about they went, with Ikioi having a better position but Terunofuji stronger, bigger, and better: it was Ikioi who was on the run and in trouble. So, Ikioi tried something else: not able to move Terunofuji back, he yanked him forward with a sudden jerk, giving up his grip in the process. It didn't work, as Teru has plenty good balance, and when they re-engaged Terunofuji wrapped him up in his tentacles like a giant squid engulfing a baby sperm whale, and forced him out, yori-kiri. This just made me think Fuji the Terrible needs to drape this long limbs and hang that big body against his opponents more often: it looked suffocatingly awful to be his foe at that moment.

O Takayasu (1-1) vs. K Kotoshogiku (0-2)
Well, Komusubi are supposed to get worked the first week. Still, they're not usually former Ozeki with a decade plus of experience under their belt. There is some fun in Kotoshogiku NOT retiring; at this point I am enjoying his "how low will I go" gumption, and we get to see what he really looks like, because as Mike said yesterday, any reason to gift him wins has evaporated. Here he got inside for a moment and put on a second or two of gaburi humping, but Takayasu, like a bored uncle tired of roughhousing with his nephew, twisted to the side a little and slung him down by the shoulders, tsuki-otoshi: "that's enough now, son."

M1 Takakeisho (1-1) vs. Y Harumafuji (0-2)
Harumafuji again had too much separation, which I think is dangerous for him, as he gets wild and sloppy. However, at least this time he took care to move forward in between his distance-hits, surging inwards and gaining bits of ground. And in fact it worked plenty good, because when he grabbed Takakeisho around the body on the right and the belt on the left after that, Takakeisho was already stunned and beaten and pretty much lamely and limply let himself by walked out, yori-kiri.

Y Hakuho (2-0) vs. M1 Shodai (1-1)
One little useless cat slap, thought I, as Hakuho sprang off the boards and slapped Shodai in the face. But perhaps not so little, and not useless at all, as when Hakuho then bumped Shodai in the side, Shodai fell to the dirt, tsuki-otoshi. Granted, I am not in the habit of getting slapped in the face by gigantic, powerful athletes, so I have no idea how effective this can or cannot be. Worked here; chalk one up for Hakuho "Thunder Palm" Yokozun'er.

M2 Hokutofuji (1-1) vs. Y Kakuryu (2-0)
Hmmm. This one came in four quick steps: 1. Evasion and retreat by Hokutofuji. 2. Head slaps by Kakuryu. 3. Quick drive inside by Kakuryu which he gave up on. 4. Pull by Kakuryu, off of which Hokutofuji reacted properly and drove him out, oshi-dashi. So, we have poor strategy by Kakuryu in steps 2, second part of 3, and 4, and the only "winning" moves by Hokutofuji were loser type moves as he reacted in 1 and 4.

And the decks continue to clear for wildness, as this leaves only Hakuho undefeated--after just three days!--among our seven Yoks and Ozers.

Y Kisenosato (1-1) vs. M2 Tochinoshin (1-1)
Yeee haaaah! Remember on Day 1 how I said everybody should just get inside Kisenosato and ride him out? Now, this Yokozuna is not terrible, but he's not great either, and here we just got to see what can happen when a good wrestler unloads his best on him. Great to see. Kisenosato worked on Tochinoshin's face a little at the tachi-ai, but seemed to have no intention to get inside or low, so Tochinoshin did that instead: ducked his head into the flesh and grabbed hold of a belt first on one side, then switched to the other, and then just kept in there, burrowing away. Pretty simple stuff, really, as he yori-kiri'ed the big Yok out with some good effort. Excellent first three days for Toch so far, as his one loss was a yeoman effort against Hakuho. See ya, Kise, and thank you for being real.

Tomorrow Mike shows Ted Epstein how to drum.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The word of the day coming off of the shonichi bouts was "haran," or turbulence. That expression along with "o-are," or a LOT of turbulence is often used when a host of Yokozuna and Ozeki fall on any particular day of a basho. To be precise, on day 1 of the Nagoya basho, two Yokozuna fell and all three Ozeki went down, the first time that's happened since 1981. The funny thing was that I didn't even notice the big shake-up. When I watched the final seven bouts of the day, I was like, "legit, legit, fake, legit, legit, fake, legit."  It wasn't until I read the evening headlines that it occurred to me that so many Yokozuna and Ozeki were defeated on the same day.  Of course, keeping track of stats these days in sumo has about as much value as Air Supply CD's on eBay.

I missed the commentary at the start of day 2 because NHK felt it was more important to broadcast debate in the Japanese parliament regarding that scandal of the Kakei private school in Osaka that received huge government assistance and funding to the benefit of current Prime Minister Abe's wife. The coverage lasted for over an hour, but I look at it this way:  they pre-empted scandal and cover-ups to broadcast debate on more scandal and cover-ups, so it all works out in the end.

The only negative about missing the first half of the broadcast was that I wasn't able to listen to the spin from the Japanese announcers regarding the previous day.  It's not that I rely on it, but it's just fun to poke holes in their commentary.  On day 1, NHK did show a list of the specials that they have prepared for various days throughout the tournament, and I'm really looking forward to day 9 when they will focus on what's becoming a lost art in sumo:  the uwate-nage.  In particular, they are going to focus on Chiyonofuji bouts where he bested his foes by uwate-nage, so it should be fun to watch that and then contrast it with the crap they try to pass as legitimate sumo on the dohyo these days.

With that, let's get right to the day 2 bouts starting with M16 Gagamaru, who hit M15 Nishikigi nicely getting the left arm inside forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu, but Gagamaru failed to press further or reach for the right outer, which was there, and so he allowed Nishikigi to use a mediocre left dashi-nage to set up moro-zashi, and Gagamaru (0-2) continued to play along as Nishikigi moves to 2-0. Gagamaru had this pained look on his face at the end as if to say, "What just happened?"  Yaocho happened.

M15 Chiyomaru absorbed M14 Kotoyuki's weak tachi-ai and then moved left slapping downward at Kotoyuki's dickey do sending the former barker off the dohyo and onto one of the judge's laps in his usual exaggerated exit from the dohyo. Maru moves to 2-0 while Kotoyuki falls to 0-2.

M13 Takarafuji and M14 Sadanoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, but instead of going chest to chest, Takarafuji went for as weak a pull as you care to see, and the dumb move gave enabled Umi to score the easy force-out win.  This bout was likely paid for as both dudes fall to 1-1.

M13 Sokokurai stood straight up at the tachi-ai allowing M12 Takekaze to just pummel him straight back and across without argument. Easy call here as both rikishi end the day at 1-1, and if I'm not mistaken, that's four mukiryoku bouts in four tries.

M11 Chiyonokuni was his usual hurried self after catching M12 Arawashi with a nice paw at the tachi-ai, but Arawashi moved laterally fishing for the left outer grip. He failed to latch onto the grip the first try, but as Chiyonokuni reversed direction trying to square back up with his foe, Arawashi moved left again this time latching onto the belt and pulling with the other hand as he sent Chiyonokuni down and out. Arawashi moves to 2-0 if you need him while Chiyonokuni falls to 0-2.

M11 Daishomaru henka'd left getting M10 Chiyotairyu in a kote grip, and Tairyu isn't exactly famous for his ability to turn on a dime, and so Daishomaru mounted a charge into Chiyotairyu's right side that sent the Kokonoe-beya rikishi easily across. This win was quick and dirty for Daishomaru who moves to 1-1 while Chiyotairyu falls to the same mark.

I missed the start of the M10 Shohozan - M9 Okinoumi bout, and when NHK showed the hurried replay, the two guys were hunkered down in the center of the ring in hidari-yotsu. Within seconds Shohozan went for a force-out charge that easily sent Okinoumi back and across, and as Okinoumi walked to his side of the dohyo, he looked to be favoring his left heel. He falls to 0-2 and could very well fall out of the division altogether if injured. As for Shohozan, he improves to 2-0.

M8 Aoiyama had his tsuppari attack going early against M9 Tokushoryu, and with Tokushoryu not really standing his ground, Aoiyama opted to shade to his right and go for a shoulder pull. The move wasn't that deft, but neither is Tokushoryu's footwork as he wasn't able to keep his balance just stepping out of the ring before squaring back up. Aoiyama is a quiet 2-0 while Tokushoryu falls to 0-2.

M8 Ishiura's feet were aligned at the tachi-ai rendering him an easy target for M7 Daieisho's tsuppari attack, and Daieisho pounced pushing Ishiura back quickly to the straw.  Ishiura never could get his feet set properly despite a counter tsuki-otoshi move with the right, and when that move failed, Daieisho just felled him tsuki-otoshi style out of the ring with some oomph. Both rikishi here end the day at 1-1.

M7 Takanoiwa henka'd left against M6 Ichinojo grabbing the cheap outer grip and using it to attempt to spin the Mongolith around and around, but Ichinojo used his right arm nicely to the inside halting Takanoiwa's momentum just enough to where he was able to bring the arm outside and fell Takanoiwa with a right kote-nage. Just look how quick Ichinojo can be when he wants to win as he picks up his first win while Takanoiwa falls to a harmless 0-2.

M6 Onosho met M5 Tochiohzan with dual shoves, but he quickly backed up going for a dumb pull. Luckily for him Tochiohzan wasn't trying to win, and so he let Onosho survive before moving to his left and executing a weak shoulder slap that of course felled Tochiohzan to the dirt.  One of these days I'm going to create a list that shows tell-tale signs of yaocho, and one of them is a guy who touches the dohyo with both palms, but no other part of his body. T'was the case here as Tochiohzan (1-1) showed his best moves during his fall ensuring that he wouldn't get any dirt on him.  As for Onosho, he's gifted his 2-0 start, and I actually like this kid and think he has pretty good game, but it doesn't mean that this bout wasn't yaocho. There have been a lot of bouts thrown Onosho's way since his debut (de-butt as we say in Utah) in the division.

As much as I like Harvye, I'm not sure that he wasn't utterly plastered when he said that Ura reminded him of Asashoryu.  Maybe he can clarify further in future reports, but Ura is the most hapless guy in the division right now.  I know, I know, he's ranked at M4, but 90% of this guy's wins in the division are gifts.  And today he got another gift, this time from a Mongolian of course in M5 Chiyoshoma who just stood straight up at the tachi-ai with his arms extended for a second before he just backed up more than he went for an actual pull.  Ura just followed his gal back scoring the ridiculously easy oshi-dashi win moving to 2-0 while Chiyoshoma falls to 1-1.

In a compelling bout, M4 Kagayaki stepped into the ring against M3 Endoh, who is sporting a yellow mawashi this basho, or a "mustard" color as we like to say in the gay community.  Kagayaki took charge winning the tachi-ai and using some nice shoves to put Endoh back against the straw, and as Endoh looked to move laterally, Kagayaki was there keeping up the tsuppari attack. With Kagayaki dominating the bout, he suddenly went into passive mode standing in the center of the ring like a bump on a log with both arms out wide. Gone were the nice de-ashi and gone was the tsuppari attack, and Endoh knew what to do from there burrowing inside and shoving the now listless Kagayaki back and across. There was some politics in play here as Kagayaki is Endoh's kohai, and Kagayaki obviously deferred to his senpai here just giving up the last half of the bout.  Endoh ends the day at 1-1 while Kagayaki willingly falls to 0-2.

I was hoping that the M2 Hokutofuji - Sekiwake Mitakeumi bout would be fought straight up because I think these two dudes belong close on the banzuke.  Hokutofuji actually has the better sumo, but don't discount Mitakeumi's experience. Unfortunately, the last thing on Hokutofuji's mind today was sound sumo, and it started at the tachi-ai where he just kept both arms way out wide gifting Mitakeumi moro-zashi if he wanted it.  Instead of going in for the bear hug, Mitakeumi just shoved into the defenseless Hokutofuji standing him upright and sending him out of the dohyo in a second and a half.  I'm not saying that Mitakeumi can't beat Hokutofuji straight up, but politics was in play here as Hokutoumi just let the over-hyped Sekiwake do him in mere seconds.  Mitakeumi moves to 2-0 with the gift, and he has as good'a chance as anyone this basho to yusho.  As for Hokutoumi, he falls to 1-1 but will eat well tonight.

Sekiwake Tamawashi henka'd to his left against Ozeki Terunofuji coming away with a stiff right paw into the Ozeki's neck, and just as Terunofuji looked to swipe The Mawashi's arms away and get to the inside, Tamawashi caught him with another nice paw to the throat standing the Ozeki upright, and the Sekiwake showed his power here as he blasted Terunofuji back and across.  Despite the henka, this was good oshi-zumo from Tamawashi who moves to 2-0 while Terunofuji falls to 0-2.

At the start of the day 1 broadcast, the topic was Takayasu and his promotion to Ozeki. The piece ended with Takayasu's saying that his next goal was to hoist the Emperor's Cup, and while that likely won't happen this tournament, it should happen in the next 18 months or so to justify his promotion.  Today he stepped into the ring against M3 Ikioi, and there was no way they were going to let the Ozeki go 0-2.  Takayasu came with his usual right kachi-age that has little effect, and with no pressure being applied to him, Ikioi was able to move right and grab the faux-zeki in the right kote-nage grip with the left hand at the back of Takayasu's head, but instead of continuing to move sideways to set up the throw, he just pulled Takayasu straight into his body doing all of the work as they awarded Takayasu the yori-kiri win.  As if.  Takayasu did nothing the entire bout and tumbled forward out of the dohyo completely out of control, and the only reason he won was because Ikioi just dragged the Ozeki into his body forcing the force-out.  Easy yaocho call here as Takayasu his gifted his first win at 1-1 while Ikioi is 0-2.

Speaking of 0-2, Ozeki Goeido finds himself at that record thanks to his horrible sumo and opponents who haven't let up for him so far. Today against Komusubi Yoshikaze, his tachi-ai wasn't that bad, but it wasn't great either, and the Ozeki wasn't able to set anything up from it, so his Plan B?  Go for the dumb pull at the first sign of trouble, which came in the form of Yoshikaze slipping left and getting the left arm inside at the belt.  Well, Yoshikaze read the Ozeki's pull attempt like a dirty manga on a crowded subway and just lifted the compromised Ozeki upright before forcing him back and across with his head acting as a battle ram. Yoshikaze is 2-0 after a legit win today and a joke gift from Harumafuji yesterday while Goeido already needs to beg for charity at 0-2.

The best sumo of the day by far was displayed by Yokozuna Hakuho and M2 Tochinoshin, who hooked up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position where Tochinoshin actually went for the early force-out kill. Despite driving Hakuho back a step or two, the Yokozuna was never in trouble and easily hunkered down surviving another tsuri attempt before gathering his wits, forcing Tochinoshin over to the edge, and then twisting him over and out with the left grip. This bout lasted about 20 seconds, and Hakuho was never in trouble despite Tochinoshin's fine effort. The result was Hakuho's moving to 2-0 while Tochinoshin fell to his first loss.

At some point you'd think Komusubi Kotoshogiku's pride would kick in and he'd retire, but he's still throwing himself to the mercy of his opponents. The problem is that his opponents don't really see the need to help him, and why would they?  If they are obligated to give wins to the younger guys, why waste another win on the Geeku?  Today, Yokozuna Kakuryu got the left arm inside at the tachi-ai and then paused a bit waiting for the Geeku to make a move, and when it didn't come, the Yokozuna just moved right and pulled the Geeku down easily with a light slap to the shoulder.  Kotoshogiku falls to 0-2 while Kakuryu is a quiet 2-0.

I was really intrigued by the next bout that featured Kisenosato vs. M1 Takakeisho. It's not because I like either of these guys or think that their sumo is worth a shat. Rather, I think they both belong in the same nether regions of the banzuke, so I was interested to see if Takakeisho would actually go for a cash grab and beat Kisenosato. Unfortunately he didn't, but he did dictate the pace of the bout from the start using his tsuppari attack to keep Kisenosato upright and at bay, and Kisenosato had no answer for Takakeisho. Thing was that Takakeisho's lower body wasn't into the bout intentionally, and so he'd strike with the arms, fake a pull, shove again, dilly dally around the ring, and then repeat the whole process. The thing he never did was go for the kill even though it was there the whole time. Despite Takakeisho's letting up, Kisenosato could do absolutely nothing. There was no offense and no defense. He was completely at the mercy of the younger Takakeisho, and about fifteen seconds into the bout with Takakeisho in charge, Kisenosato finally offered a light slap at Takakeisho's shoulder, and the youngster just dove to the dirt in exaggerated fashion. Simple physics dictates that Kisenosato's light shoulder pat would not send Takakeisho down like that; the youngster took a dive, and it was obvious. Like Ura, Takakeisho receives a helluva lotta help, but he still dominated Kisenosato today as both rikishi finish the day at 1-1.  Before we move on, there was no way that they were going to let Kisenosato lose to a guy still so young like Takakeisho. No way.

In the day's final bout, it was more tomfoolery from Yokozuna Harumafuji who got his left arm to the inside of M1 Shodai at the tachi-ai, and his right arm was in position for an outer grip, but he just took that arm off of the belt, swung it over Shodai's head completely exposing his right side to the M1 should he want to push the Yokozuna out with ease. He did of course making it look easy, and I'm beginning to see a resemblance these days between Harumafuji's sumo and Jim Carey movies.  I'm talking about the ones where he's completely overacting. The only thing missing here were silly faces from the Yokozuna, and even the crowd wasn't that impressed because the applause was light afterwards.  Whatever as Shodai picks up his first win with Harumafuji's falling to 0-2.

My favorite scene from the entire broadcast came when they were introducing the judges for the second half action. There was a guy sitting right next to Musoyama who was out for the count, and I can't blame him. The sumo so far has been terrible.

Day 1 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
As we have chronicled over the last 19 months, sumo has undergone a dramatic reset. It began with Kotoshogiku ending ten years of futility by native Japanese wrestlers by taking home the yusho in January 2016. It continued through Goeido's improbable yusho late last year, and it culminated this winter with Kisenosato not only getting his yusho to complete the triumvirate of Japanese Ozeki with a championship, but getting promoted to Yokozuna and putting a capital Y on that with another yusho right away in March. With Takayasu's promotion to Ozeki after May and the continued buzz around new hopers from the certified hype-festers, like Shodai and Mitakeumi, to glittery pyrite, Endo, to dark horse SumoTalk fave, Hokutofuji, the position of Japanese wrestlers is now firmly front and center, and with nice rounded out corners.

So what happens now? What I find interesting about this tournament is that I have no sense that it is anybody's "turn." Yes, a Mongolian (Hakuho) won last time, so you might say it should be Kisenosato or Goeido's "turn." But sumo is not a metronome, and even in the current era of doling championships out, we should not expect such suffocating precision. Similarly, it doesn't seem that Harumafuji, Kakuryu, or Hakuho himself "need" a win--it's been awhile for Harumafuji, for example, but you get the feeling if he never one again no one would care.

From a "political" perspective, the tournament would seem to revolve around Hakuho: when he gets the most-career-wins record, is it best for him to have a championship along with it, or is it nice balance if he just gets that record and the yusho goes to someone like Kisenosato? He needs twelve wins for the record. I say 50/50 he gets it this tournament, or they save it for a footnote to open the Aki basho in September. The record holder is Kaio, who never reached Yokozuna: this record is minor among the majors and any focus on it is essentially for fluff.

In short, I think the cynics (yes, I am one) and the blue-skiers have something in common this tournament: picking the yusho is hard, as the reset has left us with an ostensible level playing field where anything really can happen. There is legitimate excitement in that. I think the four real yusho contenders are Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Hakuho, and Kakuryu, in that order, but the downscale-feeling Nagoya sweat-box would present a great place and time for a dark horse winner--don't be surprised if Takayasu, Goeido, or even Mitakeumi or Shodai continue the new-era trends. (Conspicuously absent from my yusho contender line-up is Terunofuji--the time still does not feel right for him, though in a fair world he'd be right in there. Count him out for this tournament.)

Go sumo go.

M16 Gagamaru vs. M15 Chiyomaru
"Maru" means circle. Battle of the Rounds. Slow motion tachi-ai by Gagamaru did let him reach in carefully and get a belt, but Chiyomaru was already underneath with a right arm deep inside and the left on the belt outside as well; easy yori-kiri for him.

M15 Nishikigi vs. M14 Kotoyuki
Nice start by Kotoyuki with wicked neck thrusts, but bad finish, as Nishikigi just stepped to the side and Kotoyuki fell like a dead mackerel into the breach. Tsuki-otoshi.

M14 Sadanoumi vs. M13 Sokokurai
Sadanoumi looked to have control from the beginning, with a little more aggression and more forward movement, but pretty soon they both had right inside grips. The problem is Sokokurai is just better than the much-faded Sadanoumi. Sad Man couldn't move him, and when Sadanoumi resorted to attempting a trip, which would normally be Sokokurai's move, you know it was over. Sokokurai turned him around and forced him out, yori-kiri.

M13 Takarafuji vs. M12 Takekaze
Two veterans slumming, but Takekaze now belongs down here, and Takarafuji doesn't. I'm looking for him to have a great tournament. All he needed to do was be patient and careful, which is his forte anyway, and he was. Takekaze deeked at him busily, and Takarafuji stepped carefully forward little by little with focused, more powerful shoves and knocked the little gremlin down, oshi-taoshi.

M12 Arawashi vs. M11 Daishomaru
Daishomaru is just a puller, but Arawashi often is one too, and has strength and speed besides, so he thought he'd just pull the better pull. He did: nice concentration, one hit, one step back, one bonk on the head, hataki-komi cream pie.

M11 Chiyonokuni vs. M10 Shohozan
Here's two guys who probably think they should be ranked higher, but actually are exactly where they belong if they want to have a comfortable shot at a winning record. They're both fiery competitors, so the flailing tachi-ai was about as expected, but what you had from there was Chiyonokuni, who lost said tachi-ai by being too high, pulling and being driven easily out by a mindful Shohozan, oshi-dashi.

M10 Chiyotairyu vs. M9 Okinoumi
Exploding sideshow crackerjack to the left, powerful, skilled rikishi to the right. But Okinoumi kind of sniffed at the firecracker inside of smothering it with his belly, and it went off in his face, BOOM!, and blew him out of the ring in one fell blast, oshi-dashi. Happens.

M9 Tokushoryu vs. M8 Ishiura
Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) is way, way bigger, but he doesn't move well and has always looked kind of useless to me, while Ishiura is lithe and has some moxy, so I saw this one as a mismatch in Stone Ass's (Ishiura's) favor. He put an exclamation point on that with an effective, sweeping-armed henka and instant uwate-dashi-nage win.

M8 Aoiyama vs. M7 Daieisho
If Aoiyama were anything like what his size, power, and best scary beat-‘em-up technique indicate he should be, this would be a mismatch too. Instead, since Aoiyama is so often a sloppy mass of slipshodness, I gave Daieisho a fair chance. It was a good one. Aoiyama brought the ham hocks, thundering down a steady rain of smelting anvils. Daieisho, however, hung with it surprisingly well, moving out of the way when it got too dangerous. That just meant he got beat up longer, though. Aoiyama battered him this way and that around the ring, in control but unable to finish it, while Daieisho suffered the punishment. Eventually, what had to be, was: Daieisho turned and fled. Okuri-dashi win for Aoiyama.

M7 Takanoiwa vs. M6 Onosho
Nice sneaky left inside by Onosho off the tachi-ai; Takanoiwa sensed it and, in a panicky, jerky retreat, tried to twist out of it and make hay of it too with an arm pull and throw. Nope. Onosho turned with him and bodily knocked him over backwards, yori-taoshi. Good looking and fun.

M6 Ichinojo vs. M5 Tochiohzan
It looked like Ichinojo was slurping up a little cup of jelly, or cradling an iron baby, so inside Tochiohzan was. ‘Course, that was dumb, because that's just where Tochiohzan likes to be. Tochiohzan stayed inside and drove and pushed, and hey, oshi-dashi.

M5 Chiyoshoma vs. M4 Kagayaki
The other day someone asked me who my favorite wrestler is (a question involving arbitrary silliness that I dislike), and I almost said Chiyoshoma. Wow. That's where my instincts took me. He's strong, dynamic, and packed with potential. I guess I really like him. He was dominated here in the strength division by Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki), but he skillfully ran around the rim of the tawara in evasion until ‘Skeeter fell down, hataki-komi. That's how you fry ‘im.

M4 Ura vs. M3 Endo
Why do people like Ura? Because his sumo is something totally different, because it is lively, and because he makes his small size work for him. It is, admittedly, sometimes exciting. I contemplated writing him into my intro with Endo as the "Pyrite Brothers": false hope. But you know what? As personally underwhelmed by Ura as I have been in the upper division, a niggling awareness reminds me that the person he reminds me of most (now, don't mock too much now!) is Asashoryu. Yep. Asashoryu was just starting out when I was just starting out, and was a wild, exciting mess out there, not the powerful, consistent dominator he would later develop into. For the novice eye, it presented something that attracted attention, held your focus, and was a break in the sameness of the unfamiliar sport. There was an electric charisma in it. So I don't discount the possibility that Ura may (may!) leverage what he has into something more as well. He does not lack for guts or charisma. So, I don't see him as pure gimmick, and he certainly has more future than the underpowered, already faded Endo. Now, Ura ain't no Asashoryu. But he's got some game, albeit unusual game. He did fairly standard sumo here, though: staying low and pushing up, keeping square to his man, seeking forward movement. Endo had no answer for this, striking downward and flirting with pulls, and was easy okuri-dashi fodder.

S Tamawashi vs. M3 Ikioi
Our first match out of the staircase zigzag: the first 26 guys each fought the guy next to him on the banzuke. Now we're into the top 16, and Ikioi is the first lower guy plucked up to see what he can do with a special-ranker. Tamawashi was lightning fast on the strikes and thrusts today; Ikioi was wise to try to escape and reset, but slipped and fell down when he did. Or maybe he'd already stepped out, because they called it oshi-dashi. As you know, I love me some Tamawashi, but here's my challenge to him: get 11 or more wins, not 10 or 9 or 8, and then it won't be just SumoTalk taking him seriously.

O Takayasu vs. M2 Hokutofuji
And just like that here he is, new Ozeki Takayasu. I wish I could give more than a shrug for that, but my feeling is the Ozeki rank has been so watered down that it feels more like he's been dubbed "Permanent Komusubi!" or something. Also, with four Yokozuna and three Ozeki, this guy is ranked seventh--most tournaments that wouldn't put you into the Ozeki rank. You'd be a Sekiwake. Which is what he feels like. Well, let's see how he does: he whiffed at the tachi-ai, one arm shooting up free into the air, and Hokutofuji was inside and aggressive in the excellent bout and controlled throughout with steady, low, inside pressure. Takayasu did not immediately crumple, and Hokutofuji had to stay with him and was vulnerable to pulls and throws, but he stayed low and rolling-boulder-like until he finally knocked Takayasu over, oshi-taoshi. I think that's what you get when you're an "Ozeki." Good effort by both parties, but Hokutofuji may already be the better wrestler. Hurrah!

M2 Tochinoshin vs. O Goeido
I fear the bad-kneed Tochinoshin may never have a dominant tournament in these parts of the banzuke again, especially as he seems to have no political juice behind him. I have a bum knee myself, and it is painful to watch him sometimes. However, he hit hard on the tachi-ai and I liked his grips: reaching down hard and straight and pulling with iron levers, one inside, one out. But Goeido, by virtue of his smaller size, was below him, and made good use of that position, having dual grips of his own. Tochinoshin was essentially stuck static, and Goeido was the aggressor and looked good here--until the end. At the kill Goeido had Tochinoshin dead to rights at the tawara, but they did that little dance: Tochinoshin escaped along the rim, and Goeido lurched sloppily forward toward the tawara. They both dangled a limb or two in the air for a moment, hoping the other would plant down first. Tochinoshin held for a split second longer and picked up the sukui-nage win. Good match, lackluster finish.

O Terunofuji vs. M1 Takakeisho
Terunofuji stood around and took lazy little swats at Takakeisho, like a practice dummy with remote-control arms. That metal practice fighting machine with the blades near the beginning of David Lynch's Dune. And how are you supposed to win like that? Why would anyone think that is a winning strategy? I'd call that tough-guy-waiting-to-get-beat. Which of course he was: Muad Dib (Takakeisho) wasn't close to being knocked down by Terunofuji's "here I am, sucka!" shoves, and moved forward with care and confidence and scored an easy oshi-dashi win.

That's a clean sweep of the "Ozeki," and, like I said, yep, go ahead and count Terunofuji out for this tournament. And we move on to the real contenders...

M1 Shodai vs. Y Kakuryu
Kakuryu reached in under in front and pulled at Shodai's belt like a guy trying to yank laundry out of a mangle. Then he got a right hand on the belt and never let go until it was time for a coup de grace shove at the end, okuri-dashi. Yeh, he's still the Yokozuna, and Vanilla Softcream (Shodai) just ain't.

Y Kisenosato vs. S Mitakeumi
Oh, the crowd loved it. Luvvvvved it. The run-up, that is. A visit to Lord Kisenosato's castle. And with Handsome Courier Mitakeumi, too! It's like Elsa and Anna from "Frozen!" Or something. Lord Kisenosato moved forward a tiny, tiny bit at the tachi-ai, but left himself wide open as usual, and Mitakeumi just went on in there, thank you, ma'am, and drove Kisenosato, back, back, back... and gone! A two run homer, just over the wall in left, for Mitakeumi! Simple yori-kiri stuff, and the floor is wide, wide open. Everybody should do this to Kisenosato. Like, seriously.

K Yoshikaze vs. Y Harumafuji
Harumafuji employed the exact same strategy Terunofuji did: stupid bad-boy blows while standing at a distance. Yep. Yoshikaze did a strategic little pull, got behind him and got him by the butt button, and started working on the okuri-dashi. At that point Harumafuji finally got serious, but it was too late. They whirled around a time or two pretty good, but Yoshikaze was all over him, Harumafuji was compromised, and Yoshikaze lifted one of Harumafuji's feet off the ground by the knee and finished him off with a yori-kiri push. The announcer said, "I have no words." I, however, have 101.

Y Hakuho vs. K Kotoshogiku
Kotoshogiku was probably feeling good with a right belt grip, while Hakuho had none at all, but Hakuho felt good, too: he whipped Kotoshogiku to the ground by the arm and upper body, shitate-nage, like a shipboard rain squall. Yipes! I'm not quite ready to hand the tournament to him or Kakuryu, but it was quite a day.

Mike plays bass like Gabe Katz tomorrow.






















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