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Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
As I sit here munching on my beer this dark Monday morning, Im not certain which was more spectacular: The entire Tokyo cosmopolis being cast into darkness by the shadow of the moon for the first time in nearly two-hundred years, or Kyokutenho winning his first ever yusho over Tochiohzan in a playoff for the aged...I mean ages.

Im also undecided about which was more laughable, watching SMAP (now about ten years past whatever "prime" they ever had) cavorting at the top of a Tokyo skyscraper on some enormous mural of Earth in front of a huge lighted disc that looked like nothing so much as that lame ring in the film "Stargate" (though Im sure they wanted it to appear as the cool spinning wormhole machine in the film "Contact" that sent Jodie Lennon tripping across the universe), singing about the sun and moon in lyrics even more mundane than "Theres always tomorrow," OR the yusho going to a wrestler so past HIS prime that he went 18-27 in his previous three basho, a turn of events not seen in sumo since the infamous Takatoriki Yusho of Haru 2000 (yes, its referred to like a hurricane), who had gone 17-28 in his previous three. (I should note that Takatoriki had taken the jun-yusho, or runnerup, twice in his career, and Kyokutenho has done it once himself, so its not like these guys are Asanowaka and Takamisakari--who, sadly, will finish his first full post demotion year in Juryo this Nagoya basho).

To be fair, youd have to be one special type of heartless bastard to not feel good for The Chauffer, one of the two original Mongolian founding fathers who entered sumo in March of 1992 (yes, before Tiffany Trump was even BORN!), the other being the Trickster, Benofranklinashuzan. The only other guys in the top division we might feel as good for if they took the tourney are Wakanosato and Miyabiyama. I know Id be squeezing out a few if the The Barometer stood short and proud up on that dais of dirt and hoisted Lord Stanleys Cup, or whatever the hell it is, pon high. Similarly Id feel a twinge in me cold heartmuscle if MiFlobbyama, sans The Twin (who, rather regrettably, began shrinking out of existence years ago and now lives on only as a mere ghost of his former self...kind of like Kotooshu) could just once press his soft, droopy mammaries to that same hardware.

Course, Takatoriki fought gamely in that basho. From the absolute bottom rung of the division, M14, he went kajagoogoo for cocoa puffs, going 9-0 before they pitted him against Mr. Blue Collar Komusubi Tosanoumi (8-7), whom he beat, and then Sekiwake Musoyama (who was never the brightest candle on the cake, and rushed his attack vs. Takatoriki, and fell to the dirt pretty much on his own--had he won that bout, Musoyama may have taken the yusho (at 13-2) for the second basho in a row as Sekiwake. Interestingly enough, in that same basho, one of Musoyamas other costly losses came on Day 5 via hataki-komi against a young 27 year-old hed fought only once before by the name of...Kyokutenho! Everything old is new again and Clancy knows how to use the awesome stat site Sumo Reference). Takatoriki then lost to the two American Yokozunas, but in his yusho winning finale totally flummoxed Miyabiyama into crashing out onto his face as the M14 slipped aside at the ropes.

Kyokutenho did it a bit differently. Racing out to a 2-3, he proceeded to dispose of a couple of zans here, a couple of fujis there, the odd waka and yama, and before you knew it, he was going toe to toe with the most dangerous and focused of all the Ozeki, the mighty Kotooshu (I apologize if youre computer just crashed due to "ironic overload"). We all know Kotooshu tried to win that bout like Bush tried to avoid war in Iraq. Still, thats on the Bulgar, not the Mongol cum Nihonjin. Kyokutenho went at it full bore and won, setting up his clash with Goeido on Day 15 for a chance to take on Tochiohzan (whod been gifted his 12th win because unlike Bush, Kotooshu did not escape his quagmire unscathed, evidently fracturing a toe or two as he was flung out by The Chauffer on Day 14--and we all know fractures are super painful and cause anyone who gets one to drop out,

So come on Clancy, what happened, what happened? Well, there might be one of you, maybe even only one-half of you, who has not already seen every bout on the Web, so for you, Eric the Half A Bee, Ill get to the rasslin.

In a scintillating bout, Goeido got an immediate inside left belt and spun Kyokutenho around, driving him quickly back to the edge. Looked like a win for Kooleido, (begin Forrest Gump accent in your head) but as weve seen the former Mongolian do for well nigh twenty year now (and Forrest Gump accent), he used an over the shoulder, back of the belt grip to lift up Noweido and turn him, just as he himself very nearly stepped out. He continued lifting and turning his foe along the edge, and it all went sour for Lemoneido, as his lower left appendage swished the clay outside the ring while he struggled to not look like a guy getting an insane wedgie.

Now guaranteed a playoff, the crowd pritnear writhed in anticipation (not only for Monday mornings SMAP performance, but also for the coming Kisenosato-Baruto bout). In that bout, Baruto led off with some deep dish pizza face pushing, thought The Kids neck was gonna snap, but that kind of sumo is quite ineffectual (keeping a head centered long enough to shove out a gigantic body?) and Kisenosato rallied, getting in and under Barutos left pit with his right hand and shoving the Estonian back to the edge, his left hand on the Biomass breast (Fresh!). Baruto smartly used his right forearm to raise up Kises left, rendering it ineffectual for a nanosecond, not long enough yet to find the Higgs boson perhaps, but long enough to keep Kisenosato away while Baruto balanced on the ropes.

Now the battle was fully joined as Kise pressed in tightly with an outside right, inside left belt grip, while Baruto got the outside right that would prove the deciding grip. The Biomass, with both feet on the tawara, bent his legs slightly and then straightened them while pushing forward, getting separation from the edge. Smartly he didnt stop to congratulate himself, but instead immediately started lifting up on that belt with his mighty righty and turning his fellow Ozeki of the Ozeki Fellowship into him (pretty much the same move that Chauffer had used on NotTodeido). Kisenosato, however, had his own back of the belt grip, and so it ended up as one of those classic crashouts, where the combatants look like two drunks walking home with their arms around each others back. Baruto proved to be the stronger fella this day (and those long legs didnt hoit, either) as he fell out and crushed Kisenosato, both literally and figuratively.

So the one time future of sumo missed a golden opportunity to yusho, but there was no shame in this loss as he went all out against one of the most fearsome sumos, in any one given bout, to ever don the mawashi. Propers to Baruto for not lying down after three straight losses.

Now, I know some of you mistakenly think that we here at ST called for a Kisenosato or Kotoshogiku yusho, which in fact we never did. Probably those belaboring under this belief are conflating our accurate analysis of both mens rise to Ozeki last year with our occasional assessment of sumo needing a JPese champion, and perhaps combining that with some guesses weve made, but as far as I know, what I dont know in this town aint worth knowin, no one ever said hed win, no one guaranteed anything, and today he aint winnin no yusho. So take yer flunky and dangle. (Sorry, went all Albert Finney on your there.)

Anyway, this is pretty funny. Yesterday, my webwanderings brought me to YouTube, and then to a late 1980s US tv series called, "Monsters." The show was sort of like not-all-that-clever college guys trying to imitate the great Rod Serling after watching Tales From the Crypt fifteen times. At any rate, for those of you who wonder why I harbor the suspicions I do about sumo, please check out the following two links. First link watch from 7:00 to 7:20. Second link (which is VERY important to the content of the first link) watch from 1:05 to 1:25.

So on to the playoff between Tochiohmyfeckinlordiminaplayoff and Kyokutenholdthedoorbecauseimnotretiringjustyet. The last time I saw someone as nervous as Tochiohzan during the warm-ups was when Martin, while visiting Japan a few years ago, used my telephone to call his mother back home to make sure she remembered to videotape that hot new sitcom all the rage in Romania, "Hogans Heroes."

I wish I could relate to you all a struggle of titanic proportions, but what were we to expect from an M7 and an M4, the goddamned Battle of Guadalcanal? Tochiohzan stumbled forward like a freshman at his first cotillion, and all Kyokutenho had to do was back up a smidgen. He placed his hands on Oh Shits back, but that was just to administer a "There, there" kind of backpat as he fell. Honestly, I dont think there was anything strange about this bout...other the fact that it was occurring at all! Kyokutenho has WAY too much brain for Goeido or Tochiohzan (and he ought to praise the powers that be who decided to have Kakuryu and Kotoshogiku wrestle each other rather than one of them him).

I was lucky enough on Day 15 to be 1/3rd of the best sumo reporting threesome going, along with Ross and Doreen, so the day wasnt a total waste. Additionally, I think Kyokutenho is a great guy, love his self-deprecating humor and he deserves all the good things life (and everyone else screwing up) can offer. But Im with Mike that when the yusho lines falls below 13, and worse still, below the j'oi, its exciting only in the same sense that potato chips are nutritious.

As for the rest of the bouts, Im kind of busy today, so Ill touch on a few.

Harumafuji somehow was able to spin the Yokozuna around and around to get his KK. Kotoshogiku used excellent footwork (also known as "the footwork all top rikishi use without thinking when theyre trying to win a bout") to take out 8-7 Kakuryu who was 7-1 before going into self-destruct mode.

In an engaging sea skirmish, Aminishiki was denied his KK when Aoiyama turned his cannons full bore on the Bedrolled One, blasting him back and out with really nothing more than what he hit him with at tachi-ai, which was an iron ball the size of a Rody. Though he didnt really defeat anyone of note, except maybe, oh, I dont know, the yusho winner!, The Pirate King is set sail for his highest rank ever in far more dangerous waters come Nagoya, probably M2 at least, at which time, methinks, well discover in more detail the cut of this ones jib.

Finally, Shotenro, perhaps miffed at Daido for hitting and shifting at tachi-ai in the first bout, pulled a henka in the redo to deny his foe KK. Id have to call Bullshit on Big Shot, because Daido at least met him head to head in the first bout and did nothing to get greased like that.

A big, fat, greased Daido. Thats the perfect image to leave yall with from the 2012 Nutso basho. Ill be back in July, and in the meantime you can catch me performing at Comments and also making guest appearances at the Sumotalk Forum. Hope you all enjoyed this basho and be well until July.

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Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It's been a long time since we've had this much energy in the Ryogoku Kokugikan. The last time we were here in January, Ozeki Baruto took the yusho, but he had it in the bag by day 13, so the final two days of the tournament were mere formalities. I enjoyed Kakuryu's run in March, and even though that tournament went down to the wire ending with a playoff for the yusho, it still didn't carry the same buzz. What's making this basho so intriguing is the fact that we have two Japanese rikishi tied for the lead heading into the final stretch. I have my opinions on how we got to this point, and there are many who disagree with me, but no one can deny the excitement surrounding the sumos on day 14. I know that the Sumo Association desperately wants to see a Japanese rikishi take the yusho, and beyond that they would love to have one of their own legitimately challenge for the Yokozuna rank, but their most pressing challenge this basho was to make the tournament exciting, and they've definitely done that judging by the electricity in the arena today.

Heading into the day, we had a total of six rikishi still on the leader board comprised of Kisenosato, Tochiohzan, and Kyokutenho with three losses and then Hakuho, Okinoumi, and Aoiyama with four. Personally, I hate to see the yusho line ever fall below 13-2, so I couldn't care less that there's still so many rikishi left in the race, but I understand why it had to happen this basho. I also think this is going to be how it is for the next little while because Hakuho running away with yusho after yusho is not going to put fannies in the seats. But before I venture too far down that dark road, let's turn our attention to the day 14 bouts.

First up in the yusho race was M4 Tochiohzan facing Ozeki Kakuryu. Prior to the basho if you would have taken a survey asking who would win this bout, it'd be about 95% in favor of the Kak. He's just too quick and too good for Slow-zan to handle. This basho has been different, however, and so the Kak charged up high with a non-committal right kachi-age, his left arm on the outside, and no de-ashi. This allowed Tochiohzan to force Kakuryu back, and the Kak allowed his feet to slide to the edge of the dohyo fishing for the tawara with his heels. Once he made contact with the straw, he stayed up high leaning in against the pressing M4. Tochiohzan used his left arm on the inside to scoop Kakuryu back over towards the center of the ring whereupon Kakuryu just put both hands down and kicked his feet out simultaneously in a very unnatural fall. You never see a fall like this in sumo when a guy is using his lower body, so make your own deductions as to why Kakuryu was so sloppy with his footwork. The kimari-te was kata-sukashi thanks to Tochiohzan's right hand at the back of Kakuryu's neck, but the Mongolian was already on his way down. The result is an 11-3 Tochiohzan who controls his own destiny heading into senshuraku while Kakuryu falls to 8-6, but he got his (deservedly) last basho.

Next up was M7 Kyokutenho who looked to keep pace against Ozeki Kotooshu, and this one was over nearly as quick as it began. Kyokutenho stepped out wide to his left at the tachi-ai and quickly grabbed the Ozeki's belt on the outside. Kotooshu countered with that super effective move of placing your right hand in the middle of your opponent's torso because you don't want to grab the belt nor raise him up by lifting into the armpit as that may knock him off balance. On the other side, Kotooshu thought best to refrain from a left outer of his own keeping that hand at the middle of Kyokutenho's torso as well because you never want to counter your opponent's outer grip with one of your own. With the Ozeki just standing there like a nervous girl on her first date, Kyokutenho planted and threw the Ozeki down in about three seconds. Kotooshu was thrown so hard, he did a full flip and then landed awkwardly on the edge of the dohyo, a second consecutive unnatural fall if a guy is truly digging in and trying to win. And so Kyokutenho moves to 11-3 keeping pace with Tochiohzan and putting mounds of pressure on Kisenosato (I forced myself to type that). Kotooshu falls to 8-6 and like Baruto has been playing nice.

Our final 3-loss rikishi entering the day was Ozeki Kisenosato who needed to solve fellow Ozeki Harumafuji to stay tied for the lead. Kisenosato executed his best tachi-ai of the basho forcing the issue to hidari-yotsu with strong de-ashi from the charge, and with Harumafuji on his heels early, Kisenosato just bodied Harumafuji back, grabbed the right outer grip in the process, and used his right leg to pin Harumafuji against the tawara. Harumafuji had nowhere to go and stepped out just as Kisenosato was going to trip him up with what looked like a soto-gake. The result was a dame-oshi that sent Harumafuji flying across the edge of the dohyo, but that move was no harm no foul. Kisenosato thoroughly dismantled Harumafuji today, and it doesn't matter whether or not Harumafuji intended to win this one or not. Kisenosato simply took him out early and executed the swift force-out for his best win in as long as I can remember.

This was the Kisenosato who was so ballsy when he first entered the division...the same Kisenosato who dared to slap Asashoryu in the face, and the same Kid who never shied away from dame-oshi. The sumo we saw from Kisenosato today is reminiscent of the rikishi we knew would become Ozeki one day. The problem is we haven't seen this version of Kisenosato in a year or two. Look, we all know that Kisenosato's promotion to Ozeki was premature, and we all know he has received some favors this basho, but it still doesn't mean this Kid can't yusho straight up. This basho, his sumo has not even been close to a yusho rikishi; but today's bout showed that he still can attain that height. In the end, he's 11-3 heading into senshuraku tied with Tochiohzan and Kyokutenho for the yusho. As for Harumafuji, he falls to 7-7 and my guess is he beats Hakuho tomorrow. As soon as one of the top three wins tomorrow, Hakuho is officially eliminated from yusho contention, and I don't see how all three of them can lose, so by the time Hakuho and Harumafuji come around, there's nothing left to fight for cept Harumafuji's kachi-koshi. He should get it.

Let's jump down now to the four-loss rikishi entering the day starting from the bottom up. M6 Aoiyama met M15 Tamawashi with a moro-tezuki tachi-ai shoving upright, and Tamawashi elected to counter that by driving forward with his legs. The problem was he was too upright, and Aoiyama deftly moved to his right and yanked Tamawashi down to the clay by the neck. Pretty straightforward stuff as Aoiyama moves to 10-4. Tamawashi ends up at 8-6.

Following this bout was a second 4-loss rikishi in M5 Okinoumi who did battle with M16 Takarafuji. This was a pretty straightforward hidari-yotsu contest that was close to becoming gappuri yotsu, but Okinoumi wrenched his hips just a bit fighting off a right outer from Takarafuji and then used his own right outer to lift Takarafuji upright and force him back without argument. And just like that, Okinoumi breezes to 10-4 keeping him in the hunt tomorrow. Takarafuji falls to 8-6.

Our final four-loss rikishi was none other than Yokozuna Hakuho who welcomed Ozeki Baruto in the day's final contest. At the tachi-ai, Hakuho looked for his usual right inside position, but Baruto pinched inward well on the limb keeping the Yokozuna away from the body as the Ozeki slid to his left throwing some tsuppari into Hakuho's face. The problem was, though, that Baruto's movement was lateral, so the tsuppari had only one effect: create a huge opening for Hakuho to secure moro-zashi. As Hakuho dug in, Baruto grabbed the right outer over the top, but there was little the Estonian could do. He did go for a maki-kae with the left, but not only did Hakuho cut it off, he used the shift in his opponent's balance to burrow in deep inside and actually lift Baruto off his feet. What started out as a tsuri-dashi attempt ended with Hakuho changing his mind, slipping behind the Ozeki, and then easily pushing him off the dohyo from behind.

Pretty solid stuff from the Yokozuna who showed absolutely no signs of injury in this one. Lifting Baruto clear off his feet? That takes healthy fingers, a healthy lower back, and healthy legs. Injuries shminjuries. I know a lot of people have been taking shots at my comments all basho and claiming my predictions weren't coming true (which is fine of course), but I'd be interested in hearing someone's intelligent explanation of Hakuho's sumo the entire 15 days if he was fighting straight up the whole time. Hakuho moves to 10-4, but I just saw this come across the wires: Kotooshu has withdrawn from the basho meaning his senshuraku opponent, Tochiohzan, will get the freebie. With Tochiohzan a guaranteed 12-3, that means Hakuho, Okinoumi, and Aoiyama have all been eliminated from the yusho making this a three horse race.

Kyokutenho gets Goeido tomorrow, and I'm sure Goeido has the green light. Doesn't mean he'll win, but don't expect him to stand there like a bump on a log as Kotooshu did today.  If Goeido does defeat Kyokutenho, it will be pure gravy for the Sumo Association because at that moment, a Japanese rikishi is guaranteed the long last.  If Kyokutenho does beat Goeido, forces a playoff, and somehow ends up winning this thing, it's still a win for the Sumo Association because it shows that anybody can take the yusho and further precedent has been set.

I do expect Baruto to come out with a big target on his chest against Kisenosato, but who'da thunk the whole shootin' match would hinge on the senshuraku bout featuring Goeido and Kyokutenho?  Before we move on, let me me make one more comment.  You know how they always say it's dangerous to let up atop the dohyo because it invites injury?  Shame on Kotooshu.  And maybe Hakuho was really injured this basho.  I mean, letting up as much as he did...

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Kotoshogiku brilliantly cut off Sekiwake Toyonoshima's right inside position forcing Tugboat to counter with a right pull on the other side. Kotoshogiku seized the momentum bodying Toyonoshima back with the left on the inside and a right armbar to boot. Against a larger opponent, especially an Ozeki, Toyonoshima simply needs moro-zashi. Kotoshogiku improves to 9-6 while Toyonoshima suffers make-koshi at 6-8.

Sekiwake Goeido picked up kachi-koshi against Komusubi Aminishiki with fundamentally bad sumo. Using a hari-zashi tachi-ai, the inside was wide open for Goeido, especially with Aminishiki's hands up high and pull mode, but Goeido's response was to go for a pull of his own. The result was space between the two rikishi, and they squared back up to dance, Aminishiki had a light moro-zashi enabling Goeido to grab both outer grips and force Aminishiki back tripping him soto-gake style. At 8-6, Goeido stays at Sekiwake for Nagoya and will surely garner a Shukunsho. As for Aminishiki, he falls to 7-7 and will have his hands full tomorrow against Aoiyama. Sound sumo should defeat the Matey, but Aminishiki's got to get into his grill from the tachi-ai.

I've had a biddy day and will have to cut my comments short, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention my man, Takanoyama, making a pleasant visit up from Juryo. Facing M14 Asasekiryu, Takanoyama used lightweight tsuppari and moved just enough to where he was able to get his left arm on the inside...first beneath Asasekiryu's right armpit, and then as a grip on the Mongolian's belt. Asasekiryu hoped to dig in for the yotsu affair, but Takanoyama used that lanky left leg of his wrapping it around Sexy's right leg in kake-nage fashion and lifting Asasekiryu up and over with that leg throw. It really was brilliant sumo. My opinion of "this guy doesn't belong in the Makuuchi division" hasn't changed, but if Takanoyama can continue doing sumo like this, I'll give him his props. From the J4 rank, he moves to 10-4, so we'll likely see him back up in Nagoya. As for Asasekiryu, he falls to 6-8 and will be in a foul mood the next two months having lost his KK at the hands of Takanoyama.

Clancy is up tomorrow to wrap'er all up, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Day 13 Comments (Óscar Gutiérrez reporting)
Ignorance is bliss. Knowledge is power. When I started to take an extra interest in this sumo thing, what attracted me to Sumotalk is that a bunch of funny guys, speaking freely, were trying to explain to me the ins and outs of the sport. I simply watched the sport more or less casually, I was blessed with the gift of ignorance, but fool of me, I wanted to know more. These fellas knew what they were talking about, I thought to myself. I didn't see any hidden agenda in their comments. So I learned the words and what they meant: yotsu-zumo, uwate, nodo-wa, tsuppari, yaocho…Thanks to these fellas I learned that in a belt fight (yotsu-zumo) the important thing is to keep your centre of gravity low and get the inside position with both hands (moro-zashi). If you can't do that and you have one arm inside and one arm outside, the grip that usually makes the difference is actually the outside grip (uwate) which allows you to control the pace of the fight. And then I saw the bouts unravel and I started to understand what was actually happening over the dohyo instead of going through the motions numblessly as I was before. And I liked the sport more. And I know I shouldn't be starting my sentences with a conjunction, but I really don't care.

Attached to these technical comments there were some opinions, dangerous opinions in view of some. But then, I started to see that the bouts on senshuraku involving a needy guy and an uninterested one record-wise, were all going in the same direction. Struggling ozekis would conveniently reach an 8-7, they would never just fell short of it and get a 7-8, the kachi-koshi (more wins than losses) was always there for them. And I thought that the empiric evidence supported more often than not the theories these Sumotalk dudes put on the table. The things they said explained what was happening before my eyes, and though I didn't like it, I had to acknowledge that rigged fights actually existed in this sport. The age of innocence had passed away, but I gained knowledge, and then I could predict more easily the outcomes of the matches, and I liked that power even though I wasn't going to earn money with it (maybe I could check if the betting websites have a sumo section, but I'm too lazy, I'm happy with being a part on the sumo gaming community).

Though I don't always agree with everything that is posted here in Sumotalk, I respect these guys, they've watched this sport longer than I have, they have actually taught it to me, some might say they corrupted my soul. I know enough about sumo now that I can form my own opinions, maybe they're wrong, but I'm speaking freely in here and that's the real bliss. Not the freaking ignorance.

Well, let's just go to the action, but this time let's skip the hors d'oeuvre and go directly to the ice cream. Then I'll pick my spots.

Long time Japanese hope and stagnant Sekiwake…err, I mean mighty Ozeki Kisenosato (leading with 10-2) actually lost yesterday against Tochiohzan, opening the yusho race. Today he faced none other than Hakuho, struggling with an 8-4 record thanks to his new-found recklessness after winning 22 yushos with the most stable sumo you can imagine. Kisenosato got blasted at the tachi-ai, the Yokozuna secured an inside right grip on the belt and drove the Ozeki back to the tawara in no time with some belly bumps but no outside grip (recklessness). The Yokozuna kept pushing forward and Kisenosato pulled the tsuki-otoshi move he likes so much, moving to his right and pushing his opponent's ribcage down, a move possible because his rival didn't have a grip on that side. Still, the last hump of the Yokozuna made Kisenosato fall on his back before Hakuho touched the dirt. No mono-ii was needed, this was a clear win for the Yokozuna. Toyohibiki and Toyonoshima won this same bout this same basho against this same rival, so you can infer how the big Japanese hope is actually performing this basho.

As Mike said yesterday, he's being no better than a 9-6 record at the end of the basho. Now, where's your conspiracy theory? I'll tell you. 2 days ago I saw Kisenosato 2 wins clear off the rest and I wondered if a bit of drama would be more suitable for the occasion than a day 13 yusho by the Japanese rikishi (I have a marketing background that I hate). If I were pulling the strings in the association, after 6 years of uneventful gaijin yushos, I'd feel the need to create some noise about this unique event that is about to happen. Mass media attention for days 14 and 15, ticket sales, more buzz in general, everybody likes a bit of drama. The end of course will be the fairy tale one. I actually thought this, so I wasn't puzzled when yesterday I saw Kise unwilling to fight back. What I also thought is that Kisenosato would defeat today the top dog and conveniently lose tomorrow against kachi-koshi hungry Harumafuji by means of a disgusting henka (oh, the evil gaijin tainting the national sport), setting up a senshuraku dramatic encounter with the giant Baruto, where Kise would defeat him in a long struggle of power. So my precious convoluted conspiracy theory goes down the toilet, but at least you cannot say I'm only telling them when I'm right. I've been informed this script is prolly gonna get nominated for next year's Academy Awards (the Myselfs). Thing is, what we actually have seen is this: Kisenosato has sucked big time these last two days. This has opened the yusho race for some unexpected Maegashira, and even Hakuho, because the Ozeki are busy getting everybody his 8. Hakuho is one win off the pace, but there's more than one pace setter. Big thrills are in store for us. Let's just be happy about it.

The second of the leaders is M4 Tochiohzan. My f&#"!$ internet connection went down and I couldn't watch his bout against giant killer Aminishiki (nor Homasho vs. Gagamaru). !$%•$" Joder! /&% . Tochiohzan defeated Komusubi Aminishiki by oshi-dashi, catching up with Kisenosato. Meanwhile Aminishiki (7-6) needs one more win to get the Shukunsho he so truly has deserved. The router had better start learning to fly.

[Mike's Note: Aminishiki pushed Tochiohzan back from the tachi-ai but was up too high; Tochiohzan countered with moro-zashi near the edge and forced the momentum the other way; Aminishiki attempted to back out of the hold and pull; Tochiohzan committed on a push-out and sent Ami out before Oh crashed down himself.]

The last (and least) of the trio of leaders is 37 year-old M7 Kyokutenho. His higher ranked opponent till today has been a M4 (Tochiohzan). Today, they threw at him M11 Sadanofuji, who sports a sparkling 5-7 record. Why The Face!? Are these guys nuts? I'd like to meet the bunch of monkeys that make the daily tori-kumi. Give me a commodore 64 and I can do a better job, for Homer's sake. Going to the actual bout, Kyokutenho greeted Sadanofuji with a timid hari-te (slap). Sadanofuji tried to keep the Chauffeur away from the belt and seeing an opening in a retreating Kyokutenho, tried to grab the precious uwate. Kyokutenho hasn't been for two centuries in the top division letting people just do that. He denied his foe and at the right moment escaped from his gripless opponent pushing him in the back for the kata-sukashi win, his 8th in a row. I like Kyokutenho, I really do, but you shouldn't win a yusho after facing only 2 of the top 16 guys (unmotivated Kotooshu is due tomorrow, I suppose Goeido or Aminishiki on senshuraku). The Mongolian-born but now Japanese citizen was about to retire prior to this basho to take over Oshima beya, but the Board of Directors decided to dissolve it and merge it with Tomozuna-beya. What a story this would be, from retiring to winning a yusho, but that, folks, isn't going to happen.

Now, let's review the rest of the bouts, with Chronos as our guide, a god my fellow reporters insist on forgetting.

Visiting Juryo Tamaasuka knocked on the Makunouchi door, but Kimikaze wasn't there to receive him, so the guy whose name I've been associating with the proverbial random low-ranked Maegashira picked up the free win and left with the Juryo yusho lead alone. Kimikaze is Juryo bound after this injury.

Asasekiryu got his dream position out of the tachi-ai, two belt grips, and his hips far away from his opponent's grasp. However, he's got so bad that Tenkaiho not only wasn't duly taken out of the dohyo, but he worked his way into dual grips of his own. Still, the Secretary was in a lower stance and had everything more or less under control. I was tempted to go take a beer, but, luckily for us, Asasekiryu used less than a minute in dispatching his chubby opponent with an over arm throw. Third match-ball saved by Asasekiryu (6-7), who needs one more to secure a place in the division, but he'll be looking to get the kachi-koshi anyway. Tenkaiho has performed as poorly as his 4-9 record shows and has to win out to stay with the big guys.

Daido dispatched visiting Masunoyama with crappy backwards moving sumo. Do you notice I truly dislike the guy? I won't waste much time then, 7-6 for Dildo, Masunoyama already got his 8 and we'll see him back a lot more next basho.

Yoshikaze started the basho looking awful with 5 straight losses. He has crawled back from that to a 7-6 record, but with the help of a sniper in the audience. Yesterday, his friend took out Shohozan and today was hapless Fujiazuma who took an arrow to the knee, as some nerd could say. Awful basho for the youngster, who has mustered only 2 wins against as poor a competition as he could get.

Kitataiki charged fair and square against the timid tachi-ai of Kaisei and then retreated pushing the flat footed Brazilian in the back past him. Mike's former mancrush has looked as good as his 5-8 record and the Brazilian Bigfoot is still one win away from celebrating.

Private Tochinoshin looks worse every basho and he's only 24. Today, the genki Tamawashi, hoping to remain in the chaser's pack, attacked him with his usual push at the armpits, but the Georgian, before getting pasted, executed a retreating slap to the back of the head mixed with a beltless arm throw, that, luckily for him, worked. Too much counter-attacking sumo for a guy that could mix it up with the best of them a couple years ago. Both guys stay happy but not that much with their 8-5 records.

Mt. Pirate (Aoi-yama) and Takarafuji, both with the kachi-koshi in the bag, faced to eliminate one of them of virtual contention. The bout went only one way, yarrrrrr! Pirate threw all the cargo at poor Takarafuji's face, then threatened to throw him flat on his face only to set up the final push overboard. Nine grogs for the Bulgarian, who seems as ready as anybody can be to face for the first time the hard life of the jo'i. Nagoya will be his baptism of fire.

Wakakoyu did what he has never done before. He put both hands at his rival's neck (moro-te) and switched gears in a dime letting his rival fall in his face. Never seen that one before, yo. Kachi-koshi with 7 of that wins by kimari-te starting with "h" (I'm tempted to call him H-bomb, let's see if it catches). Tokitenku (6-7) should already know better his competition, shouldn't he?

In the last episode of "Grumpy grampas", Miyabiyama and Wakanosato got into a fight for the liniment. It was fought under Grampa Miyabi's rules, slapping and pulling only. Grampanosato actually defended himself pretty well in what's not his game, but eons of experience taught Grampa Miyabi the secrets of this fights, so he took the coveted prize with a hiki-otoshi that would make his grandson Wakakoyu (H-bomb) proud. Miyabi gets some relief for his painful 4-9 record, and Wakanosato loses his joy with his first ever make-koshi at a double digit Maegashira rank.

Contrasting styles and similar records to show for them (8-5) met in our next fight. Pusher/thruster Shotenro against yotsu-man Okinoumi. Oki-doki had to weather the hard Mongolian storm that was coming after him. He finally managed to wrap his arm around Shotenro's one from the inside while working around the dohyo and slapped him in the back of the neck with his free hand. Okinoumi stays one win off the pace and has the right to keep dreaming.

By far the best bout was Toyohibiki vs. my main man, Snacks Shohozan. My man tried to cheat his way into a win throwing tsuppari at Toyohibiki's raging charge and suddenly evading, leaving Hibiki pushing nothing but thin air. However, the M3 pulled the brakes just in time and red with anger, the bull charged again dragging the bag of Doritos all the way across the dohyo, but it again escaped from his horns. This time though, Snacks found a way to get moro-zashi afterwards but Toyohibiki used all his girth and power to will his way into a maki-kae at the last minute and brought back the bout to life, this time a hidari-yotsu contest, with only Snacks sporting an outside grip, subsequently in control. The final was a hard fought uwate-nage that put a great finish to a great bout. Unluckily for him, Toyohibiki got his make-koshi, so he's getting no Shukunsho (and I feel this was a once in a lifetime chance for him). Snacks is 7-6 and has established himself as a good mid-Maegashira. A good finish can take him to the jo'i come Nagoya, but I feel he'd be better just missing it.

Myogiryu had Takayasu just where he wanted after the tachi-ai, getting into a moro-zashi position. Takayasu turned the tables with a successful maki-kae that left him with dual grips to Miyagi's lone left inside. The young one charged and though Miyagi tried to resist, Takayasu was always in front of him and defeated him with a clear cut yori-taoshi. Or so I thought. The ladies decided to review this one, I did it myself and observed how Takayasu's foot actually touched outside the dohyo before Myogiryu's full body did. Alas, Myogiryu was clearly compromised and Takayasu was given the aggressor's benefit and a rematch was called for. Miyagi then played the trap card and henka'd the poor Takayasu. Despite being highly compromised, Takayasu found his way back in, helped by a bad second pull attempt by his rival. Just when Takayasu seemed to settle down and fire his wild tsuppari, Myogiryu got his mojo back and bulldozed the M1 into oblivion and double digit losses. Kachi-koshi for tetra-Ozeki-killer Myogiryu, who would be getting a special prize any other basho, but this time around, he's going to need a good finish.

Aran didn't henka at the tachi-ai. Five seconds later he did and got the uwate to show for. Tochinowaka tried to fight back but he's injured and not in the mood, so the Thug escorted him out of the fighting zone without much flash. Fourth consecutive win for him, for a grand total of…4, twice as much as my protégé.

Homasho defeated Gagamaru for the seventh time in that many tries. This time it was a yori-kiri. I'm still mad at my router, thank you for asking.

Toyonoshima fought today his nemesis, Takekaze. Tugboat likes to fight from the inside, but what can you do if the other guy is as small as you and knows how to keep you away from him? Tyrion Lannister would surely have a plan for this. Toyonoshima couldn't get that inside position on the belt at the tachi-ai and was sucked into the push-pull game of Takekaze. The M3 ended matters with a hard oshi-dashi that gets him to 5-8 while the east Sekiwake is dwarfed to 6-7 and needs one win to Komusubi, 2 to Sekiwake.

The conspiracy theories surely explain the next one. Kakuryu and Kotooshu gave us a good show. They settled in a gappuri-hidari-yotsu battle after Kakuryu decided that it wasn't fair that he had an uwate and his needy counterpart lacked one. Lots of mmmphhh and arfff and the strongest of the two defeated the most skilled one, who decided to not make use of that range of skills today. Today it was about sheer power, because Kakuryu decided so. Both Ozeki are 8-5 with the shocker. Barney's burp song would liven up these meetings.

Sekiwake Goeido made easy work of the injured long time stagnant Sekiwake,…err I mean, injured Ozeki Kotoshogiku, who couldn't wait to throw himself to the dohyo. That knee doesn't look good, so why didn't he go kyujo once he got his 8? Goeido reserves a place in the next sanyaku after getting number 7 and vies for a sansho, but needs one win more and some love.

Barney's burp song is up again (numbel eight, burrrrp), but this time the show could have ended badly. Harumafuji grabbed Baruto overextended arm, swung him and Baruto survived unbalanced over the tawara awaiting the final push from today's "enemy". Harumafuji overdid himself and Baruto fell awkwardly down the hill, but fortunately he walked back seemingly unharmed. Santa Baruto is giving away happiness as he already got his. Harumafuji is one short of "numbel eight" still and he's facing Kisenosato and Hakuho these last two days. I'll go with he defeats Kisenosato, losses to Hakuho.

So, the leader table looks like this:

10-3 Kisenosato, Tochiohzan, Kyokutenho
9-4 Hakuho, Okinoumi, Aoiyama

Twas a lot of effort to think of the first scenery I explained at the beginning, so maybe this prediction is not that brilliant and convoluted, but I'll try my best. I'll go on a tear and say Kisenosato yushos with 11-4 after a multiple-way playoff with Hakuho and the guys who survive (so, Oh-Poo and Driving Miss Daisy have to lose at least one, preferably tomorrow). If I'm wrong, it wouldn't be the first time. If I'm right, you heard it first.

Anyway, enjoy the show, we don't know what's in store for us. Mike will trash my theories tomorrow and Clancy will elaborate on a surely decisive senshuraku. Hasta la vista.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I want to start off my comments today with a discussion on the hierarchy that forms the Sumo Association. This stems from a back and forth I had with a reader yesterday where he indicated that it sounded as if I'm suggesting the Sumo Association is scripting bouts and determining which rikishi win what bouts and in what order, etc. My reply was that I don't think bouts are scripted by the Association, and then I went on to explain how I think the system that results in bout fixing does work. You can actually read this little back and forth in that cheap comments section we've set up at the end of the daily report, but it's clear that Sumotalk's declaration that yaocho is still alive and well is causing some unnecessary confusion among our readers, so let's try and clear up a lot of incorrect perceptions I'm reading on the message boards.

The highest rung in the Sumo Association is actually the Ministry of Education, a branch in Japan's federal government. This ministry oversees not only education but sports and cultural factions of Japan's government as well, so it's actually quite a natural fit despite the ministry's official name. Up until the recent string of scandals, the ministry held no official position among the Sumo Association's board of directors; however, after the scandals, a few ministry officials were actually appointed to sit with the board, and there was even a strong movement to have a ministry official appointed as the sport's commissioner. I haven't read whether or not dudes from the ministry still sit on the board, but the relationship now is such that the Japanese government is funding the Sumo Association's shortfalls (which are not small). This is important because ultimately, sumo is still able to operate thanks to tax payer money, but there has to be limits.

Beneath the Ministry of Education is the Sumo Association's board of directors, which is made up of 10 oyakata representing each Ichimon and then three other oyakata who are considered officials alongside the board. Each of the directors is given a responsibility to oversee a department or committee like the PR department, the judging committee, the banzuke reorganization committee, etc. The directors will also elect a chairman of the board, who currently happens to be Kitanoumi-oyakata, and a really interesting aspect is how candidates for the board of directors are determined. The way it used to work was that each of the five Ichimon would determine through their own election process two candidates for the board. You'd only have 10 candidates, and so all 100 + oyakata would cast their one vote for who they wanted to serve on the board. The Ichimon would force each oyakata to vote for one or the other candidate from the Ichimon, and so it was largely typical of an election in North Korea. 10 open positions, 10 candidates, and each oyakata with a designation of how to vote.

All hell broke loose a few years ago, however, when Takanohana-oyakata declared himself a third candidate from the Nishonoseki Ichimon. That meant there were 11 candidates instead of 10, and so if Takanohana had enough defectors, he could actually break protocol and become a rogue member of the board. He succeeded in his candidacy, and it created an enormous rift within the Nishonoseki Ichimon, and I've never read comments from oyakata who spewed as much blood and hate as the elders from the Nishonoseki Ichimon did when they felt they were betrayed by Takanohana and those who supported him. And before I move on, each of you needs to ask yourself: why did Takanohana do what he did, and what does he want to reform in the Sumo Association? The answer is very applicable to what we're seeing on the dohyo today in my opinion.

Beneath the directors and Ichimon officials are the stable masters called shisho, and there are as many stable masters as there are stables. There is even a broader class of oyakata, assistants, yobi-dashi, barbers, referees, etc. beneath the shisho, but for my purposes today, I will end my explanation of sumo's hierarchy with the stable masters.

Like the board of directors for any other entity, the Sumo Association's board meets often to discuss the current status of the organization and then to discuss solutions to the problems. So, what are some of the current issues the Sumo Association is faced with? Create a list in your mind and be honest with yourself. My list of issues would include these items for sure:

- Declining tickets sales and TV ratings
- Expenses that far outweigh revenues
- Negative perception created by recent scandals
- Lack of popularity among the 6 - 65 year-old demographic

Then, as a member of the board it is your responsibility to determine what is the cause of these issues and what are viable solutions. In my opinion, the causes are three-fold:

1) The internet has created too many entertainment options against which sumo has difficulty competing
2) The bouts are not broadcast at a time when a student or typical working individual can attend them not to mention watch them on television
3) The recent foreign domination and lack of a polarizing Japanese rikishi to excite the general population is causing disinterest

In my opinion, the Sumo Association is either too clueless or too stubborn to do anything about options 1 and 2. They can control the third item, however, and they actually put in a measure several years ago to combat this problem. The new rule was that each stable would only be allowed to house one foreign rikishi. Now ask yourself...honestly...why was that rule put in place? If your answer is that "foreigners are dominating sumo" then extend yourself and answer this question: why is it bad if foreigners dominate sumo? Because if foreigners dominating sumo wasn't an issue in the eyes of the Association, then why put that rule in place?

The fact of the matter is that foreigners dominating sumo HAS caused severe damage in the sport's popularity, and not only do I support the Sumo Association's decision to limit participation from foreign rikishi, but I applaud it as a necessary means of survival. So, they have put a long-term solution in place to curb foreign domination, but what do they do in the short term? I mean, it's not like they can just go and kick the most dominant foreigner of all-time out of the sport. Oh wait...let me rephrase's not like they can just kick ALL of the foreign rikishi out of the sport. I guarantee you that kicking them all out has been discussed by the board, but Japan so wants to appear as this modern, globalized country, and they understand the political backlash that would have occurred if they did suddenly exterminate all of the furries as more bad press is the last thing this group needs.

So the issue then is how do we stop the bleeding in the short term? The answer in my opinion has resulted in the haphazard, unorthodox sumo we've seen atop the dohyo the last year and a half. I think this is what has happened and what is happening in the current sumo hierarchy:

Kitanoumi Rijicho calls a meeting of the board and says this: "I've just met with so and so from the Ministry, and he gave me the financial news. Our deficit last year increased 15% over the previous year, and he keeps warning me that they can't continue to subsidize us if this trend continues. He also reminded me that if our deficits reach such and such a level, they're going to place so and so as the next Rijicho and put more guys on the board."

Then he can look at whatever director is in charge of tickets sales and ask for a report. We know that sales are obviously low (they didn't even sell out day 12 today). Then he asks the director who works with NHK, "what are the numbers from last basho?". And by the way, the fact that these numbers aren't even published in the media anymore tells you all you need to know.

The news is nothing but grim, and so the board discusses what can they do to fix the problem. And there is only one solution in their minds: "nihonjin no rikishi ni motto ganbatte morawanai to". In other words, "we have to have the Japanese rikishi do better." And that's where it ends as far as the board is concerned, so even if someone from the Ministry of Education is in attendance, there's nothing incriminating in that discussion.

Well, the directors understand the situation and the consequences, and so they take the news back to the Ichimon either meeting with all of the shisho, or just the ones who matter (figure out which ones matter). And remember, everyone within the Association knows these are hard times, so nothing really has to be spelled out to anyone. I can totally picture, though, a director going to Miyagino-oyakata and relating the news from the board meeting. All Miyagino-oyakata needs to do is nod his head in agreement and say "wakarimashita." And it's done. There's no paper trail; there's no incriminating evidence; there's no lying; there's no deceit; there's no conspiracy; and there is not even a single order saying that your guy needs to lose to that guy.

In my opinion, whether or not a rikishi decides to lose a bout straight up or to go mukiryoku in his bout (there is a difference as we saw today), that decision is solely up to the discretion of the shisho and his prodigy. Now, the shisho has every right to make the best decision in his interest, but just like the oyakata who don't vote for a director as they're instructed by their Ichimon, such a decision could carry silent consequences. Just ask Takasago-oyakata.

And that's how I think it happens. I could be wrong, but I think I'm close. So I'll end this intro borrowing the words from Takamisakari, "and that's all I have to say about that."

Let's get to the day 12 action.

We must start with the marquee bout of the day, which featured Ozeki Kisenosato against M4 Tochiohzan. This was a match made in heaven in terms of Kisenosato breezing to an easy win on his way to the yusho, right? Wrong. The Ozeki was wide open at the tachi-ai (as usual), and Tochiohzan simply did what he always does...goes for the quick moro-zashi. He got it straightway and then had Kisenosato by the short hairs; however, the M4 didn't mount a force out charge. Kisenosato stood there like a bump on a log while Tochiohzan maintained moro-zashi and kind of shuffled his feet around, but he wouldn't go for the kill. Finally, about 15 seconds into this puzzling affair, Tochiohzan brought his left arm from the inside out giving Kisenosato an opening to the inside with the right, but the Ozeki didn't take it, so from there, Tochiohzan drove a forearm into Kisenosato's chest and drove the Ozeki out to his second loss.

Normally, Tochiohzan coulda and shoulda won this thing in two seconds, but it looked to me as if he stood around waiting for some resistance from Kisenosato. I could be wrong, but it looked to me as if Tochiohzan did mukiryoku sumo today. He still won the bout, but I couldn't figure out why he didn't attempt to drive Kisenosato straight back from the tachi-ai, nor can I explain why he took his left arm from the inside out. It looked to me that he gave Kisenosato a chance to at least stay in the bout, but what choice did he have in the end?

As for Kisenosato, the dude is totally lost atop that dohyo. Compare his performance this basho with Kakuryu last basho. Both dudes are/were on a tear record-wise, and both dudes have/had sole possession of the yusho lead, but in Kakuryu's case, he was tearing up the competition and kicking everyone's ass in his path. As for Kisenosato, he's looked terrible the entire 12 days, and I think what's happening is he's a central figure in sumo's current agenda, but he doesn't have his stable master anymore to guide him. Oh sure, there is a new Naruto-oyakata (the former Takanotsuru..a Makuuchi scrub), but the dude hasn't been able to cope with the loss of his mentor, the former Takanosato (a gritty Yokozuna).

Regardless of that, Kisenosato's two bout lead has now been trimmed to one as he stands at 10-2 with Tochiohzan (and Kyokutenho) nipping at his heels at 9-3 and a plethora of rikishi at 8-4. Before we move to the next bout, I must address one more issue.

I'm amused whenever I read a comment or an email that says I predicted a Kisenosato yusho. Such a statement is often followed by "so much for your conspiracy do you explain Kisenosato's loss today?" First, I've yet to predict a Kisenosato yusho. Just go back to my most recent comments from day 9 when Kotoshogiku rolled over for the Kid:

"Part of me was thinking that today's Ozeki duel between Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku would determine the yusho, but the fight wasn't straight up. It may well be that the victor is being groomed for the yusho, but my thinking was if you're going to put the yusho on a silver platter for either of the Japanese Ozeki, at least make them fight straight up to give us something that's real....As the dust settled here, Kisenosato moved into a tie for the lead at 8-1, but it doesn't necessarily mean he's the chosen one. I'm very curious as to why Kisenosato was allowed to win this one because Kotoshogiku has been the far better rikishi through nine days. We'll just have to wait and see how this plays out, but the one thing that's clear is the way has been paved twice over for a Japanese rikishi to take the first yusho the country can boast in over six years."

Can anybody deny that the way has been paved for Japanese rikishi to yusho this basho coincidence or not? That Kisenosato has been unable to capitalize is his problem, not mine. I predicted prior to the basho that Hakuho would take the yusho with a 13-2 record. I stated that Hakuho was capable of going 15-0, but then I said that I fully expected him to drop some bouts along the way. He did drop two and then two more that were unexpected, and he did drop one of those to Goeido as I predicted in my Shukunsho guess. As for Kisenosato, my prediction was 9-6, and you'd certainly have to agree that's about the level he's fighting at.

The reason people are saying that I predicted a Kisenosato yusho is because 1) I've been saying all along that I think Hakuho's is making himself vulnerable to set a precedent so that when a Japanese rikishi is handed the yusho, it doesn't look suspicious, and 2) people who don't want to admit yaocho are determining in their own minds that if Mike can't predict yaocho properly, then it's not happening.

The point is, though, I'm not in the bidness of projecting yaocho and never have been. I called the yusho for Kakuryu in Haru because I didn't anticipate his throwing the bout to Goeido on senshuraku. Furthermore, every basho I come in with the approach that everything will be fought straight up, and that's what I base my pre-basho reports on. When yaocho does occur, I point it out and then offer explanations as to why I think it happened. I also watch the news articles very closely because I think events are spun or depicted to fit the Sumo Association's agenda, so when I sense patterns in a particular direction, I will point it out. An example of that was the unusually high volume of attention given to the news that the final portrait of a Japanese rikishi was being removed from the rafters of the Kokugikan. I offered my opinion then on what I thought that meant and what I thought would happen, and I still think we're seeing the groundwork laid to have a Japanese rikishi yusho. I don't know how I can be anymore clearer than that.

Let's move on next to the bout that proceeded the Kisenosato - Tochiohzan affair because I thought this one was fixed as well. Ozeki Baruto looked for moro-zashi against fellow Ozeki Kotooshu, but he certainly didn't demand it extending his arms lightly forward never once looking to grab the Bulgarian's belt. In the process, Kotooshu was able to get his left arm on the inside followed up with a right outer grip on the other side, and with Baruto up high, it was an easy yori-kiri for Kotooshu. As soon as Kotooshu pushed Baruto across the straw, the NHK Japanese announcer calling the action screamed, "Kisenosato just lost before his very eyes, so what the hell was he [Baruto] doing there"? I hear ya, bro. If this bout was fought straight up from Baruto's perspective, you would have thought he would have at least tried to grab the belt. It was definitely there for the taking, so when he didn't even make the effort, the way I interpet this is as follows: Baruto did indeed just see Kisenosato lose before his very eyes, so he decided to keep his distance. I cannot in good conscience call this bout any other way, and I'm sure Onoe-oyakata's first words to his prodigy after the bout was "yoku yarimashita." As a result, Baruto drops two losses behind Kisenosato at 8-4 while Kotooshu is a harmless 7-5.

Next up was Kakuryu vs. Harumafuji, and I thought this contest was a good indication of the directions these two are heading. Kakuryu struck quickly at the tachi-ai and then backed away from the Harumafuji tsuppari attack moving to his right. With HowDo stumbling forward a bit, the Kak grabbed his fellow Ozeki's belt quick as a cat, spun him around 180 degrees, and the pushed him out for the methodical okuri-dashi win. I think this bout was a matter of Harumafuji being too fired up and eager to go for the quick kill and Kakuryu reading the situation well and taking the easy way out. The Kak picks up kachi-koshi at 8-4 while Harumafuji still has some work to do at 6-6.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho destroyed Ozeki Kotoshogiku with a perfect tachi-ai getting his right arm on the inside, quickly grabbing the outer grip with the left, and throwing Kotoshogiku over via uwate-nage before the Geeku could cry out, "Mommy!" The result is both rikishi sitting now at 8-4, but they are certainly heading in different directions.

As for Hakuho, what happened to all of that talk about a broken finger? I was quite amused by people trying to blame his four losses on an injury that didn't even exist, and I even read one account from someone saying it was affecting his dohyo-iri. If my comments ever get so lame that I'm analyzing dohyo-iri, shoot me on the spot. Back to the Yokozuna, he gets Kisenosato tomorrow, and if you're wondering what my prediction is, I think he's going to kick Kisenosato's ass. The Kid has exhibited nothing this basho to indicate that he could topple the Yokozuna of his own accord. If Hakuho assists him in the upset, I won't be surprised, but after that 3-bout losing streak, it appears to me that the Yokozuna is of the mindset, "I've dropped four bouts already...if you dipshits can't take advantage of that, it's a you problem." I don't see how Hakuho isn't the favorite to yusho at this point assuming everything is fought straight up from here.

Both Sekiwake were gifted wins over the Yokozuna this basho, but they're doing their best to play their way out of a Shukunsho. Goeido managed the left inside and right outer against M2 Gagamaru, but his charge was too rushed, and he only had one fold of Lord Gaga's belt with that outer grip. With neither a position from which to mount a throw nor a sufficient grip on the M2's belt, Goeido bent down lower trying to dig in, and Gagamaru pounced slapping the Sekiwake down to the clay for a bad loss. Goeido is now 6-6 while Gagamaru has been okay at 4-8.

Toyonoshima extended both arms low and in tight as if to search for moro-zashi, but Komusubi Homasho ducked down and pinched in on the Sekiwake's arms keeping him away from moro-zashi and forcing the two to both hunker down in the wrasslin' position, sumo that favors Homasho. Toyonoshima tried to pull and push his way to the inside, but Homie timed a Toyonoshima pull attempt perfectly and rushed in to push the retreating Sekiwake out for the win. Toyonoshima falls to 6-6 while Homasho is just 2-10.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Aminishiki swiped M3 Toyohibiki's extended paw away at the tachi-ai and assumed moro-zashi, but it wasn't deep so the Hutt was able to pinch in and make Shneaky work. Aminishiki did go for the force-out kill, but Toyohibiki unleashed a counter right kote-nage forcing Aminishiki to adjust with a left scoop throw resulting in both rikishi hitting the clay at the same time.

In the rematch, Aminishiki got moro-zashi again with ease, and as Toyohibiki attempted a maki-kae, the Komusubi dragged him over to the edge dashi-nage style, got him turned around, and then easily pushed him out from behind. After a close call the first time around, no sense risking anything by getting some manlove in the process as Aminishiki cruises to 7-5 while Toyohibiki falls to 5-7.

In the rank and file, let's just briefly touch on bouts of interest starting with M5 Okinoumi who picked up kachi-koshi against M15 Tamawashi by getting the left inside and then wrenching The Mawashi over and out in short order. Tamawashi falls to 8-4 as well technically keeping both goes on the leader board two back of Kisenosato.

M6 Aoiyama blew a chance to move to 9-3 against M12 Daido by charging low and straight ahead without a purpose. Daido (6-6) picked up on it immediately and just moved right slapping Aoiyama down in the process sending the Matey to 8-4. Was this too easy on purpose?

And finally, in a battle of two 8-3 rikishi, M7 Kyokutenho and M16 Takarafuji hooked up in the gappuri hidari yotsu position. Tenho shoulda finished this a bit faster, but his outer grip was just on one fold of the belt. Still, after some wrenching, Kyokutenho scored the straight-up yori-kiri win moving to 9-3, just one off the lead.

And so at the end of 12 days, the leaderboard looks like this:

10-2: Kisenosato
9-3: Tochiohzan, Kyokutenho
8-4: Hakuho (and 8 others who don't matter)

Go easy on the Spaniard tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
Reading Matt's Day 10 report fresh from the press, I find myself a little bereft of what I intended to present in my own intro right here. But that's a good sign, isn't it, as it means that either the individual analyses of the various ST contributors do converge pretty well in these tumultuous days of Japan's reemergence as Fatherland of Champions, or that Mike finally managed to upgrade the firmware of the chips he made us have implanted out of beta stage. In any case, I say "Well done Matt, you took the words right out of my dirty, food stained keyboard."

So I take another sip of my late evening Paraguay tea thinking, "Bugger me! This Paraguay tea is with real coca. It would send me to jail for a long, long time if I would be caught with it in certain ones of the 50 states. And also in Japan." And the best part about this thought is: For completely different historical reasons. I really want to spare you the details, but the US of A have -- in simple, ugly and possibly untrue words -- been freed, founded and built up by religious radicals who thought fun is devilish. No judgment here. It's an OK approach for someone living far away from me. Drug=Fun=Evil=Jail (the latter courtesy of liberal usurpers; used to be "Gallows").

For Japan, though, the Masochist-Puritan-Theory doesn't fully grasp reality. Quite the opposite. You see, in radical Protestantism the individual is alone with god. It is each individual's plight and duty to endure the hardships of life as a proof of worthiness for salvation. The fact that there is a social monitoring process going on which is checking for aberrant behavior within the community is absolutely secondary to the initial theological setting. The Japanese approach, on the other hand, disregards individuality right from the start. Here, drugs are not seen as a breach of (initially religious) individual morality, but instead as a threat to the community as a whole. It is not about blasphemous self-expression of an individual, it is about distorting the role of the individual within society. Drug=Illness.

Why do I bother you with this? "F++k! Who is this professorizing jerk with glasses I want to make him eat?!" you might ask. Well, because it teaches us again about sumo and what's happening in these Glorious Days of Reconquering the Thirty-Six-Fold Tapestry. Did you ever consciously consider the pretty straightforward semantic relationship of the words "organism" and "organization"? The Japanese Sumo Association is an organization that -- naturally -- behaves like an organism. Its habitat is the Japanese Public, its feeding ground the Ministry of Education aka Taxpayers' Money. It is quite ill at the moment but the immune system has shifted gears right here, right now.

My Day 4 report and its take on foreigners' motives and such was quite incomplete in many ways. It lacked proper conclusions and just hinted at stuff in a way that reflected both complexity and general circumstance related restrictions on my part. Having lived through another week of dohyo events, I must name at least one follow-up thought. If foreigners in sumo so often have an extremely basic material motive for being there in the first place, they should be even more prepared to sing along in the big choir, when the clarion calls. I think they've done a good job, don't you?

The usual proceedings of a Sumotalk daily report would now see me picking a bit on the crawlers and pretenders, only to prepare the entrée of major bouts, where "really important stuff" happens. Matt dubbed this particular part of the highlights reel "Sumotalk Conspiracy Zone", but here I dare to disagree. Conspiracies tend to feature a certain degree of obfuscation. What we witness this basho, though, is hilariously obvious in its extent. It's "Reality Zone", if you are looking for a proper name.

On the downside, this makes reporting -- AND reading this stuff, I gather -- tiresome. If you like sumo as competition you will understand my big, hearty "F++k you!" to the Kisenosato/Kakuryu bout. It would be good for sumo as an organism if Kisenosato wins the yusho. So a win against the shin-Ozeki would also be good. It happened. (In the second try, since the Kid is somewhat dumb).

It would be good for sumo if the officially injured Yokozuna (Oyakata statement: left index finger; but now they taped the right one after they remembered the Gagamaru bout) would lose a few (preferably against Nihon's boys) but also stayed in long and in pursuit to add legitimacy to a homeboy yusho by beating dangerous fellow furries like Kotooshu. Check.

Let's have the other Ozeki slowly gather all their well-deserved eights, preferably against each other. Working on it. Hey, OK, Baruto really did something for his kachi-koshi today as he faced the useless 1-9 Komusubi Homasho. I mention this, because the Ozeki was at first struggling to literally come to grips with his aite's usual defensive sumo. But when he finally got hold of Homasho's mawashi, I swear by the entity of my choice that I heard a slurping/sucking sound, even though the speakers of my computer were switched off. Martin called it long time ago: Baruto is scary.

The rest of jo'i action for the whole rest of Natsu basho will be, no: must be purely ornamental. Kisenosato will take the yusho and as things look at the moment, I'm afraid they will drag him to Yokozuna-hood right after Nagoya basho. Enough of this already.

Now to the progressive, optimistic, pleasure cave driven fun part. I will tell you who I fell in love with this basho:

I fell in love with Daido. He might not be the speediest rikishi of all times, he might lack technical refinement. But his sumo is oriented forward even though this occasionally costs him at the edge, like today against Kimikaze. Daido is my man. He is moving forward, hopefully also in the ranks.

I fell in love with Kaisei. I always call him youngster, but he's already 25. The reason why I see him as young is that he is still a pretty fresh addition to the top division. He has overcome his recent melancholic funk and now he's strong again. His basic sumo is power-driven, oshi moves dominate his post-tai-ai. Nevertheless, if his opponents offer the belt -- like ill-advised Tenkaiho today -- he can also employ clean and deadly throws. Kaisei is my man. He is moving forward, hopefully also in the ranks.

I fell in love with Sadanofuji. He is the big thrust sumo guy, like a lighter version of Miyabiyama. He's struggling with the speed of certain opponents and still gets schooled by the masters of his trade, but today he showed and shoved Tokitenku to the ropes and beyond. Sadanofuji is my man. He is moving forward, hopefully also in the ranks.

I fell in love with Takarafuji. After failing four times in the past, he now managed his first Makuuchi kachi-koshi already on Day 10. He is seeing only his 20th hon-basho, as he has a collegiate background and entered professional sumo at the age of 22. As so many of his university brethren, he has the technique of an accomplished all-rounder. He might not be as naturally gifted as Goeido or Myogiryu, nevertheless, he employed seven different kimari-te in his eight wins. What he lacks is experience and pure strength which showed in today's force-out loss against Tochinoshin. Still: Takarafuji is my man. He is moving forward, hopefully also in the ranks.

I fell in love with Aoiyama. He naturally lacks many of the sumo basics as so many of his Western counterparts. Nevertheless, he capitalizes on his sheer thrusting power and employs remarkable mobility when chasing much smaller opponents. A seasoned veteran like Wakanosato was no match for him today. Aoiyama is my man. He is moving forward, hopefully also in the ranks.

I fell in love with Shohozan. What a light-weight daredevil he is! High-speed tsuppari fly when he is around. Volley after volley patter on his often much more forceful foes. He counters physique with frequency, taking the breath away even from the casual observer. And if he fails with this and gets caught in yotsu entanglement -- like today against Okinoumi -- he stays focused til the end, playing balance against balance to conquer the microsecond at the tawara that means victory. Shohozan is my man. He is moving forward, hopefully also in the ranks.

I fell in love with Myogiryu. Who -- honestly: who in his right mind -- wouldn't? He is one of the most complete rikishi that I have witnessed in my (admittedly short) life of sumo fandom. If I would be able to teach him anything, it would be that he should take care of not getting in too low. Thrust downs have cost him several times in the past and also during this basho. Yokozuna slayer Aminishiki is no match for him no more. A joy to behold and without fear. Myogiryu is my man. He is moving forward, hopefully also in the ranks.

I fell in love with Takayasu. In his short career he already accomplished so much and has now entered the phase where is is confronted with top rankers. So far, he failed. But let us all remember Ama's first stint in sanyaku. How many of us had seen him as a future Ozeki? Takayasu is quick and has balls. The rest will come. His dominating win against Goeido was a first glimpse of his future. Takayasu is my man. He is moving forward, hopefully also in the ranks.

Who needs all the yusho/tsuna bullcrap when so many Maegashira raise their heads and show that sumo can be beauty, free of contextual implications. My rank and filers, I salute you. It is you who carry the basho through the dark vale of organic self-preservation.

Over. Out. Mike.

Day 10 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
Hellooooo and welcome. (that works better in my seductive baritone ...).

So raise your hand if you had bet on Takarafuji two wins ahead of Hakuho by day 9. Nobody? How about the bottom three on the banzuke with as many wins of the Yokozuna, Kotooshu, and Harumafuji combined after day 10? (crickets) Yeah, I had all of that in my preview. It's on the 15th page of comments from the last basho.

So while the suckers go dig for that, all of you really smart people (gotta lube up the audience, right?) can let me weigh in on the shenanigans that the other Sumotalkers have been telling you about.

My basic opinion on all of this is that the "Japanese must get a yusho" theory is correct. Just listen to the English commentator if you get the NHK broadcasts overseas – he talked multiple times about the lack of Japanese yusho over the recent past. It's extremely important to sumo and everybody agrees on that much. I almost wrote "important to the sport" there, but it's not the sports part that demands this. They aren't wearing diapers and sporting backwards comb-overs because it makes for superior fights. They don't hold their basho in the middle of the afternoon on weekdays because that's when the athletes are at their peak abilities. They don't throw salt to improve their footing on the clay and they aren't drink power water with electrolytes. This is about ancient Japanese traditions and it ties into Japanese culture and religion. They certainly wouldn't hire a bunch of Mongolians to come over and take all the priest and monk jobs in their shrines and temples. However, it must feel to some Japanese like they did just that by letting these foreigners come over, dress the part of good rikishi, and then physically dominate their own young men in their national sport.

I may disagree with the other Sumotalkers – and have – about whether a specific bout was thrown, like the Goeido-Kakuryu bout from last time. Those disagreements come down to the fact that sumo is such an easy sport in which to throw a match and it's really hard to make a clear call about intent. When the key to victory is to keep your stance balanced by taking one more step with your left foot or finding some way to grab that mawashi, just skip that step or leave the mawashi alone and you're on your way to a loss.

But we have to face the broader facts: a confirmed, long-standing history of bout-throwing and trading favors from the top on down, a desperate need to grow the sport after a terrible scandal, and a lack of top Japanese talent on the big stage in a mono-ethnic country that strongly favors its own. Mix that with some weird action on top of the dohyo and it should be clear enough that something's going on.

Now to the action.

First, I'll just note that Tamawashi (with the win) and Takarafuji (with the loss) theoretically remain in the yusho hunt at 8-2, which means they'll start to get a steady diet of significantly higher-ranked opponents for their trouble. But I'm sure they're happy to get off the bottom of the banzuke.

Tokitenku (5-5) won a straightforward yotsu battle. When's the last time you read that? It was over Asasekiryu (3-7), so take that for what it's worth.

Shotenro (7-3) had a stronger hit at the tachi-ai than Tochinoshin, and he quickly used it to set up the pull. No Shine (5-5) took a roll, making the otherwise standard pull down of the head look cooler than it was.

Shohozan met up with a much bigger Daido (over 30 kg heavier) in a pushing contest. As you might expect, Shohozan brought the superior energy while Daido brought ... well Daido had the weight advantage. And he used it for a moment, driving the Ho Show back after losing the tachi-ai to a round of tsuppari. But Shohozan turned the tables again and blasted Diddly-Don't all the way across the ring. Both men are 5-5.

From a pushing/thrusting battle, the lighter Yoshikaze got moro-zashi on Wakakoyu, which the larger man quickly turned into what looked like it would be a kime-dashi by locking down on both arms with the two outer grips and bullying Yoshikaze around. But Starbuck managed to swing his partner over his right side at the edge for what should have been the close win as Wakakoyu's elbow hit the clay first. Instead, the call and subsequent mono-ii both went for Wakakoyu (6-4). That's a rough way to drop to 4-6.

In a battle of two guys who are close together in my mind for their similar physique and recent appearance in the top division, Kaisei appeared to have Aoiyama dead to rights. Aoiyama was pushed to the edge and with his side facing the Brazilian for a second. But actually, Aoiyama was spinning all the way around before he slid a bit more to the slide and let Kaisei (6-4) step past and over the tawara. Surprising agility at the edge for the baby-faced Bulgarian (7-3).

Miyabiyama suckers Sadanofuji into his usual push then pull. The English commentators keep mentioning that Sadanofuji has put on some weight, going up to 194 kg if I remember correctly. For reference, Baruto and Gagamaru are listed at 199 kg. I guess that means Sadanofuji (4-6) has gained the one thing that he can use to make up for a lack of power or significant skill at this level. Perhaps he'll hang around the top division for a while due to his size, which doesn't seem to affect his overall mobility or balance too much. Miyabiyama's picks up the early make-koshi at 2-8 – he's at the point where I rarely would say that he's a clear favorite in any match and relies on his opponents being off their game. This basho, at least, that hasn't been enough.

Tochiohzan entered today tied at the top of the leaderboard, but showed why he doesn't have the stuff to hang with the big boys. He locked up with Kyokutenho (7-3) and had the better, lower position. More than Oh-zan (still 8-2) pushing forward, the veteran "Rising sun heaven phoenix" (taking a page from Mr. Martin here) moved back and induced Oh-zan to slightly lose his balance going forward. He then grabbed his lower opponent around the back of his head and slapped him down for the quick win. You may safely ignore the call of "kata-sukashi" – not sure how they came up with that one for a mostly typical slap down.

Kitataiki pulls a henka, which is such a pussy move against a clearly injured and weak-looking Tochinowaka. North (something something, too lazy to look) moves to 4-6 with the lame win, while lame Waka Waka (note: irony) gets his MK.

In a match of two solid rikishi, Okinoumi and Toyohibiki got into a shoving match, which should favor Hibiki. And it did, with Okinoumi getting moved back by some strong armpit shoves before get a solid grasp on the Hutt's left shoulder and arm. This led to a nice kote-nage throw.

Okinoumi is 7-3, but is winning with retreating sumo this basho. Hibiki continues to look good at 4-6, but will need to start converting better tachi-ai into wins to pick the KK from M3.

Gagamaru and Takekaze both started out doing what they do best – shoving hard and evading, respectively. Gagamaru had some trouble getting a lock on his shifty opponent, so he tried at one point to grab the mawashi near the edge. Takekaze snuck out of that, spun around Mr. Gaga, got an arm under his right armpit, and used that to throw the off-balance big man to the clay. Too much running around for the 3-7 White Hutt; Takekaze with the same mark after this surprisingly good effort.

Aran and Homasho come in already with their MKs locked up. They got into migi-yotsu after a tachi-ai so slow that I actually thought it was a false start. Homie went for a maki-kae with his left and, getting it easily, started to move Aran back but without any grip. Aran tried to put on the kime – the double arm lock. As they got near the edge, Aran leaned back and swung his partner around and out for a kote-nage win.

Takayasu (2-8) was pounding away with tsuppari on Aminishiki for a while, when Shneaky (6-4) got a good shove in to knock the youngster back and set up a pull.

Myogiryu is looking seriously good. Today, he managed to yori-kiri Toyonoshima without a belt grip. With all of the veteran savvy and array of moves that Toyonoshima has at his disposal, that is a tough task to pull off. In fact, it should be considered a mistake to try. But Myogiryu got into his aite's defenses, and used power and speed to work Tugboat out before he could make any of those veteran moves work. Both men are at 5-5.

Warning: from here on up, we enter the Sumotalk Conspiracy Zone, where strange things can and do happen and we can only explain them by calling upon a higher power (in this case, Mike).

That said, the first Ozeki bout between Harumafuji and Goeido looked pretty straightforward. The two locked in migi-yotsu and got low, with their hips back. Then HowDo quickly dropped his right hand inside grip, reached underneath Goeido and flipped him. Not much to say for a move that was simply called uwate-nage but was really something different in my book since it involved getting leverage in a different way. Goeido at 6-4 is in position to KK from Sekiwake. Harumafuji is also 6-4 and will get his KK, probably without a little help from his friends.

Alas, Kisenosato and Kotooshu looked pretty off to me, even at full speed. At first, Kotooshu went for his favored left hand grip, but on the inside – he usually likes a left hand outer. Hmmmm. Kisenosato didn't like it and backed out in a hurry. After a quick (and unbalanced by Kise) spin around each other, Kotooshu came back in too high and again went for the inside left hand grip, getting it this time. However, instead of backing his opponent out or keeping his hips back while waiting for a better opening, Kotooshu bodied up into Kisenosato and let Kise grab a strong right outer. He then turned a bit to the left, letting the Japanese Hope really make the best use of his grip possible while greatly limiting the value of his own inside grip. From there, it was easy for Kisenosato to work the compromised Bulgarian out to reach 9-1.

To me, it looked like Kotooshu came in with a plan and executed it perfectly – just that it was a plan to lose. Kisenosato almost blew it with the initial back-out after the tachi-ai, but Kotooshu was active enough to re-engage, get the grip he wanted (again, going against his favorite winning strategy), and made sure that his opponent had the leverage to attack. Kotooshu (6-4) just needs two wins in five days and is likely to also have help available if he needs it.

Baruto (7-3) beat Kotoshogiku (7-3) in a match that was effectively decided on Day 9. Once Giku lost the battle of the Japanese Hopes, he was fodder for a superior rikishi like Baruto (whereas the winner can expect gentler treatment over the final stretch). I never cease to be amazed by Baruto's feats of strength. Today, from what looked to be a regular hidari-yotsu position (though his opponent was gripless), he locked his right arm around and down over his aite's left arm and picked 170 kg of Giku up for a trip into Baruto-dashi land. Unreal.

So, the Yokozuna is hurt. I buy it – why not? These guys get hurt all the time. Why would he let people know, though? It's a terrible decision from a tactical perspective if you're trying to win every match possible. You know my answer to that. Anyway, the injury explains some of the sumo we've seen from him. He's trying to win without using his injured hand to grip a mawashi. [Note: I saw the Day 9 report -- isn't it the right hand? the one that's taped up and is NOT used to throw Gagamaru? they keep zooming in on that hand.] Anyway, it's pretty awesome to watch him take on the field with a (literal) handicap. Assuming that today's bout was clean, it was exactly what he needs to do under the circumstances – hard tachi-ai and dominate with power, speed, and positioning to get a quick force out win. Seems that Kak (7-3) doesn't suddenly have Hakuho's number, huh?

By the way, I'm not saying that the hand explains everything. The match with Goeido for example – I haven't read the Day 8 report yet, but that was thrown, right? Hak appears to do a double reverse maki-kae, turning double inside position into double outside position. That seems like a good idea if you want to lose a bout while appearing to be very active.

But all the sumos in Sumoville had a fun basho anyway. Somebody different should yusho, which makes it worth watching in any case. Enjoy the final stretch!

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
One of the finer things in life is settling onto the couch in my underwear with nowhere to go and a full broadcast of the day's bouts waiting for me in my DVR. Such was the scene Saturday morning (day 7) where I had enough time to watch the full broadcast instead of fast forwarding from bout to bout. From the end of the Yokozuna dohyo-iri to the start of the first Makuuchi bout, there's approximately 15 minutes to fill each day, and NHK does a phenomenal job using this time to introduce us to new faces, discuss current issues, or relive exciting basho from the past. I'm guessing that about half of you access the daily bouts via YouTube, which means you only get the bouts themselves with no replays and no commentary. The other 45% of you likely watch the NHK feed in English, so while you get the visuals during rikishi profiles and other documentaries, the translation is done on the fly, and the nuance of watching it in Japanese just isn't the same.

There's a couple of truths I've learned the past decade since starting up Sumotalk. One is that Mainoumi is the best analyst in the business. If all I ever did was just repeat Mainoumi's takes on Sumotalk, the site would still be worth reading. Another truth is that the media coverage of sumo is done in concert with the approval of sumo's board of directors, so if you can learn to read what's being spun in the media, you can get a glimpse into the minds of the people running the sport. It's very difficult to deceive the masses in any country without cooperation from the media, so in a country like Japan where group harmony is encouraged, very few people ever question what's being fed to them by the mainstream media. The Sumo Association knows this and wisely takes full advantage.

With this in mind, let me rehash the mini-documentary NHK broadcast at the beginning of the day 7 bouts because my ears really perked up when Kariya Announcer and Kitanofuji introduced the piece that highlighted "a struggling Ozeki's sudden promotion to Yokozuna." The focus was on former Yokozuna, Onokuni, and his improbable 15-0 yusho exactly 25 years ago at the Natsu basho that provided the basis for his Yokozuna promotion. Heading into the tournament, Onokuni--who was ranked at Ozeki--had averaged just nine wins per tourney since the previous year's Natsu basho, so in a word, he was floundering big time. Then, all of a sudden he comes out of nowhere and goes 15-0 to take the yusho. Riding that momentum, he posted subsequent records of 12 wins and then 13 wins taking runner-up honors in both of those basho, which resulted in his promotion to Yokozuna.

The documentary focused on his bouts throughout that Natsu basho 25 years ago, and then they had comments from Onokuni and his peers as they recalled the miraculous tournament. The theme of the piece was that you never know when a rikishi can get hot and make a historic run. Now, it could have been just a coincidence since 25 years is a good number to commemorate things, but I couldn't help wonder as I watched the piece, "are they prepping the general public for a similar run?". Now, I'm not saying that a similar run is going to happen just because they chose to show this miraculous story, but I wouldn't be surprised if this piece was planned in order to plant in the minds of the viewing audience that such a run by a struggling Ozeki is possible.

I had a similar reaction to this documentary that I had to one of Hakuho's pre-basho comments on May 1st where after roughing up Kakuryu in the keiko ring he said, "The Ozeki who have momentum right now are Kakuryu, Kotoshogiku, and Kisenosato, and I've been testing to see what works best against them." I agreed with him that Kakuryu certainly had momentum going into the tournament, but what about Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato? Why mention them by name and not Baruto who took the yusho in January or Harumafuji who has also won a tournament within the last year?

When I read that quote from Hakuho, it sounded to me like a company line that was planted in the Yokozuna's head and was conveyed to the general public through his statement. In other words, the typical Japanese person would read that quote and assume that Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku had momentum heading into the tournament when the opposite was really true. That same person would then also watch that documentary on Onokuni's run 25 years ago and be reminded, "yes, miracles can happen for floundering Ozeki." In this manner, the Sumo Association can establish line by line what the Japanese public could expect to see at the upcoming basho.

I could be totally wrong in that assessment, but I thought I would mention these personal observations because they obviously shape the way that I perceive sumo. Oh, and for the record, I thought the bout they showed in that documentary where Onokuni defeated Chiyonofuji was the easiest yaocho to read the entire broadcast!  The only other time I can remember a dai-Yokozuna losing by abise-taoshi was when Takanohana deferred to his older brother Wakanohana at the '95 Kyushu basho...a bout Takanohana admitted he threw.

Well, the last time I submitted a report, Hakuho had four wins, and now today as I write this report four days later, Hakuho is stuck on five wins. At least the acting has been acceptable, and now I see where they finally published Hakuho's official injury, but let's first get to the final bout of the day that featured the Yokozuna vs. the scrappy Sekiwake, Toyonoshima.

The Yokozuna secured the right inside position from the tachi-ai and hugged his gal in so tight that Toyonoshima's right arm was pointing to the rafters. I have yet to see Hakuho lose a bout when he has his opponent in this position, so as soon as the Yokozuna let him go without grabbing his belt, I thought to myself "here we go again." With Toyo-Houdini now on the run after his great escape, Hakuho kept up with him forcing him back with his body while firing some non-committal shoves that missed their mark. Toyonoshima ran out of room, though, as he scampered across the ring, and as the two hooked back up in to migi-yotsu, the momentum of the bout carried both rikishi to the edge forcing them to commit. The end result was a Hakuho right scoop throw (albeit with his arm straight as an arrow) for the Yokozuna vs. a Toyonoshima left kubi-nage, a low percentage desperation throw used by a rikishi when he has no other options. Yet, somehow the Yokozuna miraculously crashed down first giving the victory to Toyonoshima. This was one was close, and they even called a mono-ii, but that was just for show. The end result was an unheard of third consecutive loss for the Yokozuna while Toyonoshima is gifted the shukun victory.

Later in the evening it was announced that Hakuho was suffering from a broken index finger on his left hand, an injury that was "likely sustained" (yes, that's how the article worded it) in his day 1 bout against Aminishiki. You remember that one right? It was the bout where there was little to no contact as Aminishiki backed up from the tachi-ai and snuck to the side of the Yokozuna getting him off balance to where he easily pushed him out. I challenge anyone to show me at what point Hakuho broke his finger on day 1.  And if he did break his finger during the bout, why wasn't he favoring it afterwards?  He didn't flex it, he didn't favor it, nor did he even look at it after the bout.

Actually, the injury does jive with Hakuho's sumo today. When he had Toyonoshima in tight with his left arm pointing to the rafters, the logical next step was to grab the outer grip with the left hand on the other side. The Yokozuna refrained which aided Toyonoshima's escape, and this is actually the best argument against yaocho in this bout for you purists although I could counter with he didn't grab it because he didn't intend on winning AND he knew it would be reported that the hand was injured. The main problem with the argument that it's broken is this pic which shows Hakuho's left hand dug snugly into Gagamaru's belt a few days ago as the Yokozuna is heaving the 200 kg behemoth over with an outer belt throw. Just imagine in your mind you have your hand underneath your opponent's belt, and you're executing an outer belt throw. Where is all of the pressure focused during the throw? Yes, the index finger. That news article went on to say that Hakuho's injury would require two weeks to heal but that the Yokozuna was going to continue fighting and wouldn't go kyujo.

The Ozeki and Yokozuna have a right to withdraw from any tournament at will citing a phantom injury that will always be conveniently diagnosed as requiring "two weeks to heal." Happens all the time. I'm actually surprised that the Association isn't making Hakuho withdraw to preserve the image of the Yokozuna rank, but if he is allowed to continue, I suspect it's so he can hand the foreign Ozeki losses while giving the Japanese Ozeki wins. Who knows? But two things I am certain of, Hakuho did not break his finger during his day 1 bout (he hasn't even been taping it), and the Yokozuna could have easily beaten Toyonoshima today with one hand. Are you telling me a kubi-nage from a vertically challenged Sekiwake is going to best a right inside scoop throw from a dai-Yokozuna? It's so highly improbable that when paired with the other shenanigans going on this basho, I don't see how anyone could deduct anything but that Hakuho gave away his fourth bout of the tournament. Don't worry though, it gets worse as both thespians finish the day 5-4.

Part of me was thinking that today's Ozeki duel between Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku would determine the yusho, but the fight wasn't straight up. It may well be that the victor is being groomed for the yusho, but my thinking was if you're going to put the yusho on a silver platter for either of the Japanese Ozeki, at least make them fight straight up to give us something that's real. Wouldn't happen, though, as both rikishi hooked up into migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Kotoshogiku took the advantage by bellying Kisenosato back. The right outer grip was wide open for the Geeku, but he refrained from grabbing it, and at this point, I knew the outcome. Kisenosato managed to force the action back into the center of the ring, but Kotoshogiku gave him the gaburi-yori again this time grabbing the right outer grip. The Geeku let it go, however, with no prodding from his fellow Ozeki, so back and forth this nonsense continued for about 30 seconds until Kisenosato hooked his left hand under Kotoshogiku's right armpit, backed up a step, and pulled him down in the process.

This bout reminded me a lot of the Kisenosato - Aminishiki matchup because Aminishiki dictated the pace and had opening after opening in that one; yet, he never did go for the kill eventually letting Kisenosato get him in the end. As the dust settled here, Kisenosato moved into a tie for the lead at 8-1, but it doesn't necessarily mean he's the chosen one. I'm very curious as to why Kisenosato was allowed to win this one because Kotoshogiku has been the far better rikishi through nine days. We'll just have to wait and see how this plays out, but the one thing that's clear is the way has been paved twice over for a Japanese rikishi to take the first yusho the country can boast in over six years. Incredible.

In our second Ozeki duel of the day, Harumafuji was way too high at the tachi-ai allowing Kotooshu the left inside position that was for all intents and purposes insurmountable. HowDo actually went for a right kote-nage that set up a maki-kae getting his right on the inside, but Kotooshu just maintained that same stifling grip which changed from a solid inner to a solid outer that now allowed the Bulgarian to pinch in on Harumafuji's right side. With nowhere to go but down, Kotooshu obliged throwing the Mongolian to the dirt with an outer belt throw with that left hand. Pretty straight up ass-kicking here as Kotooshu soldiers on at 6-3 while Harumafuji falls to 5-4.

Ozeki Kakuryu's initial charge was weak, and to make matters worse he kept his right hand up with his left arm non-committal against Komusubi Aminishiki. Took another second for the Kak to align his feet, so Aminishiki just ducked his head and bulldozed the Kak straight back and out with a methodical oshi attack. Nothing more to say than you can easily tell at the tachi-ai if Kakuryu has any intention of winning a bout. He sure as hell gave this one away taking himself out of a tie for the lead now at 7-2. Aminishiki improves to 5-4 with yet another gift.

M2 Gagamaru pushed at Ozeki Baruto's face, but the Estonian got his right arm firmly on the inside, which silled the dill as far as us Utahns are concerned. With Gagamaru still pushing into his face, Baruto just bodied his foe back and out never once grabbing the belt. Easy stuff here as Baruto improves to 6-3 while Gagamaru is the converse.

M1 Aran henka'd to his right against Sekiwake Goeido, but 1) the move was half-assed, and 2) the only time Goeido goes forward balls to the wall is when he knows Kakuryu is gonna let him win. So, with both rikishi now separated by a meter in the middle of the ring, Goeido tried to pounce to the inside while Aran batted him away wit the left paw. This cat and mouse affair continued for a few seconds until Aran went for a meager pull that resulted in the Father deftly charging to the inside and forcing the Bride back and out from there. Goeido moves to 6-3, and before we consider adding a seventh Ozeki, let's get that first yusho in six years outta the way first. Aran falls to 0-9.

Rounding out the sanyaku ranks, M1 Takayasu charged low against Komusubi Homasho and then started firing tsuppari into his face and upper torso. Homasho had no answer, and so Takayasu pounced driving him back and down for the oshi-taoshi win in under five seconds. Takayasu ekes his way to 2-7 while Homasho's make-koshi becomes official at 1-8.

M2 Myogiryu and M5 Okinoumi hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Myogiryu showed some impatience going for a maki-kae with the right arm. Okinoumi sensed the slight let-up in his opponent's momentum and struck forcing Myogiryu back and down at the edge with a nifty left scoop throw. As much as I like Myogiryu (4-5), I also enjoy seeing him making these young mistakes (like going for an unnecessary maki-kae) because I know he'll learn from it and get it right the next time. Okinoumi is a quiet 6-3.

M3 Toyohibiki (4-5) rushed his oshi charge against M6 Aoiyama (6-3), who backed up to his right and slapped down Toyohibiki near the edge. Funny how this same attack worked wonders against the Yokozuna a few days earlier but failed miserably today.

Rounding out the jo'i, M3 Takekaze henka'd M4 Tochinowaka to his right, but the Sleep-waka couldn't recover anyway, so Takekaze squared back up, pushed his man against the ropes, and then shifted gears pulling him down into the center of the ring. Both dudes are 2-7.

M4 Tochiohzan stayed tied for the yusho lead against M6 Wakakoyu who as usual was non-committal in his shove attack because he would rather go for the pulldown. Before he could even execute it, Tochiohzan was in his grill getting the left on the inside and the right outer grip, which he used to throw the Wookie over and down with ease. So yes, Tochiohzan is your co-leader along with Kisenosato at 8-1. Wakakoyu falls to 5-4.

There's really only a couple more bouts from the lower half that are worth mentioning, and one of them didn't even take place. M15 Tamawashi improved to 7-2 thanks to a no-show by M10 Chiyotairyu. The rookie withdrew after a decent 5-4 start citing an ankle injury that he actually sustained during the Haru exhibition season. The problem with Chiyotairyu's unstable sumo is it makes him prone to injury. If you study the basic sumo exercises, none of them gear a rikishi up for pull sumo, so when a guy like Chiyotairyu insists and retreating with that huge body of his, at some point he's bound to overload a certain joint and suffer an injury as a result. I'm sad to see him go because the dude was so powerful yet so raw, but he should be back in Nagoya ranked on or near the bottom rung of the banzuke.

And finally, M16 Takarafuji lost out on a chance to become the basho's sole leader (if only for just 30 minutes) after a huge surge from M11 Shotenro that was too hurried for it's own good enabling Takarafuji to secure moro-zashi as he retreated. But as soon as Takarafuji looked to seize the momentum and drive Shotenro back for the win, Shotenro retreated faster than Takarafuji could advance pulling him down to just his second loss. As for Shotenro, he looked awful his first three days but has since turned it around with six straight wins.

After nine days, we have the exact leader board that I predicted in my pre basho report. Here's how it breaks down:

8-1: Kisenosato, Tochiohzan
7-2: Kotoshogiku, Kakuryu, Takarafuji, Tamawashi
6-3: Baruto, Kotooshu, Goeido, Okinoumi, Kyokutenho, Kaisei, Aoiyama, Shotenro,

I expect the furries to continue to be sifted out of that group making it virtually impossible for a Japanese rikishi not to take the yusho. As for Hakuho, I would rather see him just withdraw than to continue to suffer losses like this, but if he does stay, I expect him to beat up on the foreigners and lose to the eventual yusho rikishi.

Matt will try and make sense of things tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
People looking to criticize Hollywood for disseminating misinformation do not want for easy targets. Whether its Vikings wearing horns on their helmets, citizens making arrests, or Mars attaining a human friendly atmosphere in less than three minutes, the film industry of America has a long and storied history of misleading the average Joe.

Most of the time these bogus beliefs are harmless and have no great impact on the real world (though we can all be grateful that the future governor of Californias head did not explode like a super heated enema bag). But on occasion they have implications that cause some harm.

There have been some high profile criminal cases in America in the past few years where defendants who seemed guilty as dogs were acquitted, and some prosecutors are pointing to the fact that many jurors do not understand that circumstantial evidence is enough to convict. It has been suggested that the TV and film industries are mostly to blame (Id toss in the fact that most people are idiots as well). Theyve labeled it "CSI" syndrome, which stands for "Circum Stantial Ividence," I believe.

Put simply, there does not need to be an eyewitness (who are, by many accounts, wrong over half the time anyway) or DNA or fingerprints to decide someone is guilty. Like the indefatigable Johnny Cochran (God rest his soul) once uttered, If the evidence is compelling, we must listen to what its telling.

In the final match of Day 7, Hakuho (one of only five or six guys in sumo history to yusho more than twenty times) wrestled like a Maegashira 16 for the second time this basho. He rushed forward and as he was falling, left his right foot behind him, going so far as to DRAG his right foot behind him. You could almost see a thought bubble above his head as he dug his toes stubbornly in: "Come hell or high water, I am NOT going to bring my leg forward!" For me this has long been the easiest tell in fake losses. Sure, guys do lose legit in this manner, when they go all out and shove their foe, assuming hes so close to the edge hell go out first. And also guys do forget, in the heat of battle, to bring their legs forward. Question we need to ask ourselves is, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Does it stand to reason that HAKUHO would do this? Against Toyohibiki? Please.

Yeah, theyve been trotting out the "Hakuho is injured" story since Day 1, saying he sprained it vs. Aminishiki. Right, the same hand he used on Day 6 to fling Gagamaru to the dirt like a wastepaper basket? Or theyve been saying his head isnt into it. Right, suddenly the guy who has just rocketed through sumo and basically adopted Japan is now Ricky Williams? Please.

So today it was no surprise that he continued with more of the same vs. Goeido, the guy about whom Mike wondered in his pre basho report might not beat the Yokozuna based on his spicious win over Kakuryu on Senshuraku in Osaka that took him from M6 to Sekiwake! To describe todays bout is insulting, but basically Hakuho hit Goeido hard, which made him circle to his left and get close to the ropes. Kublai then came forward and inexplicably hooked his "uninjured" right arm around foes neck, not with any conviction, just long enough to whisper something, completely open up his defenses, and let the Sekiwake in for the easy yori-kiri win. Yes, the guy who went 172-8 over two years in 2009-2010, including four straight 15-0, tried to pull a Hokutoriki.

And its not like he had set it up with some shoving, or Goeido was leaning too far forward; nor was he fishing, standing in a solid stance taking a quick exploratory shot to see if the guy will go down easily. No, he simply decided to wrestle like one of STs all-time favorite dung beetles. But as Oscar might opine, "Pero si no se puede confiar en un arreglo entonces, en que?"

The problem with the "Hes injured" story is that none of the mistakes he is making are those that a guy who with an injured left hand would make. And remember, he was dominating in pre-basho keiko, beating Kisenosato 18 out of 19 times, and Kakuryu 14 out of 14, so its not like he has some other ailment.

Sorry, but the jury is NOT still out on this one, despite the fans at the Kokugikan slapping their fins together when thrown that kinboshi fish. Hakuho is doing what he has to try and save the sport. His past year or so has been the very definition of taking one for the team.

So, how to work up the verve to report on the rest of the bouts in a sport where the head judge could very well be Freddie Blassie? Maybe watching nearly naked men in large cloth wraps isnt the way to go. Maybe I ought to start covering a sport that has more clothing, like womens beach volleyball.

I took it as a good omen when I, for some reason, switched on the English language broadcast for the first time in a year, and found that YoRoss-kun Mihara was slated, along with Stewie. Having dodged the David Shapiro bullet, I settled in for some sumos.

But first they had a nice little piece (and yes, thats a double entendre about the female interviewer) on Shohozan, and how he scowls when on the dohyo but surprise, is a sweetheart when off. He even rides a Cannondale road bike! Id lay 50/50 odds hes slammin that NHK hottie by the end of the month. She seemed very impressed with his tidy room.

Then they cut to the booth where todays guest commentator was a 650 year-old undertaker. . .I mean oyakata Takanohana. Holy shite! Somebody call Bela Lugosis family, tell em grandpops aint dead after all.

After disposing of Juryo Yoshiazuma, 7-1 Takarafuji was the sole leader. I dont think that sentence needs anything more.

Tamawashi ran Asasekiryu out with little fanfare. In the dictionary under the word "ineffective" theres a picture of Andreas, holding a book with entitled "Reverse Psychology On Me," but hes wearing a t-shirt with Sexys face on it.

Kaisei did his best young Miyabiyama, setting up Fujiazuma with some hard pipin tsuppari, then stepping back and slapping the forward leaning E15 to the clay.

As Kimikaze and Sadanofuji prepped, we were told that Ross had attended the prestigious Japanese center of higher learning Wossamatta U, as did Kimikaze. I did not know that. At any rate, after some ferocious slapping by both men, Sadanofuji decided to end it all (no, he didnt commit suicide!) by giving one last mighty shove that blew the Windy One back and out.

Daido was thoroughly out maneuvered by Wakanosato, who hugged up and laid his large form on the Big Doh, biding his time (yes, like a Croc). When Daido went for an inside belt, Grandpanosato said, "Not so fast, sonny jim. Your center of gravity is now somewhere in my lower intestine" and slung him down like a plate o hash! "Okay, schools out, young fella. Better be scootin home."

Before Yoshikaze and Tenkaiho fought twice (Day 8s mandatory spoiler alert), they showed the crowd and Ross said he had been sitting there yesterday when Toyohibiki upset Hakuho and that his friend wanted to throw the zabuton. Then he added, "HER zabuton." 9/10ths of the known universe heard this except for Stewie, who took a minute or so to notice Ross said anything at all, finally asking, "Well, did he throw it?" Ross quickly interjected, "She. And no, she didnt." Man, YoRoss-kun is subtly trying to let the world know that, hells yeah! hes getting some, but his co-worker aint pickin up what hes puttin down. Im tellin ya, I have a half a mind to move to Tokyo and apply for the job. (Speaking of which, mi madre always said, Clancy, if you had half a mind, it would die of loneliness. Happy Mothers Day, Ma!)

In the bout, Tenkaiho, who outweighs Yoshikaze by an average sized adult Japanese female, seemed to be in control throughout in a yotsu battle, but at the very last Yoshikaze twisted the big lug and they collapsed together. Once the redo was announced the W9 scampered off to a phone booth (remember those?) and returned as Starbuck, Hyper Caffeinated Champion of Hit and Run Sumo Purists everywhere. This time Café did not let the big man touch him (unlike Matt and his uncle Jerry—but Ill let him tell you more when he reports on Day 10). He shifted and slapped and dodged and parried and thrusted, and so too did Yoshikaze on this day, and he got it in the end (meaning Café the win, not Matt the indignity).

Shohozan demonstrated why Tokitenku ought to employ trick sumo as he came at the man like a cannon. . .DALE and rode the old man back and out (love covering a sport where I can call a guy 13 years younger than me, and about 5 times as strong, an "old man"). Unlike Mick and Keith, time is not on Tokidokis side.

Time DOES seem to be on Kyokutenhos side, though, as he continued to defy the odds today by getting inside on Chiyotairyu and swinging his not insubstantial form around and out. The Chauffer will be 38 on my wedding anniversary this year, and he shows no signs of. . .oh, who am I kidding? Hes as slow as my cousin who drank turpentine, but hes still got game, and really, isnt that what sumo is all about, turpentine?

Tochinoshin fought like a Yokozuna today, meaning he charged forward like a man on fire and all Wakakoyu had to do was resist for a second and then move. The Private needs some lessons, Private lessons, in getting in close to his man. Maybe he ought to call John Travolta?

It was all ashore whos goin ashore as Shotenro took on the Pirate King Aoiyama, standing the buccaneer up and then slapping him down when the ruffian got too close to Big Shots treasure. Arrggh! Ahoy Yama falls to 5-3, but he just needs a little smooth sailing and I think he will be able to patch things up.

In the final bout of the first half, Kitataiki dismantled Okinoumi, who had been looking sharp before his humiliating loss to the Chauffer yesterday, in a lightning quick force out win.

While were waiting for the next match, let me update you on our good friend Mark Arbo. Well, dude is back from Africa and he is getting married (Im serious) to a wonderful woman from southern Japan. He is obviously deeply in love and committed, as the picture on the wedding invitation I received shows. Hes lost a bit of weight, and is looking, in my opinion, better than ever. Congratulations to the remarkable Mark Arbo.

In the bout that promised the most excitement, fiery upstart and conqueror of 4! Ozeki this tourney, Myogiryu, took on a former fiery upstart himself in Tochiohzan. Oh Snap produced halfhearted sumo in 2011, but started the year off with a badda boom 11-4 in January, only to stink up the joint with a 5-10 at Komusubi in Osaka. Hes 7-1 and in the lead after luring the E2 in close and then smothering him down. Snap kept his cool in this one, not losing his head to be fighting the Ozeki slayer and patiently waiting for the slightly smaller man to come to him. Still, major Hyogo state props to our boy Myogiryuski! Make us proud.

Gagamaru needed literally two contacts to beat Tochinowaka, the first being the kind of blast they use to make tunnels through mountains, and the second a kind of "make sure the car door is locked" check. In the dictionary under the term "domination" theres a picture of Mike, holding a book entitled "How Girls In High School Treated Me," but hes wearing a t-shirt with Gagas face on it.

Takayasu chose the rikishi with the largest breasts (so predictable!) to be his first, as he put up with Miyabiyamas tsuppari protests before making some room for the big guy to lie on the soft earth and accept what was coming to him. Takayasu gets win number 1 and can sleep well knowing hes finally done it.

On the other hand, Shneaky ignored Arans half assed attempt to henka by circling in on him and running him out like a cricketer. Arans record indicates he will surely be going as Gandalf this Halloween, complete with hand carved staff.

Maybe Hakuho ought to ask Harumafuji for some tips on how to move forward when facing a quick retreating foe. Today How Do gave a slap to Takekaze ("Thats for being small, bitch!") and then grabbed him and took him back and out. The Ozeki did what a sumo is supposed to do, bring his feet up with him after he pushes, sliding them forward one at a time where he has space and then jumping forward with both when he is close to the ropes. Textbook.

Kotooshu took Homasho out. Kotooshu is 5-3. Homasho is 1-7. Im outta here.

Toyohibiki showed that not only can he vanquish Yokozuna going backward, he can defeat Ozeki going forward, driving Kotoshogiku to the bales and. . .wait, Geeku has that spin mojo and flings the E3 to the soil to keep pace with the leaders at 7-1. What an escape? I mean, what an escape! Now in this bout, we saw The Ibiki leave his leg behind like Hakuho did yesterday, but the difference is, Toyohibiki was close enough to the edge that he could be forgiven for thinking hed fall on Geeku and push him out. As Mike said, Hakuho did a ski jump.

Easily one of the least focused bouts of Toyonoshimas career today vs. 7-1 Kisenosato. Tugboat essentially just stood there taking a beating, not even trying to get inside, and got pushed out oh so simply in a couple of heartbeats. Kid moves to 7-1 and co-leader. I noticed a woman in the crowd so excited at this win that she lifted her infant up and shook it. Had this been the States, some alert caller would have 9-1-1ed the popos and had her child taken away, replaced with pamphlets on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

In the final bout of the day (sorry, Hakuho was yet to present Goeido with his first ever win in the series), Kakuryu got inside on Baruto and they spun. Baruto made a tactical miscue he often makes and tried to pull down his Ozeki foe. No basis for wanting to do this as Kak was way too close and tight, and he simply drove the Biomass backward onto his ass. Baruto looked to be panicky. Kakuryu is a lock for the yusho in my opinion. I also think everyone should buy Sony stock cause beta is coming back in a BIG way.

Well, thats about the size of it. I have to go now and take care of some of my own bidness, if you know what I mean. Ill be back next Sunday. Head torero Miguel Felipe Guadalajara Von Ramos Del Fuente Los Punto MacWesemann jams the banderillas into our quaint notions of sumo on Day 9.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
It's 5:27 AM as I finally get a shot at starting my report, and I'm playin' Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb, though I'm neither comfortable nor numb. Got sucked (or suckered) into going to the opera last night, but I don't really regret any minute of the three-odd hours of Don Giovanni, especially because of the ton of booze which followed (I'll prolly start regretting about noonish, but so far, so good). I get a strange feeling of inadequacy showing up the way I did, having read the reports of Herr Kungl, Señor Gutiérrez and Master Mike beforehand, and something tells me I'll feel even more dwarfed when I read my report sober tomorrow (well, today proper). To hell with it, let's start talking about sumo already.

Having said that, I'm forced to go back to the inferiority complex routine, since the above-mentioned guys also dissected the basho and the state of the sumo as a whole way better than I could right now (and, to be honest, probably ever) and probably better than anyone (especially the casual, naive fans) needed it. Actually, given the amount of molecules of CH3CH2OH in my bloodstream, I'm actually feeling a bit cheated – WWF style – by it all. At least this is something which will go away later, because I am and will still be aware it's a necessary evil – for the greater good of sumo and all. As The Prodigy just put it – Screw 'em and their law.

And I'm jumping right into the action, hardly hoping the sumo was better today. And I'm duly rewarded by Takanoyama of all people, who withstood a few paws to the chest from a guy literally twice his size, only to use his speed to evade ridiculously at the edge and worm his way into a nigh insurmountable moro-zashi. Props to the guy for finding a way to win without cowering away at the tachi-ai. Fujiazuma loses his 5th, while Takanoyama might just find his scrawny ass in Makuuchi next basho.

Asasekiryu's annoyingly low stance and long limbs weren't enough to win against the larger Kaisei, who took his time into methodically driving his sneakier foe to the edge and over. 5-2 for the Brazilian, 3-4 for the Secretary.

The word which pops to my mind after seeing the next one is adroitly (look it up). Good, solid, skillful sumo from the rookie Chiyotairyu got him into a winning position. But the same word can apply to Takarafuji's (what is it with these guys and all the riches and abundance in their ring names, anyway?!) evasion skills – 'cause he got out of the way just enough to force a mono-ii and a do-over. Which was longer and not as exciting, with the rich guy eventually forcing out the thousandth generation of Great Dragons (who comes up with this stuff?).

Veteran M10 Wakanosato's days seem numbered as the other rookie, Kimikaze, left him nary a pot to piss in, driving forward from beginning to end and laughing off his laughable pull attempts. Guess what, I ain't laughing (and that's partly because Blind Guardian's Noldor which just finished – now that's a sad little power metal piece). Kimikaze "improves" to 3-4, a record shared by his hapless foe.

The next two guys came in with mirroring records and walked out the same way (surprise!). Starbuck befuddled his larger foe with tsuppari long enough to get into moro-zashi and force things to the edge. The Round Vulture (one of the more creative readings of The mawashi's shikona) almost pulled off the counter-throw, but it was too little, too late. 5-2 for the loser, 2-5 for the winner.

Tochinoshin won his fight right from the start, lunging right into migi-yotsu and leaving nothing for his opponent. It was only a matter of seconds for Dildo to be ejected from the ring. Both guys share 4-3 records. The Chemical Brothers? I didn't know I had that in my computer.

Cheetos made short work of The Phoenix Clad in Godly Armor (oh, my head!), pushing and thrusting this way and that and not allowing his fatter foe any offensive. Easy oshi dashi win for Oscar's homie there – and they dare say size matters.

Sadanofuji will be none the happier after getting his ass rammed right out of the dohyo by Bulgarian Aoiyama via tsuki-dashi. Remember this – oshidashi = win, tsukidashi = ass-kicking.

Shotenro took his record above sea level with a win dubiously similar to the one above, against Wakakoyu. Both share a 4-3.

Miyabiyama's luck doesn't seem to be changing (he's 1-6), as he drew the mother of all bastards today and duly fell for her signature dirty trick. Is kicking that hard even legal in sumo? Tokitenku skirts to 3-4 with the dubious keta-guri win – he must be after the all-time record (good luck with that).

Kyokutenho's vast experience at the belt prevailed against the younger Okinoumi, as the elder ex-Mongolian got his preferred uwate and denied Okidoki one of his own. The bout ended with a flipping uwate-nage, which Tenho enhanced with a paw on his foe's head. It rarely gets better, given the material.

Kitataiki briefly looked like he had a chance against Tochiohzan, but he rushed it at the edge and allowed Oh to recover and get moro-zashi. It was hilarious to see Mike's former mancrush get pushed with the face (I'm failing to find a proper way to describe this, you go watch the bout, mk?). Oh stays on the leaderboard at 6-1 (sorry for the spoiler there, but if you're hardcore enough to mind it this is a spoiler, you probably knew it already, so get off my case). Kitataiki slumps to 2-5.

Tochinowaka got sick of getting his fat ass handed to him day in and day out and pulled a surprisingly deft henka against still winless Takayasu. Not good, my man, not good at all. If I were Kasugano, I'd break a few bamboo canes on his hide (as a small side note... do you have any idea how hard those things are?! I couldn't believe it, it's like carbon fiber – only lighter).

Homasho showed typical resilience and his trademark low stance in absorbing Aminishiki's rather useless pushing. Homie (1-6 now, yay) ultimately got a decent mawashi grip and forced the giant slayer a little further away from the Shukunsho. And, lazy as I am to go back and change, I've just realized bamboo actually IS carbon fiber. Genius.

Ozeki Kakuryu improved to 6-1 as well, after claiming his gimme from Aran. The Ossetian kinda made it look like he had a chance at some point in it, but then came Kak's maki-kae, and Aran probably knew he was toast. His bagel is totally deserved. Kakuryu is doing fairly well in his debut basho, but, if you listen to conspiracy theorists bigger than myself, he's due a few more losses come week 2.

Kotooshu is one of a handful of few who can stop Gagamaru in his tracks (no mean feat, just ask Harumafuji), and that's exactly what he did today before penetrating (hngh, I said penetrating) the Georgian's defenses and getting the double inside. Yori-kiri was a mere formality, and with it Yogurt rises above the .500 mark. Gagamaru falls to 2-5, but can still get 8.

Myogiryu used godly de-ashi to overpower Ozeki Kotoshogiku and prove there IS I in "Team Japan", dealing the yusho hopeful his first loss. Looking at this guy's schedule in the first week (nothing but Ozeki and Yokozuna) you'd expect 1-6 or the like, but Myogiryu boasts a shiny 4-3, and if anyone should the Shukunsho, it's him. The Geeku gets caught by the chasing pack, and it will be VERY interesting to see how this particular yusho race turns out.

Kisenosato looked tentative a few seconds into his bout with slippery Takekaze, but he methodically (I really use this word a lot, ne?) overpowered him, so much that the little guy ended up rolling out of the dohyo like an odd bowling ball. Der Kinder improves to 6-1 as well. Takekaze limps to 1-6.

The "Bout of the Day" award goes to the Goeido-Baruto matchup, one which, despite the huge size difference, is fairly even. Goeido showed large, steel cojones as he lunged straight into yotsu with the Estonian, and for a second I thought he was toast when Baruto got the left uwate, his right on the inside of Goeido's pit and denied him the uwate on the other side. Unable to budge him forward on the count of his lower stance, Bart deployed the throw, but Goeido used textbook defense, hooking Bart's nearest leg, threatening the soto-gake, so the move could not be completed. Even worse for the Biomass, Goeido now had both arms inside. Normally, that's not a huge deal for a monster like Baruto, who duly used his double outside mawashi grip to force the force-out (if you can walk the walk and talk the talk, why not force the force? Much to learn you still have.). Goeido, though, repelled him like a giant mosquito, lifting him off his feet for a split second and getting back to safety. Baruto sensed he was going nowhere fast and tried another twist with his uwate, but Goeido found the perfect opening and finished his compromised foe by soto-gake. I really, really, REALLY want to believe this one was legit.

 Really. And there's a good chance it might've been, but we'll never know for sure. Bottom line, though, Baruto falls to 5-2 and is out of the running, while Goeido rises above .500 with the hard-earned win. And don't look now, but he's getting fed to Hakuho tomorrow. Should he win that, not only will it be the first time he beats Hak, it will also confirm our darkest suspicions (there is, of course, the possibility of a legitimate upset – yeah, right).

Ama was never in trouble against Toyonoshima, keeping his short foe away from moro-zashi and timing his throw to perfection to improve to 4-3. A contender this one is not (it's in your head too, now; whaddya mean, what? Yoda speak, of course). Tugboat falls to the same mark.

Toyohibiki evened his head to head record against Hakuho... wait, what? Nope, no mistake there, Hakuho looked like he was gonna dominate his way to yet another one-sided win, but somehow, out of the proverbial hat, Toyohibiki pulled a Frank of a kote-nage (those of you who get the reference please email me for your prize), making Hakuho land a split second before he hit the ground himself. The gyoji couldn't believe it either, so he gave it to Hakuho, but a mono-ii rightfully reversed that decision. Fishy? Yes. Provable? Hell no. Hakuho falls to 5-2 and might even go kyujo, pending on tomorrow's outcome. Toyohibiki... well, he improves to 4-3 after also recording first time wins against ex-Ama and Kotooshu. Shukunsho anyone?

It's kind of early to speculate on the prizes (or anything else, for that matter), but Myogiryu should definitely get some. My only hope is the wheels don't come off in the second week. While we're at this, it'll also be interesting to see whether they give Chiyotairyu anything for a 10-5, which he's definitely capable of. With Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato tied for the lead at 6-1 and Hakuho one behind and not looking his best, there's a definite possibility of a Japanese yusho. Somebody should tell Kakuryu, though, because who knows what desires for greater glory the little pest might harbor?

That's all for me this tournament, don't miss me too much, mk? Clancy should be up tomorrow (if you know what I mean), and I'm off to get some much needed rest.

Day 6 Comments (Óscar Gutiérrez reporting)
Sports compete with a lot of other entertainment options for people's attention. Being a good aficionado to a lot of them (and some of those aren't exactly mainstream, eg, I knowingly smiled at Andreas' Ronnie O'Sullivan comment), the thing that pisses me off the most is when some sport actually becomes mainstream and the casual fans, only there because everybody else watches it too, dare to instruct you about it. Because they don't approach you and try to have a little chat, nooooo, armed with just a pair of viewings of the sport and the "useful" insight the dumbass TV commentator has given them, they start to lecture you about a sport you've been following for 10 or more years.

That thing happened in Spain with Formula 1. Before Fernando Alonso came along, only a freak would get up at 6 am on a Sunday (or not sleep at all after coming back home from a drinking spree) and watch the Malaysian GP. But overnight, the appearance of a local idol made everybody an expert on the subject. I actually remember this time I was hanging out with some friends (couple guys, couple gals, none known for being a sports fan) in the beach, one afternoon, just chillin'. Suddenly the girls start packing. "The f*** are you doing? It's only 12:30", I tell them. "Oh, Alonso's race (the actual Spanish translation of Formula 1) is about to start, we have to go back to the apartment to watch it"..."What?" I look at the guys looking for some help but they start packing too. Being surrounded by that level of stupidity, I try at least to delay the departure. "Look, the race doesn't start till 2 pm, we can stay another hour in here". The answer was puzzling "But we have to watch the pre-race show"..."So, are you telling me that watching those morons asking the drivers what's her favorite colour or that Heinz-Halrald Frentzen likes paella, is inherent to the pleasure of a 90 minute, 300 kms long race?" "Well, of course". Being young and stupid (now I'm older and stupid), I yielded and came back with them, 3 of the longest hours of my life, while they (2 months long fans) explained to me all the secrets, schemes and excellences of the sport. Some guys that told me Nigel Mansell was a name I had just made up. Sigh.

Being that way, the sad part is that knowing that most hardcore fans won't leave them, the casual fan is the holy grail all sports are looking for. Mass media attention. So sumo, a national matter in Japan (thus not having the choice of going international) needs a local hero (love this song) to revive it. Nothing more, nothing else. The truth is that we're years ago from that happening organically, so try to keep an open mind regarding this matter. If Baruto makes the helicopter, he's trying to save the sport from disappearing. As sad as that may sound to a good fan like you are. Enough of this, let's go to the dohyo, because your Tamaasukas are being forgotten by my keen companions.

First of all, a tsuki/oshi affair took place between Takarafuji and Kotoyuki. You know I'm not the biggest fan of this style, but this bout was actually pretty good. With nobody going for the cheap pull, this was a real "mano a mano", nice de-ashi (forward movement) from both guys when they had the chance. Takarafuji dictated the pace mostly, Kotoyuki was trying to push from the side and gained the upper hand momentarily, going for the frontal push out and not asking himself "WWWD?" (What would Wakakoyu do?). Still, Takarafuji recovered and overpowered the Juryo visitor with a final shove that sent him to the third row. The Sadogatake guy took his time to come back for the final bow, but when he did, he was limping and he walked that way down the hana-michi. A pity, really, because he was looking to get promoted after a nice start and now I wouldn't bet a dime on it. 4-2 for him and 5-1 for Takarafuji, who is looking for his first kachi-koshi in his fourth basho in Makuuchi.

During my rather frequent fishing trips (and I don't know what a river is, I'm more of a Chuck's than Sneed's type of guy - see adjacent picture to understand the joke - ) I've learnt that "Ta-" is a prefix that means "I don't want to know anything about it". I would observe the grounds, Cutty Sark & Coke in one hand, approach a female I considered worthy of my affections, and she'd answer me "Ta"… The difference a dentist makes is a lot, that must be why they charge so much. Because in Russian "Da" means "yes". The day I discovered that, man, was I pissed. Maybe some of the Slav girls I looked forward to bring to my dominions were actually willing to come. The money I would have saved in chloroform...Well, I was telling you this because in the second bout of the evening Mr. "I don't want to know anything about the mawashi" did just that and disposed of Kamikaze (who didn't perform up to his name), just as easily as I did of Svetlana that summer night a couple years ago…Never mind, Tamawashi is 5-1 and looking sharper than ever and Kamikaze is 2-4.

Daido jumpstarted the gun and got an easy uwate while Kaisei was still raising up. No need for that, my Brazilian friend, as Dildo had sidestepped him and threw him to the clay in the blink of an eye. This was a blatant non-call. These things didn't happen at the beginning of the reign of Musashigawa Rijicho, also known as the Great Matta Purge (© by Andreas Kungl). We miss those times. Both rikishi are 4-2.

Hot Shot stayed lower than his opponent at the tachi-ai and raised the bulky Fujiazuma straight up for an easy-peasy oshi-dashi. Third consecutive win for Shot after 3 losses, Fujiazuma is 2-4 and will have to scrap if he wants to stay in the division.

Yoshikaze looks injured. Last basho he missed the last 3 days and he hasn't recovered properly, so a henka was only a question of time. Asasekiryu, being a master at pulling them off, is also absolutely clueless when he's on the other side of the rope. With these data, you can figure yourself what happened. Café needs 3 or 4 more of these to keep himself in the division, while the Secretary has a balanced account.

Kyokutenho showed today that sheer power is useless even in yotsu-sumo if it doesn't come with the proper footwork and skill. Tenkaiho looked to crash the Chauffeur's car, but old Tenho stopped the first charge, moved laterally to set up his rival and then drove Miss Daisy out, neat and tidy to even his record. Tenkaiho is 2-4 if you need him.

Sadanofuji got Wakakoyu'd again. He should change his name to Masonofuji (If you don't laugh at the joke, it's coz it's baaaad) .For the ones who are counting, today's one was a hataki-komi, which makes 3 this basho, plus one hiki-otoshi and 2 losses for Koyu. Sadomaso is 2-4.

Chiyotairyu pulled the leapfrog henka against Mt. Pirate. Ahoy was close to catching him in mid-air (remember Wakanoho-Ama, blatant non-call, by the way), but he was so startled at the move, that he just stood there gawping and was easy pushing fodder for the flying pig. 5-1 for the rookie, who should get tsuriotoshi'ed, if you ask me. If you want to do this, try it in front of a 500kg bull (El Cordobés, famous Spanish "torero" did it, I won't link images just in case…, you can search it for yourself). Ahoy gets his second loss of the tournament, and I hope he'll be sharpening his knives for the next meeting.

Quick advice for No-shine. Putting your forearm in the neck of your rival is OK to keep him at bay momentarily, but for four freaking seconds? What were you expecting? Okinoumi got an obvious moro-zashi out of the move, but Tochinoshin mended his ways with a strong utchari that flew Okinoumi out of the dohyo. My first impression was in favor of the Private, and after close viewings, maybe Tochinoshin's right ankle touches the sand an instant before Okinoumi's left arm. Let's quantify "an instant": half a tenth of a second (1 frame, 20 fps video, I'll show you the caps if you don't mind the quality). And here you can't point to Okinoumi being the aggressor, the utchari was an aggressive one, desperate, but aggressive. If somebody was deserving here, I'd go with Tochinoshin, but to be fair, I would have ordered a rematch, after all, that's entertainment. After a review by a group of Japanese people, the win was awarded to the Japanese rikishi. Meh. Okinoumi advances to 5-1 expecting to face some toughies in the second week and Private No-Shine gets his third consecutive loss for his efforts, balancing his hot start.

We need a new sheriff in town, as Miyabiyama is washed up. Shohozan beat Miyabi in his own game and that's a clear tell of what's to come for the former Ozeki. Cheetos looked like having a submachine gun, while Flobby was firing with his old colt, which gets jammed easily. Ol' style oshi-dashi and a 2-4 record for Matutano, Miyabi walks towards the horizon with a lone win on his bag.

The last bout before the intermission went as one-way as a Harlem Globetrotters game. Wakanosato played the Washington Generals part and Tochiohzan did his sumo 101 ,keep arms tight, be low, and move forward. Textbook oshidashi and 5-1 record for him. Grandpanosato got his third loss.

Tochinowaka keeps disappointing yours truly. Today Tokitenku gave his neck some loving and Tochinowaka stood there, like a teppo pole. When Toki's pull attempt came, Tochinowaka was caught off-guard and Tokidoki pounced on the opportunity to yori-kiri the big man out. Abysmal 1-5 for my man, not that brilliant 2-4 for the Mongolian.

Kitataiki and Takekaze made a sincere effort to doze me off with the tachi-ai preparations. When they finally got going, Takekaze tricked everybody and went for the straight up push out win. Kitataiki sure wasn't expecting that and put up a Frenchman-like resistance. Takekaze finally lost his virginity, while former Mike's mancrush shows a poor 2-4.

Takayasu continues his dismal basho. Despite successfully hitting his almost nonexistent target, Tugboat's neck, with his tsuppari, the rest of his body wasn't put into the effort. The Maegashira went in panic mode trying to circle the Sekiwake, but Toyonoshima did his best spinning top impersonation (has the perfect body for it) and the youngster, absolutely terrified, crumbled to the floor. 4-2 for Toyonoshima, who's taking care of business defeating the guys lower ranked than him. Takayasu could very well have a level 80 paladin, cause he's yet to score.

Aran has no fighting spirit this basho. He's acting like the head cheerleader in a teenage movie, letting every guy do her without putting that much of an effort. Today, the Russian kept tight trying to fish for moro-zashi against Yoghurt and when he couldn't get it, there was no plan B. Kotooshu willed his way into a left uwate and used his right arm rendering his foe's left one useless, pointing at the roof for the funny looking yori-kiri. Even steven for Yoghurt, Aran is yet to win.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku is the lone undefeated rikishi, but take it with a grain of salt. The records of the rivals he's faced before today were 0-5, 0-5, 0-5, 0-5 and 2-3.That's a combined 2-18 if we exclude the 5 Kotoshogiku wins. Not that impressive, huh? Well, today, the Giant Killer Komusubi Aminishiki was in front, and Kotoshogiku simply bulldozed him out of the dohyo. The Giku got an early left inside position and Aminishiki tried to force his way on that side with a fruitless maki-kae attempt, allowing the Ozeki to easily roll him out of the dohyo via oshi-dashi. Snakeoil Oyakata has 3 gaijin scalps and 3 national defeats. Ahem.

Kisenosato made a show of his strength, single-handedly (literally) pushing the side of Sekiwake Goeido, who was trying to touch cloth. With that colossal power exerted right from the tachi-ai, nor the most willing rikishi could have done anything but fall flat in his face, as the Sekiwake unwillingly did. 5-1 for the Kid, still very much in contention and 3-3 for Gogo, who will have to fight hard for his second kachi-koshi in 6 sanyaku appearances.

The key to defeating Baruto is not letting him get an inside position, but even if you succeed there's a good chance you end up losing anyway. Toyohibiki conceded that inside position right off the bat and then tried to undo his wrongs, trying to maki-kae his way in (just like Aminishiki 5 minutes ago). Baruto didn't let him, of course, and escorted him out of the dohyo. Easy day at the office for the Ozeki's fifth win. Toyohibiki has 3 wins, the number I had him penciled for in the whole basho, but don't count on him getting kachi-koshi despite this thrilling start.

Myogiryu overpowered Ozeki Harumafuji at the tachi-ai with some nice shoves. The Maegashira then stuck to the retreating Ozeki like flies to shit. That gave him the win, because Harumafuji had already grabbed a left uwate and was trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat, but Miyagi's nice de-ashi left the Ozeki with no room to operate. This is the main difference I see between Myogiryu and Takayasu. Both have arrived here at the same time (though Myogiryu is 4 years older, he went to college) and have very similar styles, mainly oshi-sumo, but able to defend themselves in yotsu. The difference is Myogiryu tries to go forward, but Takayasu tries to go backwards, hence today's results for both of them and in the basho (3-3 vs. 0-6). HaruAmafuji is off to one of his cold starts with same wins than losses.

Homasho gave Ozeki Kakuryu a run for his money. Compare the Komusubi's attitude today with the one on day 3 against Kisenosato. Kakuryu worked with a nice tsuppari to Homie's neck, but stability is Homasho's main feature. Homie tried to weather the storm and look for shelter in the belt, but Kakuryu wouldn't let him in, combining his nice tsuppari with nice pulling moves. Finally, the winless Komusubi leaned forward a little too much and Kakuryu dispatched him with a non-cheap hataki-komi. Featuring only a loss in his record, the shin-Ozeki is showing no signs of jitters, but the second week battles against his counterparts will really tell.

Hakuho's hand looked pretty well today. He grabbed the left outer grip and wasted no time in making a tasty Gagamaru-roll with the textbook uwate-nage. I work under the impression that if Hakuho was really injured (and I'm not talking about little nagging injuries all professional sportsmen carry, even more common if they're wrestlers), he would go kyujo. But as in this sport I'm not that long from being a casual fan, I won't speak ex cathedra. Maybe he has some problems, but the powers that be think his presence is needed to carry the sport and to keep everybody accountable. I think you, avid reader, are capable of forming an opinion of your own. Anyhow, Hakuho is one win off the pace, and Gagamaru is a not so shabby 2-4.

So, Giku is still in sole lead, undefeated. 9 guys have only one loss, Hakuho and 3 Ozekis standing out from the pack. If I had to bet money, I'd put it on Hakuho, but I could fathom watching a Japanese rikishi holding the Emperor's cup next week.

Martin will continue to brain your wash tomorrow. Hasta la vista.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Have we entered the dog days of this basho or what? I keep looking at the basho calendar in terms of what day we're on, and it feels like I'm in church staring at my watch for the tenth time with 30 minutes to go in the sermon. I think this sense was also reflected in Andreas' day 4 comments, which I really enjoyed. Not only did I agree with his takes, but his comments and style resembled the format of Sumotalk before we ever hit the web. Back in the day, both Kenji and I had access to the live NHK broadcast, so we didn't need to repeat to each other what had just occurred atop the dohyo. Instead, we emailed back and forth talking about trends, great moves, controversial calls, the Japanese commentary, pretenders, contenders, cream rising to the top, etc.

I'll never forget the time when former Itai came out back in 2000 and proclaimed that nearly 80% of Makuuchi bouts are rigged. Kenji and I of course discussed the subject, and while neither of us believed that 80% of Makuuchi bouts are rigged, we both did agree that when rikishi are 7-7 heading into senshuraku that opponents who had nothing to lose were sometimes doing the other guy a favor. But then I took it another step in a subsequent email listing up a few incidents and a few rikishi where some things didn't seem right to me, and Kenji's response to me defending the purity of sumo was as explosive as I've ever seen him. Perhaps it was because I mentioned Tosanoumi in one of the incidents (another was Dejima), but he was extremely passionate in his defense of the sport. I believe we met halfway in the end with me backing off and Kenji agreeing that Takanohana took a dive against his brother, Wakanohana, in a playoff for the 1995 Kyushu basho yusho, but I learned at that time how sensitive a topic yaocho can become.

Actually, my intent with this intro isn't to talk specifically of yaocho; rather, I've been doing some speculation the last few days as to why the sumo has been so awful, especially among the Ozeki ranks, and I have a new theory that I will share similarly to the way that I would have floated it by Kenji back in the pre-Sumotalk days.

The thing that actually got me thinking about this was the recent presidential election in France where a socialist, François Hollande, defeated the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy. Not only does François-san have a cool letter in his name like Óscar, but dude's also a socialist, and one of the items he ran on was taxing the rich at a rate of 75%. The whole premise with such an agenda is that a candidate can woo the middle class and peasants to vote for him by implying that he's going to basically tax the rich and redistribute the wealth to the poor. In my view, all that does is encourage more people to live on the dole and discourages people from becoming successful because why try harder (to make money) if it's only going to be taken from you and given to some lazy ass down the street? Before I lose the remaining half dozen of you, let me apply this to sumo, and why I think the action in the ring has become so uninspiring this basho.

If you've followed me the last year or so, you know that I've been of the opinion that the majority of Hakuho's losses have been on purpose in order to give the appearance that he's vulnerable. Hakuho losing more would theoretically give other rikishi the opportunity to rise up and perhaps even take the yusho. Since I began this talk, Harumafuji has risen up to take a yusho, Baruto took his first career yusho, and three rikishi have been promoted to the Ozeki rank. My belief is that Hakuho has been asked to lower his guard in order to give other rikishi a chance, namely the two Japanese Ozeki. I talked at length about this in my Haru post-basho report (I've since posted that to my blog), so I won't expound on it here, but there have been a few questionable bouts so far this basho that involved rikishi other than Hakuho, so I get the sense that more people are being taxed now than just the Yokozuna.

The first bout in question happened on day 2 when Ozeki Kotooshu faced Sekiwake Goeido. In that bout, Kotooshu refused to grab an outer grip when it was wide open. I found that strange because Kotooshu's sumo is defined on obtaining an outer grip, so when it's right there from the tachi-ai and he opts for a high kote grip instead and ends up losing the bout, I can't help but to question it.

The second bout in question happened yesterday between Ozeki Baruto and Komusubi Aminishiki. Like Kotooshu, Baruto always goes for the outer grip...always. Yet, in his bout against Aminishiki he refused to grab it with the left hand even when it was wide open. He instead placed his hand at the middle of Aminishiki's side and was pulled out of the ring in short order. The loss meant that Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku lead the basho just four days in, a convenient coincidence in terms of Japanese rikishi doing well.

So my theory--and it's just pure speculation at this point--is that sumo's dire situation has been made known to all of the stable masters, and a movement is in place to help restore sumo's popularity to the extent possible by having high profile Japanese rikishi do well. In order for that to happen, the elite foreigners must also do their part for the sake of sumo's livelihood. Just go back to those pictures Andreas posted yesterday. If you're Kakuryu, what are you gonna do? Stay in Tokyo and continue to get fat for the next decade at the price of sacrificing a yusho? Or say to hell with it all and return home? When I worked in Japan in that government job, there was so much crap that I had to put up with, but I put up with it because thoughts of a fat paycheck each month far outweighed the prospect of returning back to America unemployed. Additionally, during those times working for the Fukuoka gumment when things happened that I thought were unethical or inappropriate, my on-the-job-morale went down and my productivity lessened. It was just human nature, especially for a kid in his early to mid-twenties.

In short, I suspect we could be witnessing a sort of sumo socialism at the expense of the foreign rikishi. The foreign rikishi are being asked to sacrifice a bit, and they willingly comply because they understand the alternative. However, in doing so the quality of their work (sumo) is declining because what they are fighting for now matters less.

Let me reiterate that this is pure speculation on my part, but I'm just floatin' it out there since the action in the ring isn't exactly creaming anyone's Twinkie at this point.

With that said, let's move to the day's bouts starting from the top once again. Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed the lethargic Komusubi Homasho. Hakuho secured the easy right inside position from the tachi-ai that led to a left outer grip on the other side, and while Homie did manage to escape, the only direction to run was back. Hakuho caught up with him in short order and shoved him out to make it official moving to 4-1 in the process. I've heard rumors that Hakuho is injured, but it sure didn't sound like anything was hampering him pre-basho, and he hasn't taken a hard fall yet either. Nothing would surprise me at this point as Homasho falls to 0-5, but Hakuho looks pretty stable to me.

Ozeki Kotooshu was lazy at the tachi-ai allowing Komusubi Aminishiki to keep him upright with shoves to the chest, which led to the firm moro-zashi position. The Ozeki countered with the left outer grip, but Ami is tall enough allowing him to keep Kotooshu upright and on his toes, so his right scoop throw attempt was more than enough to overcome the Ozeki's outer. Aminishiki moves to 3-2 with the win and has the Shukunsho in the bag if he can get to eight wins. Kotooshu falls to 2-3 and has looked completely uninspired this basho. Even that loss to Toyohibiki where he was robbed, he still went for broke with just one fold of the mawashi instead of gaining the sure grip and taking care of bidness the easy way.

Ozeki Kakuryu looked awkward at the tachi-ai as well against M1 Takayasu, and Takayasu took advantage shoving Kakuryu back, but the Kak is just too crafty in this situation and he was able to evade to the side (mawari-komu) with perfect timing causing Takayasu to just shove his way straight out of the dohyo. There was a little contact in the end drawing the okuri-dashi winning technique, but basically Kakuryu baited his opponent into a forward charge and then escaped at the edge. I've seen better 4-1 starts, but Kakuryu will take it. Takayasu is winless.

Ozeki Harumafuji's feet were perfectly aligned at the tachi-ai against M3 Toyohibiki, so despite the Ozeki's left inside and flirtations with the front of the Hutt's mawashi with the right hand, his footwork was awful, so Toyohibiki just bulldozed him back and off the dohyo for the shweet yori-kiri win. I can see Harumafuji being 3-2 at this point after citing an ankle injury pre-basho, but how in the hell is Toyohibiki 3-2 as well?

Ozeki Baruto went for his usual moro-tezuki at the tachi-ai against M1 Aran, but Aran was too quick...

Just had to stop the tape and point out that I actually typed these words in succession: "Aran was too quick"

...and lurched into the moro-zashi position. Baruto managed to hold on, though, thanks to a weak right outer grip, and when Aran didn't force the action straightway, the Estonian was able to perform a maki-kae (notice how I didn't use the word quick there) with the left arm turning the bout to gappuri yotsu. Took a few seconds for the Ozeki to dig in, and then he easily carried the Bride across the threshold via tsuri-dashi moving to 4-1 in the process. Aran failed to strike when the iron was hot and falls to 0-5 as a result.

Somebody has got to remind Ozeki Kisenosato that his hari-zashi charge doesn't work and never has worked. Yet, he tried the move again today against M2 Myogiryu, and there's no way the fiery youngster would let him get away with it. Myogiryu not only stopped the Ozeki's momentum with the right inside position, but he caught him with his feet aligned, and there's no one in sumo who can recover from such a mistake (see today's Harumafuji - Toyohibiki matchup). The result was a forceful Myogiryu (2-3) pushout that sent the Kid to his first loss in mere seconds. A lot has been handed to Kisenosato on a platter including a few signature wins over the Yokozuna and the Ozeki rank, but the Kid still has to exhibit solid sumo on the dohyo. I haven't really been impressed with his sumo since January 2011.

Fortunately, Ozeki Kotoshogiku has it together with his solid yotsu attack although he wouldn't need it today. Facing M3 Takekaze, the Geeku struck his opponent at the tachi-ai and then took a quick half step to his left pulling Takekaze down in the process. There really wasn't much contact, and it was more a result of Takekaze going down on his own. Who knows if that was an intentional dive, but Takekaze's left elbow was bent outward and he rolled perfectly on his shoulder just as they do at the end of morning keiko each day. How often do you see roll like that from a slapdown?  And just like that, Kotoshogiku is your leader at 5-0 while Takekaze is completely floundering at 0-5.

The two Sekiwake did battle today, but Goeido was way too high in his charge allowing Toyonoshima to seize moro-zashi. As Toyonoshima immediately drove his counterpart back, Goeido went for a kubi-nage at the edge that actually caused Toyonoshima to touch down first, but Goeido was well beyond the straw, and we saw how lazy the judges were when Kotooshu fought Toyohibiki. The end result is both Sekiwake at decent 3-2 clips.

I'll just cover bouts of interest from the Maegashira ranks beginning with M4 Tochiohzan who was well-intentioned from the tachi-ai as he looked for the inside position, but who knew that he'd be pelted in the face with two Christmas hams in the form of M2 Gagamaru's hands. Tochiohzan was simply too slow and methodical in his approach, so once Gagamaru laid those beefy paws on him, Tochi-slow-zan was bullied back to his first loss of the tournament. It's nice to see Gagamaru at 2-3, and yeah, his record is still underwater but dude's making enormous progress among the jo'i.

M4 Tochinowaka has his right arm and shoulder heavily taped today, and honestly, I hope he is legitimately injured. I never want to see a guy get hurt, but it pains me to see this dude underachieve so much. Today against M7 Shohozan, Tochinowaka easily stood his ground against Shohozan's upper body tsuppari attack, but it was clear that Tochinowaka couldn't attack on his own, so there we sat for about 15 seconds watching Shohozan fire weak tsuppari into the M4. In the end, I think Shohozan figured out he could take a bit more risk, so he ducked down just enough to give his shoves meaning, and he was finally able to score the oshi-dashi win leaving both fellas at 1-4. Expect a Tochinowaka kyujo soon.

Probably the best fought bout of the day featured M5 Okinoumi vs. M6 Aoiyama, who is surging of late, and Aoiyama meant bidness from the beginning firing effective tsuppari Okinoumi's way punishing him for most of the bout. But Okinoumi's size kept him alive and he finally managed a right arm on the inside to bring the action in close, and with Aoiyama still up high after his volley of shoves, Okinoumi was able to execute a maki-kae with the left arm giving him moro-zashi. Somehow, Okinoumi was able to force Aoiyama back and across before just collapsing on the dohyo out of exhaustion. I'm not sure how else to say it, but this was the rare exception where a guy gets the shit kicked out him and still manages to win. Both warriors are 4-1.

M10 Chiyotairyu reminds me a little bit of Baruto. I know their bodies are completely different, but Chiyotairyu is such a beast that I actually think some guys are afraid of him. That was the case with Baruto as well, and it resulted in Baruto shooting up to the jo'i fast, but remember how he just couldn't get over the hump once he hit the top 15? It took him quite awhile to finally reach the sanyaku, and by that point he was polished just enough to steadily work his way to the Ozeki rank. I see the same sort of future for Chiyotairyu. His sumo is so unpolished, and he relies way too much on the pull (Baruto never had that problem), so he should quickly rise up to the jo'i and then hit a wall. The guys at the top are just too good to get burned by Chiyotairyu's faulty strong as it may seem. Doesn't mean the beast won't work it out, but in the short term, I expect him to get schooled once he reaches the jo'i. Anyway, M6 Wakakoyu was quicker at the tachi-ai today, but he was also quicker at the first pull attempt, and this was one duel where you don't want to fire on that first. Chiyotairyu was waiting and took one step forward and knocked the Wookie into oblivion improving to 4-1 in the process. Wakakoyu falls to 3-2.

I think the Apocalypse may be upon us. I swear before the M9 Tokitenku - M12 Daido match that a fan was actually yelling out the name "Daido!!!" Furthermore, it was a girl. I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but reach out to your loved ones just in case. If I must, the two rikishi hooked up in migi-yotsu but neither had outer grips as they positioned their hips way back. Finally, Daido (3-2) grabbed the left outer and went for the immediate throw barely throwing Tenku (1-4) to the clay before he hit down himself. I think I was having more fun discussing French politics.

M9 Yoshikaze is winless and in dire trouble of getting booted from the division. He made M11 Shotenro (2-3) look like an Ozeki today (no, that's not in insult) offering the perfect target for Shotenro's straight up oshi charge fueled by de-ashi.

M14 Asasekiryu henka'd classlessly to his left against M10 Wakanosato, but Croconosato read the move and immediately assumed moro-zashi. Just when it looked like Asasekiryu had a fork stuck in him, he spun a step and then kicked out Wakanosato's right leg with his own right leg earning the stunning chon-gake win. Horrible start but you gotta admire the finish as both guys are 3-2.

M16 Takarafuji is 4-1? Course the tsuki-hiza gaffe from M11 Sadanofuji two seconds into their bout today will help with that.

And finally, M13 Kimikaze picked up his second win in as many days by persisting against J3 Hochiyama. The rookie grabbed a left outer early, but he was still out of position to really attack. Still, Hochiyama is so damn high off the ground that he could never use his height and length to capitalize despite a decent inside position with the right, so Kimikaze stayed on the move and eventually wore the big fella down.

Óscar sobers up tomorrow...I hope

Day 4 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
I really hate to bother you with difficult words right in the first sentence, but the problem of this basho's first week is clearly the lack of any intrinsic suspense. No tsuna run (i.e. the attempt of an Ozeki to make it two yusho in a row), no Ozeki run, not even a kadoban Ozeki desperately aiming for the eight. Worst of all -- at least from the perspective of the Japanese public -- still no wormhole to an alternative universe, in which all of a sudden a Son of Nihon looks like a legitimate yusho contender.

Naturally, you know all this and Mike has been making a point of explaining the ins and outs, whys and whats, have beens and will bes, so that you can all gain an elevated viewpoint when considering our beloved sport. While, of course, it is no sport. As such.

In a perverse way, I have to agree with the most xenophobic, nationalistic and isolationist Japanese radicals: The sorry state of today's sumo as an institution is clearly the fault of the foreign devils, who started to invade in several waves. While the first wave in the 70s was easily fought back, the second one in the late 80s brought changes that cannot be dispelled anymore. That it was a foreigner in Akebono to fulfill the strict consecutive yusho criteria exactly at a time when sumo was short of at least a single Yokozuna for the first time in history, is -- on hindsight -- an irony of catastrophic dimensions. Questions linger. Would he have been granted the rank if there wouldn't have been a void at the top? Let's ask Konishiki. Would he have been promoted, if he wouldn't have been American but instead, say, a fellow Asian? Idle questions indeed.

In any case, this all farmed the fields for the crop we are harvesting for the last two decades. The third wave turned into a bullet fired at point-blank range. Us observers in the year 2012, are we surgeons, trying to figure out how the emergency gunshot victim could be saved? Or are we rather pathologists, expertly analyzing the exit wound?

So what's the problem with the foreigners, you might rightfully ask? It's pretty simple. In the context of changing social, economical and ideological standards, many of the best foreigners in sumo bring something along that their Japanese counterparts lack: a motive. A motive of the strongest type that is.

What's the average per capita income in Mongolia? Look it up. What's the per capita GDP in Bulgaria compared to the Japanese one? You can find these answers pretty quickly. How many dollar millionaires do actually hail from Ossetia (where most of the so called "Russians" in sumo come from) or Georgia? I tell you this: Just through salary, price money and basho bonus alone while excluding advertisement contracts, sponsors gifts and even kensho money, Hakuho earned approximately $ 5.5 Mio. throughout his career. Harumafuji stands at about $ 2.3 Mio., while even Aran has already earned about $ 700k. Let's add Kyokutenho ($ 2.6 Mio.), Kotooshu ($ 2.4 Mio.), Kakuryu ($ 1.3 Mio.), Tokitenku ($ 1.4 Mio.), Shotenro ($ 600k), or Kokkai ($ 1.6 Mio.).

And if numbers are just that, consider a couple of satellite snapshots. Spot the difference.

Harumafuji's hometown

Kakuryu's hometown

Tokitenku's hometown

Kyokutenho's hometown

Shotenro's hometown

A tiny part of Tokyo

Andreas' hometown

How on Google Earth can we expect that any of the Modern Days Japanese boys would bring along the same inspiration and determination to subject themselves to something that has to be called voluntary slavery with the vague hope that there might be a carrot dangling at the end of the tunnel? Whereas, the foreigners come with nothing and might leave with everything they could ever have wished for.

To round up the thought that I wished to present here, while lacking the time and proficiency in English to thoroughly follow through: Add to this situation the urge, the need for Japanese society to have Japanese hold high the glory of sumo, and you will quickly come to the messy situation we find ourselves in: Feudal carnival plus freakshow plus WWF plus a little bit of actual competition. I'm working on my own mental approach to this at the moment, and I will gladly share with you as soon as I have found my personal pleasure cave to deal with all this.

The most important Day 4 action included:

* Strong wins by Aoiyama and Kaisei, who both seem to have overcome their respective funks. I don't know what bugged them (or especially Kaisei) in the recent past, but both youngsters seem to have rekindled their initial fire. The best part is that their sumo is oriented forward and showing great presence of mind and body. In this state, both men would legitimately attack the upper Maegashira ranks in the near future, as they stay without loss so far.

*Another bizarre hataki-komi win by Chiyotairyu, who behaves a bit like Wakakoyu plus juvenile impudence. He is clearly on the way up, but let's see how he can score with this kind of sumo against the big boys.

*Easy wins by Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato. There might be a Japanese yusho coming up. The Geek looks to be the more stable of the pair. Whatever. Their actual sumo content nevertheless doesn't exactly feed the flame inside of me.

*A textbook example of how thrown bouts don't look like. Harumafuji showed his exceptional skill by converting a very disadvantageous situation into a killer kote-nage throw against upstart Takayasu. The latter is one of the few hopes sumo really has, but he got schooled today by a man who means business.

*Another extremely shaky win by Hakuho, who is either really injured or setting new standards for method acting. Or maybe he does the sumo equivalent of Ronnie O'Sullivan's left hand demonstrations by trying to win the yusho without a single belt grip. Anyway, his far superior skill allowed him to push down Myogiryu -- who is the other real hope Japanese sumo has -- while not even considering going for the belt. I predict that Hakuho will go kyujo after a third loss. But he will make a point of staying in as long as possible.

Trivia: With Day 4 concluded, Hakuho is now the rikishi with most Makuuchi wins of all active wrestlers, overtaking Miyabiyama and seating himself on #20 for now.

See you next week. "Passing the mike to Mike" is a pretty worn out phrase, I agree, but I will anyway use it in memory of the late, great MC Adam Yauch.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Allow me to start off today's comments by introducing a term that is seldom heard in sumo but one that is very applicable to the action seen atop the dohyo. The term is "mukiryoku," and translated into English it means "lethargy". Paired with sumo, the phrase becomes "mukiryoku sumou" and could thus be translated as "lethargic sumo." Now before you start imagining guys like Miyabiyama or Aran or even Tochinowaka of late, it needs to be understood that this is one of those terms coined in sumo to gloss over an occurrence that's far worse than the face value of the expression itself. For example, when 17 year old Tokitaizan was killed in the keiko ring the term "kyushi," or sudden death, was coined in favor of more applicable terms like "tortured to death" or "negligent homicide." So when you hear the term "mukiryoku sumo," it wasn't coined to describe the sumo usually exhibited by Eastern European rikishi; rather, it's a term used to refer to a rikishi letting up in the ring so his opponent can defeat him.

We often discuss yaocho on this site as that is such a universal term, but I think sometimes yaocho is too strong of a word as it implies corruption and money changing hands in exchange for wins in the ring. For this reason, the term yaocho is quite strong and is the last word the Sumo Association wants the public to hear. As a result, the term mukiryoku sumo was coined to refer to a softer kind of yaocho where money wasn't necessarily changing hands and corruption wasn't occurring; rather, sometimes it's determined that it's more beneficial to have certain rikishi win in certain situations. After the yaocho scandal last year, one of the new policies the Ministry of Education forced the Association to adopt before they would allow a hon-basho to take place was the formation of a special committee that would specifically monitor for yaocho or mukiryoku sumo. Well, the committee was formed to satisfy the requirements of reinstatement, but Kitanoumi-oyakata also took responsibility for serious sumo scandals including the death of a 17 year-old kid, yet he's parked his ass once again in the commissioner's chair, so you get the gist of how it all works.

Anyway, the sport itself has found itself in a dire situation. The arena's are only half full on weekdays, stables are contracting at an alarming rate, and the Sumo Association itself is hemorrhaging money. It's a situation that can't be sustained, and if sumo was actually a publicly traded company, it's stock would be worthless at this point. Fortunately, it's an entity subsidized by the Japanese government beneath the arm of the Ministry of Education (of all groups), but at some point, someone is going to blow the whistle and say enough is enough. As a result, the Sumo Association realizes that it's got to do something to revitalize interest in the sport. They've tried all the little gimmicks like creating a mascot with a catchy name, creating lunchboxes named after the rikishi, having some of the oyakata release a CD, and making the rikishi available to shake hands in the halls of the venue before the bouts begin. That's all fine and dandy, but all they're doing is marketing to the same crowd that attends the sumos anyway. How many people in the 18-45 year-old demographic actually have a song sung by the oyakata on their iPod? The answer is the same number who actually care about a yellow bird named Sekitori-kun: zero.

The Association knows full well that the only way to restore sumo's popularity with the Japanese general public is to have Japanese rikishi not only do well in the ring but dominate. And as long as you have rikishi like Hakuho, Baruto, Harumafuji, and even Kakuryu post the best records and continually take the yusho, it's a lost cause. It's been six years and two basho since a Japanese rikishi last took the yusho, and if you look at ticket sales, TV ratings, and overall interest in the sport, they've declined right alongside the performance of the Japanese rikishi. The Sumo Association realized this well before I did and began putting in place measures to discourage the entry of more foreign rikishi in the sport. More and more the stables are turning their backs on the recruitment of foreign rikishi, and so the long term solution to the current foreign invasion is to patiently wait for them to retire. The short-term solution to the problem is to increase the stature of the Japanese rikishi, and evidence of this was the hurried promotions of Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato to the Ozeki rank.

In order to sustain this momentum, however, the Japanese rikishi must continue to do well on the dohyo or at least perform to the level of their foreign peers. That is why I submit that mukiryoku sumo is taking place and has been taking place, especially the last few years where Kaio's Ozeki ranked needed to be preserved and where Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato's promotion to Ozeki needs to be justified. It's all out of necessity and a means of survival, so if you want to bury your head in the sand and think that all of the action atop the dohyo is pure as baby's breath, you are free to do so because the Sumo Association is smart enough to put a product out there to fool the general public. As for me and my house, we will continue to interpret the headlines and describe exactly what we see occurring on the dohyo because the current political spectrum surrounding the sport of sumo is quite fascinating.

With that said, let's start from the top and work our way down.

Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed M1 Takayasu, who employed the exact same tactic as Aminishiki on day one. Takayasu hit straight up but then immediately backed away from the Yokozuna in hopes of scoring another pull-down upset. It wasn't to be, however, as the real Hakuho stepped forward--literally--and used perfect de-ashi to chase Takayasu across the ring and out. The kimari-te here was oshi-dashi, but there was actually very little contact made at all. It was kind of like when you follow the fat guy from the office into the restroom and you head for the urinal while he walks into the closest stall. Once he sits down and starts breathing heavy, you literally have to run for your life and get the hell out of there. It's an instinct of survival, and once Takayasu (0-3) realized his initial plan wouldn't work, he got the hell outta there, and I can't blame him one bit. Hakuho is a cool 2-1 and of course controls everyone' own destiny.

In the Ozeki ranks, the bout that inspired my mukiryoku sumo intro was Kisenosato vs. Komusubi Homasho. Take a guess as to who was the lethargic one today. From the tachi-ai, the Ozeki used a hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping at Homasho's face with the right hand, but Kisenosato isn't exactly a master at the move, and it exposed him giving Homasho the right arm to the inside. Homasho briefly entertained thoughts of securing the right inside position but then brought his arm to the outside and just stood there with his hands reaching in lightly towards the Ozeki but never threatening anything. The result was a light force back from Kisenosato and a forearm shove near the edge earning the oshi-dashi win, but Homasho was as mukiryoku as you could get. If one were to describe the normal Homasho attack it'd be get an arm on the inside, duck low with hips back, and force the action in a circle as you look for an opening. Today's version was get the right arm from the inside to the outside, stand up straight, and allow his opponent to force him back in a linear fashion. Since the committee's not saying anything, allow me to call mukiryoku sumo here as Homasho falls to 0-3. Surprise, surprise, Kisenosato is 3-0!

Ozeki Kotoshogiku has actually looked good this basho getting the left inside today against M2 Gagamaru at the tachi-ai and then going for the gaburi force out straightway. For those new to sumo, gaburi is ramming your gut into your opponent's belly in an effort to knock him back, and Gagamaru certainly has plenty of belly with which to get gaburi'ed. The Geeku made quick work of the M2 forcing him quickly back to the edge and then wrenching him down via yori-taoshi as he resisted. Kotoshogiku moves to 3-0 in the process while Lord Gaga is 1-2.

Ozeki Kotooshu secured the left inside position against M3 Toyohibiki and then quickly followed that up with the next rational move, grabbing the outer grip with the right hand...something he mysteriously forgot to do yesterday against Goeido. With an inner and outer secure, he immediately went for the uwate-nage kill throwing the beefy Toyohibiki to the dirt as the Hutt attempted a lame sukui-nage counter throw with his left ham. This was a pretty straight-forward victory for the Ozeki, and everyone knew it except for the referee who pointed the gunbai in Toyohibiki's favor. Both rikishi were startled at the call and just looked at each other as Kotooshu seemed to plead with his eyes, "uh dummy, I'm on this side of the dohyo." The referee looked but didn't change his call reaffirming that Toyohibiki was the winner. Kotooshu next looked at the judges one by one, but nobody budged. This confusion went on for a few uncomfortable seconds until Kotooshu in disbelief finally bowed and exited the dohyo.

Now I've pointed out a lot of calls that I thought were blown over the years, but this was the single worst mishap I've ever witnessed atop the dohyo. Even the NHK announcers were wondering what the confusion was all about. Finally, they went to the replay, and yes, it was close as Kotooshu's left shoulder crashed into the tawara, but this was a clear victory for the Ozeki at best and a do-over at worse. I know sumo should be objective, but sometimes it does require a little subjectivity, especially in bout like this where the touch down is close but where the winner is so decisive. The problem today was the referee had positioned himself on Kotooshu's side, and the Bulgarian is so bulky that as the two rikishi crashed to the dirt, his view of Toyohibiki touching down was completely blocked. Replays showed that he tried to duck low and get a view beneath Kotooshu's falling shoulder, but he was out of position end of story.

I think what happened here was everyone including myself, the two combatants, the NHK announcers, and the judges saw this in favor of Kotooshu. Then, by the time everyone realized the referee was pointing to Toyohibiki, it was too late for any of the judges to recollect what had just happened and call a mono-ii. This wasn't a back and forth bout that could go either way. It went one way and one way only, so when the referee made the incorrect call, nobody had paid enough attention to stand up to it and refute it. If there is one thing to point out that Kotooshu did wrong, it was his going for the throw when he just had one fold of Toyohibiki's belt. The Ozeki's movements were so quick and fluid today that he had already committed on the throw before he had a proper grip of the Hutt's belt. That's what made it so close, but still... What a travesty as Kotooshu was robbed today with both rikishi ending the day at 1-2.

I'm sure at least one of you out there watched the Ozeki Kakuryu - Sekiwake Goeido bout and thought, "if they're throwing bouts in favor of Goeido, then why did he lose to Kakuryu today? Huh?" Oh, ye of little faith. Mosaic Law dictates an eye for an eye, and so Kakuryu was simply getting his today one basho too late. If you must know the details of the bout, both rikishi came out with wild tsuppari, but Goeido's feet were perfectly aligned, and so Kakuryu reached forward and slapped him down with ease. Common sense would tell you that Goeido had so much success last basho against Kakuryu just bulldozing him straight back and out that he would try the same move today. That he didn't even attempt it opting instead for the worst possible stance in sumo (aligned feet) confirms what I already know. Both guys are 2-1.

Next up in the Ozeki ranks, Harumafuji welcomed M1 Aran in a migi-yotsu contest from the tachi-ai that saw Harumafuji quickly grab the left outer grip. With Aran his usual lethargic self, HowDo turned him 180 degrees and then just steamrolled him outta the dohyo for the convincing win not to mention 2-1 start. Aran is a hapless 0-3.

Mopping up the Ozeki, Baruto did just that to M2 Myogiryu, who tried to strike quickly and move to his left, but he allowed Bart a right inside position in the process, and that allowed the Estonian to stick to his opponent like stink to bait and push him out in mere seconds. I like that Myogiryu is trying different tactics in order to solve the giant Ozeki, but smaller guys like the M2 and Toyonoshima, for example, absolutely cannot give the Estonian an inside position if they hope to beat him. If you're gonna go in tight, you have to have moro-zashi full stop. Baruto skates to 3-0 while Myogiryu is at least trying and learning at 1-2.

Sekiwake Toyonoshima received a valiant effort from Komusubi Aminishiki, but getting the right arm to the inside at the tachi-ai was key for the Sekiwake as it allowed him to hold his ground and then perform a maki-kae getting the left inside as well. The Komusubi countered well with a right outer belt throw that sent Toyonoshima to the edge, but he held on forcing a nage-no-uchi-ai where he bested Aminishiki with a left scoop throw in the end. This was a well fought bout, and the effort was night and day compared to his bout against Kisenosato yesterday. Toyonoshima improves to 2-1 while Aminishiki falls to 1-2.

M4 Tochiohzan moved to 3-0 after easily surviving M3 Takekaze's initial tsuppari volley and then countering with some shoves of his own that set up a shallow inside position with the left, but that's all he'd need bodying Takekaze back and then shoving him clear off the mound at the edge. Takekaze is hapless at 0-3.

What got into M4 Tochinowaka today? He actually moved forward from the tachi-ai against M5 Miyabiyama. There were timid steps for sure, but they were enough to keep Miyabiyama's tsuppari at bay and force a few lame pulls from the former Ozeki. In the end, Tochinowaka secured the right inside position, forced Miyabiyama upright, and then forced him back from there in methodical fashion. The Sleep-waka picks up his first win of the basho while Miyabiyama is like the dude who has already seen the Avengers multiple times (yet to score).

M5 Okinoumi stayed in close against M6 Wakakoyu's tsuppari, which tells me he knew the pull was gonna come. Normally, when both are guys are using tsuppari to try and gain the upper hand, you keep your distance and then pounce once you've fired off an effective shove, but Oki stayed close from the beginning, and as soon as Wakakoyu went for the pull, Okinoumi pounced forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu. From there he gathered his wits, grabbed the right outer, and forced the Wookie back and out. This was really textbook stuff as Okinoumi moves to 3-0 while Wakakoyu suffers his first mishap at 2-1.

I thought today's M7 Kyokutenho - M6 Aoiyama matchup signaled a changing of the guard. Tenho has been in the bidness well into his second decade, and up until this point he's always been able to hold his own against the rank and file, but today Aoiyama looked like the veteran instigating a brief oshi-ai and then firing on a left kote-nage throw as soon as Kyokutenho tried to get his right arm on the inside. Great move from Daniel-san who moves to 3-0 while Tenho falls to 1-2.

M10 Chiyotairyu looked a bit awkward against M9 Yoshikaze, but he was well aware who is opponent was, and so he was able to pummel him with a dual tsuppari attack not seen since Kokkai first entered the division. The rookie flinched partway through the bout, but wisely refrained from going for a pull down instead knocking Cafe (0-3) back and out with some oshi-dashi oomph. Chiyotairyu moves to 2-1, and his reportedly inured ankle looks just fine.

Our other rookie, M13 Kimikaze, just bounced off of M12 Kaisei at the tachi-ai allowing Kaisei to secure an awkward right hand on the inside. I say awkward because it was more a paw into Kimikaze's armpit, but it enabled Kaisei to also grab the left outer and set out the easy force-out from there. Kaisei is 3-0 if you need him while Kimikaze is doing his best Ikioi impression at 0-3.

Finally, speaking of Ikioi, he visited from Juryo to face the winless M15 Fujiazuma, and he made Fujiazuma look like Japan's next hope as pushed Ikioi back so fast and hard it drew the tsuki-dashi kimari-te. Both gentlemen end the day at 1-2.

Andreas strikes tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
After the first two basho of the year, it's clear that Sumotalk has been stirring up a bit of controversy regarding the legitimacy of certain bouts and even the outcomes of tournaments. During the Haru basho when a lot of fans were becoming frustrated at my/our continued insistence that Hakuho was dropping bouts, I told our readers to see in sumo what you wanted to see. For those who entertain the idea that bouts are sometimes orchestrated for the good of the sport, there's plenty of fodder to keep you going. For those who want everything to be straight up, you have a high probability of an exciting yusho race here at the Natsu basho after the Yokozuna's early loss. Regardless of your stance, take my comments with a grain of salt and don't let me ruin the overall experience for you because there were some blatant yaocho today that I'm not going to gloss over.

But before I proceed with the day 2 bouts, let me give you my thoughts on the Hakuho - Aminishiki bout yesterday. I thought Kitanoumi Rijicho nailed the bout in his own analysis when asked for comments afterwards as he said, "Aminishiki's hiki-ashi were better than Hakuho's de-ashi." Hiki-ashi is a term that we seldom hear in sumo because it has a negative connotation. Hiki means to pull, so it literally means "pulling feet," but a more concise translation would be "retreating feet." The acronym for hiki-ashi would then of course be the positive term often used in sumo of de-ashi, or "attacking feet." In essence, Aminishiki's retreat was better than Hakuho's attack.

When you step back and think about that though, is it possible for Aminishiki with that bedroll wrapped around one leg and his gimpy knees to be quicker than Hakuho in a battle based on footwork? Possible...yes. And so when something highly improbable occurs atop the dohyo, I want to know why it happened and what was the key to the bout. Unfortunately, NHK never showed us the reverse angle in this bout, so I wasn't able to see what Hakuho was doing with his left arm on the other side. We did get a great look at his right arm, which he used for a kachi-age tachi-ai but then left up high instead of trying to get it on the inside of Aminishiki. That could have been the result of Aminishiki's quick retreat, and there's certainly not enough evidence there to say the bout was thrown. So, I'm curious to know what was occurring on the mukou-jomen side, the reverse angle that we never saw. Without knowing what Hakuho was doing with the left arm, I can't make a definitive call whether or not the bout was legitimate. I do know that Hakuho won the tachi-ai, and I do know that Hakuho's lower body is superior to Aminishiki's, so those two factors alone leave me skeptical regarding the outcome.

Still, with no clear evidence from the bout itself that it was thrown, my attitude is let's wait and see how the basho plays out. If day two is any indication of things to come, I don't believe we've seen the end of the shenanigans. Let's start from the top and work our way down today since all of the early bouts ended quickly, and there really is nothing pertinent to comment on from the rank and file.

Yokozuna Hakuho made amends for his slip-up yesterday, and how couldn't he with M1 Aran staring at him across the starting lines? The Yokozuna secured moro-zashi with ease and promptly began forcing the Russian back. The Bride wouldn't go easily, however, and stubbornly dug in her heels demonstrating just how powerful a rikishi Aran is, but Hakuho used his body perfectly to work the M1 back to the edge where he then consummated the affair by dispatching Aran with a quick tsuri-dashi. There's really nothing more to say here. Aran (0-2) wasn't looking to win the bout from the get-go, so Hakuho (1-1) made short work of him.

Ozeki Baruto was extremely cautious against M1 Takayasu at the tachi-ai standing straight up, and how can you blame him? Takayasu isn't exactly going to blow the Estonian off of the starting lines, and there's nothing in the M1's arsenal that will catch the Ozeki off guard. Takayasu (0-2) charged just a bit high today and right into a left inside position for Baruto, and the result was a force-out win in seconds for Baruto who laughs his way to 2-0.

Normally I'd start this next paragraph with "Komusubi Aminishiki looked to make it two in a row against Ozeki Kisenosato," but winning this bout was the last thing on Aminishiki's mind. The Sekiwake won the tachi-ai and then instinctively went for the front of Kisenosato's belt with the right hand. The left arm was there for the taking as well, which would have given Aminishiki the easy moro-zashi, but for some reason he just backed out of it. Now with the two separated, the oshi affair ensued, and Aminishiki totally dictated the pace of this one creating openings left and right with shoves to the Kid's head, but he never chose not to pounce and go for the kill. In the end, Aminishiki got his right arm on the inside and was in the perfect position to execute another force-out, but Kisenosato turned the tables with a weak left tsuki-otoshi near the edge that sent the Komusubi into an exaggerated dive. This bout was so fake that even Joan Rivers' face was embarrassed

After the bout, Tamanoi-oyakata (former Tochiazuma) who occupied the mukou-jomen chair said, "if it was last basho, Kisenosato wouldn't have won this bout," referring to how much trouble the Ozeki was in throughout the contest. Furthermore, dude was completely on his heels when he executed the winning technique, which ended up as tsuki-otoshi (push down) because Aminishiki just flopped to the dirt; it certainly wasn't Kisenosato who had insufficient momentum with which to push Aminishiki across the straw. The end result is Aminishiki falling (literally) to 1-1 while Kisenosato is supposedly out to this hot 2-0 start.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku secured the left inside position against Komusubi Homasho and then just held his gal in tight as Homie tried to escape. The Ozeki used Homasho's retreating momentum against him constantly staying square with his opponent and then cornering him in the end (if that's possible in a ring) where he forced him across the straw for a quiet second win. Homasho drops to 0-2 and certainly hasn't made the splash that fellow Komusubi Aminishiki has.

Watch for another fantastic basho from Sekiwake Goeido. Not that I think he looks good or has reformed his ways, but he was gifted the win today from Ozeki Kotooshu. The two squared up in the hidari-yotsu position, and instead of Kotooshu's grabbing the right outer grip, which was wide open, he raised his right arm high wrapping it around Goeido's left. As he is wont to do, Goeido retreated and then pivoted a half step securing his own left arm deep on the inside of his opponent's right side setting up what would have been a classic nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge, but the problem was Kotooshu refused to grab that right outer grip seeming to think it was more advantageous to wrap it high around the Father's left arm. In the end, Goeido unleashed a scoop throw that sent the Ozeki down to his first loss while Goeido jumps out to 2-0. As NHK showed the replays of the bouts, Tamanoi-oyakata broke it down perfectly saying, "uwate wo toreba...", or "if he had just grabbed the outer grip." Yeah, tell me about it. It was wide open the entire bout and something Kotooshu always does, so when he refrains from grabbing it, I can only roll my eyes and try and figure out what's going on.  Remember, it was Goeido who beat Kakuryu on senshuraku last basho denying the Kak the yusho in a bout that was obviously fixed. Don't' be surprised if we see a sudden resurgence from the Sekiwake.

In my favorite bout of the day, M2 Myogiryu finally got his against Ozeki Kakuryu. Now, these are two of my favorite rikishi of late because of the fine sumo each is displaying, but this is a matchup I've been following since the Hatsu basho when they first met on senshuraku. Back then, I commented

"How sweet was it to see M5 Myogiryu paired with Sekiwake Kakuryu on the final day? Talk about a sign of respect. Yes, Kakuryu did win the bout knowing that Myogiryu would come forward at all costs, so the Sekiwake was able to shift after an exchange of tsuppari at the tachi-ai and catch Myogiryu off balance, but this will only work once or twice before Myogiryu figures these guys out forcing people to beat him straight up."

Kakuryu went to the well one too many times today attempting to retreat yet again (he did the same thing in Osaka), but Myogiryu was all over the Ozeki jumping into an oshi charge that had the Kak dispatched in a coupla strokes. When was the last time Kakuryu got his ass kicked like this? I can't even remember, and it's proof that Myogiryu is a rikishi to be reckoned with in this division. I love to watch a rikishi progress as Myogiryu has, and it's one of the more beautiful aspects of sumo. Both guys finish the day at 1-1.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Harumafuji was lazy as well against M2 Gagamaru going for a faux push at the tachi-ai and then reverting to a retreat. Gagamaru wasn't buying it, and he showed how good his footwork can be stepping towards the Ozeki and catching him the chest with a shove so hard, that Harumafuji would never recover. Lord Gaga simply bulldozed Harumafuji the rest of the way picking up a shukun victory in the process. Both furries now stand at 1-1.

Finishing up the sanyaku ranks, Sekiwake Toyonoshima got a shallow right arm on the inside of M3 Toyohibiki and survived a reckless charge from the Hutt eventually succeeding with a make-kae that gave Toyonoshima moro-zashi and an easy path to victory. If Toyohibiki (0-2) wants to win at this level of the banzuke, he's got to at least attempt to use some tsuppari. Toyonoshima scores his first kiss at the dance.

From this point on, it seemed as if every bout lasted less than five seconds, so let's wrap this day up in machine gun fashion for those who may not have access to the bouts.

M3 Takekaze was too wild in his oshi charge, so M3 Okinoumi (2-0) kept his cool, stayed on the move to keep Takekaze (0-2) off balance, and then easily pulled him down a few seconds in.

M6 Wakakoyu (2-0) employed his usual shove to the neck followed by a quick pull that worked to perfection against M4 Tochinowaka. Moro-zashi was wide open for the M4 if he'da used any de-ashi from the tachi-ai, but he came with his feet aligned and got pulled down within two seconds. T-sleep-waka falls to 0-2.

M7 Shohozan looked to take charge against M4 Tochiohzan (2-0) with a tsuppari attack, but the M7 couldn't get any traction in the Kokugikan sand. Oh eventually worked his way into hidari-yotsu, gathered his wits, and then pushed Shohozan (0-2) down as he resisted the force-out attempt.

Today's M5 Miyabiyama - M7 Kyokutenho bout is further proof that Miyabiyama (0-2) has no bidness fighting at the belt. The Sheriff actually had the upper hand with the right outer grip, but Kyokutenho (1-1) easily dispatched him anyway with a nice scoop throw.

If Kakuryu - Myogiryu was my favorite bout of the day, M9 Tokitenku - M6 Aoiyama was a close second with Aoiyama (2-0) reading the keta-guri attempt from Tokitenku to perfection including the direction Tokitenku would move. He was in Tenku's grill so fast that Tokitenku didn't even bother to actually fire off a kick. Gotta love it when TokiDoki (1-1) gets humiliated by a youngster.

M8 Kitataiki (0-2) allowed M10 Wakanosato (2-0) moro-zashi from the tachi-ai resulting in the easy peasy force-out.

M10 Chiyotairyu's act will quickly wear thin as he begins fighting rikishi with sanyaku experience. M8 Tochinoshin knew what was coming, and even after the rookie knocked Tochinoshin back a full step from the tachi-ai, we all knew the pull was coming. As soon as Tairyu (1-1) went for the move, Tochinoshin (2-0) held up and then turned the tables with a pulldown of his own. Chiyotairyu's sumo is so ugly that even his stable master, Kokonoe-oyakata, was able to to equate it to the dude's face, and that's saying something.

Look at a refreshed M12 Kaisei off to a 2-0 start after getting his left arm under M9 Yoshikaze's right armpit and keeping him in close as Cafe tried to duck away. Kaisei used his long arm on the right to grab the outer grip, and once obtained, the force-out occurred without argument. Yoshikaze falls to 0-2.

M11 Sadanofuji was quicker than M13 Tenkaiho today (who isn't?) wrapping up the Hutt's right arm with a left kote-nage grip and then shoving his right hand into Tenkaiho's neck setting up the easy oshi-dashi win. Both fellas are 1-1.

M14 Asasuckiryu is on the brink and he knows it as demonstrated by his classless henka of M11 Shotenro today. Dude moved to his left, grabbed the back of the belt, and threw his foe down from there for the ill-gotten 2-0 start. Shotenro can't get going at 0-2.

M12 Daido (1-1) bulldozed right through M15 Fujiazuma (0-2) in the straight-up oshi affair.

M13 Kimikaze is a day late and a dollar short so far in the division. Today agin M16 Takarafuji, Kimikaze couldn't demand his way to the inside from the tachi-ai and gave up the right uwate in the process. As Takarafuji used the advantageous grip to bully Kimikaze (0-2) over, the rookie did manage moro-zashi, but it was too light enabling Takarafuji (2-0) to force him down to the dirt.

And finally, it was great to not only welcome J1 Masunoyama back to the division but to see him kick M15 Tamawashi's ass so quickly with a fierce oshi attack. Nothin' against Tamawashi, but Masunoyama showed huge potential when he entered the division back in September, but a few days into the basho he decided to put his foot on backwards during a bout against Tochinowaka, and we haven't seen him since. Dude languished in Juryo for half a year while trying to rehab his foot, and now it looks as if his full movement is back. I was a bit alarmed when I saw that thick supporter around his right elbow, but I'll take him when I can get him. Masunoyama is a guy prone to injury due to his sheer size, but he's loaded with potential. Both gentlemen end the day 1-1.

I'm right back at it tomorrow desperately hoping for straight up day.

Day 1 Comments (Óscar Gutiérrez reporting)
Hey, you sure weren't expecting me, were you? Well, Papa Clancy is unavailable (and I don't have to tell you what that means, probably a story featuring several women of doubtful reputation, a couple guys unfairly accused of having yakuza ties, boatloads of hard liquor and some other strange substances that would fill Walter White with dismay), so it seems that I have some big shoes to fill. At least you'll get your fair share of apostrophes this time (the counter is now on 3).

Looking at the banzuke, we don't see that many misplaced Maegashira that normally account for some interesting stories. Chiyotairyu is an interesting prospect, and we don't know what his ceiling is. Then you have the Kasugano fellas, Tochinoshin very low (though his mental state is on question), and Tochiohzan and Tochinowaka just out of Hakuho's way (at least in theory). I like these guys to make some noise, but really, that's about it from the low ranked guys. Maybe Okinoumi too. So that leaves us with Hakuho and the six, yes, SIX Ozeki.  First time ever we have this many:  two crafty Mongolians, two European behemoths, and the ever-so-deserving couple of Japanese Ozeki, ahem. The rest of the sanyaku and the top Maegashira features a mixture of savvy veterans, rising young fellas and inscrutable Europeans perfectly capable of getting a kachi-koshi or having 3 wins each at the end of the fortnight. With this many uninjured Ozeki, there's no that much room for error, so get ready for some second week shenanigans. But I don't want to start the yaocho discussion straight up the bat, so we'll go on to see the action.

First bout of the day and the ladies in robe already invade the dohyo to comment the latest gossip...come on... Visiting Juryo Asahisho (one of the dung beetle kind, for the ones who don't know him) chased "Sad eyes" Takarafuji around the dohyo and fell to the dirt whilst pushing him out. The ladies agreed with the most fashionable one of them and decided to give the decision to he of the gloomy face by tsuki-otoshi. Seeing I have to envy Lord Byron nothing, I'll cut the crap immediately. I know I shouldn't have watched "Dead poets society" last week, but I was curious about House M.D.'s best friend's youth.

Tamawashi started lower and got the first punch on his bout against Fujiazuma, namely pushing hard at his armpits. The fatty one used his girth to resist and got two hands on the inside but Tamawashi deployed stellar footwork and, switching gears, threw the flat footed youngster to the ground with a nice kote-nage.

Kimikaze got all fired up for his debut in Makuuchi and pushed with all his strength to Asasekiryu's neck. All that "strength" couldn't budge the old Mongolian, so the secretary delayed the rookie's appointment with the first win for a later day.

Tenkaiho deployed his no-nonsense style of sumo and drove straight out today's foe, Daido, with a strong yori-kiri.

On the next one, Sadanofuji attacked with stiff hands to Kaisei's throat, but the Brazilian pushed at his opponent's armpits and got the win via oshi-dashi in another short bout. Keep 'em rollin'.

Now, for the first anticipated bout of the evening, Shotenro faced up-and-coming Chiyotairyu, who used his usual "hit & run" tachi-ai and got the easy win. Disappointing bout and too much Takekaze in this young fella, methinks. He'd better prepare for the heavy hitters by doing some proper sumo down low, though today he took what was offered to him, really.

In the ugliest of bouts, the usual suspect Yoshikaze and my beloved Wakanosato engaged in fly hunting together. Unexpectedly, Wakanosato won the bout pushing Yoshi out. Yay!!

After a slow tachi-ai, Kitataiki and Tokitenku exchanged left hands inside and right hands out. Seeing he wasn't going to grab an uwate, Tokidoki made a risky maki-kae and Kitataiki responded accordingly, forcing the pace immediately to make the most of his compromised opponent. But Tokidoki has come this far thanks to a bag full of tricks. He managed to dodge Kitataiki's charge with a quick lateral step and threw his raging foe to the ground with a sweet as you please sukui-nage right at the tawara.

Next lesson, the waltz. You can put the Blue Danube on the background and enjoy any Kyokutenho-Tochinoshin bout. They settled in gappuri-migi-yotsu at the tachi-ai, but the Georgian was leading today. The Chauffeur tried to resist, but the Kasugano guy was too much for him and, after some spirited show, escorted his dancing partner out of the dancing surface. Always a pleasure these kind of bouts.

My friend Shohozan (aka Matutano) and Aoiyama delighted us with a slapping fest, just the right thing after the dance...The Bulgarian behemoth escaped miraculously with a desperate pull that saw Shohozan do the belly flop, just as the Bulgarian stepped out. The ladies decided to discuss about it and a deep voiced one started to jibber-jabber about it (that's what sounds when you don't speak Japanese), but I managed to understand the magic word, tori-naoshi, which means re-do. The bout was more or less the same with the bitch-slapping, but this time, Aoiyama was the aggressor and actually moved forward while slapping (nice switch, guy). That made the difference and he disposed finally of Cheetos, getting his hand orange in the process surely.

I'm tired of slapping, what's next? Miyabiyama vs. Wakakoyu?...I'm outta here. Well, OK, I'll tell you how it went. Flobby actually tried to grab a frontal grip, but Wookie kept him at bay and threw him to the clay in seconds with the most unexpected kimari-te ever, hiki-otoshi.

Okinoumi and Tochinowaka are in a perfect position to shine this basho, the M4-M5 range. Okinoumi did hit hard (that's news) and threw Tochinowaka off balance. After that it was a matter of time, the Kasugano fella tried his best to resist, but these two are so evenly matched that the advantaged gained at the tachi-ai was impossible to recover. Good oshi-dashi win for Oki.

Tochiohzan and his basic sumo was again too much for M3 Toyohibiki. Moro-zashi and get outta here. Toyohibiki, being number 16 on the banzuke, is gonna suffer. Mightily.

I've never felt this way about Goeido. He's made a fair share of good tournaments amongst the jo'i, but this time I have the strange feeling (for unusual) that he's going to get a kachi-koshi (I always think he's going to fall short of it). I don't know where it's coming from, but it's there. Today he had the easiest bout of the fortnight, facing Takekaze. Still, Takekaze got going early pushing the Sekiwake, but Goeido was "torero" and gave him a pass. "Er niño de los pañales" (diapers kid, with an andalusian accent) we may call him. On your Spanish vocabulary lesson for today, "toreador" is right dictionary-wise, but the real word is "torero". Bizet is French, what did you expect?

Kakuryu got a nice debut at his new rank of Ozeki, facing Gagamaru. With a nice inside position for the Mongolian, the Georgian was toast from the very beginning. The Ozeki displayed some showmanship and gave his best effort to throw Lord Gaga via shitate-nage to the ground mounting him afterwards, thus giving the bout an R-rating.

Kotooshu ended again the bout falling on the first row of spectators. Good news for him is he won, and it wasn't easy. Myogiryu dug hard at the tachi-ai and denied the Ozeki any grip on the mawashi. Still, the youngster's best hope was Kotooshu's carelessness, but the Bulgarian today kept his cool and chased patiently the Maegashira all over the dohyo. The hit & run tactic didn't work for Miyagi and Kotooshu finally grabbed a left uwate which he used to send his rival and himself rolling down the hill. Already in his 38th basho as Ozeki, the guy could have learned some self-control, but here he is, as headless as ever.

Takayasu was overmatched today against Ozeki Kotoshogiku. The young gun tried to avoid the left hand inside of the Ozeki, but the Ozeki kept calm and his opponent where he needed, right in front of him. No belly humping today, but solid yori-kiri win for Giku.

Aran didn't try any funny business with suspect-Ozeki Kisenosato, and that spells disaster. Kisenosato opened with a strong push to the chest that threw the Thug out of balance. Gifting us with another instance of his wonderful ring sense, Aran stepped out while trying to regroup, so funny the Russian...Need more of this, just for the lulz.

Baruto sports a healthy 14-4 record against Toyonoshima, but on sho-nichi the record is 0-2. It surely has something to do with Baruto not getting into a fighting rhythm, so today was a dangerous bout for the yusho race (yes, that early). Baruto got caught at the tachi-ai (no news there), but at least he grabbed a double over the shoulder grip (aka Baruto-uwate). Toyonoshima is powerful with moro-zashi, but everything is useless against a crane. The Biomass used the Baruto-dashi and lifted the ~150 kg of Toyonoshima effortlessly. The Sekiwake exerted his right to complain kicking the air as a little child, to no avail.

Ozeki Harumafuji started with some sharp tsuppari to Komusubi Homasho's neck, but although he was gaining ground, the Ozeki suddenly stopped moving forward and decided to start the bout yet again, retreating harmlessly. As puzzling as that decision was for me, Homasho thought that was his chance and launched a brainless charge that the Mongolian read as a dirty manga as he dodged and pulled the Komusubi to the ground.

I know Hakuho has defeated Aminishiki the last zillion times (13 to be precise), but my mind keeps remembering a sho-nichi bout between these two going spectacularly to the sneaky one after a nage-no-uchi stance and Clancy's comment in the daily report: "this is the bout they're showing when they invite Snakeoil Oyakata, former Sekiwake Aminishiki, to the TV booth to comment the daily bouts". Funny how the brain works, I can't remember what I had yesterday for breakfast, but this comment, almost an Olympiad ago, is engraved on my memory and I still laugh when I think about it, don't ask me why. That is why you should stick with Sumotalk, fellas, you'll remember things better and will have a laugh or two. Brand building moment aside, no one could expect what was going to happen today. I don't think anyone will argue that this was a clean bout. The almighty Yokozuna opened with a forearm blast to the Komusubi's chest and decided to end things quickly, going for the kill straight up. Hakuho, who is usually so steady, rushed things today, and he paid the price, because the Snakeoil Oyakata title wasn't given hastily, mind you. Sneaky got out of the way impressively and the initially overconfident Yokozuna hopping on one leg over the tawara was the true image of despair. Of course, His Sneakyness hasn't come thus far just letting opponents recover after luring them into his trap, so with a shove to the limping Hakuho's chest he ignited the fan's hearts and left the Yokozuna with a negative record. When was the last time that happened? Oh, yes, the Snakeoil Oyakata day...By the way, you can count with the fingers on one hand the bouts Hakuho has lost in the first week of the basho since then: Kisenosato's combo-breaker, Baruto's maki-kae and Shotenro's whoop-ass. I have a clear memory of every one of those. Now I have another image to remember.

That, ladies, is what makes sport so great. No matter what, expect the unexpected (and the days I'm reporting, expect it more).  We got ourselves a great yusho race ahead of us and the big stallion has given a head start to his rivals. Beware of his anger, though.

Mike will try to clean up this mess tomorrow. Hasta la vista.









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