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

Senshuraku Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
For all practical purposes the tournament wrapped up yesterday. All the storylines are already shut. Hakuho sewed up the yusho, and the Ozeki stories are done: Goeido was not demoted, Takayasu will be promoted, and ex-Ozeki Kotoshogiku did not retire even though his make-koshi came days ago. Right down to the minor bouts yesterday, guys were finishing off their kachi-koshi for each other and the like.

However, the last day gives us a chance to look forward. Along with reporting on the matches, today I will be pulling out my crystal ball, cracked and foggy, and predicting what the highest future rank of each wrestler will be.

To the parlor.

M16 Yutakayama (3-11) vs. J3 Kyokutaisei (6-8)

Match: The Japan Derby horse race was taking up the airwaves, so they ended up showing the first four matches back-to-back-to-back-to-back in just a few seconds between two of the later matches. My look was brief. Here, Kyokutaisei looked like a smaller, less impactful Takakeisho, pushing and retreating, lots of oshi-dashi shoves and tsuppari. Yutakayama manfully stayed with it and eventually pushed him out, yori-kiri.
Prediction: Yutakayama is big, but he has shown nothing this tournament, pegging him as a classic butter-ball type who can repeatedly return to the upper division but make no headway.  M12.  As for Kyokutaisei, first time I've ever seen him, so going on height/weight/age stats and this one match alone I'll take a random guess and say, at 27, he'll pick up a an upper division cup of coffee sometime but not more. M14.

M11 Arawashi (6-8) vs., M15 Myogiryu (4-10)
Match: Arawashi pulled Myogiryu down at the tachi-ai, hataki-komi.
Prediction: Arawashi has been trending up and in general I like his lithe strength, mobility, and, when he chooses not to be sneaky, fighting spirit. Most guys of that caliber will make Sekiwake at some point, however briefly. Myogiryu is not quite ready for the glue factory yet, but is close. We'll see him briefly in the upper division a time or two more. M10.

M13 Daishomaru (8-6) vs. M10 Ura (10-4)
Match: Ura backing up at the tachi-ai looked so odd I thought it was a false start. Instead, it was a smart strategy against a guy whose only real card is the pull. When Daishomaru had to move forward, Ura grabbed him around the back of the knees, evaded, and ushered his befuddled foe out, sukui-nage.
Prediction: Daishomaru is a classic lower-half-of-the-division guy and I see him bouncing no higher than M8. Ura is a big question; with all that hype and definite skill, I think he'll get promoted to Ozeki sometime. However, size and presence would tend to dictate against Yokozuna.  Mainoumi may be a fair comparison, and he never made it past Komusubi.

M10 Tochinoshin (11-3) vs. M13 Toyohibiki (4-10)
Match: Very lame henka from Tochinoshin for the second day in a row. Worked fine, though: tsuki-otoshi. Whelp.
Prediction: Tochinoshin has too much wear and tear at this point to put together a late career surge, but I would be surprised not to see him at Komusubi again. I've been predicting Toyohibiki's last tournament in Makuuchi for some time now, so I'll try again: he will never return to this rank.

M15 Kaisei (7-7) vs. M9 Kagayaki (8-6)
Match: They put their upper bodies together and pushed. Kagayaki pushed harder. No belts. Yori-kiri win for Kagayaki.
Prediction: Is Kaisei injured and having a bump, or is he like Kokkai, a similarly large but technically less inclined foreigner who fell apart and disappeared one day? I'm going to go somewhere in the middle. Kaisei gets back to M4. Kagayaki is a fascinating one. He has size and enough youth left that he could still really make something of himself, but he has lacked the fire or technique. His ceiling is Sekiwake, and I'm going a rank lower: Komusubi.

M9 Ichinojo (8-6) vs. M14 Chiyotairyu (8-6)
Match: Chiyotairyu battered Ichinojo in the face, and Ichinojo let him do that. Chiyotairyu almost fell down to the side, and Ichinojo watched him do that. Chiyotairyu recovered and pulled Ichinojo past him while evading, and Ichinojo let him do that. And Chiyotairyu pushed him out, okuri-dashi.
Prediction: One school of thought says Ichinojo is biding his time, and once some of his elders retire he'll rise up and dominate at the top of the banzuke. I don't buy it; guys have figured him out, and his motor seems low. He's not that different from what Kaisei was a few years ago. Komusubi. Chiyotairyu's better days are behind him; next tournament he'll be around M10 and will go no higher.

M12 Tokushoryu (8-6) vs. M8 Sokokurai (4-10)
Match: Henka by Sokokurai and fingertip-pulls applied to a compliant Tokushoryu, hataki-komi win for Sokokurai. Day 15 was a pretty bad day of sumo.
Prediction: Tokushoryu just isn't very good. M8. Sokokurai also isn't very good, and is older, but sometimes puts together better efforts than other times. M4.

M14 Onosho (10-4) vs. M7 Takakeisho (10-4)
Match: I'm on the Takakeisho bandwagon. He just hits really, really hard sometimes. That's what he did here, driving an overwhelmed Onosho promptly back. A desperate pull-and-evade almost worked for Onosho at the edge, as Takakeisho did crash out forward, but Onosho stepped out a clear split-second before that. Oshi-dashi.
Prediction: At 20 Onosho is very young, and can also hit quite hard when he needs to, but he's only 170-odd centimeters tall. Best case scenario is a Chiyonokuni-like career. I'll give him Komusubi. Takakeisho is bigger, better, and more politically interesting. He doesn't have the feel of an Ozeki but bet on appearances at Sekiwake.

M6 Takekaze (4-10) vs. M11 Ishiura (7-7)
Match: Takekaze was calmly pushing on Ishiura's face and didn't try a pull. That's not going to work for Takekaze, so Ishiura pushed him out oshi-dashi. Savoring his kachi-koshi, Ishiura then loudly yelled, "thanks, man!" Okay, I made that last part up.
Prediction: Takekaze is one of those guys for whom any tournament could be his last. I'll go with a fruitful union of Mother Nature and Father Time and say he gets no higher than he is now. Ishiura is fun, fights hard, and has some popularity. Can he make it to Komusubi on that? I think he's too small. M2.

M12 Kotoyuki (5-9) vs. M4 Takarafuji (3-11)
Match: With one guy needing a win to stay in the upper division (Kotoyuki), and one of the most generous and passive of wrestlers staring at him across the lines, we all knew what was going to happen. And it did. Takarafuji retreated under Kotoyuki's barrage of pushes and went out, oshi-dashi.
Prediction: It's only about a year ago I feared Kotoyuki was starting to put something together. Now I'm thinking more he's in the decline-phase of his career, and will hang out a few years in the lower ranks of the upper division. If so, he'll surely get to, say, M3 from time to time. Takarafuji is so bland, staid, and inconsequential I forgot to write a prediction for him and only caught it when doing my editing. Waste of a good sumo body and sound basics, but he has no helium. Komusubi.

M4 Tochiohzan (5-9) vs. M8 Shohozan (6-8)
Match: Tochiohzan is still not bad. Shohozan hit him in the face and then with the body, backed up, looked at him for a moment, then slapped him in the face and hit him with body again. And Tochiohzan thought, "yeah, but I'm the better wrestler," and knocked him over sideways, tsuki-otoshi.
Prediction: Tochiohzan has been circling the drain for a while, but very slowly, and is a skilled guy so don't count him out completely yet. He'll be back here. M4. Shohozan is going to entertain us right around these parts for a few more years. M3.

M3 Daieisho (3-11) vs. M2 Chiyoshoma (5-9)
Match: Henka and pull by Daieisho, hataki-komi win. Ah, Day 15.
Prediction: Daieisho clearly did not belong at this rank, but is good enough to clean up in the lower half of the division, meaning he'll be back. M2. Chiyoshoma is just starting to show us what he can be: strong, fast, and has that unquantifiable will to win when he needs it. There's already a gulf at Ozeki; give this guy a Kakuryu-like career and a long time at Ozeki, but no tsuna.

M2 Okinoumi (2-12) vs. M3 Aoiyama (4-10)
Match: Okinoumi offered one stiff arm to Aoiyama's bulk, then watched from arm's length as Aoiyama battered him. However, the Padme part of him finally, finally said, "I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair": he grabbed a hold of the lumberingly advancing Aoiyama, reversed the momentum, and pushed him out, oshi-dashi.
Prediction: Okinoumi has been doing this to us for years: fading badly in the jo'i but soon making his way back. Komusubi. Aoiyama has a similar pattern: way too generous in the higher ranks, way too good in the lower ranks. He's a non-factor but has some days of beating guys up left. M2.

M1 Chiyonokuni (2-12) vs. M1 Endo (5-9)
Match: All Endo was doing was holding onto Chiyonokuni's arms and resisting, but that turned out to be enough in this match-up of entertaining but undersized guys. Endo responded properly to a foolish pull attempt by ‘Kuni by promptly pushing him out, oshi-dashi.
Prediction: Kuni is too little and his kinetic style will never translate into domination. Ranks like his current one are to be expected on occasion, but he doesn't belong here. Komusubi. Endo is an interesting question. Politically, you'd think he has to get to Ozeki sometime. However, reality being what it is, I think the Association will be satisfied with Sekiwake.

M7 Hokutofuji (9-5) vs. K Yoshikaze (8-6)
Match: Nice match. Yoshikaze was early off the blocks, but running into Hokutofuji was like a crash-dummy test, and the wall never loses those. Hokutofuji kept things tight, low, and neat, and pushed the much more experienced Yoshikaze out, oshi-dashi.
Prediction: I'd love to predict Yokozuna for Hokutofuji, as his smart, forward moving sumo and good size bode well for him. However, his profile screams "Wakanosato" at me, and he doesn't seem to get hype for whatever reason. Still, Wakanosato would have promoted to champion in a second if he were around today. So, Ozeki. Yoshikaze is quite old but continues to fight fairly well at this level. There are too many younger, better guys for him to get to Sekiwake again, though--it is a crowded rank of late. Komusubi.

K Mitakeumi (8-6) vs. M5 Shodai (9-5)
Match: Battle of the hopes. Shodai is going to be the better one in the long run, people, though he has been less fun so far. He hit Mitakeumi very hard at the tachi-ai, then pushed him to the side a bit to break his line. They went to belts, and Shodai had the outer left first and the yori-kiri force out was clear, powerful, and academic.
Prediction: These two are really the true big cheeses in this discussion. Mitakeumi is focused, aggressive, sufficiently young and big, and a surefire Ozeki in the current political environment, though it may take a couple of years. Don't be surprised to see guys like this start to fill the Yokozuna ranks, either. However, I'm reserving that for Shodai for now, in a Kisenosato-like career. He's been very slow to put it together in the jo'i and definitely has not shown it in the ring, but you can just feel it around him, just like you could when Kisenosato debuted in the upper division more than a dozen years ago, so young and cute my wife and I referred to him as "apple cheeks." Size, youth, and pedigree: it is not hindsight to say he looked like a future Yokozuna then. I could not have predicted the road he would take to get it, but he made it. Expect the same for Shodai: long ways to go, and though it is a worrisome prospect, I'm not kidding when I say next Yokozuna. That could be years off, though, so the bigger question is whether someone beats him to it.

S Kotoshogiku (6-8) vs. M6 Ikioi (9-5)
Match: Okay, okay. Lots of gaburi humping from Kotoshogiku and positive forward energy. Lots of body tension and twitching from Ikioi, including breaking off the belts and making a feint at a pull or move. However, no forward attempts by him, and in the end a tell-tale linear motion backwards, riding the victorious oshi-dashi jiggle-body of Kotoshogiku.
Prediction: Oh, hell, I just said on Friday I was going to stop predicting when Kotoshogiku will retire, but I've walked into it here. It's an easy one, though: he won't be back at Sekiwake. As for Ikioi, there is a possibility for him to put things together like Takayasu did and get to Ozeki. However, that requires imagining a consistency into his sumo that just isn't there. Sekiwake.

S Tamawashi (9-5) vs. O Goeido (9-5)
Match: Lots of hesitation at the tachi-ai, so Tamawashi figured Goeido would go mayfly-hyperactive on him. Goeido did slap him, but Tamawashi calmly stood there looking giant, grabbed Goeido around the back of the neck, backed up two steps, and pulled him easily down, hataki-komi. Squashed mayfly.
Prediction: If Takayasu deserves Ozeki, Tamawashi certainly does, and there are good signs for him: with the current lack of guys at the rank, he wouldn't look bad there for the Association for a few years as he closes out his career. But I think it's a bridge too far; he was 8-7 last time, and needs to show some 11s and 12s, not just 10s--which is the most he's ever won in his upper division career. Sekiwake. Meanwhile, there's a solid chance Goeido gets the Kisenosato treatment and gets to close out his career at Yokozuna, which would be a travesty. I think he gets passed by guys like Shodai or Mitakeumi or Hokutofuji, though. Ozeki.

O Terunofuji (11-3) vs. S Takayasu (11-3)
Match: Terunofuji did not spend much time on the belt, and he should, so that had me worried. However, after a lot of pushing and slapping, once it moved to a chest-to-chest position Terunofuji was in a better position. He grabbed what is a popular position for him: both arms outside, pinching down, then willfully grabbed Takayasu by the arm and slung him painfully to the dirt, kote-nage. As the announcers pointed out, this was a sempai Ozeki welcoming his new rival to the rank--and underlining who's still boss.
Prediction: Once Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kakuryu go, the Association is going to need a badass villain at Yokozuna to provide counterpoint for Shodai et al. Terunofuji has been priming for this role for a few years, and is that guy. Yokozuna. Meanwhile, Takayasu worries me. All the Ozeki are old, and he's not bad. Will he get passed by Mitakeumi, or will it be him standing next to Shodai in a few years in the Great Game of "Stop the Terunofuji"? I say he makes it. Yokozuna.

Y Harumafuji (11-3) vs. Y Hakuho (14-0)
Match: Oh, these Mongolians. Since one of them took the championship and didn't wait until Day 15 to do it, what they owed the crowd here was a theatrical bout of long, powerful looking "Yokozuna sumo." So, that is what they gave. It was a nice-looking, chest-to-chest belt battle that wasn't dynamic enough, given these two guys, for me to buy into. Sumo is a quick sport, as you know,, and these guys are both justly famous for their speed and power. Are they really so well matched that they took the roles of immovable object meeting irresistible force, a Cosmic Collision? Whatever, I'll take it. Early on Harumafuji almost forced Hakuho out, but most of the time was spent with a long, long right inside by Hakuho, body slung back, and Harumafuji with a left outside. Hakuho tried a half dozen force out charges off of this position, but just… couldn't… do it! Finally he broke off Harumafuji's weak-looking left and pushed him out, yori-kiri. And so he picks up the zensho yusho. He did it looking like a sloppy mess the first half of the tournament and a boring but efficient one the second, leaving me wondering what The Storyteller is planning next.
Prediction: Nowhere to go but out. I'm on record as saying that Hakuho doesn't last out 2017, but I now think I'm probably wrong. This yusho doesn't give him enough time to fade out that quickly. There's a possibility he goes out like Sandy Koufax: on top. Hell, he could retire next month. It would be a relief for everyone, I think. But more likely he suffers a phantom injury and spends a year or two on ice before retiring anti-climactically ala Takanohana. Harumafuji I say lasts until 2019 and goes out in a blaze of glory with a 100% real injury like a major knee blow-out. Still lots of fun left to be had with this guy.

You will probably never look at this report again, but I probably will, so here's a summary:
Future Ozeki: Mitakeumi, Chiyoshoma, Ura, Hokutofuji
Future Yokozuna: Terunofuji, Shodai, Takayasu

Enjoy June.

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Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As we enter the weekend, there's no way that Hakuho won't pick up his 38th yusho. Coming from behind to take the yusho is one of the rarest feats in sumo, and that's why it was so comical to see Kisenosato do it last basho, especially after being taken away in an ambulance after day 13. But coming from one loss behind is one thing; coming from two losses behind with two days to go is only possible if the Association wants to hand another Japanese rikishi the impossible yusho, but thankfully it won't happen here, so the only drama was whether or not Hakuho would clinch today or make us all wait until tomorrow.

Since the drama is so thin...er...thick that you can cut it with a knife, I'll shamelessly tease a little longer by starting from the bottom and working my way up.

M14 Chiyotairyu came with a strong left kachi-age before immediately shifting right and going for a swipe of J3 Gagamaru's dickey do that sent the Juryo rikishi floundering to the dohyo two seconds in. Both rikishi end the day at 8-6 as Chiyotairyu picks up his first Makuuchi kachi-koshi in a year and a half. After the bout, they showed the Juryo leaderboard, and they may as well have just shown us the banzuke because pretty much everyone is on it:

M11 Arawashi came with a light kachi-age with the left but largely kept himself wide open as M14 Onosho flirted with the left inside but moved in that direction going for a dumb pull. But fortunately for him, the Mongolian was not looking to win the bout, and instead of squaring back up with a left to the inside, Arawashi went for a ridiculous right kote-nage throw where he planted himself outside of the ring before executing the throw. He still finished the throw sending Onosho flying into the corners, but Arawashi was sloppy and mistake-ridden from the start as he accepts his make-koshi fate at 8-6. As for Onosho, he moves to 10-4, but trust me, he's had a few bouts thrown he's way. He's good but not this good...yet anyway.

M9 Ichinojo jumped the gun a bit at the tachi-ai holding up against M13 Daishomaru, but they didn't call it back and so he easily brushed Daishomaru's tsuppari attack (if you can call it that) aside catching Maru with a few shoves to the neck driving him back before getting an arm to the inside and scoring the easy yori-kiri win. Ichinojo picks up kachi-koshi at 8-6 joining Daishomaru at the same record.

M12 Tokushoryu focused on tsuppari into M9 Kagayaki's neck at the tachi-ai, but the shoves had little effect, and so Kagayaki moved forward lifting his opponent up with some effective shoves to the teets, and as Tokushoryu tried to escape to his left, Kagayaki had him there for the taking, but he just slowed up his de-ashi and let Tokushoryu pull him to the side and eventually push him out. I do believe Kagayaki let his opponent win here as both rikishi land at 8-6.

M8 Shohozan shaded to his left at the tachi-ai and then backed up a bit as Kaisei tried to give chase, but he's not really a tsuppari guy, and so Shohozan was able to push his way back into the bout with Kaisei not doing much of anything. Once Shohozan had Kaisei back at the edge, he got the left arm inside as Kaisei lamely tried to mawari-komu around the perimeter of the ring, but Shohozan pounced forcing Kaisei back and across easy as you please. Kaisei's knee was either really bothering him in this one or he was really mukiryoku on this one. Take your pick as he falls to 7-7 while Shohozan improves a bit to 6-8.

M8 Sokokurai has been giving away bouts left and right this basho, so why not help out a rookie struggling mightily in M16 Yutakayama. The two hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai as Sokokurai just let the rookie push him back and across. Sokokurai helped at the end stepping out with his right foot sooner than he need to, but whatever. Easy yaocho call here as Yutakayama ekes his way to 3-11 while Sokokurai falls to 4-10.

Two guys receiving a bit of hype this basho stepped in the ring with M10 Ura fighting from the East and M7 Takakeisho from the West, but the bout was not close as Ura tried to duck down low at the tachi-ai only to be caught squarely by Takakeisho's tsuppari charge, and Takakeisho meant bidness today using good de-ashi to push him upright and then adjusting well as Ura tried to escape to his left. It didn't fool Takakeisho in the least who caught with two final shoves that sent Ura flying off the dohyo in about two seconds in. That's probably the worst legitimate ass-kicking that Takakeisho has administered in this division as both guys end the day 10-4.

M6 Takekaze struck quickly and then moved to his left, but M15 Myogiryu was ready for it catching Takekaze seemingly in mid-air and then just forcing him back and across before Takekaze could even execute one of his pulls. Lopsided affair here as both guys rest at 4-10.

M11 Ishiura struck M4 Takarafuji and then immediately backed up swiping at Takarafuji's outstretched arms, and while he couldn't tug his opponent down, Takarafuji just couldn't keep up with Ishiura and forc this one to the chest, and so in a single motion, Ishiura got his left arm deep inside, spun around, and then executed a dashi-nage throw that sent Takarafuji clear across the ring and out. Ishiura is still alive at 7-7 while Takarafuji falls to 3-11.

M12 Kotoyuki went for his usual tsuppari attack against M3 Aoiyama, but his arms were just too short. Before he could make any kind of impact on his foe, Aoiyama's longer arms connected well standing Kotoyuki upright and forcing him back, and Yuki could do nothing with his injured left knee, and so Aoiyama chased him for a step or two before sending him off the dohyo altogether in a heap down by the chief judge. I guess you gotta admire Kotoyuki for at least trying here as he falls to 5-9 while Aoiyama moves to 4-10. If Kotoyuki can somehow buy...er...muster win tomorrow, he'll likely stay in the division for July.

M2 Chiyoshoma looked for the left kachi-age at the tachi-ai, but M13 Toyohibiki hit him pretty hard and looked to have moro-zashi, but quick as a cat, Chiyoshoma pivoted left and went for the do-or-die kote-nage throw that did felling Toyohibiki with the left arm outer throw. This one was over in less than two seconds and Chiyoshoma moves to 5-9 while Toyohibiki falls to 4-10. Before we move on, are there any Japanese rikishi on the banzuke who could pull off what Chiyoshoma did today?

Just when I thought M1 Chiyonokuni was going to get an easy win, Padme woke up and decided to dig in. After Kuni moved left at the tachi-ai, M2 Okinoumi adjusted well forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu where he shored up his stance with the right outer grip. As Okinoumi pressed forward, Chiyonokuni went for a quick left counter tsuki-otoshi, but he stepped out setting it up giving Okinoumi the rare win. Both guys end the day at 2-12.

M7 Hokutofuji and M1 Endoh both hit well at the tachi-ai bouncing off of each other and trading a tsuppari or two before hooking right back up in migi-yotsu where Hokutofuji got the left outer grip. Endoh stayed low, however, disallowing a yori charge from Fuji, and as he looked to maki-kae with the left, Hokutofuji grabbed the outer grip on that side (his right) and quickly ushered Endoh back and across before Elvis could set anything up. Hokutofuji completely schooled Endoh here as he moves to an impressive 9-5 while Endoh falls to the opposite mark of 5-9.

M6 Ikioi offered a lame kachi-age with the left against Komusubi Mitakeumi, who easily got the inside thanks to Ikioi's keeping his arms out wide, and from there, Ikioi moved to his right pretending to go for a pull that never developed, and with Ikioi mukiryoku and doing nothing to score points or counter, Mitakeumi easily forced him back and across in three or four seconds. Mitakumi picks up kachi-koshi thanks to the gift at 8-6 while Ikioi falls to a harmless 9-5.

M4 Tochiohzan looked for moro-zashi against Komusubi Yoshikaze at the tachi-ai, but he was rebuffed quickly by a Care right paw to the face, and so Oh's plan B was to try and sneak in a pull or two. It would never come to fruition as Yoshikaze snuck to the inside, and on the second pull attempt, he caught Tochiohzan in full moro-zashi escorting him back and out easy as you please. Yoshikaze picks up kachi-koshi as well at 8-6 while Tochiohzan falls to 5-9.

Sekiwake Tamawashi and M10 Tochinoshin stared each other down at the tachi-ai, and they looked at each other so long, they had to stand back up and regroup. When they went again, Tochinoshin just jumped to his right henka'ing the Sekiwake down in a half second. This was disappointing because I was looking forward to this matchup more than any other, but what are you gonna do? Tochinoshin moves to 11-3 while Tamawashi falls to 9-5. I'd say that it was a costly loss in terms of Tamawashi's Ozeki promotion hopes, but the Association is in no hurry to give The Mawashi a sniff.

M3 Daieisho has taken his lumps up here for sure, and one more win ain't going to make a difference, so against Sekiwake Kotoshogiku today he kept his hands up high at the tachi-ai as Kotoshogiku forced the bout to hidari-yotsu, and Daieisho offered no resistance allowing the Geeku to force him straight back and. Kotoshogiku has had quite a favors thrown his way allowing him to reach a respectable 6-8 as Daieisho falls to 3-11 after deferring to his senpai.

As we entered the day, there were three rikishi in second place two losses behind Hakuho. First up was soon to be Ozeki Takayasu, who stepped into the ring with M5 Shodai, and I was hoping that with promotion in the bag that these two would fight straight up, and I got my wish as Shodai bounced off of Takayasu after his kachi-age tachi-ai, but Takayasu came in too high with his tsuppari attack, and that enabled Shodai to move to his left just a bit drawing a quick pull attempt, and once that came, Shodai got his left arm inside and began driving Takayasu back towards the straw. Takayasu knew he was in trouble and went for a quick right kote-nage, and for once we actually got a real nage-no-uchi-ai with Takayasu throwing with his left kote-nage style and Shodai using his right to the inside and high under Takayasu's armpit, and it looked as if Takayasu had the edge, but at the last minute, Shodai used his body to force Takayasu down first scoring the great win and earning the yori-taoshi winning technique. I mean, these guys are capable to treating us to good bout of sumo like this, and with neither dude feeling obligated to give in to the other, we witnessed a fine display of sumo. Before we move on, this DOESN'T mean that either of these guys are in the same league with the elite foreigners, but it was entertaining. Shodai moves to 9-5 with the win while Takayasu settles for 11-3.

Up next was the bout of the day...on paper as Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed Ozeki Terunofuji. A win here give Hakuho his 38th career yusho and render Harumafuji's bout afterwards completely meaningless. Hakuho kept both arms in tight looking for moro-zashi, and he got the right arm inside but Fuji the Terrible pressed down hard keeping the Yokozuna's left arm to the outside for awhile, but the Ozeki wasn't going anywhere, and so Hakuho eventually threatened a few pulls that finally opened up Terunofuji's right side, and once the Yokozuna got the left there, it was curtains as he quickly forced the Ozeki back and across. As Terunofuji teetered on the edge of the dohyo, Hakuho fired a friendly dame-oshi into his chest sending him down off the clay mound altogether, but it was more a sign of respect and a way to say to the kid, "Nice bout." At 14-0, Hakuho clinches the yusho while Terunofuji falls to 11-3.

With the cup back in the hands of the Mongolians, there was still time to throw the Japanese fans another bone, and Yokozuna Harumafuji did just that keeping his hands up high as if to pull just waiting for the Ozeki Goeido to storm in and kick his ass, but Goeido is so hapless he couldn't take advantage, so with Goeido on the prowl, Harumafuji moved to his left and put both hands around Goeido's knees and just waited for the pull to come. Goeido got it right the second time around as Harumafuji fell to the dirt with no resistance. Easy peasy yaocho call here as Goeido moves to 9-5 with the gift while Harumafuji falls to 11-3.

Day 13 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Mulling my intro, I thought, "well, I can just continue to write about the storylines." But not tonight. It's Friday night in Japan. I just got off my work week, and I love this country. On the way home we stopped at a grilled chicken place, shot the bull, talked about the week. I had a draft beer, always good to start a Friday, then a couple of glasses of potato whiskey on the rocks, while the skewers of chicken, and rice gruel in melted butter and salted seaweed, and Caesar salad creamy with avocado, and crisped bacon stuck onto tenderized asparagus flowed and flowed. Rough dudes talked loud and smoked their cigarettes. Children cried and yelled and ran around and were corralled by their mothers. And as the night wore on the customers mellowed out, and I did too, and hey, it's Japan. Somewhere in Tokyo, as Mike said on Day 12, a passel of the best wrestlers are dominating the tournament. So it's good, and all is forgiven. Cool breeze, perfect late May weather, Friday night. Let's talk sumo.

J1 Sadanoumi (7-5) vs. M15 Kaisei (6-6)
So I've been watching Kaisei take 'em and drop 'em. But it's a rough game, and a risky one. Now he's 6-6, and he surely doesn't want to drop to Juryo, does he? Well, 7-8 will keep him here, anyway, and he knows that, so all he needs is one more win. And he probably figures he can get two, no problem. So, go get one: calmly got a right inside, then a left outside, then drove his smaller opponent out, yori-kiri. Sumo wrestling, ladies and gentlemen.

M14 Chiyotairyu (6-6) vs. M11 Ishiura (6-6)
Laundry mangle. Chiyotairyu got in a good neck shove, then, knowing Stone Ass (Ishiura) was neutralized, battered him a bit with tsuppari. During this Ishiura somehow got caught on one of Chiyotairyu's hands, like lady's underwear on the drying line in a high wind, and was suspended momentarily in the air before being dropped to the ground, hataki-komi. A thorough destruction.

M11 Arawashi (5-7) vs. M13 Toyohibiki (4-8)
The guy in the comments section who said the lighter wrestlers probably have the better idea is onto something. Keep your mobility, your energy. Arawashi is like that. Dude is way under-ranked this tournament, and like Mike said yesterday, okay, heck, why not go for kachi-koshi? Has the skills to get it for sure. He snuck a right arm inside against the lumberous and somehow pathetic Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki), then labored fruitfully, driving the blubber mass slowly but inexorably back, yori-kiri.

M12 Kotoyuki (4-8) vs. M9 Kagayaki (8-4)
Oh, nonsense! Nonsense. Kagayaki hopped forward and they hit each other. Then Little Snow (Kotoyuki) nonchalantly removed himself to his right. There was no reason for the much improved and intriguing Kagayaki to fall for this, slow and predictable as it was, but nevertheless he fell forward into the yawning void, tumbling freely into a "hiki-otoshi" loss as if he just couldn't help it. Aaaaaarrrrggghhh!

M9 Ichinojo (6-6) vs. M12 Tokushoryu (7-5)
The Mongolith's strategy pretty much amounts to: "I'm big enough I'll just stand there. Maybe it'll work." So he employed that as usual. Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) was appropriately forward moving in return; what else are you gonna do? He won the tachi-ai and pressed The Mongolith back. He got an arm inside and pushed The Mongolith around the ring, pulling on him and twisting him and stuff. But Mongo is just too big, and none of it worked well enough to end it. And so Ichinojo's strategy--"here I am, just try it"--worked just fine, as at a certain point in this he wrenched and twisted on his hyperkinetic opponent a bit and collapsed him to the dirt at the edge, kote-nage. Hey, I ain't reformed on Ichinojo--he still has to add some gas to his brakes to make the car go--but the foundation itself is sure good enough for wins against guys like this.

M15 Myogiryu (3-9) vs. M8 Sokokurai (3-9)
Coupla rank and file meaningless guys having bad tournaments, and one of them (Sokokurai) pulls a henka and wins the bout hataki-komi. So, let's move on to the next match, shall we?

M8 Shohozan (4-8) vs. M16 Yutakayama (2-10)
Yutakayama was impatient to get going, fist to the ground, and Darth Hozan was not, staring at him. So when they did get going, Shohozan patiently bodied his foe up, got inside, backed him up, and knocked him over, yori-taoshi. "Join me, and we will rule the galaxy together…' no, wait, he's just 4-8.

M13 Daishomaru (7-5) vs. M7 Takakeisho (9-3)
Daishomaru loves to just pull and pull all over the place, but this tournament he's done a fair amount of pushing and lo! he is 7-5. I don't think it's legit, but if it is, good for him. In either case: more of this pushing please. Then there is Takakeisho. Whatever you think of him, he has been definable this tournament: push and back off, push and back off. It's worked well for him. And here is what I think of him: back when he was in Juryo there was a tournament where he and Ura both had great records, and were going for the Juryo yusho. Takawhatever was still named Sato, which is like being named "Smith," and I'd neither heard of nor cared about him. But I happened to be in attendance that day, and he whapped and smacked his opponent hard and beat him in one of the hardest hitting matches all day. And I noted him: "Sato." He's had a place in my heart ever since. Well, today, Daishomaru stood him up and pushed him out, oshi-taoshi, against type as usual this tournament. And there was no pushing and backing from Sato, also against type. So what do I think of that? I think one guy's already got a great tournament under his belt and the other wanted his kachi-koshi, that's what I think.

M7 Hokutofuji (8-4) vs. M14 Onosho (8-4)
Hokutofuji won the first go-round by pushing Onosho out, but it was so close, with Hokuto hitting the dirt, that they asked for a do-over. Fine. Well, Hokutofuji's going to be pissed off when he watches the tape, because he sure lost the second one: after some initial contact Onosho stepped the side and slapped him down as he stumbled past, hiki-otoshi.

M10 Ura (10-2) vs. M6 Ikioi (8-4)
As I've said, most days I watch Ura and think, "okay, I don't know how to deal with him: he's too low to get a grip on." Then there are days like today: he retreated and kept very low against Ikioi, but Ikioi made child's play of it: just followed and remained in his stance and responded to the low position by saying, "okay, you's gonna be low to the ground, then kiss that dirt, dude." And pushed Ura down and flipped him over for good measure, hataki-komi, making it look very, very easy. So I'll give Ikioi credit for balance and strength--but I'll wonder why more guys don't do this to Ura. I also have to be honest and say I wrote this sentence and erased it twice, but am leaving it in this third time: Ura did not look to be trying very hard here.

M10 Tochinoshin (9-3) vs. Shodai (8-4)
As the tournament winds down, they pair the wrestlers with the best records against each other, which is kind of fun. And this was excellent stuff, a chest-to-chest strugglefest in three movements. In movement one, the big and brutishly strong grizzly Tochinoshin grabbed Shodai and worked him to the edge with a powerful overhand belt grip. But he was standing up too straight, so in movement two, Shodai resisted and drove Tochinoshin to the edge in turn. And in movement three, Tochinoshin survived the edge too, then used main strength and drove Shodai back and toppled him and fell on him, abise-taoshi. The defeated Shodai was covered in streaky dirt, demonstrating Chemistry Unit #44: clay + sweat = mud. This is still what I think of when I think of "sumo."

M3 Daieisho (3-9) vs. M6 Takekaze (3-9)
Well, Daieisho, one nice blow to the face is not enough against an experienced veteran like this. Takekaze promptly responded by pulling the excited rook to the ground, hiki-otoshi.

M1 Chiyonokuni (2-10) vs. M3 Aoiyama (2-10)
Remember what I said about Aoiyama needing to be aggressive and take risks and beat people up with his pounding forearm action? That's what he did here, nearly breaking poor Chiyonokuni's neck at one point. It took him a few seconds, but he soon pummeled 'Kuni out, oshi-dashi.

M2 Chiyoshoma (4-8) vs. K Yoshikaze (6-6)
Yoshikaze stayed low, got the left inside on the body, and pushed Chiyoshoma back and out, watashi-komi. It's okay Chiyoshoma, you'll be the Komusubi soon enough.

K Mitakeumi (6-6) vs. M1 Endo (5-7)
Not too many Komusubi end up with winning records: it's the cannon fodder rank of the banzuke, and their goal is usually just survival. So if you're thinking Mitakeumi's record is so-so, I'd say no: 6-6 at Komusubi means, "whoa, here a comer." He didn't look very good in this one, though: Endo smacked hard at him and had the characteristically aggressive Komusubi uncharacteristically going backwards. However, Mitakeumi was just too strong for him in the end: in the process of driving Mitakeumi out, Endo was unceremoniously slapped down at the edge, hiki-otoshi, like the Patriots deciding to beat the Falcons after all. By the way, Japan's best shochu (potato whiskey) is "Mitake," from the island of Yakushima (has nothing to do with Mitakeumi, who is from Nagano, even though his name might mean the very drunken "ocean of Mitake"). Try it.

S Kotoshogiku (4-8) vs. M2 Okinoumi (1-11)
Okay, I give up predicting when Kotoshogiku will retire. Maybe he just wants to get annihilated down to nothing, like Stefanie's tribe in Survivor Palau (as for predictions, I predict I am the only person in the word obsessed with both sumo and Survivor, and hence the only person who will understand this reference. Life's like that). Anyhoo, when you're going against Padme-noumi, why not stay alive? Because Padme is so ready to die. Linear force out action here for Kotoshogiku, yori-kiri win. Well, since we're idle, here's hoping that since George Lucas gave us Carrie Fisher in a slave bikini, Rian Johnson or somebody will give us Natalie Portman in a mawashi. And now I have fit sumo, Survivor, and Star Wars all in one paragraph. May I also just say, "Gandalf."

M4 Takarafuji (3-9) vs. O Goeido (7-5)
Contact, tension, holding onto each other's arms. Lots of grappling. A little slapping. Goeido working his way inside and driving the passive and often generous Takarafuji out, yori-kiri. Takarafuji, what is the point of you, I wonder? And so Goeido gets his kachi-koshi, as we all knew he would. Pure filler, this guy, but hey, folks like to get fulfilled.

O Terunofuji (10-2) vs. M4 Tochiohzan (5-7)
I like and have always liked Tochiohzan. Good fighting spirit, good skill, good sumo body. Also, his style is simple and easy to follow: he wants both arms inside, and is good at that. Period. Does that make him one-dimensional? Maybe. But it makes him compelling: if he gets it, he's usually going to win. If he doesn't, he's usually going to lose. So you watch him and are excited to see if he gets it or not. And sometimes he gets it and loses anyway: then you know the other wrestler is really good (just as you know that the other wrestler is really bad if Tochiohzan doesn't get it but wins anyway). Guess what? Tochiohzan worked hard for the inside here as always, and Terunofuji worked hard to prevent him from having it. But Tochiohzan wants it, and is good at getting it--and got it more than once. But Terunofuji broke it off here, bulled him there, and overwhelmed him in general: even moro-zashi was not enough against this turk, who eventually smothered Tochiohzan with true-Ozeki size and skill, even if he had to win going backwards by slinging his opponent to the ground on the side, kote-nage. Welcome back, Terunofuji. As I said, this was a sign that you're pretty good.

Y Harumafuji (11-1) vs. S Takayasu (10-2)
Well, the crowd was excited about this one. But Harumafuji meant bidness in this one. Until he didn't. They grabbed belts and spun around a bit. Then Harumafuji smartly bumped Takayasu off his hip, throwing things all out of whack and giving him the opening to wham a surprised Takayasu in the neck a bit and drive the vulnerable Ozeki-to-be to the straw. Where Takayasu lightly swiped at him and Harumafuji dove into the void like a foolish eight year old kid springing for a frog in the pond. Splash! Tears. Go home and put on dry clothes. Down Harumafuji went, into the pond of sadness, hataki-komi. And so many pens wrote, and so many keys typed, and so many flowers bloomed. Ozeki! Ozeki Takayasu! They all cried. Because why just have a sentence when you can have a sentence with an exclamation point! That exclamation point being, of course, that Takayasu is going to be an Ozeki, and hey you, all you nasty dumb nay-sayers, he'll have it with a Yokozuna scalp too, hey, you hey, hey! And there was the wrestler smiling happily up at the crowd at the end. Which wrestler? Why, Harumafuji it was, actually.

Which pretty much wraps up this basho: it means yes, yes, yes, as we all tiredly already know, yes, okay already, Takayasu, Ozeki. And Harumafuji won't be getting the yusho, and Hakuho will. Oh, I know Takayasu only trails Hakuho by a match and could in theory still win the whole thing. But isn't getting Ozeki enough? Isn't it??? I think that's the story they're telling. Let's see:

S Tamawashi (9-3) vs. Y Hakuho (12-0)
Hakuho annoyingly zipped out to the side to start this one, just a bit of flash-bang hijinks in his, "I'm not the greatest of all time, I'm just a guy trying to make it another day!" storyline. Then there was a lot of fierce slappery, advantage Hakuho with lots of hand to the throat. Tiring of that, they had one of those delightful moments where, shhhhlurp!, in a split second they got sucked together by cosmic forces, their chests met and adhered, and they both grabbed belt. Hakuho had the outer left, and proceeded to smother his foe back, back, back… this must be what it feels like to get crushed to death by an anaconda, if anyone could live to tell the tale. Hakuho did not relent or give quarter, and went over with his prey, on top of him, yori-taoshi, which translates something like force-him-out-and-knock-him-over, which is exactly what happened here. Anacondas break all your bones, they say. And this tournament has two days to go but I say it's a wrap, Hakuho with a two win lead and two days to go.

Mike sends the tournament towards sweet oblivion tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I'll start off today with coverage of the Sekiwake Takayasu - M4 Takarafuji bout because the bout in and of itself and the discussion afterwards between Fujii Announcer and Shibatayama-oyakata (former Yokozuna Onokuni) fits in well with some thoughts I had regarding my intro for the day. Actually, there isn't much to tell in this one; it was the same ungrounded sumo we've seen in Takayasu's bouts of late where you're not sure if it's oshi-sumo or if they intend to fight at the belt, and while both rikishi are lively in the ring, the bout kind of peters out in the end with an unnatural-looking fall.

Sekiwake Takayasu came with his usual tsuppari attack, but it had no effect on M4 Takarafuji who instinctively forced things to hidari-yotsu, but it was clear that he had no intention of pulling his gal in tight, and so Takayasu just grabbed the right outer grip and swung Takarafuji over to the edge. Takarafuji still maintained his left outer at the back of Takayasu's belt, but instead of going for a counter throw, he just let go and fell to his hands and knees lamely across the straw.

With the win, Takayasu posts a 10-2 record and reaches the coveted threshold of 33 wins over three basho from the sanyaku, but it wasn't as if the announcers were gushing over the performance. Fujii announcer commented first, "It wasn't really solid sumo today." The actual expression he used was "banzen na sumo," which can literally be translated as "perfect sumo," but they way these guys use the term, the translation of "solid sumo" is more correct. Anyway, as the two in the booth watched the slow motion replays, the attitude from Fujii Announcer was "meh." And he was right because this was nothing to write home about.

Onokuni tried to run interference a bit by talking out of his arse and explaining that being an Ozeki isn't all about piling up wins; rather, it's more about focusing on stable sumo (he used the term "anteikan," or a sense of stability). Regardless of the attitudes and expressions used by Fujii and Onokuni, no one was gushing about the content of Takayasu's sumo. And for good reason because it just isn't there. Remember during Kisenosato's run to Yokozuna how I kept pointing out that the announcers could never praise his sumo after each day's bout? They're trying to scrap together bits and piece to try and make the actual outcome and record of Takayasu seem Ozeki-like, but the actual content of the sumo definitely isn't banzen (as they admit), nor is it anything spectacular.  And what do you expect when Takayasu's opponents keep letting him win?

On the subject of yaocho, I'm sure a lot of readers think to themselves, "Why does Mike call so much yaocho?" Some of it is easy to see for everyone, but a lot of it is hard to detect like the yaocho calls I've made in Takayasu's bouts this basho, and I give Harvye a lot of credit for hanging by my side in this atmosphere where it's really tough to get the calls right and where I have no qualms about stating a bout was fixed the day after my pardner said it was legit. You have to understand that for literally 25 years, I've been sitting at the feet of the oyakata being taught by them. Now, I'm not there in Tokyo stalking them at their stables, but I've listened to them break down the sport in depth for 25 years...all in Japanese. There's not a word in the broadcast that I don't understand, and so I sit there with them for two hours everyday watching the sumo and watching the replays and listening to them explain it.

Now, for the majority of those 25 years, yaocho wasn't playing the role in sumo that it plays today, and I remember well how the oyakata speak when the sumo is real. It's just been ingrained in me, and so when yaocho occurs and they start talking against the grain and trying to cover, I can tell easy as you please because I can remember what it was like when sumo was largely legitimate.

Take the ending of the Takayasu bout today. Technically it ended in a nage-no-uchi-ai, which is one of the greatest endings to a bout of sumo but rarely seen anymore. The nage-no-uchi-ai is where both rikishi are facing towards the outside of the dohyo at the straw and both have a grip on each other. Usually it's an outer grip vs. an inner grip, but it could also be a kote-nage attempt vs. a scoop throw. When executed properly, both rikishi crash down to the dohyo usually face first and usually less than a moment apart from each other. A lot of times a nage-no-uchi-ai goes to the video replay because it's that close. Both participants in a nage-no-uchi-ai usually come away with sand in their hair, and we often see guys sporting big red marks on their face or forehead the next day because they refuse to put their non-throwing hand to the dirt opting to lead with their heads or their face instead.

In today's bout, both Takayasu and Takarafuji found themselves in the nage-no-uchi-ai pose as you can see in the pic above there, but Takarafuji didn't even bother going for a throw just letting go of his inside grip and plopping to the dirt in lame fashion. The ending to the bout was so unnatural that those who truly understand sumo could see it. The guys in the booth are of course going to talk around it, but I'm not. And it's not just the ending to the bouts that give yaocho away. I can tell at the tachi-ai, and I can tell during the bout based on the style of sumo. I know how all of these guys fight, and I've seen every one of their bouts in the Makuuchi division, so when something is out of place, it's an easy yaocho call. You may not be comfortable with my calls, but they are right.

Finally, Harvye used to bring up an interesting take when questioning the validity of Kisenosato's abilities several years ago when he'd seemingly be in every yusho race but just come up short in the end. You had me and my smart mouth calling yaocho on pretty much everything regarding the three Japanese Ozeki, but Harvye would be like, "Calm down. It could be that Kisenosato does actually have some game to him, but his opponents just aren't giving him the opportunity to show it because they feel obligated to let up for him in order to fit the narrative." That's not a direct quote of course, but hopefully you all remember his general take on things during those days.

Well, I think Harvye's line of thinking then actually applies perfectly to Takayasu's situation now. No one at ST has ever bagged on Takayasu, and I think that generally, all sumo fans really like the kid; I know I do. He's got decent game, and he's a tough rikishi, but that still doesn't mean that the elite rikishi (i.e. the Mongolians) wouldn't do him favors to help prop him up, and it doesn't mean that non-Mongolian rikishi don't feel obligated to lose to him as well. Takayasu is not an Ozeki. Go ahead and ask Konishiki if he thinks Takayasu was an Ozeki back in his [Konishiki's] day. Konishiki would scoff so hard he'd probably drench you with a snot bubble similar to Jurassic Park when the dinosaurs sneeze on the humans.

Is Takayasu an Ozeki in today's version of sumo? I guess.
Is he better than Tamawashi? No.
Has Takayasu's sumo been worthy of an Ozeki this basho in the true sense of the rank? Absolutely not.

And yet, he will be ranked at Ozeki for the Nagoya basho because the current narrative in sumo calls for it. I guess my point here is that I do think that Takayasu can beat Takarafuji straight up, and I do think that he can legitimately beat all of the guys he has toppled this basho in a straight up fight. But I don't think that Takayasu's sumo has been great this basho (and the comments and tone each day from the guys in the booth back this up), and guys are unquestionably taking dives against him so as to not spoil anyone's party.

That was kind of a lengthy intro, but it sums up the current landscape of sumo, especially how it has benefited Takayasu the last little while, and hopefully it gives you a bit of insight as to what kinds of things I'm looking for in the content of sumo when I declare yaocho and why I have the credentials to credibly make those calls. Disagree if you must, but you wouldn't be reading my takes if they didn't paint the proper picture of sumo.

Since I really got off on a tangent there, let's go leaderboard style today and focus primarily on the bouts and rikishi of interest. The leaderboard at the start of the day shaped up as follows:

11-0: Hakuho
10-1: Harumafuji
9-2: Terunofuji, Takayasu, Tochinoshin, Ura

Save Ura, those are probably five of the top seven guys in sumo today with Kakuryu and Tamawashi being the other two.

One of the most anticipated bouts of the day was the M7 Hokutofuji - M10 Ura matchup, so let's start there. These guys entered sumo in the same class, and their rise up the ranks have been similar as well. This sort of thing creates a natural rivalry, and so it was something that NHK hyped a bit during the broadcast. In fact, they produced the following graphic showing how many basho each dude spent in the various divisions beginning from mae-zumo up through their rise to the Makuuchi division, and you can see that Ura's lack of size (Ura's graph is on the right) made him hiccup a bit once he reached seki-tori status (Juryo and Makuuchi, the bottom two divisions in this graph), but he is learning how to win in the division of late.

With that hype in mind, let's get to the bout where Ura henka'd to his right, but it didn't fool is counterpart who got the right arm to the inside lifting Ura upright, but Ura has learned a trick or two this basho, and one of them is an escape method where he darts to the other side of his opponent's body going for the quick pull in the process. He did it against Shodai, and he did it today against Hokutofuji, and the move caught Hokutofuji off guard to the extent that he just tumbled out of the dohyo with no one in front of him. Yes, it's another win by Ura, but he used anything but sound sumo basics to get it.  Ura stays on the leaderboard at 10-2 while Hokutofuji drops to 8-4.

Next up among the leaders was M10 Tochinoshin who stepped into the ring against M7 Takakeisho, and how interesting that Takakeisho who has supposedly been on a roll this basho with his strike and pull sumo suddenly turned into a yotsu guy against the best yotsu-guy in the rank and file. Takakeisho got the early right arm to the inside, and so Tochinoshin countered with a senseless left arm over top of his opponent's shoulder. Hello?!  McFly?!!  Why would a guy ever go for an outer grip over the top when his opponent was already standing upright?? Truth is he wouldn't, but Tochinoshin did just that all the while refusing to get his right arm to the inside whatsoever, and once I saw that, I knew the outcome. The only drama left was the ending that saw Takakeisho execute a right scoop throw while Tochinoshin just slid down to his intended demise (in real sumo we'da seen a nage-no-uchi-ai here).  Both guys end the day at 9-3, and I'd say without going back to watch that at least four of Takakeisho's wins were the result of yaocho.

Ozeki Terunofuji got the early left inside position against M5 Shodai who slipped out of the yotsu pose, but the Ozeki moved well catching Shodai's left arm from the outside as he used a nice right kote-nage to yank Shodai over to the edge, but Shodai wasn't out yet and was able to square back up and shove his way seemingly back into the bout, but Fuji the Terrible is just too good when he wants to win, and he eventually worked his right arm up and under Shodai's left side throwing him over and out from there. It was a good effort from Shodai who falls to 8-4 while Terunofuji technically stays on the leaderboard at 10-2, but the Ozeki was never in trouble here.

Before we move on, what the hell does Terunofuji got going with his torso?  I mean, have you ever seen as many zits, pimples, moles, pock marks, stalactites, etc. on a single dude's torso?  It's incredible, and while not friendly on the eyes, I think when Terunofuji passes on, he should donate his torso to science because odds are they'll find the cure for cancer somewhere in that matrix.

Moving to the one-loss rikishi, the useless trivia buffs got a hard-on when for the second day in a row, the final bout of the day wasn't fought due to one party's going kyujo. In this case, Yokozuna Harumafuji moved to 11-1 with the freebie as M5 Takanoiwa (5-7) withdrew from the festivities.

That sets up the day's final bout that saw Yokozuna Hakuho use a light face slap with the left against M4 Tochiohzan, but instead of going chest to chest, he opted to fire tsuppari into Tochiohzan's body driving him back a few steps, and then the Yokozuna switched gears by going for a quick hataki-komi that felled Tochiohzan for good. Pretty ho-hum stuff here as Hakuho moves to 12-0 while Tochiohzan falls to 5-7.

The end result is a leaderboard that loses one guy in Tochinoshin and looks like this as we head into Friday:

12-0: Hakuho
11-1: Harumafuji
10-2: Terunofuji, Takayasu, Ura

It's absolutely pointless to speculate on how things will play out, but that's where the drama lies in the yusho races these days: Will the Mongolians? Or won't they?

In a predictable bout, M3 Aoiyama put both arms forward at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Goeido as if to say, "Please, don't hurt me."  As if.  With Aoiyama doing nothing, Goeido charged forward not really grabbing onto his opponent, but it didn't matter as Aoiyama just backed himself out of the ring avoiding too much content. They ruled it oshi-dashi, so the Ozeki must have scored what looked like a push during the whole process.  Aoiyama falls to 2-10 after the gift while Goeido hops to 7-5, and what are the chances that Takarafuji beats Goeido tomorrow?

Komusubi Mitakeumi and Sekiwake Kotoshogiku bumped heads at the tachi-ai before hooking up in hidari yotsu where Mitakeumi grabbed the right outer grip, and as he began to force the Geeku back, he used his right leg to sort of threaten a soto-gake attempt. It was really an unnecessary move because Kotoshogiku ain't gonna outquick anyone these days, and Mitakeumi quickly repented refocusing his efforts on the force-out charge, and he could barely get going again before Kotoshogiku wilted under the pressure stepping back and out. The loss makes Kotoshogiku's make-koshi official falling to 4-8, and as hapless as the dude has become, he's still better than Kisenosato. As for Mitakeumi, he improves to 6-6 and could very well likely swap the Geeku ranks next basho.

After the bout, NHK panned to a section in the venue filled with what I presume to be members of Mitakeumi's fan club, a group that obviously found a good deal on orange rain ponchos at the hyaku-en shop. These people are the exact demographic that sumo is catering to, and in order to be part of this demographic, you have to be old, you need money, and you need to be gullible as hell.

Sekiwake Tamawashi met M3 Daieisho with his tsuppari attack, but the Mongolian was cautious here likely suspecting a sideways move from his opponent at one point. To his credit (and probably demise), Daieisho did not move laterally and countered with some shoves of his own that forced Tamawashi back a step, but The Mawashi never panicked getting his left arm up and under Daieisho's right side throwing him down near the edge with a nifty scoop throw. Tamawashi breezes to 9-3 while Daieisho's brief winning streak ends at 3-9.

No way I'm going to spend time breaking down each move in the M1 Chiyonokuni - Komusubi Yoshikaze matchup because Chiyonokuni was all over the map in his tsuppari attack and quick retreat sumo. Early on Yoshikaze got the left arm to the inside forcing a retreat, and when Kuni could never really connect on anything to knock the Komusubi off balance, Yoshikaze timed a perfect charge that gave him moro-zashi, and from there Chiyonokuni couldn't worm out of it. This was a sloppy bout all around as Yoshikaze moves to 6-6 while Chiyonokuni falls to 2-10.

Padme's sorry run continued today against M1 Endoh in a hidari-yotsu bout that ended up in the gappuri position where both guys had left inners and right outers. A few seconds in though, Endoh musta sensed that his foe had lost the will to live, and so he wrenched his hips cutting off Okinoumi's right outer grip and then made his yori-kiri move from there forcing Okinoumi back to the edge where the two engaged in a brief tussle before Endoh made it official. That's just the way they draw it up for Endoh who moves to 5-7 while Okinoumi falls to 1-11.

M6 Takekaze charged forward against M2 Chiyoshoma and had his gal upright, but he couldn't connect on a sufficient shove to send the Mongolian packing, and so Chiyoshoma went for a kote-nage throw on one side throwing Takekaze off balance only to move to the other side and hurl him down with another kote-nage from the opposite arm. Pretty ugly sumo all around as Chiyoshoma creeps to 4-8 while Takekaze falls to 3-9.

M6 Ikioi was mukiryoku against m11 Ishiura allowing the smaller guy to work his left arm up and under Ikioi's right armpit, and with no resistance displayed from Ikioi, Ishiura just pivoted to the side and pulled Ikioi down by the shoulder in kata-sukashi fashion.  Ishiura moves to 6-6 while Ikioi is comfortably numb at 8-4.

M8 Sokokurai was completely mukiryoku against M13 Toyohibiki not going for anything at the tachi-ai and just keeping his arms out of harms way as Toyohibiki eventually found Sokokurai's neck and pushed him out from there.  Not sure why I commented on this one as Toyohibiki improves to 4-8 while Sokokurai falls to 3-9.

In a bout featuring two similar fellas, M8 Shohozan caught M15 Myogiryu with a nice hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the right and then securing moro-zashi. Myogiryu wouldn't go easy and tried to slip around like a fish on the bank, but Shohozan never panicked and scored the ultimate force-out win moving to 4-8 while Myogiryu falls to 3-9.

M9 Kagayaki traded tit for tat at the tachi-ai with M14 Chiyotairyu, and after about two seconds of mostly tits with a few tats, Tairyu went for the ignominious pull, and Kagayaki read it nicely pushing Chiyotairyu back and across before falling to the dohyo himself.  Kagayaki's 8-4 if you need him while Chiyotairyu falls to 6-6.

Wow, I did not think we'd see M12 Kotoyuki again, and talk about a hell of an opponent to face when you're injured and barely able to fight. Against M9 Ichinojo, I can't really blame Kotoyuki for his spasmodic approach, but it unfortunately didn't faze the Mongolith who watched his opponent well and then timed a beefy push at the back of his shoulder about five seconds in. We'll see if Kotoyuki can get up from after one after he falls to 4-8 while Ichinojo improves to 6-6.

M16 Yutakayama dictated the pace most of the way against M11 Arawashi, but the Mongolian threw enough chinks in the rookie's armor using timed pulls and tugs of the arm to frustrate Yutakayama, and despite the latter looking good most of the way, the instant he went for a pull, Arawashi rushed in for moro-zashi scoring the easy yori-kiri from there.  Arawashi may be gunning for a kachi-koshi at 5-7 while Yutakayama will have to work out his troubles in Juryo next basho as he falls to 2-10.

M12 Tokushoryu struck high against M14 Onosho but then went for a quick pull that failed miserably, and so as he tried to advance back towards Onosho, the rookie went for an evasive swipe that sent Tokushoryu down to the dirt face first.  Onosho picks up kachi-koshi in his debut at 8-4 while Tokushoryu falls to 7-5.

And finally, M15 Kaisei never once tried to get to the inside of M13 Daishomaru keeping his arms wide and letting Maru dictate the pace, and so this bout went around the ring a few times with Daishomaru eventually getting up and under Kaisei scoring the force out win. Yaocho here as  Kaisei falls to 6-6 while Daishomaru is one away from kachi-koshi at 7-5.

The good lad, Harvye, returns tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It used to be that I hated to know the results of the day's sumo before I had watched it, but now I don't care at all, and so as I flipped on NHK's nightly news broadcast to watch the sports, I just had to laugh when the announcers suddenly turned grave in their speech announcing, "There was some big movement in sumo today," and at that remark I thought that one of the Yokozuna had suffered his first loss, but no. It was a much more solemn occurrence than that: Kisenosato withdrew from the basho. It was as if they were on sacred ground discussing the pressures of being a Yokozuna and the implications on the rest of the basho now that Kisenosato had withdrawn, but I can sum up the actual implications of his kyujo in two easy steps: 1) With Kisenosato gone there will be five less bouts to fix, and 2) I won't be able to make fun of his sumo until July.

The reason cited for his withdrawal was the injury to his upper left biceps and pectoral muscle that he suffered when Harumafuji sent him to the arena floor on day 13 of the Haru basho, but that's just an excuse for Kisenosato's poor 6-4 start losing to lightweights Yoshikaze, Endoh, Tochiohzan, and Kotoshogiku...none of whom have a winning record at this point. Back in January when it was clear that the Sumo Association was setting up promotion to Yokozuna for Kisenosato, I posted my banzuke of the six coddled Japanese rikishi as follows:


Based on what we've seen here at the Natsu basho, is that banzuke not correct?  With Kisenosato drawing Tamawashi today and then the other Mongolians lurking, it was a total lose-lose situation for him, so why not withdraw? You either get your ass kicked by the Mongolians, or you fix even more bouts in Kisenosato's favor. It's one thing to have Chiyonokuni throw a bout in Kisenosato's favor, but it's an entirely different matter when he faces Mongolians that he hasn't been able to legitimately beat in at least five years, so it's just safest to have him withdraw and then regroup for July.

With that said, I'm just going in order again today since the concept of a yusho race was perverted long ago not to mention the concepts of a zensho yusho, a Japanese rikishi's promotion to Yokozuna, a Japanese rikishi's occupying the top slot on the banzuke, the Ozeki rank, and on and on.

The day began with M16 Yutakayama proactively firing a right choke hold into J1 Osunaarashi's neck and then pushing at his side with the left, but Osunaarashi was able to spin around into the left outer grip coupled with the right arm inside, Yutakayama complied in the gappuri yotsu bout, but this is not his style unless Kaisei is throwing the bout for him, and so Osunaarashi forced him to the edge and barely out fighting off an utchari attempt from the rookie that would never come to fruition. Both rikishi end the day at 2-9.

And speaking of M5 Kaisei giving out freebies, he kept both elbows pointed outwards doing nothing at the tachi-ai allowing M13 Toyohibiki to push him upright, and then without ever going for the right outer grip once despite the left inside, Kaisei just kinda turned his body looking for a cushy place to step out as Toyohibiki drove him across and out in a few uneventful seconds. Nuther gift from Kaisei as he drops to 6-5 while Toyohibiki creeps to 3-8, and you look at those two records and may think what would be the purpose of fixing this one? I honestly don't know, but I can tell when guys are mukiryoku, and Kaisei was clearly mukiryoku here.

M14 Onosho looked for the left inside at the tachi-ai, but M11 Ishiura moved right pushing at the back of Onosho's left shoulder, but the rookie adjusted on a dime squaring himself back up with his foe before pounding him with a quick tsuppari attack that set up the ultimate hataki-komi. The better rikishi won here as Onosho moves to 7-4 while Ishiura falls to 5-6.

At this point of the broadcast, they proudly posted a graphic listing the dates for the summer exhibition season. There will be 24 days in all, and the NHK announcer looked at the unprecedented schedule and pronounced it a "daiseikyou," or a grand production. Actually, the word "seikyou" itself means grand production, so add the prefix "dai" to it, and you have a grander grand production. Point being is that sumo is not this popular without constant bout fixing to prop up the domestic rikishi.

M10 Tochinoshin was patient at the tachi-ai as M12 Tokushoryu rushed into the right inside position, and so the Private stood his ground well grabbing the left outer grip, and from that point if Tochinoshin's intent is to win, there's no way he was going to give Tokushoryu and his crocodile arms an outer grip on the other side. Thankfully, Tochinoshin was trying here, and he used his power to just force Tokushoryu towards the straw and out leading with the outer grip. Tochinoshin moves to 9-2 with the win while Tokushoryu falls to 7-4.

M15 Myogiryu was proactive at the tachi-ai getting the right arm inside and pushing hard into M9 Ichinojo's left teet, but the Mongolith had the right arm inside...and the will to win, and so he easily halted Myogiryu's momentum leaning into him and forcing him back to the center of the ring before he grabbed the left outer grip. From this point it was classic Ichinojo where he just leans in on his opponent saying, "Just you try and move me suck'a." Now this is what it means to be "omoi," or hard to move in sumo. Using such an expression to describe Kisenosato is simply false. Anyway, as Ichinojo seemed happy to prolong the bout, Myogiryu went for a sloppy maki-kae meaning that he allowed Ichinojo to maki-kae as well, and so with both dudes now in the gappuri hidari yotsu position, Ichinojo just ended the nonsense forcing his foe back and out. Ichinojo whistles Dixie to 5-6 while Myogiryu suffers make-koshi at 3-8.

Two guys with similar styles in M14 Chiyotairyu and M7 Takakeisho stepped into the ring although Takakeisho seems to be in more control generally, and true to form, both dudes came out with their tsuppari attack with Takakeisho doing his usual strike and bounce move. The difference today was that I think--rather I hope--he was expecting Chiyotairyu to go for a pull, and when he did, Takakeisho was right there to clean up the mess. Takakeisho kept his eyes on his opponent well today, and there was no need to buy this win as he clinches kachi-koshi at 8-3 from the M7 rank. The dude will likely move to jo'i for Nagoya, so let's see if he joins the coddled club. This rise of his has not been organic, so let's just wait and see. As for Chiyotairyu, he falls to 6-5.

M13 Daishomaru pushed his left arm into M7 Hokutofuji's shoulder at the tachi-ai, but there was little force, and so Hokutofuji was able to counter with a right of his own into Daishomaru's neck that knocked Daishomaru back and into immediate pull mode, but Hokutofuji was moving forward with the de-ashi and needed only one more volley to knock Daishomaru back and across with some oomph. Hokutofuji picks up kachi-koshi himself at 8-3, but sadly he has not earned all eight wins this basho on his own. Daishomaru falls to 6-5, and after his sumo today, I can see why Harvye isn't fond of him.

M6 Ikioi entertained M12 Kotoyuki's tsuppari attack at the tachi-ai briefly before moving right and throwing Yuki off balance with a swipe at the back of his left arm, and from there, Ikioi just rushed him out of the ring in seconds. Kotoyuki must have landed weird when he exited the dohyo because he couldn't climb back up and bow to his opponent. Eventually, they brought the wheel chair in for him to help him back up the hana-michi. Ikioi picks up kachi-koshi at 8-3 with the easy win while Kotoyuki is doomed for sure now at 4-7.

M11 Arawashi went all Tokitenku employing a keta-guri against M6 Takekaze, and he just caught Takekaze's knee with his left foot felling Takekaze in a second flat, but the keta-guri was quite awkward, and it makes you appreciate just how deft Tokitenku was at it. I don't like the move myself, but Tokitenku was the master. Anyway, Arawashi continues to dick around this basho moving to 4-7 while Takekaze suffers make-koshi at 3-8.

M5 Shodai attempted to get the left arm inside against M10 Ura, but he wasn't forceful enough, and while the left was kinda in, he wasn't sure if he wanted to lift Ura up or go for a pull, and the indecision cost him as it allowed Ura to disappear in a flash to his right circling around his foe and pushing Shodai out from behind. This kind of sumo has never been my thang, but I get it why the Japanese fans enjoy it. Ura picks up a legitimate win for the second day in a row, but that 9-2 record is inflated with a bunch of bouts thrown his way. As for Shodai, he falls to 8-3, and I thought today's sumo was pretty typical for him in that he just doesn't seem to have a lot of fire in his belly. He should've come out with the redass today and just trusted his size advantage.

M9 Kagayaki caught M5 Takanoiwa with tsuppari to the neck standing him upright whereupon Kagayaki just plowed forward against the defenseless Takanoiwa who opted to just stay square and not counter to either side. At the edge, Takanoiwa went for a weak left scoop throw to counter, but it was fruitless as Kagayaki just shoved him out and down. Takanoiwa was mukiryoku here intentional or not as he falls to 5-6 while Kagayaki is nigh unto kachi-koshi at 7-4.

M3 Daieisho was proactive from the tachi-ai knocking M8 Sokokurai upright and then forcing him to move or be slain, and so Sokokurai shaded to his right, but he never really went for anything allowing Daieisho to square back up and just pummel him out of the ring in a few seconds. The moment Sokokurai stood straight up at the tachi-ai, I knew the fix was in here as both rikishi fall to 3-8.

In an ugly bout, M2 Chiyoshoma straight-armed M4 Takarafuji upright before moving left making Takarafuji give chase, but Chiyoshoma was just too quick pulling Takarafuji down and out of the ring without much of a fight. I think Takarafuji is suffering from a little bit of Padme-itis himself as he falls to 3-8 while Chiyoshoma finishes with the same record.

Speaking of Padme, he welcomed M8 Shohozan in a bout that saw the two hook up in hidari yotsu where I guess M2 Okinoumi made an effort for the right outer, but Shohozan moved to his right pushing into Okinoumi's left side, and when Padme really did nothing to defend, Shohozan circled right again this time yanking Okinoumi out of the ring tottari style. Shohozan improves to just 3-8, but he has given up a few bouts this basho here and there. As for Okinoumi, he better give birth to Luke and Leia soon because the dude is now 1-10.

Komusubi Yoshikaze and M1 Endoh hooked up in hidari-yotsu and round and round they spun in the ring with Yoshikaze looking for the kill while Endoh showed good patience. At one point, Yoshikaze worked his way into a right outer grip, but it was one fold with Endoh's belt coming loose, and so Endoh was able to stay alive finally getting a right outer of his own, and once obtained, he went for the force out kill scoring it straightway to the delight of the crowd. I actually enjoyed this bout (because it was real) as Endoh moved to 4-7 while Yoshikaze fell to 5-6.

M1 Chiyonokuni played along with Sekiwake Kotoshogiku allowing the bout to go to hidari-yotsu from the start, and then he just went along for the ride pretending to stand firm with a left counter scoop throw and a right tsuki-otoshi attempt after thta, but he stopped both moves at about 40% execution letting the Geeku just force him back and out. I don't think the plan is for Kotoshogiku to get his miracle kachi-koshi as he improves to 4-7, but they are trying to provide a soft landing into retirement. As for Chiyonokuni, he'll have his reward as he takes one for the team falling to 2-9.

If you're not one of the media darlings, what are you really fighting for these days? I feel that way when I see guys like Okinoumi and Takarafuji and even M4 Tochiohzan fight, and today Tochiohzan was paired with Sekiwake Takayasu. Now, I think both of these guys are capable of beating each other straight up, but not wanting to spoil the party, Tochiohzan was weak at the tachi-ai not really going for moro-zashi, so Takayasu just pushed him upright and back a few steps, and as Oh looked to duck back into the bout, Takayasu reversed gears going for a pull, and Tochiohzan's response was to just fly across the dohyo and down to one knee. Takayasu is one win away from the inevitable moving to 9-2 while Tochiohzan dutifully performs his yaocho falling to 5-6.

Ozeki Terunofuji briefly got the right arm to the inside at the tachi-ai, but M3 Aoiyama quickly backed away looking to tsuppari his way back into the bout, but the shoves were ineffective allowing Terunofuji to get the right back to the inside and eventual left outer grip, and from there the Ozeki hunkered down recharging himself for round two. Terunofuji briefly tested the force-out waters at one point, but Aoiyama ain't no slouch, and so the Ozeki went Ichinojo for another 10 seconds before executing an outer belt throw that sent Aoiyama to the dirt. Terunofuji moves to 9-2 with the win, but all indications are that this basho is coming down to the two Yokozuna on senshuraku. Aoiyama falls to 2-9 and will easily make up the ground next basho at the latest.

It was at this point that they announced Kisenosato's kyujo in the arena giving Sekiwake Tamawashi the default win and kachi-koshi at 8-3 in the process. We know that Takayasu is a given, so we'll see if they allow Tamawashi to fill up another Ozeki slot. He doesn't compare at all to the Ozeki of yesteryear, but he's absolutely Ozeki material compared to the Three Amigos.

Yokozuna Hakuho displayed his patented hari-zashi tachi-ai getting the right inside and left outer grip against Ozeki Goeido easy as you please, and as the Ozeki looked to worm out of he hold, Hakuho adjusted on a dime scoring the easy right scoop throw win as he just spun in the same direction in which Goeido attempted to flee resulting in the Yokozuna mounting his foe in the end.  And who doesn't enjoy 150 kg +  dudes in loin cloths mounting each other on the sand?  Easy does it as Hakuho breezes his way to 11-0 while Goeido still needs some charity to keep his rank at 6-5, and he'll surely get it the next two days from Aoiyama and Takarafuji respectively.

I was hoping to see the two Yokozuna skate into senshuraku at 14-0, but with the withdrawal of Kisenosato, I guess they have to fill the void somehow, and Komusubi Mitakeumi probably comes in second place on the hype meter. Yokozuna Harumafuji kept his left arm out wide at the tachi-ai grabbing Mitakeumi's belt with an outer grip as the Komusubi charged forward, but the Yokozuna just stayed square allowing Mitakeumi to use his right arm with a nifty scoop throw not to mention his right leg in position pinned against Harumafuji's left keeping him at bay. While the move was good, it didn't finish the Yokozuna off, and so as Harumafuji looked to set up a left outer belt throw of his own, he intentionally...er...uh...carelessly stepped out of the dohyo. And when I say stepped out, it wasn't as if he grazed the sand; he was a half step beyond the bales.

I thought that Mitakeumi reacted well in the ring today, and I was actually able to define some of his moves, but it still doesn't mean that Harumafuji didn't let the Komusubi win because he did. With the loss, Harumafuji falls to 10-1 while Mitakeumi still has hope at 5-6. As Mitakeumi's schedule lightens the last few days, kachi-koshi is not out of the question, and this gift today goes a long way to help him get it.

Looks like you get me again tomorrow, so until then...

Day 10 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Not much has changed since I boldly (stupidly?) forecast the storylines on Day 4. Hakuho and Harumafuji are still marching forward, 9-0 as we head for the home stretch. Today brings the first major political threat for one of them: Hakuho has to decide whether to beat Takayasu and dent his Ozeki-to-be shine. And not just ozeki shine: Takayasu is right behind the leaders, and an outside candidate to take the whole thing. Your two loss pretenders are Terunofuji (watch that one--dark horse?), Shodai (next Yokozuna!), Ura, and Tochinoshin. Kisenosato, thanks be to god, is out of it due to his third loss yesterday.

Speaking of that loss, it looked to me like he gave it away to Tochiohzan. Now why would he do that? I dunno. Setting up something for Kotoshogiku? Because that sad and dilapidated storyline trundles on: Kotoshogiku is hanging on at 2-7, and you would think he is just waiting for the appropriate moment to finally, finally retire. One guess is that would come after today, following a loss to Le Grande Yokozuna, Prince Kisenosato, as a fitting partners-in-shullbit send off for him. But who knows? Maybe he wants another bit of glory and will beat the big baby man today? So that is one to watch. The Goeido storyline has heated back up a bit, I suppose, but is basically still pressed fish meal left out in the sun: at 5-4, Goeido needs three more wins to avoid demotion. Do you think he can do it?!?!? Well sir, I think he can! Terunofuji rounds out the Ozeki storylines with his strong tournament that gives me hope The Future will return to the present.

Finally, on Day 4 I mentioned a trio of hype-ees: Ura, Shodai, and Mitakeumi. While Mitakeumi hasn't performed well, sure enough, there are Ura and Shodai on the leaderboard. And to be fair, both of them have shown well. Shodai has shown more speed than I'm used to from him. And what are you going to do with Ura? Yeah, guys lose because they're scared to go in hard and get tricked, setting him up for success, but if you were Ura's size, what would you do? I'm building a grudging respect for him. And as long as I'm being self-referential to my Day 4 predictions, I'm happy to note that the three "shadow" guys I said should be hyped instead or those three (but I suppose we should be thankful aren't, because when has hype ever been good for anybody, Seattle?) are right there with the aforementioned Pop Trio record-wise: Tamawashi (6-3), Hokutofuji (6-3), and Chiyoshoma (2-7).

So, let's cover those stories first today.


M10 Tochinoshin (7-2) vs. M13 Daishomaru (6-3)
Daishomaru, who I can't stand, henka'ed our first leader. Twice, actually (there was a matta). Of course this didn't work: henka'ing twice when you henka all the time anyway is kind of predictable, don't you think? Tochinoshin got all mad and wildly slapped and battered at Daishomaru. Didn't matter: he's so much better than Daishomaru, his alley-brawler "festival of angry" worked just fine and he was able to close in for a yori-kiri win. He then rolled off the dohyo, sexhausted dough ball slipping off the greased pan.

M15 Kaisei (6-3) vs. M10 Ura (7-2)
I am going to give Ura credit. With all that pulling and shoving, it's hard for guys to close on him. When they do, he backs up, and they're afraid of falling down. When they try to grab him, he's so low all there is to try to get hold of is a pair of arms, which Ura artfully pushes off with. He's like a wasp: yeah, I'm a lot bigger than a wasp, but I'm afraid to grab it with my fingers because I'll get stung. The thing to do probably is use your feet, lumber forward anyway, and risk the pull. You may be stung, but the wasp will be dead. I dunno. Kaisei didn't do any of that, though: he was stymied by the push-and-pull tactics, and eventual fell down, less mobile and vulnerable, tripped and knocked over backwards, kiri-kaeshi. I don't like Ura much yet, but watching him, I do see how he's hard to deal with.

M8 Sokokurai (3-6) vs. M5 Shodai (7-2)
Maybe Vanilla Softcream (Shodai) wants to be the next Kisenosato in more ways than one, because after a nice chest-bashing tachi-ai he left himself pretty wide open. Sokokurai got inside and low, one arm on the belt, one arm up on the body, and would control the match throughout. Now, you'd think Japan's next Yokozuna would be able to handle Sokokurai in a test of strength like this, but hey, waddaya know, they turned out to be very evenly matched. Hmmm. Well, Shodai did a nice job at the end, when backed up against the straw, of wrenching Sokokurai hard sideways, causing him to twirl out, giving Shodai the surprise tsuki-otoshi win in the end. I do think this was straight up. Which means Shodai, The Great Vanilla Hope, is just slightly better than Sokokurai. So there you have it.

O Terunofuji (7-2) vs. K Yoshikaze (5-4)
With all the seven-win rank-and-filers winning, it was up to Terunofuji to continue it, and he easily did that, playing a brick wall as Yoshikaze ran into him and couldn't move him an inch. Terunofuji calmly gathered his gumption, kept the straining gadfly in front of him, and methodically forced him out, yori-kiri.

Y Harumafuji (9-0) vs. M4 Tochiohzan (5-4)
Now for the real leaders. However, bad match here. Tochiohzan did not try, and Harumafuji did (yes, that sometimes happens, too). Who knows why? Tochiohzan hopped backwards, tried a pull (not his game), didn't try to evade, and was easily forced out in a 100% linear fashion by a dutiful-looking Harumafuji, yori-kiri. Well, sometimes sumo is like that.

S Takayasu (8-1) vs. Y Hakuho (9-0)
Lots of people were up for this one. The blue sky crowd was excited by two leaders and the excitement of the idea that Takayasu is a real comer, and that Hakuho might be having an Indian Summer. Skeptics like myself were wondering will they? Won't they? This was a big one, no question the feature match of the tournament so far, with all interested eyes on it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am currently amongst those who think Hakuho has lost a step. Whether that is from age or not I can't say: it is also possible that by screwing around in boredom the last few years he's turned off his killer instinct to such a degree that he can't necessarily turn it back on again when he needs it. In either case, he's not the wrestler he was, now pretending to need to survive by guile when he should be showing us whether he can really do it like he used to or not.

The thing is, even having lost a step and made a farce of his late career arc, he still was so far ahead of everybody else when he started this nonsense that it is possible he is STILL the best wrestler on the banzuke--Harumafuji and Terunofuji are the competition--and really can win no matter what kind of silly crap he gets on out there these days. This tournament, where he has been as maddeningly inconsistent, lackadaisical looking, and willfully obscure as ever of late, is the proof, as he is 9-0 and your odds on favorite.

He started it off with a cat slap and evasion to his right: unnecessary and frustrating. But after that, he fully intended to win. And had a hard time with Takayasu, who is classic good-not-great, and dealt with him well. Hakuho followed the tachi-ai shenanigans by sucking High ‘n' Easy (Takayasu) in close and leaning over and into an inside right and eventual outside left belt grip. Then there were a few tense moments where it was unclear which way it was going to go, as Takayasu wasn't giving any ground. Takayasu was able to break the left hand off, too, then played with it as they fought for advantage on that side.

But Hakuho remains firmly the better wrestler. While he did not school or destroy Takayasu here, and took time to put him away, nor did he ever give much ground to Takayasu. Nor was he ever in do-or-die danger. It just looked like it because the longer a match goes on, the more chances you have for something to go wrong. But in the end Hakuho went for a submarine charge with the grip he had, and they both went flying off into space, but Takayasu ahead of him and backwards on the emphatic yori-taoshi push-over crash-out win for Hakuho.

Meaning Takayasu is still going to get Ozeki, but Hakuho showed who is still Yokozuna today.


M2 Chiyoshoma (2-7) vs. O Goeido (5-4)
There was no way Chiyoshoma was going to win this, which is why this is a fake storyline, but I toss it in here anyway in some lingering respect for the rank of Ozeki, left over from about 2002. Chiyoshoma stood tall and let Goeido get underneath, drive him back, and flip him totally upside down, sukui-nage, a jack-in-the-box with epilepsy.

Y Kisenosato (6-3) vs. S Kotoshogiku (2-7)
By the time it got started I was figuring this one had to by Kotoshogiku's after his "defeat" of Endo yesterday and Kisenosato's "defeat" by Tochiohzan, neither of which were what they should have been, and both of which set up what I am predicting will be the last win of Kotoshogiku's career. If anyone's ego has been pampered in sumo, it is this guy. This match was absolutely terrible as Kisenosato let him have it from here to there, walking back and out under Kotoshogiku's lame, straight, geriatric pressure, yori-kiri. Did you notice I listed this one under "Ozeki"? Yech.


M7 Hokutofuji (6-3) vs. M3 Aoiyama (2-7)
Sometimes Aoiyama looks like he is trying to be nice. Where he should be hitting as hard as he can with those powerful forearms, instead he's placing them on a guy's head and pushing a little. Now, Hokutofuji is good and an unsung rising star, but Aoiyama is an experienced beefsteak and has no reason to fear him. Why, then, retreat and push him on the head? Knock his block off, dangnabbit!! I'm tired of Aoiyama: he needs to commit to being the villain, and to whiffing and losing sometimes, rather than this cautious crap. Just think what he would be like if he fought with the combative fire of Osunaarashi. But he doesn't. Oshi-dashi win for Northern Wisteria (Hokutofuji).

K Mitakeumi (3-6) vs. M1 Chiyonokuni (2-7)
Focus. Mitakeumi kept getting blasted in this one with head butts and very hard hands from a wicked and motivated Chiyonokuni, but Mitakeumi kept putting his head back down and going back in there. Aggression. Forward instincts. I know we are suspicious of Mitakeumi's trajectory on this site, but I am not suspicious of his talent, drive, or instincts. This is a good looking wrestler, and this was a nice oshi-dashi win for him.

S Tamawashi (6-3) vs. M1 Endo (3-6)
Tamawashi went in slow and high up, and I thought he was going to lose. Even put in a pull and a risky momentum-reversing throw try. However, Endo was barely there, and the throw try, featuring a painful-looking arm-wrench, easily worked as Endo zipped past Tamawashi and out, kote-nage. Not Tamawashi's best match, but plenty, plenty.


M14 Onosho (6-3) vs. J3 Gagamaru (5-4)
Gagamaru went all Aoiyama on Onosho, pushing at him with arms outstretched, and Onosho fell down, oshi-taoshi. Which is why I don't put much stock in Onosho.

M12 Tokushoryu (6-3) vs. M15 Myogiryu (3-6)
Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) held Myogiryu up by the face, then pulled him down by the face. He then tried to push him down by the butt, too, as he went past, and kind of missed, and they both ended up putting both hands on the ground (Myogiryu first, giving Saucy the hiki-otoshi win), facing away from each other, in separate spots on the dohyo, like crabby monkeys defending their bit of earth.

M14 Chiyotairyu (5-4) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (4-5)
Kotodumbass is so focused on theatrics he can't win. He hit Chiyotairyu pretty hard in the face on the tachi-ai, but while he spent a moment feeling pretty good about his Bad Boy move Chiyotairyu was tattooing him in the chest, rockin' like Dokken, and pushed him out oshi-dashi in short order.

M16 Yutakayama (1-8) vs. M11 Ishiura (5-4)
Stone Ass (Ishiura) almost won this one outright while pushing hard off the start, but Treasure Mountain (Yutakayama) smartly knocked him to the side at the last minute, saving himself. Ishiura then went low, low, how low can you go, like a dog snuffling for crotch, and Yutakayama responded logically by clamping down on him from above, an upside-down-back-hug, if you will. Holding Ishiura's head right in there while peering out over his stony ass. And that way they stayed for a long time. When Ishiura tried the force out Yutakayama was just too big for him and had him wrapped up to too good: Yutakayama slung him out forcefully by the head and upper body like a gaucho slinging a bolo, kote-nage. Very cool looking.

M8 Shohozan (2-7) vs. M11 Arawashi (2-7)
Shohozan got real low, so Arawashi pushed him down by the head, having ample position to do it as being off to the side a bit, and Darth Hozan put his hands on the dirt. Kote-nage.

M6 Takekaze (2-7) vs. M13 Toyohibiki (2-7)
Here's two warmed-over veterans if there ever were. Takekaze has had a much better career because he mastered what he does--the pull--while Toyohibiki hasn't because he is bad at what he does: the linear force-out, which it seems he can never finish. And that, of course, was a perfect set up for Takekaze: yep, Toyohibiki tried a linear force out, and Takekaze stepped to the side and pulled him down, bag of beans from the freezer slapped down on the counter, hiki-otoshi.

M9 Kagayaki (6-3) vs. M6 Ikioi (6-3)
Experience beat inexperience. Kagayaki won the tachi-ai with some momentum-stopping hands to the face, so he thought he had it: he released the face, went in hard underneath, and thought he'd just bulldoze Ikioi out real quick. Ikioi calmly backed up and pulled the overcommitted Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki) down at his feet, hataki-komi.

M5 Takanoiwa (5-4) vs. M9 Ichinojo (3-6)
People, I don't like Ichinojo, who usually seems sloppy or unmotivated or both. It was fun to watch him stop Takanoiwa dead in his tracks like a rubber wall, but he didn't do anything with it after that, and Takanoiwa was forcing him back little by little. At the end, oddly, Ichinojo was able to slap Takanoiwa down a split second before his own foot stepped out, tsuki-otoshi, but honestly he looked like hell in this bout and I actually thought he'd lost. He'd earned it. Takanoiwa thought he'd lost, too, but when the gyoji turned his back on him and he realized it was he himself who'd lost, Takanoiwa stalked off without bowing.

M7 Takakeisho (6-3) vs. M4 Takarafuji (3-6)
Remember what I said about Ura pushing and pulling? That's pretty much Takakeisho's game, with a lot more round fattiness and less lowness. It worked just fine here; he didn't even have to do much pulling, as Takarafuji looked to be along for the ride, bouncing off Takakeisho a few times without much attempt to get a grip and being bounced right out, oshi-dashi.

M2 Okinoumi (1-8) vs. M3 Daieisho (1-8)
1-8 vs. 1-8, huh? Padmenoumi stood there and Daieisho pushed him out, oshi-dashi. Okay!

Mike wakes Uncle Anesthesia up tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Let's start off our day 9 discussion with talk of bias. In sumo wrestling, is there a favorable bias towards the Japanese rikishi? Is there a bias in the press regarding coverage of Japanese rikishi? Is there a bias among the fans when it comes to choosing their favorite rikishi? The obvious answer to those questions are yes, yes, and yes, but if you step back and view Japanese culture for what it is, it's normal to have a natural bias towards the Japanese rikishi, and I'm actually okay with it.

I think for us foreign fans, the problem arises when we refuse to acknowledge such a bias and treat sumo wrestling as if everything was straight up and conducted in a vacuum. It's pretty clear to me that Sumotalk makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable, and I understand that, but for us not to address the obvious bias towards Japanese rikishi and the way that bleeds into the ring would be completely irresponsible.

With that said, let's turn our attention to the day's action starting with Kyokushuho visiting up from Juryo to fight M14 Chiyotairyu. Kyokushuho got his right arm inside at the tachi-ai while reaching for the left frontal grip while Chiyotairyu was a hair late at the tachi-ai, and so the Juryo rikishi was able to dictate the pace maintaining that right inside while lifting Chiyotairyu upright and grabbing the left outer grip in the process, and Chiyotairyu was done seconds into the bout falling to a 5-4 record. At J2 sporting a 6-3 record, looks like we'll see Kyokushuho back up here in July.

M15 Kaisei picked up the freebie today against M12 Kotoyuki who withdrew due to an injury I'm not even going to bother looking up. The result pushes Kaisei to a comfy 6-3 mark.

M16 Yutakayama and M12 Tokushoryu hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where neither rikishi was able to grab the right outer grip, and so each dude took turns wrenching their foe left and then right testing the tsuki-otoshi waters as they circled the edge of the ring. This was a true back and forth affair, and after circling about two thirds of the ring, Yutakayama went for the kill wrenching Tokushoryu down but not before stepping across the straw and suffering a heart breaking loss. The loss makes his make-koshi official at 1-8, and I hate to nitpick a kid when he's down, but if you're going to settle for the belt at the tachi-ai as Yutakayama did getting the left arm inside early, you can't use your right hand up high pushing into the face of your opponent as that completely opens up your right side. These little mistakes continue to plague the rookie as Tokushoryu survives his way to a 6-3 record.

M11 Ishiura henka'd to his left hooking his left arm up and under M13 Daishomaru's right armpit while using his right arm at the back of Maru's head dragging him down to the dohyo in a second flat. Cheap win for Ishiura who moves to 5-4 while Daishomaru falls to 6-3.

M15 Myogiryu went for the left frontal belt grip at the tachi-ai, which meant he was committing to yotsu-zumo, so M10 Tochinoshin gladly complied in the migi-yotsu contest. As the two jockeyed for position, Shin reached for the left outer grip getting it on the third try, and from there he was able to pry Myogiryu off balance and throw him over and down. Textbook stuff as Tochinoshin improves to 7-3 while Myogiryu falls to a frustrating 3-6.

M9 Kagayaki was unable to dictate the pace with his tsuppari attack as M14 Onosho forced the bout to migi-yotsu. Kagayaki complied getting his right arm to the inside, and he was no easy cookie to bully around due to his size. As the two dug in, it looked to me as if Onosho was struggling with his position, but Kagayaki bailed him out going for a senseless kote-nage throw with the left that provided the momentum shift Onosho needed to finally drive his opponent out of the ring. Kagayaki probably should have gone Ichinojo here and dug in using his size advantage, but that's easy for me to say. Onosho moves to 6-3 with the win while Kagayaki falls to the same mark.

M9 Ichinojo worked his right arm inside against M13 Toyohibiki from the tachi-ai as he maintained a frontal outer grip with the left all the while using his weight to lean into Toyohibiki and force him backwards, and once Ichinojo got the right arm inside firmly, it was curtains for Toyohibiki as the Mongolith scored the easy force-out win from there. I know it's only Toyohibiki (2-7), but Ichinojo can do this to anyone ranked in these parts as he ekes to 3-6.

M11 Arawashi henka'd to his left against M8 Sokokurai grabbing Sokokurai's right arm and using that to yank him over to the edge before pushing him out by the face for the cheap win. Absolutely no one cared about this one as Arawashi "improves" to 2-7 while Sokokurai falls to 3-6.

M10 Ura ducked low staying square in front of M8 Shohozan as Shohozan first sorta leaned into the back of Ura's head before firing baby slaps towards his melon. As Ura inched forward, Shohozan reached for the back of Ura's belt with no intent of grabbing it, and at that point Ura just bulldozed him out of the ring to the delight of the sheep. Shohozan is one of the feistiest rikishi on the banzuke, so to see him slap that lightly at the back of Ura's head was ridiculous. Easy yaocho call here as Ura is gifted a 7-2 start while Shohozan takes his lumps falling to 2-7.

M6 Takekaze seemed to win the tachi-ai against M7 Takakeisho using light shoves as the younger rikishi shaded to his left, and at the first sign of a shoulder swipe from Takakeisho, Takekaze pretended as if he was just hit with a wrecking ball adjusting his plane of attack and crazily stepping outside of the ring for no reason at all. Our second fixed bout in as many contests as Takekaze falls to 2-7 while Takakeisho is bought and paid for at 6-3.

M7 Hokutofuji kept both arms out wide at the tachi-ai going for a quick pull as he shaded right giving M5 Shodai the easy target to just bulldoze back and out of the ring without a fight. Honestly, to say that Hokutofuji's horrible tachi-ai was intentional would be clear speculation, so give Shodai another good win as he moves to 7-2. If Hokutofuji was fighting straight up here, he's gotta sort out that tachi-ai as he falls to 6-3.

M5 Takanoiwa did nothing at the tachi-ai enabling M6 Ikioi to go for an immediate right kote-nage, and the Mongolian didn't even try and counter just flopping to the dohyo a few seconds in. I'm pretty sure Takanoiwa (5-4) was mukiryoku here as Ikioi moves to 6-3.

M3 Daieisho used his tsuppari attack against a lethargic M4 Takarafuji, and even then he couldn't bully his opponent around, so he moved around the ring a bit before grabbing Takarafuji's extended left arm and moving to the side pulling Takarafuji down in a weak attempt. Takarafuji just crumbled to the dirt of his own volition, and they didn't even bother to show a replay it was that bad. Daieisho buys..er..uh..picks up his first winna the basho at 1-8 while Takarafuji moseys to a 3-6 clip.

I think they should start parting M2 Okinoumi's hair down the middle, braiding each side, and then wrapping it around his ears Padme-style because this dude has simply lost the will to live. I'm pretty certain that no money changed hands as a result of this bout, but no one can deny that Okinoumi was completely mukiryoku against M2 Chiyoshoma today. The two hooked up from the tachi-ai in hidari-yotsu with Okinoumi maintaining the right outer grip; and yet, Okinoumi was just standing there allowing Chiyoshoma to pull him down with a weak left scoop throw and tug at the back of the head. I don't know what's going on with Padmenoumi, but the dude can barely stand on his feet these days falling to 1-8 while Chiyoshoma ain't much better at 2-7.

Komusubi Yoshikaze won the tachi-ai against fellow Komusubi, Mitakeumi, scoring on exactly one shove before just pushing his arms up into Mitakeumi's neck area, and Mitakeumi's only response was to keep his right palm open and facing upward, a senseless move in sumo. With Mitakeumi doing absolutely nothing, Yoshikaze just slapped him down in the middle of the ring without argument. Mitakeumi was clearly mukiryoku from the start in this one, and instead of his usual Tasmanian Devil approach in the ring, he was just listless here. Perhaps Yoshikaze called in a favor because Mitakeumi isn't this hapless as Yoshikaze improves to 5-4 while Mitakeumi has to humble himself a bit at 3-6.

Sekiwake Takayasu and M1 Chiyonokuni bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai before Kuni began to take control with his feisty tsuppari attack connecting on some nice shoves and keeping Takayasu upright, but with Chiyonokuni in control, he suddenly backed off a bit whiffing on a wild left hari attempt before allowing Takayasu to charge in and force the bout to the belt. Chiyonokuni just stood there allowing Takayasu to get the left arm inside and right outer grip, and Chiyonokuni himself had a right outer grip of Takayasu's belt, but he just relinquished the hold and stood there waiting for the throw attempt, which came straightway. Chiyonokuni couldn't put his hand down fast enough, and sorry to say this, Takayasu fans, but Chiyonokuni was mukiryoku here sacrificing one for the cause bumping up Takayasu's record to 8-1 while Kuni himself falls to 2-7, and before we move on, just a couple of random takes.

First, I stated on day 7 erroneously that Takayasu still had to fight Kisenosato (along with the three Mongolians). Takayasu and Kisenosato are actually stablemates, so they will obviously not meet each other in week 2. Second, as it regards Chiyonokuni and his giving up the bout today, I think it's a matter of Chiyotaikai trying to curry favor with his oyakata elders. I believe most of the willin' and dillin' as we say in Utah when it comes to bout fixing occurs at the oyakata level these days. Finally, Takayasu is just two wins away from Ozeki promotion, and how do I know that? All of the media outlets are posting the magic number in regards to the Sekiwake, or countdown of the number of wins he needs in order to get to 10. You know, the way they used to count down magic numbers for all of the Mongolians? Or not.

M1 Endoh shaded a bit to his right against Sekiwake Kotoshogiku offering no defense, and so the Geeku got his beefy left arm to the inside and began bodying the defenseless Endoh back and out with no argument. This was a matter of the kohai deferring to his senpai, and as soft as Endoh's sumo can be at times, his heart is even softer because he clearly felt pity for the former Ozeki here. When guys like Endoh start feeling sorry for you and throwing bouts in your favor, it's prolly time to retire. The Geeku is close I'm sure as he limps to 2-7 while Endoh settles for 3-6.

That was quite the string of mukiryoku bouts all in a row, so we thankfully got back on track as our two Ozeki stepped into the ring. Terunofuji grabbed the early left frontal grip at the tachi-ai, which was an outer as he also worked his right arm to the inside, and Goeido carelessly brought his right arm to the outside giving Terunofuji moro-zashi, but before Fuji the Terrible could set up, Goeido moved sideways going for a fruitless pull, but he wasn't slippery enough as Terunofuji maintained the left inside the entirety of the bout eventually sucking Goeido back in close with his tractor beam and forcing him across the bales in short order. There's really not much to say about this one other than these two clearly belong in different divisions. Terunofuji is 7-2 and just needs one more before he can get all charitable. As for Goeido, he still needs some help at 5-4.

M4 Tochiohzan is a difficult matchup for Kisenosato, who keeps his arms wide open at the tachi-ai, so their bout today was really a matter of would Tochiohzan try and win. And the answer was a big YES as Oh secured moro-zashi and forced Kisenosato back and across with zero argument. What happened to Kisenosato's being so heavy that he's difficult to move? Tochiohzan has as much spunk to him these days as a helium balloon two days after the party, and yet he just destroyed Kisenosato. I guess the Kiddie did score on one move, which was a hapless right slap at the tachi-ai, but it obviously didn't faze Tochiohzan today. I mean, there was no counter move nor any offense against an M4 in the twilight of his career, and what's this guy's rank??

During half time of the Makuuchi broadcast today, NHK produced the following graphic that showed Kisenosato's opponents through day 8 and then the number of seconds each of his bouts lasted as follows:

I'm actually surprised that NHK showed it, but I think they did so as cover up to indicate that it's only a matter of Kisenosato's being off his game this basho. Against scrubs like Daieisho (5 seconds) and Okinoumi (9 seconds), Kisenosato won in under 10 seconds, but even factoring in those lower scores, it's taking him an average of 25 seconds per win. Now that's of course assuming that all of the wins were straight up, which we know they weren't, but what this chart indicates to me is how inept he is and that the guy has zero moves. I kinda give him credit for a counter left tsuki that I see him throw now and again, but you could probably list the tangible moves, or waza, that he's actually displayed during his bouts this tournament on one hand. Go back in the history of sumo and show me a similar chart for any Yokozuna from the past at any point during their career.

What's scary is that there are actually people who have convinced themselves that this is all real. I am literally haunted by the fact that so many people out there believe it, and then I'm terrified during election season to think that their vote counts the same as mine. It literally keeps me up at night some times. Anyway, Kisenosato falls to 6-3 meaning at least five guys have given him wins (I'll give him Daieisho straight up), and then the three light weights who have tried to win have just pounded him in under 10 seconds each. It's just pathetic. As for Tochiohzan, I don't fault the dude for taking the kensho cash as he moves to 5-4.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho executed a quick hari-zashi tachi-ai against M3 Aoiyama connecting with the left slap before getting that arm to the inside, and then quick as a cat he clinched the right outer grip on the other side. From there, he pulled Aoiyama in snug and then spun him down with the right belt throw easy as you please. Hakuho moves to 9-0 with the win while Aoiyama falls to 2-7.

In the day's final affair, Sekiwake Tamawashi struck first at the tachi-ai forcing Yokozuna Harumafuji to shift right and go for a pull that caused The Mawashi to lose his footing, and before he could recover and stabilize himself, Harumafuji rushed in and forced his compromised opponent back, out, and into the front row in a wild and sloppy affair we usually see from the elite Mongolians. Harumafuji was all business today at 9-0 while Tamawashi is calmed a bit at 6-3.

Harvye's breakin' the chains tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Greetings, sumo fans. In our constant effort at SumoTalk to bring you Innovate Coverage, I will be "live blogging" today's matches. Just to be clear, I'm comfortably at home in an arm chair watching TV, not at the venue, but it's "live" in that I will be reporting on the matches in real time. Why? Why not!

Y Kisenosato (5-2) vs. M3 Aoiyama (2-5)
The crowd was rhythmically clapping for this one, the sure sign of an over-hyped local fave. In their minds, the best had been saved for last, and they needed only bask in the glory of Their Golden Yokozuna, Lord Kisenosato. I would say the word for the feeling for him now is "adore." With the lovey-dovey, isn't-my-baby-cute connotations. They just like him so very much. They are so pleased with him.

And they got to enjoy him prancing around for quite a while, as there were still fifteen minutes to go when the Harumafuji match finished, and as you may know there is not a formula for when to start these, except filling up the broadcast with a six o clock finish punctual and round (giving enough tie for replays and wrap-up discussion) if you can. And they could!

The crowd oohed really loudly as Kisenosato stood to go do the final salt toss. We are really seeing something here, are we not, they eagerly told themselves! Ooh, yes! Kisenosato makes me write with lots of exclamation points!

And Aoiyama did not spoil their party. Kisenosato grabbed him by the body with his accustomed stance, left hand high on the body inside under the pit, right hand on the belt outside, and they hopped around the ring, boing, boing, boing, as Kisenosato just did not have any leverage to get his opponent out with. As usual. Which is why his bouts are so long. Eventually he bounced Aoiyama over to the edge, where he just could not get him out either, though he had now moved down to the belt on the left as well as the right. They stood there straining for a long time. Finally, instead of letting Kisenosato force him out, Aoiyama apparently decided okay, I am done, because he slackened up and stepped out. As if someone had called time. But no: okay, you got me! I am done! Over. Yori-kiri.

Y Harumafuji (7-0) vs. M2 Chiyoshoma (1-6)
Yikes. Harumafuji has been a lot more fun the past couple years than Hakuho. Hakuho may well still be the better wrestler, but Harumafuji consistently fights harder and displays his power more. Even his sloppy ones, with their wild kinetic intensity, are more entertaining, less frustrating. In this one he held nothing back and eschewed any sloppiness. It was the nasty story of three excoriating neck grips: Left. Right! LEFT!! Oshi-dashi. destruction. Destruction. DESTRUCTION!!!

S Kotoshogiku (1-6) vs. Y Hakuho (7-0)
Oh, the fans were happy for this, too. How would The Storyteller (Hakuho) handle it? With force and thunder. No fooling about here. He hit Geeku very hard and fast at the tachi-ai, got his left hand on the belt, then changed it up on a dime, released his left position and shaded a little to his right, pulled Kotoshogiku down by the head lightning quick, uwate-dashi-nage. At least I think so, because this one was really fast and the replay and such was interrupted by a North Korea missile bulletin (we lived!). Bottom line is Hakuho looked great here and, for my money, just gave Kotoshogiku a perfect excuse to retire one loss short of his make-koshi. I think he will not, though, as it was just a little too humiliating of a loss. If Endo gets him tomorrow, that may be it, though.

M1 Endo (2-5) vs. O Goeido (5-2)
Would rather just skip this one, but here they are. Like Mike, I have no fundamental objection to the powerless but technical solid Endo. I just do not like how he is used. As for Goeido, I still think he fights like a mayfly, all fluttery and ridiculous, so I guess you could say I object to him. His sumo is... tiresome to watch. Eye-rollingly wild and flappy and inconsistent. The crowd was really into this one, and I think someone had decided to give this one to Endo. Did I just say he was underpowered? You would not know it here, as he blasted Goeido back and Goeido gave on as if he would just have to pull him. Goeido almost went out, with his feet sliding along the tawara just over the loose sand outside of it, and I think they were both disappointed when he stayed in. Endo squared back up, but was ripe to suffer if counterattacked. Instead Goeido foolishly swiped at him again, and Endo drove forward again, arms outstretched but not really doing anything, and lo! Goeido went out, yori-kiri, imagine that.

O Terunofuji (5-2) vs. K Mitakeumi (3-4)
Hoo boy, warned my inner shullbitometer. But no. While Terunofuji looked like he was trying out a new dance move for those who do not want to use their legs when he spun his hands at the tachi-ai and left himself wide open, after Bully Goat (Mitakeumi) bashed into him, Terunofuji slurped him up in the kime grip, which is both arms on the outside, and wrenched him up the air: the body of Bully Goat formed a perfect X in the air, feet wide apart, flying in fleshy grasp. And Fuji the Terrible brought him to the straw and deposited him outside it, kime-dashi. Oh yes.

K Yoshikaze (4-3) vs. S Takayasu (6-1)
Busy writing, I couldn't see who it was the crowd was getting so excited for. I was surprised to look up and see it was Takayasu. My take on him early in his career was that he would never get the hype because the mixed Philippines and Japan ancestry would leave the crowds unmoved. So there is a big part of me that has been very happy with his Ozeki run, and with popularity like this. This is exactly the kind of acceptance of diversity that Japan really needs to embrace, and that sumo has had a really, really hard time with. I just wish he deserved it more in the ring. He is not bad, but he does not feel like an Ozeki. He is looking pretty good this tournament though: he destroyed Yoshikaze in just three moves: one hand to the neck, one blow to the face, and one violent swipe down hataki-komi, like a karate dude breaking bricks. Cool.

S Tamawashi (5-2) vs. M2 Okinoumi (1-6)
Whoa. Tamawashi stood up, put both hands on Okinoumi, and pushed forward, arms outstretched. And it worked: Okinoumi did nothing but hold on and backpedal out. Instant, totally dominant oshi-dashi. Frankly, either the difference between these guys is even bigger than I thought, or Okinoumi was not focused today, because he could have at least tried a little evasion. Tamawashi looked like a guy pushing a fridge on wheels.

M1 Chiyonokuni (1-6) vs. M3 Daieisho (0-7)
Two small guys in a fair fight. Started out with tsuppari, which favors Chiyonokuni, but then went to belts, with both guys having a left inside, which I thought should favor Daieisho. However, Chiyonokuni was proactive and limber in shaking his waist with sharp jerks to keep the Daieisho grip loose, and it was the more experienced Chiyonokuni who had the strength and focus to then force Daieisho out, yori-kiri. Another good one.

M7 Hokutofuji (5-2) vs. M4 Takarafuji (3-4)
I like both these guys. Neither has any hype, either. Hokutofuji should be getting some soon, and if they ever unleash Takarafuji on a late bloom, I'll be ready for it. And this was a great, classic chest to chest match in the end. Hokutofuji started with neck shoves, moved inside on the body with his right hand, then got it down to the belt, but his grip was very shallow, whereas Takarafuji had a deep, powerful outside left. They paused a long time at the straw with Hokutofuji having his back to it. Takarafuji then unleashed a strong push-out charge, and Hokutofuji was swaying on the straw: he looked dead to rights. But he had the energy left to sway hard enough to break out of the line of the Takarafuji attack, and after that it was Takarafuji who was in trouble. Youth was served: Takarafuji was gassed, had made his last throw, and Hokutofuji bodied him up and forced him out, yori-kiri, for the great "gyaku-ten" (comeback) victory. Man, oh man, sumo can be really great. Match of the Day, I would bet you ten bucks right now.

M4 Tochiohzan (4-3) vs. M7 Takakeisho (4-3)
Tochiohzan is looking heavy and old. I remember him as lighter and more lithe, and his new sluggishness showed in the bout. Takakeisho pushed and retreated all over the place, and Tochiohzan just could not keep up with it. He was out of control all over the place as the matched zigged and zagged all over the dohyo. Eventually Tochiohzan just gave up and stood at the edge and let Takakeisho push him out, oshi-dashi. Yeesh.

M8 Shohozan (2-5) vs. M5 Shodai (5-2)
Black vs. white: Darth Hozan vs. Vanilla Softcream. This was good, fast, hard hitting stuff, with Softcream showing surprising speed and good power. Hardcream. Speedcream. He swept his hands upwards at the tachi-ai while Darth put both hands on his neck, but Shodai grabbed Shohozan bodily and rushed him right out, kime-dashi.

M5 Takanoiwa (4-3) vs. M8 Sokokurai (3-4)
Takanoiwa looked like he ran into the great wall of China, Sokokurai stopped his charge so hard. Sokokurai also had great position, with his right arm way inside on the belt and holding the right arm of Takanoiwa at bay. However, Takanoiwa had a dominant left on the belt and is very strong, and body-and-armed It Is Dark There (Sokokurai) out in short order. Excellent stuff.

M12 Tokushoryu (4-3) vs. M6 Ikioi (5-2)
Okay, oddly this live format is causing me to write longer, not shorter. This match may help: Tokushoryu pushed Ikioi in the face while Ikioi did hyperactive tsuppari in his face (shades of Yoshikaze) and backed-up while being held by the neck. Give credit to Special Sauce for focused forward movement and the consequent oshi-dashi, but Ikioi could have employed a better strategy here, methinks.

M6 Takekaze (1-6) vs. M9 Ichinojo (2-5)
And we have our first bad match of the day, not surprisingly featuring a Bad Match King, Takekaze. This one was mostly Ichinojo holding onto his opponent and too cautiously following him while Takekaze pulled at him. Then Ichinojo did something really dumb: let Takekaze get separation, then waited for the next move. And Takekaze responded with something surprising: just plain hit Ichinojo in the face. He then rushed forward and pushed blobby Ichinojo out, oshi-dashi. This was good for a nice, wicked chuckle--it looked great--but the problem was that I absolutely do not buy it that Takekaze's strike to the face so stunned The Mongolith that it resulted in him having to walk three steps backwards. Well, but that is what happened.

M13 Toyohibiki (2-5) vs. M9 Kagayaki (5-2)
Could it be that Kagayaki is just developing? That just as he was a late bloomer in getting to Makuuchi, he is a late bloomer within the division? His size and long arms are scary, and he has been winning well this tournament. However, he had a lot of trouble against the easily-solved Toyohibiki. They both decided for a while that this should be a linear, mano a mano affair, which was a mistake by Toyohibiki. Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki) went hard at the throat and chest, and all the aggressive pushing was lots of fun. Finally Mosquito switched it up and did some evasions with pulls, and one of these worked, getting him in position for the oshi-dashi win when they squared back up and Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) was near the tawara and gassed. While this took too long, the good sign for Skeeter is that he won, in the end, by NOT being linear. He's learning, and can be a force if he can shed the passivity and continue learning to beat mobility.

M14 Onosho (5-2) vs. M10 Ura (5-2)
On no, it is Ura. Sho him something, Ohyessho! I liked Onosho's approach: kept himself hunkered down and his feet apart, was swift and hard with his tsuppari. However, you have to give Ura credit: he of course stayed even lower down, and far enough back that the shoves of Onosho could not hurt him. He then stepped to the side at the right time, ole!, and pushed Onosho out from behind as Onosho whiffed against his retreating shadow. Oshi-dashi.

M10 Tochinoshin (5-2) vs. M14 Chiyotairyu (5-2)
Perhaps you have heard me say to get the lower position. Perhaps it sometimes just does not matter. Chiyotairyu was lower and pushed Tochinoshin up a bit. I actually thought it was going to work. But Chiyotairyu did not have near the power necessary to knock Tochinoshin any further backwards, and Tochinoshin surged in against his sloppy opponent, got moro-zashi both hands inside, and lifted the tiny and annoying obstruction out, yori-kiri.

M15 Kaisei (4-3) vs. M11 Ishiura (4-3)
Normally I would expect a slaughtering here, with Kaisei the butcher and Ishiura the tiny lamb. And that is what we got. The size difference was so big they looked like members of different species. Kaisei just pushed at little Stone love (Ishiura), survived one pull, then finished him off first by bumping into him with the head and shoulders and then a little coup de grace shove while Ishiura danced in midair and departed the dohyo. Satisfying destruction. Kaisei's kimari-te was push-over, oshi-taoshi.

M11 Arawashi (1-6) vs. M13 Daishomaru (5-2)
Nice hard hitting tachi-ai here, then an instant and beautiful upending flip of Arawashi by Daishomaru, who has looked way, way better than usual this tournament. Daishomaru was low and had a hand inside, and he backed up and to the side smartly while using the left inside arm to wrench up and throw, sukui-nage. The lightweight Arawashi was a rag doll being batted around inside the space shuttle: zero grav. Okay, I was going to write a screed here about how Daishomaru is my new least favorite (too much pulling all the time), but this, have to respect this.

M16 Yutakayama (1-6) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (3-4)
Yep, Yutakayama is so far big, flabby, and nothing else. This is his cup of coffee in the major leagues, and I will not need to see him anymore after this tournament. Kotoyuki has been floundering of late, but he worked Yutakayama easily here, bashing him with tsuppari, retreating strategically, choking him, and eventually knocking him over from the side while pulling him down by the head, kata-sukashi. Yutakayama was all sweaty and his belly had a big wet mud spot on it as a result. That is what it looks like after the match when you are terrible, I guess.

M15 Myogiryu (3-4) vs. J2 Chiyomaru (3-4)
Welcome back, Chiyomaru. Or not. He is a round butterball with no skills. However, he did fine in this one, as Myogiryu continues to imitate a gasping fish on the beach. This was just a tsuppari battle, but Chiyomaru kept his hands focused hard and inside, he leaned forward at the proper angle, not too much, not too little, Little Red Riding Hood, and he made Myogiryu look bad, yori-kiri. Well, maybe Myogiryu now is bad.

And I am over too. Hakuho and Harumafuji maintain their dominant undefeated leads, and we remain wondering: will they? Will they not?

Mike saws the matches up tomorrow in his buzz factory.

Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The day 7 broadcast began with a sit-down interview with Hokutoumi, and the interview as not a review of the state of sumo; rather, the theme focused on Hokutoumi's rise to Yokozuna, the pressure of the rank, and how he responded, especially when he ran into speed bumps like injuries or slumps where he couldn't seem to yusho for a stretch. Personally, I thought the piece was rather boring, but I think they set it up to reinforce the fact that Yokozuna will struggle, and I'm quite sure they're not covering for any of the Mongolians here if you know what I mean. Otherwise, I don't have much to say as a prelude to the comments, so let's get right to the action.

The day began with a pretty solid bout of yotsu-zumo that of course involved two foreign rikishi in M15 Kaisei and the visiting J1 Osunaarashi. The two hooked up in gappuri migi-yotsu where Kaisei had the more advantageous outer grip with he left closer to the front of the belt, and as the two went chest to chest, Kaisei overpowered the beaten and battered Osunaarashi over and out with little argument. This one lasted about five seconds, but it was still nice to see some old school sumo as Kaisei predictably moves above .500 after giving away some early losses.

If you ask me whose the better rikishi between M14 Onosho and M14 Chiyotairyu, I'd take Onosho this way till Tuesday, but even Onosho is susceptible to a couple of beefy paws to the face from Chiyotairyu, which is exactly what the latter did from the tachi-ai, and so with Onosho seeing stars from the tachi-ai, Chiyotairyu was able to swipe down at his chest as he tried to lean back into the bout. It lasted about a second and a half, but the difference was Chiyotairyu's Christmas ham hari-te with the right hand from the start. This is an example of where the better rikishi does not win in sumo as both dudes end the day at 5-2.

Where the rookie Onosho has been flourishing for the most part this basho, his counterpart, M16 Yutakayama, has been struggling to find his place in this division. Against a vulnerable guy in M13 Toyohibiki, Yutakayama looked to have the advantage early getting his left arm up and under Toyohibiki's right armpit, but Yutakayama was passive at the tachi-ai and looked to move backwards instead of forward, and so Toyohibiki just bulldozed him back and to the side to where Yutakayama's left foot sloppily touched outside the ropes as he tried to evade. Yutakayama needs to decide what kind of rikishi he wants to be and then strive to become that. As of right now, he's just floundering at 1-6 with that single loss coming as a gift from Kaisei on day 1. Toyohibiki limps forward to 2-5.

Two more guys struggling in the division are M15 Myogiryu and M12 Kotoyuki, but of these two, Myogiryu still has more game than his opponent, and that was on display here as Myogiryu fought off Kotoyuki's legless tsuppari attack with a few swipes and moved around the ring just enough to keep Yuki off balance to where he could work his way inside and push Kotoyuki back and across in about five seconds. Both rikishi end the day at 3-4.

M12 Tokushoryu seemed content to fire tsuppari towards M13 Daishomaru as Tokushoryu slowly retreated, and talk about a senseless tactic. But instead of taking advantage of his opponent's passive stance, Daishomaru felt as if he had hit the wall about two seconds in and then tried to reverse gears going for a pull himself.   Bad move as Tokushoryu finally moved forward in the bout using his bulk to power Daishomaru back and out with some oomph. Tokushoryu moves to 4-3 with the nice comeback win while Daishomaru blew one here falling to 5-2.

In a cat and mouse affair, M11 Ishiura tried to duck his way in against M10 Tochinoshin who whiffed on a left hari attempt at the tachi-ai, but he quickly recovered getting his right arm up and under Ishiura and the left outer grip, and that's all he would need.  Ishiura only had the right arm to the inside, and he tried to twist his way out to that side and set up a dashi-nage move, but Shin had him by the back'a the belt with both hands and just slung the smaller Ishiura over and down. They ruled it shita-te-nage in the end as Shin moves to a comfortable 5-2 while Ishiura falls to 4-3.

M11 Arawashi henka'd to his left against M9 Ichinojo grabbing the cheap outer grip and using it to sling the Mongolith over to the edge, but credit Ichinojo for nearly squaring back up and putting the pressure on Arawashi.  Arawashi was too quick, however, latching onto Ichinojo's right arm and pulling him out tottari style. It's too bad to see these two being forced to flounder at this level as Arawashi picks up his first win at 1-6 while Ichinojo is hardly better at 2-5.

In our first mukiryoku bout of the day, M8 Sokokurai put his right arm forward and left foot back allowing M10 Ura to just grab onto that arm, methodically back up, and then yank Sokokurai to the edge by said arm where Sokokurai just sloppily stepped out. This is one of those bouts where the victor really doesn't do anything definitive; he just ends up victorious in the end thanks to dumb sumo and sloppy footwork by his opponent. Ura moves to 5-2 to the delight of the crowd while Sokokurai quietly falls to 3-4.

M8 Shohozan briefly shaded to his left at the tachi-ai, but M9 Kagayaki was able to adjust and catch Darth Hozan with some well-placed shoves forcing Shohozan to retreat and possibly evade, but Kagayaki's size allowed him to stay right on top of his opponent's every move, and the result was a nice, three-second win by Kagayaki using straight-forward sumo. Good stuff here as Kagayaki picks up one of his more impressive wins in the division moving to 5-2 while Shohozan falls to 2-5.

I know I bag on M5 Shodai a lot, and that will happen when opponents constantly defer to him inflating his rank on the banzuke. It's just really hard to get a read on his true abilities when the sumo is fake. Down in these parts against M7 Takakeisho, however, the two were involved in a straight up bout, and this enabled us to get a true look at Shodai's abilities. Takakeisho came with his usual hissing charge where he strikes and then retreats, strikes and then retreats. The larger Shodai stood his ground well and patiently waited for an opening that came after the third volley in the form of a left arm planted in Takakeisho's chest, and that enabled him to halt Takakeisho's charge and cause him to retreat, and as he did so, Shodai pounced scoring the quick shove out win in the end. I would love to cover Shodai and heap praise upon him if he was fighting in straight up bouts at his proper place on the banzuke, but we rarely get to see it. Shodai moves to 5-2 with the win, and I loved his sumo today while Takakeisho falls to 4-3. Before we move on, I think Shodai's true place on the banzuke is around M6 while Takakeisho is an M12 guy.

In a useless affair, M6 Takekaze sorta struck M5 Takanoiwa moving to his left, but Takanoiwa was on the move staying square and catching Takekaze with some well-timed thrusts as the latter went for those dumb pulls.  It lasted about two seconds, and then we were treated to Oguruma-oyakata making excuses for his guy in the booth. Takanoiwa quietly moves to 4-3 while Takekaze falls to 1-6.

I noticed that M6 Ikioi showed up today with his right elbow heavily taped, but it made no difference against M4 Takarafuji as Ikioi used a nice right kachi-age to sneak that right arm to the inside, and then as Takarafuji began to retreat to his left, Ikioi just followed in stride scoring the two-second push-out win. Pretty good stuff from my man Ikioi who moves to 5-2 while Takarafuji falls to 3-4.

In a bout that signaled the changing of the guard, M7 Hokutofuji recovered quickly from a stupid left half-henka where he went for the outer grip by driving his right paw into Tochiohzan's jaw keeping him at bay, and as the youngster regrouped, he moved quickly to his right forcing Tochiohzan to move laterally as well, and the younger Hokutofuji was just too fast turning the tables and getting the right arm to the inside, which enabled him to body Tochiohzan upright and then force him back for reals as we say in Utah. Hokutofuji one-ups his opponent at 5-2 to Tochiohzan's 4-3.

I didn't get the exact count of kensho banners marched around the ring prior to the M3 Aoiyama - M1 Endoh bout, but I don't think Aoiyama could resist the quick cash because he came today with some fierce tsuppari directed into Endoh's head driving him back a step or two and forcing him to look up into the rafters, but credit Endoh for not giving up and trying to work his way back into the bout. As he did so, Aoiyama switched gears and went for an offensive pull/swipe move that felled Endoh on the other side of the dohyo.  I actually liked Endoh's sumo here even though he was forced to fight defensively from the start. The kid's got some game; he just doesn't have sufficient power to succeed on his own higher than the M10 rank. Aoiyama picks up a wad of cash to go along with his 2-5 record while Endoh falls to the same mark.

Sekiwake Takayasu looked to recover from his straight-up ass-kicking at the hands of Tamawashi yesterday stepping into the dohyo to face M2 Chiyoshoma, who would hopefully be more compliant in favor of Takayasu than his countryman was yesterday. Takayasu came with a nice right kachi-age from the tachi-ai winning the initial charge, and as Chiyoshoma backed up a step doing little, Takayasu caught him with a mild swipe at the back of Chiyoshoma's left shoulder, and I guess that was the sign because Chiyoshoma did a ridiculous cartwheel across the dohyo. I mean, that tap from Takayasu was akin to a dude seeing a long lost friend and giving him a "Hey pal, how ya doin'?!" tap to the back of the shoulder. I'm not saying that Takayasu can't beat Chiyoshoma (1-6) straight up; I am saying that Chiyoshoma's intent was to let Takayasu win today, and it was evident by that fall. After the shoulder tap, Takayasu was standing there upright still trying to move in order to square up with his gal. If you unleash a shove to guy's shoulder that's going to send a guy into that kind of summersault across the dohyo, you've gotta set it up and use the lower body. Anyway, easy yaocho call here as they let Takayasu move to 6-1, and it just so happened that NHK had a cameraman positioned in the perfect place to catch this scene immediately after the bout:

It was actually quite an effective scene for a certain demographic, but it all plays along to the script of getting Takayasu promoted to Ozeki.  The media is actually counting down the number of wins needed for promotion.  Takayasu entered the basho with 23 wins over the last two tournaments from the sanyaku, so he only needs four more now to reach 33.  He has yet to fight the three remaining Mongolians, and then will he feel obligated to drop a bout in favor of Kisenosato?  Those are four possible losses for him, so let's just see how it plays out.  Course, if they could get Kisenosato promoted to Yokozuna, they can sure as hell find a way to get Takayasu to Ozeki.  And the funny thing is, it's Tamawashi who is the actual Ozeki candidate.  Tamawashi now and Terunofuji's rise two years ago where completely organic, but Takayasu has been prepped and coddled into this position for some time now.

Moving along, Sekiwake Tamawashi came with his usual fierce tsuppari attack aimed at M1 Chiyonokuni, and credit Kuni for trying to stand his ground, but he's no match for the long arm of the law tsuppari attack from the Sekiwake. It took about five feisty seconds, but Chiyonokuni simply ran out of real estate as The Mawashi pounded him into oblivion moving to 5-2 in the process. Chiyonokuni falls to 1-6 but credit him for his effort. After the bout, they actually speculated that Tamawashi could be another candidate for Ozeki. Ya think??  He's so much better than Takayasu, but the agenda does not call for another Mongolian to join the elite ranks.

In an entertaining affair between two guys used to being coddled, Ozeki Goeido and Sekiwake Kotoshogiku hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai and exhibited a pretty good chest to chest bout considering their respective abilities. Goeido seemed content to let Kotoshogiku fire his best shot, but it wasn't enough as the Ozeki was able to pivot nicely near the edge and delve a right tsuki into the Geeku's side sending him down to oblivion and a 1-6 record. As for Goeido, he moves to a carefree 5-2 as he looks to stave off his kadoban status.

In a similar bout, Ozeki Terunofuji and M2 Okinoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu where neither rikishi had the outer grip, and as Terunofuji used his bulk to drive Okinoumi back to the edge, Okinoumi went for the same right tsuki-otoshi attempt as Kotoshogiku the bout before, but Fuji the Terrible had him in too close and all of the momentum, so he easily kept his balance forcing Okinoumi back and across without argument. Terunofuji is a methodic 5-2 while Okinoumi joins the Geeku at 1-6.

Yokozuna Harumafuji led with his head at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Yoshikaze looking to burrow inside, but Yoshikaze was able to back away and move to his left, but the Yokozuna was just to quick catching Yoshikaze with some wicked tsuki standing him upright and forcing him across with some oomph. Pretty methodical stuff here as the Yokozuna dominates his foe moving to 7-0 while Yoshikaze falls to 4-3.

The most anticipated bout of the day for the Japanese fans featured Kisenosato vs. Komusubi Mitakeumi in a bout that went to hidari-yotsu from the start where Mitakeumi wrangled for the right frontal grip eventually getting it, and once obtained, he drove Kisenosato back to the edge...only to suddenly go Chiyonokuni and halt his charge. With Mitakeumi letting up at this point, Kisenosato was able to force the "action" back to the center of the ring, and Mitakeumi may as well have been a statue because he just stood there like a bump on a log still maintaining a pretty sweet right outer grip while Kisenosato had none. I mean, Mitakeumi had the dashi-nage open or another yori charge, but he opted to just stand square in front of his opponent and wait for his move...which eventually came in the form of a force-out charge with no resistance from Mitakeumi. The photo finishes of Kisenosato's bouts are so telling.  I mean, what the hell is Mitakeumi trying to do with his right leg there?   If you have the outer grip, you position yourself to the side of your opponent, but in today's affair, Mitakeumi just kept himself square and upright directly in front of fhe Kiddie waiting for him to make his move.  He eventually did and was gifted the win, but if you understand basic physics and proper angles in sumo, it's so easy to pick these bouts apart and label them as yaocho.  The Komusubi clearly deferred to his senpai here as Kisenosato moves to 5-2 while Mitakeumi falls to 3-4, and prior to the bout, a record 61 kensho banners were marched around the ring meaning the victor received approximately $18,000 in cash.  All I can say is that Mitakeumi is a better man than I am, but you can at least see now how Kisenosato can afford to pay for these bouts.  Pretty nifty system they have going on.

The day's final affair saw Yokozuna Hakuho execute his unstoppable tachi-ai where he leads with the hari-zashi getting the right arm inside and left outer grip, and while today's opponent was a scrub in these parts, M3 Daieisho, the Yokozuna can use this tachi-ai to defeat his opponent any day he pleases. Daieisho could do nothing to defend the tachi-ai or dig in and counter, and so Hakuho just drove him back forcefully sending him across the straw without argument. Hakuho joins Harumafuji at 7-0 with the win, and you'd think the yusho this basho would come from one of those two, but if they defer to the likes of Takayasu and Kisenosato, anything can still happen.  As for Daieisho, he falls to 0-7, but what are you gonna do?

That wraps up weak 1, which was a weak with zero surprises. Oh wait, I meant week.  For hump day tomorrow, Harvye is considering posting his comments live as the bouts occur in the comments section below, and even if that doesn't work out, you can take it to the bank that he'll come up with something solid.

Day 6 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Five days in! It's a runaway, landslide victory for Hakuho and Harumafuji! Right? Not quite. Not quite yet. The best bet is that one of those two will cruise to a snoozer of a victory, but as long as the Hakkaku Revolution is in full swing, there are other possibilities: could Takayasu's Ozeki run get an exclamation point by taking the yusho? Maybe. Maybe. Probably not, but maybe--I think that will be a bridge too far, as there then would be Yokozuna talk surrounding him. The more realistic looming fetish is "Kisenosato's Amazing Comeback Victory!!!" Because why not!

So, as the tournament rounds into the reality my update on the storylines is to say there is really only one, and that we have been reading it for years: Japan vs. Mongolia. My sense is that Mongolia is being given its turn, but, fatted on calf the last eight tournaments, there is still a chance Japan may get a little greedy.

M16 Yutakayama (1-4) vs. J1 Sadanoumi (2-3)
I don't know what to make of Treasure Mountain (Yutakayama) yet. So far, he looks big and drivable: you can ensconce yourself in his honeypot of fat, vroom up your motor, and take him for a spin. That's what Sadanoumi did here. Treasure Mountain was looking to smother him out, but Sadanoumi was low and inside and turned the key in the ignition and steered the big rig over the straw speedbump at ring's edge, yori-kiri.

M13 Toyohibiki (1-4) vs. M13 Daishomaru (4-1)
As you know, Daishomaru is one of my least favorite wrestlers because he can't win by anything but pulling. But wait! I lie! This tournament he has been a model of oshi aggression, easily dealing out death and destruction with straightforward, doom-sealing charges. Um, what? Which is why I agree with Mike that Daishomaru's May tournament thus far is a giant dollop of shull bit. Here Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) put his hands up much too high, in Daishomaru's face, and so Daishomaru just matter-of-factly removed him from the dohyo backwards, oshi-dashi. Yeah, we'll see about that.

M12 Tokushoryu (3-2) vs. M14 Chiyotairyu (3-2)
Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) has always been a guy gifted with great girth and not much else; we look up distractedly to see if he can put something together, then go back to our bowl of Cheerios when we see he's trundling his way back to Juryo. Case in point: Chiyotairyu pulled him here, usually a prelude to a bad Chiyotairyu loss. Then, Chiyotairyu actually grabbed his belt and they actually got into a yori-kiri match, which was like watching the sun set in the east. So, Chiyotairyu should have been burnt to a crisp, right? No. He awkwardly carried Tokushoryu out of the ring, like a dangling baby, oddly held by a bit of left hand belt, yori-kiri. Whelp, that's why thems ain't sanyaku!

M14 Onosho (4-1) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (3-2)
Like Yutakayama, I remain underwhelmed by Onosho. For one, he looks too small to amount to much. For two, I haven't noticed him doing anything in particular that I can note, like "wow, he's strong," or "he moves forward well," or wazever. Kotoyuki, however, was so impressed with him that he had to henka the little rookie. Well, what can I say. This is Kotoyuki after all. Guy is flummoxed and lost. Onosho, while undoubtedly thinking "you big silly," turned to the compromised Little Snow (Kotoyuki) and thrust him out, tsuki-dashi.

M11 Arawashi (0-5) vs. M15 Kaisei (2-3)
While I'm waiting for Arawashi to turn into the next Kakuryu, reality continues to proceed unabated. Kaisei grabbed the lithe and tricksy Arawashi by the belt, spun him around, and slung him out of the ring like wet udon down a split bamboo tube, yori-kiri.

M15 Myogiryu (2-3) vs. M11 Ishiura (3-2)
As you may have noticed, the whole of my sumo technical advice pretty much amounts to this: get the lower stance. As demonstrated here. Ishiura surged in low, giving him advantageous position. Myogiryu, alarmed, pried Ishiura's head up in order to try to even things out. Ishiura smartly went back down, a gopher popping back into its hole, and it was curtains: Stone Ass (Ishiura) was driving hard and Myogiryu was standing tall and had no leverage and lost, oshi-dashi.

M9 Ichinojo (2-3) vs. M10 Ura (3-2)
Now this one, with its massive size difference, I was looking forward to. It was tempered by the knowledge (yep, "hoo boy") that with wrestlers this prominent in the rooting and pecking orders we were unlikely to get a natural evolution. So, I was displeased to see Ichinojo stand there like a lump of lard, further displeased when after his smart use of Ura's arm to toss Ura to the side he instead halted that motion and let Ura go, and finally unimpressed by what should normally be a good time: Ura dragging Ichinojo halfway across the dohyo to the head and throwing him to the dirt, kata-sukashi. Ura is a distraction of Takamisakari-esque proportions.

M8 Shohozan (1-4) vs. M10 Tochinoshin (4-1)
Shohozan's mission here was to keep Tochinoshin off the belt, and to tempt him into a slap-fight. It worked. There was Tochinoshin, slapping away like a mime polishing a mirror. So, while that was going on Shohozan flipped the script, ducked under the hands, and grabbed Tochinoshin by the belt so far around the waist he looked like he was escorting his frail grandma to church. But instead pushed Grandma into the canal, okuri-dashi, that bad Darth Hozan!

M7 Hokutofuji (3-2) vs. M8 Sokokurai (3-2)
Sokokurai stood up, Hokutofuji stayed low. Oh, there was lots of arm grappling, but the basic orientation off the tachi-ai was kept true by Hokutofuji, and that's enough of the story for me, as he cautiously and patiently waited until It's Dark There (Sokokurai) was close enough to the edge to be pushed out, oshi-dashi.

M9 Kagayaki (3-2) vs. M7 Takakeisho (4-1)
You know what? This is not "wrestling." Two guys pushing at each other a lot, bouncing off each other, and then one of them (Takakeisho) falls down because he is sloppy when he rushes toward the off-balance other (Fried Mosquito, Kagayaki), who is also falling down. Leading to a "whatever!" kimari-te of "thrust-down" (tsuki-otoshi) win by Kagayaki. I mean, what am I to make of this? I know, I know, there is actually nothing in the Chinese characters that make up the word "sumo" that suggests a direct translation to "wrestling." Still. Sigh. Oh, okay.

M6 Takekaze (1-4) vs. M6 Ikioi (3-2)
Well, I'm happy to say Takekaze is having a really bad tournament, because much as I admire his ability to win with what he's got--pulls and henkas--this particular carton of milk is way, way past its spoil date. I've kind of been boggling at his ability to continue to win this way for… years. Dude is 37. Is his end finally at hand? Takekaze henka'ed crisply after initial contact, but Ikioi turned to him and battered him down, hataki-komi. Hah! A bit of his own medicine.

M5 Takanoiwa (2-3) vs. M5 Shodai (4-1)
The Next Yokozuna, Vanilla Softcream (Shodai), has got nothing, folks. Takanoiwa, who has developed into a tough, solid, bland mid-ranker (threatening to everybody who is not good), grabbed a right outside on the belt off a nice, burrowing tachi-ai, then put his left hand on Shodai's face and pushed him emphatically over backwards while tripping him, soto-gake. The dropped Vanilla Softcream melted pathetically on the sidewalk.

M2 Okinoumi (1-4) vs. M4 Takarafuji (2-3)
Takarafuji: shallow left inside belt grip. Okinoumi: can slung back, waiting for an opportunity. Like, for a really, really long time. That won't work, man. Takarafuji never gave him an opportunity and yori-kiri'ed him out.

M4 Tochiohzan (3-2) vs. M2 Chiyoshoma (1-4)
Jumping like a nimble leprechaun, Chiyoshoma sprang forward up out of the crouch, bouncing off Tochiohzan a little. How is that going to help you? Wasn't I just telling you to stay low? And who jumps at the tachi-ai like that? So, Tochiohzan bum-rushed him towards the straw. When Chiyoshoma got there, he showed off another wee leap, straight up in the air and back down in front of Tochiohzan. Again, that won't help you much. You're supposed to evade! So Tochiohzan pushed him out, oshi-dashi.

S Tamawashi (3-2) vs. S Takayasu (5-0)
I think Mike and I have been pretty consistent in saying this, but I want to make it clear: Takayasu has been fighting hard of late, is often impressive, and is a pretty good wrestler. But Tamawashi, with his dominant forward moving strength, focus, and finish, is the better wrestler, and the guy I'd rather see at Ozeki. I was surprised and delighted to say that this match was an excellent demonstration of that: a "perspective" match, as the man said yesterday. Tamawashi grabbed Takayasu by the face, shook him back and forth a few times, then rushed forward and flicked Takayasu effortlessly from the ring, oshi-dashi. It was that quick and that lopsided. And that great.

S Kotoshogiku (1-4) vs. K Yoshikaze (3-2)
First of all, it's been years since Kotoshogiku could mount any effective pressure moving forward. When his opponents want to, they stop his momentum like a ball of fluff hitting a Velcro wall. Yoshikaze did that. To Kotoshogiku's credit, however, he is still good enough that Yoshikaze, a lightweight, had trouble moving him backwards in turn. No problem. Yoshikaze opted to drag Kotoshogiku forward and force him down by the shoulder, kata-sukashi, while Yoshikaze calmly nuzzled up against the straw. I will admit I'm puzzled by Kotoshogiku not retiring. When, already? I wish I could say I admire his refusal to quit, but I don't see any Indian Summer coming for him and he's already received a nice send-off present in January 2016, so at this point he's just a distraction. He should wait until he loses to someone significant over the next few days (Yoshikaze is not in that category) then announce his retirement.

O Terunofuji (3-2) vs. M1 Chiyonokuni (1-4)
I'm going to give Terunofuji the benefit of the doubt on this one, because he won, yori-kiri, when he eventually grabbed the tiny, vulnerable Chiyonokuni by the upper body and forced him out. But this one went on for quite some time, and was a slap-fest. Whose game is that? It is Chiyonokuni's. Let's say you're as big and experienced as Terunofuji, and after years of training and hard knocks in the beya, you're not in the least fazed by taking a pounding. You've got the size and stamina to weather it. Your style is to fight on the belt. So, when a smaller guy batters away at you, what do you do? I submit that the answer is not "give as good as you got." It's that you ignore the flailing, step in, grab the guy by the belt, and throw him out. That did not happen here for a long, long time. Why?

K Mitakeumi (3-2) vs. O Goeido (3-2)
It is a measure of how irrelevant Goeido is that I did not realize who Mitakeumi's opponent was until after the bout finished. I was like, who is that guy who just unleashed the awesome, nonchalant-looking belt throw that tipped Mitakeumi on his head like a nuclear bomb, shita-tenage? It was Goeido. But I'd spent the whole match as usual admiring Bully Goat (Mitakeumi) being aggressive. It worked out poorly for him, though. He couldn't move Goeido back, then lurched past him--paying for his aggression--when Goeido stepped to the side. During their re-engagement, Goeido planted his feel well apart, got way deep on the back of Mitakeumi's belt, and destroyed him as told above. This is as good as you'll see Goeido look.

Y Kisenosato (3-2) vs. M3 Daieisho (0-5)
Lord Kisenosato is sloppy and never wows you, but I don't care what anybody says, he is not going to lose to a guy like Daieisho. Daieisho looked great in the lower ranks last tournament going off like a bottle rocket in every match, but his bottle rocket lodged in Kisenosato's folds of fat and sputtered out. There wasn't much here but Daieisho running into The Lord, being stopped, pulling him, being caught around the body, and being driven out by His Lordness, who fell on top of him for good, sloppy measure, yori-taoshi. But I'm sticking to my line on Kisenosato: pretty good Ozeki, not good enough for Yokozuna. Plenty good enough to be under no threat from the likes of Daieisho, though, helpless upper-Makuuchi cannon-fodder-of-the-fortnight.

M1 Endo (2-3) vs. Y Hakuho (5-0)
Typical late career "let's play around and see what happens" Hakuho. You may be of the school that says Hakuho has lost a step. Even so, we know Endo is small and underpowered. For what earthly reason would Hakuho, the greatest Yokozuna of all time, not engage him on the belt, and instead opt for dangerous tsuppari shenanigans, with wide separation between them? Hakuho spent the entire match thrusting and batting at Endo. He threw in a pull. He punched Endo to the straw, but relented and retreated. Even so, it was all too much for little Endo, who ran out of the ring, disoriented and defeated, when head pulled at the end by Hakuho. Yes, Hakuho won, but I'm sorry, but this is not Yokozuna sumo. It's vaudeville.

Y Harumafuji (5-0) vs. M3 Aoiyama (1-4)
There was a brief spell when Aoiyama was a favorite of mine, with awe-inspiring full-length arm-thrusts. I cooled on that some time ago; he's also lackadaisical, often clueless, easily beaten by the better wrestlers, and does not employ his arm thrusts often or forcefully enough. So, with no politics to worry about in this one, I knew what was going to happen: Aoiyama had no chance against the still-very-powerful Harumafuji. Indeed, this was a one-sided, boring affair, with Harumafuji surging forward, keeping his head on Aoiyama's chest, and forcing him out in seconds flat, yori-kiri. This was Yokozuna sumo.

Tomorrow Mike's invisible lantern illuminates all.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The news this morning was the withdrawal of Yokozuna Kakuryu after a poor 1-3 start, and the withdrawal was no surprise to anybody. With four elite Mongolians actively fighting, that's a lot of wins to suck away from everyone else, and so you either have to have one or two of them go mukiryoku, or you have one or two of them withdraw. In this case, Kakuryu decided to withdraw, and it actually took me a bit of digging to find a news article that mentioned an injury. Most of them just said he was fuchou, or in poor condition, but then I finally found someplace that cited pain in his left ankle. Whatever. This is going to be a common thread until a couple of these guys retire because you just can't have four Mongolians going all out and trying to win. Since the promotion of Terunofuji, we haven't seen it once nor will we ever see it as there are too many Japanese rikishi who need to be continually propped up.

That's not exactly a new revelation, but Kakuryu's withdrawal was the top news story heading into the day, and it will be forgotten by time the evening headlines are posted from day 5. With that said, let's get to the action starting with M14 Onosho who struck with a right paw into M15 Myogiryu's throat as he craftily shaded left scoring the quick pulldown win in one motion. The tachi-ai wasn't cheap, and Myogiryu did nothing to counter; thus the quick result as Onosho skates to 4-1 while Myogiryu falls to 2-3.

M16 Yutakayama came with a right kachi-age and then he began his tsuppari attack after that, but it was too late as M13 Daishomaru got under him and pushed him upright, back, and out. The rookie's gotta blast his opponent with his tsuppari attack at the tachi-ai, not this kachi-age business. Yutakayama falls to 1-4 after the loss as Daishomaru improves to 4-1.

M14 Chiyotairyu led with a right paw and a few quick tsuppari against M13 Toyohibiki before backing up and committing on a series of pulls. He was lucky that Toyohibiki couldn't keep up as Chiyotairyu scored the pulldown win in the end moving to 3-2 while Toyohibiki falls to 1-4.

M12 Tokushoryu came with a nice right paw into m15 Kaisei's throat driving the Brasilian back a few steps, but as Kaisei dug in, Tokushoryu went on the move using his tsuppari to keep Kaisei at bay. After a few seconds, Kaisei finally forced the bout to hidari-yotsu where neither rikishi had the outer grip, and with Kaisei standing there like a bump on a log, Tokushoryu pivoted right and fired a tsuki into Kaisei's left side that send the Brasilian down to a soft landing on one knee. We'll chalk this one up to Kaisei's bad knee because I'm ina good mood as he falls to 2-3 while Tokushoryu improves to 3-2.

M11 Arawashi kept his arms wide at the tachi-ai giving M11 Ishiura the path to moro-zashi as Arawashi finally latched on with a right kote grip, but he just stood there allowing Ishiura to grab the right frontal grip and load up for a nice inside belt throw and mutual pull that sent Arawashi out with ease. Yet again, Arawashi just stood there in his bout not doing anything. You'd at least think he'd try and counter with that big outside grip using a kote-nage attempt, but he's been content to be lazy at the tachi-ai and then do nothing else in the ring. Dude's obviously mukiryoku so far for whatever reason as he falls to a doughnut five while Ishiura moves to 3-2.

M12 Kotoyuki stood straight up at the tachi-ai clueless as to what M10 Ura would try, but Ura was hesitant as well, and I think this was the case because his oyakata didn't pay for the bout. How do we know? After an awful tachi-ai from Kotoyuki, he was still able to plow forward and knock Ura back and across with zero argument. If Ura was really fighting well this basho, he'da done more than that, especially after Kotoyuki's lame tachi-ai, but when the fix isn't in, Ura usually gets his ass handed to him. Both rikishi end the day at 3-2.

M9 Ichinojo lazily reached for a right frontal grip of M9 Kagayaki at the tachi-ai but abandoned that in short order and largely just stood there as Kagayaki went Mitakeumi on his opponent meaning he wasn't really employing any measurable waza, but he was busy flailing around in the ring and trying to move forward. Ichinojo complied still doing nothing, and you could tell where this bout was going. As Kagayaki worked his way around the edge of the ring, he tried to grab a left outer, but his hand slipped off, and so as he finally began firing thrusts towards Ichinojo, the Mongolith just stepped out of the ring giving Kagayaki the win. Ichinojo was obviously mukiryoku here as he falls to 2-3 while Kagayaki improves to 3-2 with the gift. No way in hell that Kagayaki can fry Ichinojo's mosquito if the Mongolian is trying.

M8 Sokokurai looked to get moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M10 Tochinoshin, and he had the left arm to the inside, but he was being cuffed and stuffed on the other side. In the process, Tochinoshin grabbed the left outer grip and continued to pinch in on the other side to where he was able to lift Sokokurai back and across leading with that left outer. This bout was definitely straight-up, but just watching these two I get the impression that they feel as if they having nothing really to fight for. Tochinoshin improves to 4-1 as Sokokurai falls to 3-2.

M7 Takakeisho went Aoiyama today employing hissing tsuppari against M7 Hokutofuji before quickly going for a pull, and with Hokutofuji unable to get to the inside at all, Takakeisho continued his plan of a few pushes and then a pull; a few pushes and then a pull. Through it all, Hokutofuji was never able to get anything established and was off balance throughout, so after about eight seconds, Takakeisho was finally able to score with a nice pull. You'd like to see him win forward here, but credit him for dictating the pace throughout as he picked up the nice win. It'd sure be nice if we could see this sort of aggression in bouts that involved guys like Shodai and of course Kisenosato. Takakeisho pads his record at 4-1 with a legit win today as Hokutofuji falls to 3-2.

M5 Takanoiwa played right into M8 Shohozan's hands today doing nothing at the tachi-ai and largely standing there as Shohozan pushed and moved around the ring. Not having to really fend off an attack, Shohozan was able to swipe from the side and knock Takanoiwa off balance turning him sideways at which point Shohozan just ran in for the push out kill from behind. Takanoiwa was lackadaisical in this one leading to the easy win for Shohozan, who get of the schneid at 1-4. Takanoiwa is 2-3 for his troubles.

M6 Takekaze struck M4 Takarafuji upright and then immediately bodied him back, but he didn't have any sort of grip on his opponent, and so Takarafuji was able to pivot to his left and grab Takekaze by the outer arm executing a kote-nage that threw Takekaze off balance and set up the easy pushout in the end. Ho hum as Takarafuji limps to 2-3 while Takekaze falls to 1-4.

M5 Shodai is an easy matchup for M4 Tochiohzan if the latter is intent on winning, but that wasn't the case today as Tochiohzan kept his right arm way out wide at the tachi-ai. I mean, this guy is moro-zashi or bust, so to see him not even attempt it was a major red flag from the start. Without moro-zashi and having opened himself up fully on the right side, Shodai moved to his left (Tochiohzan's right) grabbing the outer belt, which he then used to drag the defenseless Tochiohzan across the ring and out. Don't get me wrong, I actually thought that was a heads-up move from Shodai, but Tochiohzan was mukiryoku and let it happen. Shodai is an unimpressive 4-1 while Tochiohzan nonchalantly falls to 3-2.

Two of the finer rank and filers who are overlooked met up today in M3 Aoiyama and M6 Ikioi in a bout where Aoiyama took full charge leading with a right kachi-age and then tsuppari to keep Ikioi upright. With Ikioi unable to get to the inside, Aoiyama grabbed him by the head, moved to his left, and then pulled Ikioi down with little argument. I thought Ikioi actually looked a little bit intimidated here as he falls to 3-2. As for Aoiyama, he picks up his first winna the basho.

Sekiwake Tamawashi pounded Komusubi Yoshikaze at the tachi-ai with his tsuppari attack and then drove forward with his lower body, and there was nothing that Yoshikaze could do as the Sekiwake just pulverized him back and out. This is one of those "perspective" bouts, which clearly illustrates the great divide between the Mongolians and the Japanese rikishi. Yoshikaze was supposedly hot, but when Tamawashi comes out to win, Yoshikaze isn't even a matchup for the Mongolian. Both rikishi fall to 3-2, but you can definitely see the real difference between both guys.

Sekiwake Takayasu struck hard with a nice kachi-age using the right arm that knocked M1 Endoh back, and as Endoh marawi-komu'ed right, Takayasu caught him with the left arm inside forcing the bout to yotsu-zumo. The two hunkered down at this point with Takayasu testing the right outer grip waters. Takayasu wasn't that close, but Endoh was nowhere close, and so he tried to escape to his left, but Takayasu was too quick easily pushing Endoh back across before he could Houdini is way outta there. Another good perspective bout here as Takayasu stays perfect at 5-0. Takayasu is not Ozeki material, but none of the Big 5 can hold his jock. Endoh falls to 2-3 after the pounding and is at the complete mercy of his opponents anywhere above the M10 rank on the banzuke.

M1 Chiyonokuni focused on a left kote grip of Ozeki Goeido at the tachi-ai, but then slipped off of it and just stood there at Goeido's bidding. The Ozeki wasted no time in getting the left inside and following that up with a right paw to the face, and with Chiyonokuni set up for the kill, he did nothing to try and evade near the edge, and it almost looked like he jumped upward and into Goeido as the Ozeki caught him in the air and easily shoved him across. Easy mukiryoku call here, and we didn't have the same disappointed theatrics afterwards from Chiyonokuni as we did when he came up short against Kisenosato a few days ago. He falls to 1-4 after deferring to the Ozeki while Goeido moves to 3-2.

I suppose Ozeki Terunofuji has repented sufficiently for his henka of Sekiwake Kotoshogiku last basho, and in today's rematch, he allowed the Geeku to hook up in migi-yotsu where Kotoshogiku actually had the left outer grip, but despite the supposed advantageous position, his gaburi attempts were fruitless as the Ozeki let him get his jollies for a few seconds before grabbing his own left grip and showing how it's really done. Once again, Terunofuji scored the effortless uwate-nage win moving to 3-2 while Kotoshogiku gave it his best shot and still didn't make a dent falling to 1-4. Afterwards Kitanofuji said, "See, the crowd will give you the applause if you at least let him fight" alluding to last tournament when the Ozeki took Kotoshogiku out of it entirely with that henka.

I don't even look at the next day's pairing even when I report these days. I get up, sit down on the couch in my underwear, and then turn on the TV with my laptop and go to town, so when I saw that the next bout was Mitakeumi vs. Hakuho, I had one of my Harvye hoo-boy moments. To make matters worse, when Hakuho stood fully upright at the tachi-ai offering a light left hari and right kachi-age, it was really HOO BOY. But Mitakeumi couldn't take advantage whatsoever and let Hakuho get the right inside and left outer grip. Even then, Hakuho wasn't hunkered down and was still fully upright, but Mitakeumi could do nothing, and so Hakuho dragged him over to the edge and forced him out by the outer belt grip and then a right paw pushing lightly into Mitakeumi's neck. Even though Mitakeumi had just been driven back and across, he never let go of Hakuho's mawashi, and so the Yokozuna hopped off of the dohyo in tow continuing to push into Mitakeumi's neck. Some may have thought that this was a dame-oshi, but it was actually Mitakeumi's forgetting to let go to of the belt after the bout...a no-no in sumo. Hakuho showed good sportsmanship helping the Komusubi back up from his first row seat, but it was a weird moment indeed.

Before we move on, I often say that Hakuho isn't fighting is hardest even when he wins, and today was a good example. He leaves openings for his Japanese opponents all the time, but they rarely capitalize. If Hakuho was fighting 100%, the end of the bout doesn't end up on Hakuho's side. He woulda charged forward forcefully using de-ashi to filet Mitakeumi and dump him across the straw on the Komusubi's side, not his own. There just wasn't the same force here despite Hakuho's win, and it's in an effort to make it appear as if the Japanese rikishi are on par with their foreign opponents. Hakuho stays perfect at 5-0 while Mitakeumi falls to 3-2.

Yokozuna Harumafuji moved to his left against M3 Daieisho and just slapped him down in half a second. There were the usual jeers from the crowd, and I get it. Even if Daieisho has no chance to defeat the Yokozuna straight up, the crowd is paying money to watch, and so you need to give them a better show than that. Harumafuji is perfect as well at 5-0 while Daieisho falls to 0-5.

M2 Okinoumi picked up his first win of the basho today defeating Kakuryu as if the Yokozuna wasn't even there.

In the day's final affair, M2 Chiyoshoma struck with the left arm into Kisenosato's chest while moving to his right and grabbing the right outer grip in the process, and at this point he had the dashi-nage there for the taking, but he stopped moving and let Kisenosato at least get the left arm to the inside. Still, Chiyoshoma was at a nice angle and had the perfect soto-gake opportunity, and he set his right leg up for the leg trip a couple of times but never went for it as the crowed screamed in horror at the prospects. Chiyoshoma finally let go of the advantageous position, and the two next hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Chiyoshoma next set up an inside dashi-nage throw, but he executed maybe one third of it before holding up yet again, and by this point, the Mongolian already had three or four good attempts to defeat Kisenosato, but he refrained each time making the outcome obvious. And remember, this is the same Kisenosato who yesterday could do nothing against Endoh. If Kisenosato was so heavy and hard to move as many are wont to say, how come Endoh of all rikishi was able to move him back as if he was pushing an empty shopping cart downhill? Anyway, with Chiyoshoma clearly not intending to defeat Kisenosato, he finally stood square and offered no resistance as Kisenosato drove him back and across the straw scoring the hapless yori-taoshi win. It was yori-taoshi because Kisenosato was out of gas and couldn't keep his feet, not because Kisenosato was applying any force. I mean, you look at that pic above and there's actually space in between their chests!!  How is it a force-down if there's no force applied?  They obviously don't have anything else they can call it, so I get it, but picking apart the flaws to Kisenosato's bouts is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.  Kisenosato moves to 3-2 with yet another gift, and his hapless sumo is on display each day win or lose. As for Chiyoshoma, he'll eat well tonight as he falls to 1-4.

And that's a wrap on the joubansen. Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Takayasu are all perfect at 5-0. I don't see how Takayasu doesn't get promoted to Ozeki after the tournament, and let's see how the remaining three Mongolians handle him when the time comes.

Harvye kicks off the chuubansen or middle five tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Could I possibly have the temerity to suggest there are some storylines worth following this basho? Why, yes I could.

First of all, I was delighted that Kisenosato lost on Day 1. And not because of some vengeful bitterness about his silly Yokozuna status--well okay, a little that--but because it punctured the ridiculous developing narrative about this invincible, sudden dai-Yokozuna. He looked very vincible.

Paired with that loss, despite a sloppy, floppy first three days that make you want to grit your teeth and look away, Hakuho is sitting on 3-0, as is Harumafuji. Meaning they’re ahead of Kisenosato and have a chance to run the table on this tournament. Not that I think they will--one of them will likely win, but not with 15--just that the Hakkaku Revolution is not yet so far advanced that they’ve beheaded all the nobles. They just keep them locked in the Bastille--and will perhaps let them out for a May stroll in the Tuileries.

Then there is the perpetual, sad struggle of the Ozeki. You already know my rooting interest, so it will not surprise you to hear I am eagerly hoping against hope that Goeido will join Kotoshogiku in demotion--so far, so good the first three days--and that Terunofuji will cast off his shackles and tired past year-plus and thunder across the landscape. We can also track Takayasu as he almost certainly joins this shrunken club.

And while there are better up-and-comer stories (my eye is on Chiyoshoma, Hokutofuji, and comically-late-bloomer Tamawashi), it appears the Sumo Association has decided we are ready for Ura. So let’s see. And the Hyper Twins, Shodai and Mitakeumi, have five wins between them.

So, sumo sneaks back up on me like that.

M14 Onosho (2-1) vs. M16 Yutakayama (1-2)
Onosho just got up in under and pushed. Yutakayama just defended. Hence, I don’t know how Yutakayama survived so long, especially as he let Onosho get both arms inside fairly early on. He is a big fellow, so that helped. A couple time he almost felled Onosho to the side, but in the end Onosho just pushed him over backwards at the straw, watashi-komi. If this is a sign of things to come, Yutakayama’s technique will hamper him, and Onosho’s lack of size and strength may hamper him.

M15 Kaisei (1-2) vs. M14 Chiyotairyu (2-1)
Kaisei withstood Chiyotairyu’s initial charge easily, then just kind of kept his eyes on him, put his hands on his shoulders, and laboriously pushed him out. Oshi-dashi.

M15 Myogiryu (1-2) vs. M13 Daishomaru (3-0)
Happy justice. The better, more experienced Myogiryu got one arm in underneath on the right. Daishomaru tried to parlay that into a head pull, and the race was on: would Myogiryu fall down first, because the pull down was working, or would his driving momentum push Daishomaru out first? The latter was true, yori-kiri, Myogiryu win.

M12 Tokushoryu (2-1) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (1-2)
Slappy slappy, pully pully. The slappy was by both, but the pully was by Tokushoryu, and he’s kind of too big and unlimber and round and Special Saucy to pull that off, so it was charge-‘n’-win, oshi-dashi-y, for Kotoyuki-y.

M13 Toyohibiki (1-2) vs. M11 Ishiura (1-2)
Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) was slow as molasses in this one, and so let tiny Stone Ass (Ishiura) get underneath him. They were stacked like two L shaped pieces in the game of Blockhead, with Toyohibiki the wobbly one on top you don’t want to touch. Well, Ishiura was your little brother who just wants the whole thing to fall down anyway: he touched him pretty good, pulling a cool shitate-hineri, which in this case was where you back up real quick while pulling a quick jerk on the belt. Toyohibiki wasn’t ready for it, and his upper body, thus induced, left his legs behind. His big fat “L” turned into a straight lower-case “l”--lying down, on the dirt, defeated.

M10 Tochinoshin (2-1) vs. M10 Ura (3-0)
Not so fast, Ura. And oh yes, yes, Tochinoshin! Ura induced a horrible, “oops, are we really starting?” tachi-ai, because everybody’s afraid to get done like a fool. So after yappari agreeing that, yes, let’s do this!, Tochinoshin was kind of mad, and charged in, trying to knock Ura’s head off with some spiteful blows. Tochinoshin’s big, so Ura’s habitual get-underneath stuff, which he employed here, didn’t get him much except a mad bear. And, in a great moment, when Tochinoshin ran past Ura in the fray and Ura positioned himself behind Tochinoshin to push him out from behind, Tochinoshin instead reached back, grabbed Ura’s arm, and torqued Ura over and into a flip, easy as spatula to pancake, kote-nage. Ura did a full 360 degrees on the way off the dohyo, and it was glorious and the way it is supposed to be.

M11 Arawashi (0-3) vs. M9 Kagayaki (1-2)
Arawashi looked kind of lame and weak in his tsuppari attempts, I dunno why, and Kagayaki spread his feet, worked himself forward, and crushed Arawashi off the dohyo, oshi-dashi. Kagayaki is becoming a favorite of mine to watch, not because his sumo is good or I particularly like him, but because he is so technically clueless when he loses but can look so big and dangerous when he wins.

M8 Shohozan (0-3) vs. M8 Sokokurai (2-1)
They both had evasion and circling and slapping on their mind, so that wasn’t very fun. It wasn’t working, however, so they both stuck a right arm inside on the belt then, which I liked better. It was a longer way to reach for Shohozan, but he got it. So, Sokokurai had leverage, and when Shohozan charged, Sokokurai pivoted and used his superior grip to easily collapse Shohozan to the ground, shitate-nage.

M9 Ichinojo (2-1) vs. M7 Takakeisho (2-1)
Slow motion tachi-ai, then pushing and slapping each other in the face. Every match looks the same with all this slappiness. Takakeisho included the occasional step out and pull, and after a couple of tries this worked: Ichinojo stepped past him. So, Takakeisho pushed him out from behind, okuri-dashi. Ech.

M5 Takanoiwa (2-1) vs. M7 Hokutofuji (2-1)
Hokutofuji apparently decided Takanoiwa’s tachi-ai charge was too low, as he just withdrew himself backwards, swiped down, and got the easy hataki-komi win.

M4 Tochiohzan (3-0) vs. M6 Ikioi (2-1)
At first this was a battle to see who could get the arms inside, and you know who was going to win that: Tochiohzan, as that is his specially. So I figured Ikioi was toast, but he’s a strong boy and Tochiohzan is aging, and Ikioi fairly easily drove Tochiohzan to the straw and knocked him down, oshi-taoshi. This one was keyed by Ikioi keeping himself slung low and his feet apart, so that though Tochiohzan was inside, he couldn’t get on the belt, and Ikioi had a base to drive from.

M5 Shodai (2-1) vs. M4 Takarafuji (1-2)
This one was also initially a battle to get inside, but just on the body, no belts at first. Chesty smother lover. Eventually they did get belt going on. Shodai had an inside right belt grip, and Takarafuji an outside left. However, Shodai’s grip was superior: his arm was crooked and his big paw full of belt folds. Takarafuji on the other hand looked like a kid reaching out to play tag: straight arm, barely hanging on to the faraway belt. So, Shodai parlayed that into a yori-kiri force-out when he was ready.

M6 Takekaze (0-3) vs. M3 Aoiyama (0-3)
Aoiyama large. Kill little man! Hit in face. But! Aoiyama scared of little man! Little man tricky! Little man move. Hang back. So, cannot hit so hard. But! Must try! Then. Stepped in too far on hit-kill try. Stepped in too far much. Off balance. Little man hit Aoiyama cleverly from side, knock Aoyama over, oshi-taoshi, brick wall in poorly built Bulgarian house.

K Mitakeumi (3-0) vs. S Takayasu (3-0)
Okay, this is about as interesting as it gets early in a tournament like this: a 3-0 guy who has been hyped and often does look good in his aggression (that would be Mitakeumi, and yes, despite my attempt to define his waza, I have had to retreat to one word, albeit an accurate one: aggressive) against a 3-0 guy who has looked admittedly great so far, bashing the freak out of people and almost assuredly on his way to Ozeki this tournament. So we could see it as an exciting match between two up and comers at different stages of their intriguing rises. Let’s go ahead and see it that way. Mitakeumi was aggressive throughout, striking upwards at the bigger Takayasu and moving forward with good foot action; Takayasu was on the back food and circled around and away. He had to get sideways to escape it, and things looked bad for him. However, getting sideways was good for him: Mitakeumi is less experienced, and didn’t square back up: just continued to attack Takayasu’s flank. So Takayasu let him in there, grabbed him, and flung him violently to the dirt, kubi-nage (neck throw). Cool.

S Tamawashi (2-1) vs. K Kotoshogiku (0-3)
Ha ha ha ha ha! That’s all I’m going to write about that.

Oh, okay. Tamawashi offered two seconds of hands to the face, then stood there looking stiff and manly. Which may look good, ooh yes, but isn’t very good at winning. Just at looking good. So, while Tamawashi held on in his Hard Man way, Kotoshogiku bobbled and goobled and bumpled and boinged. And eventually Tamawashi even let him get moro-zashi, because that’s what happens when you stand there looking manly and tense but not much else. And Kotoshogiku STILL couldn’t get him out. But finally, with some classic, yes, unbearably sexual-looking “gabburi” humping, especially so because 100% straight on with both arms wrapped around the torso, digging in for crescendo and shamelessly committed, those last few eager moments, Kotoshogiku humped his man to the apocalyptic orgasm, yori-kiri.

O Terunofuji (1-2) vs. M2 Chiyoshoma (1-2)
It’s tempting to say, “we’re going to get a straight up bout, because it’s two Mongolians.” False. It’s likely instead such matches are ALSO often about sempai/kouhai respect, who needs a win, and chummy off-ring relationships that go way, way past the appearance of impropriety. So I’ll say Chiyoshoma, normally so tensile and kinetic, looked a little loose and soft here. But the reality is also that Terunofuji’s some pretty good muffin, and when he bodied his fleshy beastliness upon the little snack in front of him, it was all over. Fun to see Terunofuji upend Chiyoshoma like a laundry rack collapsing in a storm gust: one huge, huge uplifting arm under the shoulder, sukui-nage. Good stuff.

M3 Daieisho (0-3) vs. O Goeido (1-2)
I wrote in my intro that Goeido’s fight against demotion is a storyline for the tournament. The reality, however, is that it will never, never come to be. With the Ozeki rank gutted by the disappearance of Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku to undeserved and deserved heavens and hells, Goeido has got to be kept here and will be. It’s just a matter of how and who. Today the “who” was Daieisho, and the how was a lot of hyperactive slapping, but with the feet apart to guard against pulls, and then a bit of on-body aggression to finish it, yori-kiri. And Goeido was your Horton.

Y Harumafuji (3-0) vs. M1 Chiyonokuni (1-2)
I will formally lodge my disagreement with my sumo elder here and say that I thought Kisenosato’s win over Chiyonokuni yesterday was legit: Kise is just too big, and Chiyo too small, and no matter how hard he tried--and he tried hard--Chiyonokuni could not get that mass of mean man out. It was a fun match, and where I thought it was interesting is that it demonstrated Kise’s weakness. Mike opened his segment on this by asking what do you think of Chiyonokuni? I agree the answer is that while he can be entertaining because he’s kind of a perpetual underdog, and scrappy, he ain’t much of a thing and doesn’t belong at this rank. So to watch him beat back and befuddle the surprised Yokozuna for a bit was a treat, and telling. Now, here, we had essentially the same thing: Chiyonokuni opened a can of whup-ass, to the best of his ability, on Harumafuji. And whupped exactly nothing. While Kisenosato was flummoxed, Harumafuji weathered the slappery effortlessly and drove immediately and easily forward, into the fray, sending Chiyonokuni flying away to the netherworld, oshi-dashi. So now you know what I think of that.

K Yoshikaze (2-1) vs. Y Kakuryu (1-2)
Kakuryu, the Invisible Yokozuna, stood tall throughout and pushed on Yoshikaze’s face. Now, if I was insulting somebody in an alley and had a gun in my belt and three guys at my back and wanted to humiliate the guy and make him angry, maybe I’d do that. But this is sumo, and Yoshikaze was undoubtedly quite okay with being treated this way. Because after Kakuryu threw in a pull for good measure, Yoshikaze went in on the open body underneath and drove Kakuryu out, oshi-dashi. Kakuryu threw Yoshikaze to the ground as he went out, but it was for effect, already too late, because this was not an episode of “Mob Beat Down,” but of “Do This In Sumo And You Lose.”

Y Kisenosato (2-1) vs. M1 Endo (1-2)
The Great One, Lord Kisenosato of His High Domain, brought nothing to this one and played bale-of-hay. The Lord stood up off the tachi-ai, stood around, and stood for a poundin’. He offered a few weak hand jabs of defense, but wasn’t going forward. However, fortunately for the Lord, at first Endo didn’t have much either--until he slipped. Sometimes fortune is found in mishaps, because when Endo’s foot slipped and he almost went down on one knee it brought him a few centimeters lower, and what had been an ineffective rat-a-tat-tat on Kisenosato’s upper body and arms became an effective drive against his belly from underneath. Lower position, people. I think also Kisenosato was taken off guard and perhaps relaxed when Endo almost went down, because as soon as Endo recovered Kisenosato went backwards like an iceberg finally tipping, and the first few rows in the crowd got to feel what a rolling iceberg feels like, whammo, in this oshi-dashi win for Endo and loss for the Lord, Kisenosato. And it is with great relief that I can now report with confidence that this will not be Lord Kisenosato’s third straight championship tournament. Having dispensed with the Lord, let’s turn to a king.

M2 Okinoumi (0-3) vs. Y Hakuho (3-0)
Slightly hesitant tachi-ai from Hakuho, but he got his right arm inside on the belt and his left outside. Big, strong, supple Okinoumi also had his right arm inside on the belt, though. So, did this mean the Yokozuna was in trouble? No. Hakuho calmly, coolly waited for the tiny slips in focus, pressure, momentum that I can’t see but he can feel, and nudged Okinoumi bit by bit back to the straw, over it, and out, yori-kiri. Maybe this looks like boring sumo to some, but to me it was beautiful: we’ve seen so little of it lately.

Even if and especially when it’s uncomfortable, Mike tells you the stuff tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I've posed this question before, but why doesn't the Sumo Association issue press credentials to foreign media entities?  Can anyone think of another "sport" that does this?  I mean, why wouldn't you want more coverage of your sport, especially if a huge media outlet came calling?  The reason isn't that the Sumo Association doesn't want the coverage; they don't want the scrutiny.  I was entirely incredulous today as I watched the Day 3 bouts play out, and now I think I can relate to Itai when he first claimed that on any given day about 80% of the bouts were fixed.

When Itai first made those claims, I was like no way. I mean, we've all seen instances where a 7-7 guy is given preferential treatment on senshuraku, or we've seen the ailing Ozeki get a favor or two in his quest for eight wins, and then I picked up early on that guys would sometimes defer to their opponent late in the basho if the opponent was in the yusho race and the guy offering the favor wasn't.  Who knows if money exchanged hands, or if there really was a broker as Itai claimed he was keeping track of who owed who wins, money, etc.?

How things are arranged behind the scenes is a topic for a different day. I'm just here to tell you that day 3 of the Natsu basho was one of the worst days I have ever seen in terms of bouts compromised and mukiryoku sumo. I guess there have been days similar to this one in terms of sheer numbers, but today really stood out in terms of the horrible acting. I also know why they have Kitanofuji and Mainoumi on the broadcasts so often. Man, those guys should run for public office because they can lie their way through anything. Coincidentally, both Kitanofuji and Mainoumi are NOT members of the Sumo Association. They are the only two dudes paid to assist with the broadcasts, and for good reason.

Anyway, let's get to the day's bouts starting with M15 Kaisei, who has been an interesting watch the first three days. On day 1, he gifted Yutakayama the obvious win, and then on day 2, he gave Onosho the easy win. How do I know?  Well first, Yutakayama is a straight up oshi guy (think Chiyotairyu minus the Red Bull); yet, against Kaisei, he overwhelmingly defeated Baby Huey at the chest and belt with a horrible grip to boot.  As for Onosho, he was totally lost on day 1, but against Kaisei on day 2, you'da thought he was the sport's next Yokozuna the way he handled the veteran Kaisei with ease. Now, I like both of our rookies a lot and have high hopes for them, but guys don't look so polished their first few days in the division.

And then if you were wondering if Kaisei was still injured or not, he answered that question today against M15 Myogiryu getting the shallow moro-zashi from the tachi-ai that enabled Myogiryu to quickly maki-kae and force the bout to yotsu-zumo, but Kaisei quickly shored up his left inside position and scored the easy force-out win in just seconds. Both of these dudes end the day at 1-2, and Kaisei was able to offer the two wins to the rookies because he can make the ground back up the rest of the way. Not so sure about Myogiryu who falls to 1-2 himself.

Speaking of M14 Chiyotairyu, he came with a straight forward charge and potent tsuki straight into M16 Yutakayama's torso, and credit the rookie for going toe to toe with his foe, but he was overwhelmed in the end as Chiyotairyu nearly drew the tsuki-dashi kimari-te moving to 2-1. Yutakayama falls to 1-2 after the loss, and this is what you expect from a rookie in the division...even if they have game.  They're going to struggle until they can figure things out.

M14 Onosho executed a nifty tachi-ai against M13 Toyohibiki catching the Hutt with a nice left tsuki to the tit keeping Ibiki up high. This was key because it forced Toyohibiki to fire his thrusts in downward fashion, but that does nothing to change the position of your opponent, and so Onosho kept his gal upright and scored the great oshi dashi win in the end. A few seconds into the bout, Onosho went for a brief swipe, but he repented quickly and trusted his oshi skills moving to 2-1.  You have to remember that Onosho fought a handful of Makuuchi bouts last basho and looked good doing it, and I so think he's got far less nerves than Yutakayama.  As for Toyohibiki, he falls to 1-2.

M12 Kotoyuki was perfectly upright with feet aligned at the tachi-ai making M13 Daishomaru look like a Yokozuna as he drove Yuki back and across without argument. What, no crazy theatrics or running about the ring from Kotoyuki?  No, because he let Daishomaru win and therefore wasn't into the bout falling to 1-2.  As for Daishomaru, he improves to 3-0, which is coincidentally his first ever 3-0 start in Makuuchi, but this one is paid for.  Look, I can spot them when they happen. Remember when Sadanoumi shot out to a 6-0 start a few basho ago?  I stated that it was fixed and said he wouldn't win more than nine, and when was the last time you hear from Sadanowhomi since?

M12 Tokushoryu secured the quick left inside against M11 Arawashi and then executed what looked like a mammoth charge, but Arawashi just stayed square with his opponent the whole way whiffing on a supposed counter kote-nage near the edge before putting both palms down to the dirt after what they labeled a scoop throw from Tokushoryu. Tokushoryu actually fell to the dirt making the bout appear close, and it also indicated just how little he was in control of things, but if you have the means to watch the slow motion replay in this one, just watch Arawashi's horrible footwork and then that weak kote-nage attempt.  He obviously threw this one to Tokushoryu who hasn't fought like this since...well, since the last time he paid for a win. He moves to 2-1 with the gift while Arawashi is hoarding cash at 0-3.

M10 Ura ducked under M11 Ishiura's right hari-te attempt assuming pest mode straightway, and he stayed low forcing Ishiura to attack from above. We've actually seen a lot of guys have success fighting Ura from above, and Ishiura did offer a token left hari-te to Ura's face, but after some jockeying in the ring, Ishiura just spun himself to the right and out of the dohyo. They ruled it okuri-dashi, but if you watch the replays, there's nothing that Ura did that would have warranted Ishiura to exit the dohyo in that manner. I'm not saying that Ura couldn't beat Ishiura straight up; I'm just saying that Ishiura gave him the win today, and don't look now but Ura is 3-0!!  Ishiura falls to 1-2 but will eat well tonight on Ura's dime.

After the string of yaocho early on, I was confident that we'd finally get a watchable bout as M9 Ichinojo and M10 Tochinoshin stepped into the ring. Both rikishi hooked up into the gappuri migi-yotsu position meaning both had inside rights and outside lefts, and the two instinctively went chest to chest meaning we actually had an old-school bout of sumo on our hands. I'm sure most in the crowd were like, "What do those guys think they're doing fighting like that?", but like most things, it was too good to last. Shin went for an early maki-kae with the left arm around the eight second mark, and while he did get it, Ichinojo pounced on the momentum shift and forced Tochinoshin back and across before he could dig himself back in with moro-zashi. Watching this bout was like that new Guardians of the Galaxy movie where they took us to an entirely new world if only for a brief moment. Both of these guys end the day at 2-1, and someone show me a Kisenosato bout that ever went to the chest like this with such force.

Never fear after that good bout of sumo because the yaocho sumo resumed quickly with M8 Sokokurai paired against M9 Kagayaki. Sokokurai was lazy from the start, and despite the clear path to the inside at the charge, he just stood upright with his feet aligned allowing Kagayaki to catch him with a left tsuki to the chest sending him across the straw with zero resistance. Sokokurai did actually shade a bit to his right during the bout, but he attempted no pull or anything else that could be construed as a legitimate sumo move, and the result was a lopsided win for Kagayaki...who actually won in a non-linear fashion!!  Course, that was enabled due to his mukiryoku opponent, but who's counting?  Kagayaki picks up his first win at 1-2 while Sokokurai bows to his first loss.

M7 Hokutofuji's tachi-ai was horrible with his arms out wide and feet aligned. The bad tachi-ai gifted M8 Shohozan moro-zashi by default, but he wasn't into the bout and eventually gave up the left inside to Hokutofuji for no reason. Still, Hokutofuji didn't have good position, and his right grip on Shohozan's belt was coming loose, and yet he was able to turn the tables and win easy as you please in force-out fashion while Shohozan listlessly went along for the ride. You could just see the look on Shohozan's face afterwards that he was disgusted by the outcome, so Hokutofuji is gifted his 2-1 record while Shohozan falls to 0-3. Hokutofuji is likely my favorite rikishi right now, and I wanted this bout to be real, but it wasn't I'm sorry to say. Just watch Shohozan's footwork, especially after getting moro-zashi.

M6 Ikioi offered a passive charge with his arms extended doing nothing allowing M7 Takakeisho to strike and then just easily pull Ikioi down in mere seconds. Ridiculous sumo here, and another easy yaocho call as both rikishi end the day at 2-1. Takakeisho has never been able to dismantle a foe with good sumo, and there's no way he beats one of Japan's best without at least a decent fight.

M5 Takanoiwa caught M4 Takarafuji with a nice left paw to the face, and then he followed that up with a right swipe to the back of the head, and Takarafuji just dove down. Takanoiwa's start wasn't that potent.  It's just that Takarafuji was ready to go down at a moment's notice here. Looks like Takanohana-oyakata's put a crowbar to his billfold today as Takanoiwa moves to 2-1 while Takarafuji falls to 1-2.  I've said this before, but I think that Takarafuji is offered up as compensation for Isegahama's guilty feelings over harboring two of the four elite Mongolians.

M6 Takekaze struck M4 Tochiohzan and then went for a weak swipe as he's wont to do, but Oh ready it perfectly and was in hot pursuit pushing Takekaze back and out once, twice, three times a lady. I'll stop short of calling Takekaze mukiryoku in this one, so chalk it up to bad sumo from Takekaze who falls to 0-3 while Tochiohzan looks to regain former glory at 3-0.

Good thing I didn't call that one yaocho because with Shodai and Mitakeumi fighting the next two bouts, the fake sumo would return and how!

M3 Aoiyama went forward at the tachi-ai but didn't offer any tsuppari instead opting to keep his arms out wide and gift M5 Shodai moro-zashi. Shodai is so hapless, he didn't know what to do with it, so Aoiyama put both hands into Shodai's face and kept waiting. When Shodai finally made an ugly charge, Aoiyama executed a feeble pull that allowed him to gain momentum on his way out of the ring. Shodai moves to 2-1 with the obvious gift while Aoiyama is just along for the ride at 0-3.

At this point of the broadcast, they replayed Kisenosato's bout yesterday against Okinoumi, and Kitanofuji was so bored that when the camera suddenly panned into the booth, he was leaning back with his eyes nearly closed. At first when they showed the scene I was like, "Man, that NHK Announcer on the left is so big I think they float him in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," but then Kitanofuji realized he was live and suddenly sat up and moved back forward balancing things out. I comment on crap like this because it's a lot better than the sumo.

Next up was Sekiwake Tamawashi vs. Komusubi Mi-fake-umi, and in a predictable bout, Tamawashi won the tachi-ai with his tsuppari attack driving Mitakeumi back a step, but he just halted his forward momentum with the lower body allowing Mitakeumi back into the bout. Mitakeumi wasn't exactly connecting on any punches, and so back they went across to the other side with the Sekiwake firing tsuppari and using a tsuki, but when Mi-fake-umi was near the straw, Tamawashi just twisted down as the Komusubi fell on top of him.  They ruled it sukui-nage, or a win by a scoop throw, but when you throw someone with the left hand or arm, you plant your left leg near your opponent's right and then push off with that leg as part of executing the throw so that when it's finished the left leg is now forward and the right leg back.  Look at the pic at right there.  Mitakeumi's feet are completely opposite of where they should be, which tells you that the Komusubi could not have executed a throw that would have felled the larger Tamawashi in that fashion.  Now I know how my dad felt all those years ago when we'd go see professional wrestling live, and he was just howling with laughter at how fake it all was. I mean, this dive from Tamawashi was so funny I nearly blew a snot bubble.

After the bout, they panned into a section of the crowd just going crazy, and I just had to take a picture of it. The title of this picture is:
We're Old, We Have Money, and We're Easily Scammed

Mitakeumi moves to 3-0 at the end of Act III, and his sumo reminds me of something my old man said about my little brother a lot. My brother is a lot like Clancy meaning he can just sit there in a room and entertain the crowd with jokes and impressions non-stop.  Well, when we were young, my little brother was always talking and usually about nothing important. We'd be eating dinner and he he'd be jabbering; we'd be doing something as a family when my parents wanted it quiet, and he was still jabbering, and so my dad would often call his name and say, "You're the only person I know who can talk all day and not say a single thing."

When it comes to Mitakeumi, I can say something along the lines of, "You're the only rikishi I know who can flail the entire sumo bout and come away with the win without employing a single waza."  I mean, how did he win today?  How did he set it up?  What caused Tamwashi to spin down like that near the edge?  Seems like Harvye has given up on trying to identify Mitakeumi's style because there aren't any waza employed.  Yet, there he is undefeated while Tamawashi falls--literally--to 2-1.

The other two Sekiwake hooked up today in Takayasu and Kotoshogiku in a bout where Takayasu was trying, so you know it wasn't good for the Geeku. Takayasu caught him with a chest thump at the tachi-ai that knocked Kotoshogiku off his feet and back a step, and he followed that with a couple of fierce slaps to the former Ozeki's face with the right hand, and as Kotoshogiku tried to duck in and do something...anything, Takayasu reversed gears and scored the nice hataki-komi win. Some will say, "Yeah, Takayasu looked like an Ozeki today!" but I'd say, "Look who he's fighting."  Regardless of that, Takayasu is 3-0 while Kotoshogiku is winless. Surely he'll no longer gird up his loins with that mawashi if he suffers make-koshi this basho.

Look at Komusubi Yoshikaze trying to win his bouts so far!  Today against Ozeki Goeido, he tried to win, which meant he was the clear favorite. To Goeido's credit, he actually came with a decent left kachi-age, but there was no lower body behind it nor was he trying to go chest to chest where you'd think he'd have the advantage.  As a result, Yoshikaze was able to halt his momentum threatening a left shoulder pull, and when Goeido just stopped dead in his tracks, Yoshikaze moved left and pulled the Ozeki down in about three seconds to the shock of everyone who doesn't read Sumotalk. Yoshikaze moves to 2-1 and now has an Ozeki scalp to go along with his Yokozuna scalp, but those two trophies are akin to finding a couple of carp carcasses all dried out by the sun at the side of the lake.  As for Goeido, he falls to 1-2, and isn't this dude kadoban, which can be loosely translated as "not enough guys threw bouts for me last basho."

As Ozeki Terunofuji stepped atop the dohyo to face M3 Daieisho, I was like, "This will be ugly." Since Daieisho has no political clout and isn't hyped by anyone, it gave the Ozeki the green light to go all out, and that he did crushing his foe at the tachi-ai getting both arms to the inside, and even though Daieisho was able to work his left arm to the inside, he was already on his way back, so Fuji the Terrible grabbed the right outer belt and all but lifted Daieisho clear off his feet throwing him out of the dohyo like a sack'a potatoes. After the bout the announcers were like, "Terunofuji finally had it going today, didn't he?" to which I could just slap my forehead with an open palm mouth wide open. The Ozeki is 1-2 while Daieisho falls to 0-3.

Now M1 Endoh is a dude with plenty of political clout, so as he stepped into the ring against Yokozuna Kakuryu, anything could have happened here.  Kakuryu opted to stand largely upright at the tachi-ai and offer defensive tsuppari as Endoh extended his arms in hopes that a desperate tsuki would take effect. They never would as the Kak largely just kept his eyes on his opponent before timing the perfect yank down of Endoh's left arm. Endoh actually looked decent here thanks to Kakuryu's passive sumo, but he was never close to winning the bout as both rikishi end the day at 1-2.

Kisenosato was next up facing M1 Chiyonokuni, and before we get to the bout, what's your opinion of Chiyonokuni?  He's obviously over-ranked at M1, but this happens when so many guys get their asses kicked that lower guys from the middle of the banzuke have to come up and fill the space. Chiyonokuni is such a rikishi who really has no game. And yet, he thoroughly dominated Kisenosato here shading right at the tachi-ai and using good tsuppari to keep the Kiddie completely away from anything. Chiyonokuni methodically worked his way around the dohyo making Kisenosato give chase, and at about five seconds in, he lunged for an got moro-zashi driving Kisenosato back to the straw, but he was like, "What do I do now?!!"  What he did was pretend to push into Kisenosato at the straw, but he didn't dare finish him off. I mean, you watch the slow motion replay, and Kisenosato's feet are everywhere but planted firmly to the dohyo, and then at one point he's turned 90 degrees to his opponent who has moro-zashi centimeters away from the edge.  Look at the pic at right where Kisenosato's left foot is off the ground and he has zero leverage pushing back into Chiyonokuni's body.  Not even Hakuho survives that.  And yet, Chiyonokuni didn't dare beat him, or "win him" as we say in Utah.  With Kisenosato unable to do anything and redefining the term "on the ropes," Chiyonokuni finally switched gears and literally pulled Kisenosato towards the center of the ring, and that's when Kiddie finally came to his sense starting to push as Chiyonokuni dragged his foe into himself making sure to step back across the bales first.  Kisenosato was so winded he collapsed near the edge capping off as fake of a bout of sumo as you'd care to see.  And I thought the Mitakeumi bout was bad.  The end result was Kisenosato's moving to 2-1 and the media's excitedly talking about how he survived at the edge with only the tips of his toes keeping him alive.  As for Chiyonokuni, he falls to 1-2 and deserves a standing ovation after this one.

Yokozuna Hakuho resorted to his classic tachi-ai where he get the left inside followed up with the right outer grip, and he wasted no time in driving M2 Chiyoshoma back in short order. Now, Chiyoshoma is a rikishi that actually has game, and so he countered near the edge with a nice left scoop throw that forced the Yokozuna to hit the dohyo but not before Hakuho had thrown his foe across the straw and out in the impressive win. I mean, this bout wasn't that close, but it was still refreshing to see straight up sumo with measurable waza employed by both rikishi. Also, look at Chiyoshoma's left foot.  It's the one forward because that was his throwing side.  Everything is right about this picture as opposed to the Mitakeumi bout covered earlier.  Hakuho moves to 3-0 with the win while Chiyoshoma falls to 1-2.

In the day's final bout, we were thankfully treated to another bout of solid sumo where Yokozuna Harumafuji grabbed the mae-mawashi (frontal belt) with the right hand against M2 Okinoumi while also shoring up his position on the other side with the left inside, and with the Yokozuna ducked low and in the superior position, there was nothing that Okinoumi could do...literally. He used his size to stand pat and attempt to grab onto anything, but the Yokozuna gathered his wits for a second or two before escorting his gal back and across with picture-perfect sumo. Harumafuji moves to 3-0 with the win while Okinoumi falls to 0-3.

It was nice to end the day with a little bit of real sumo, but there was so much nonsense going on today that this surely resembled the sumo landscape back in Itai's day when it felt as if perhaps 80% of the bouts were fixed.

Chikara-mizu to Harvye tomorrow.  He's gonna need it.

Day 2 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
In January the pigs took off from Tokyo and flew down to Osaka for the March tournament, where they circled above the arena and enjoyed Kisenosato’s victory. Then they glided gracefully back to Tokyo, pausing along the way to survey a view of the frozen wastes of hell that had opened up through gashes in the earth. Such changes! The pigs were having a great time, and they alighted on the roof of the Kokugikan at Ryogoku to enjoy the May tournament, which is where we join them today.

Meanwhile, I have this comment from Regina Spektor; you may change “Furrier” and “Trapper” to, say, “Kisensoato” and “Hakkaku,” but otherwise Regina pretty much has it right:

The trapper and the furrier went walking through paradise
And all the animals lay clawless and toothless before them
And all the mother's stepped away from their babies
Leaving them open and easy to handle
They took some for now and they got some for later
And they marveled at the pelts, not a bullet hole in them
And they filled up the cages with pets for their children
What a strange, strange world we live in

And that’s all I have to say about that.

M15 Myogiryu (0-1) vs. M16 Yutakayama (1-0)
Treasure Mountain (Yutakayama) tried to windmill-slap the broken-down and vulnerable Myogiryu out, but Myogiryu is a veteran and just stuck with it a bit, evaded, and ushered Treasure past him and out, tsuki-otoshi. That’ll learn ‘im, the rook.

M14 Onosho (0-1) vs. M15 Kaisei (0-1)
Onosho did a nice job here: grabbed Kaisei by the face, pushed him up, and drove him out backwards. Oshi-dashi win for Oyessho, but Kaisei is lamed and ought not to be fighting. He’s going to have to move with his injury or he’s toast this basho. I think he’s toast anyway. Juryo for him.

M14 Chiyotairyu (1-0) vs. M13 Daishomaru (1-0)
With a blaster against a puller, I figured as the blaster Chiyotairyu would be a bit tentative. He was, and Daishomaru stepped to the side during the blaster’s lackluster charge, turned, and pushed Chiyotairyu out, oshi-dashi.

M12 Tokushoryu (0-1) vs. M13 Toyohibiki (1-0)
This is the third match I’ve covered today that was won by the evasive guy. While Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) intently ploughed face first into the ground on a line to hell, Special Sauce slipped out in a whirligig along the straw, winning by hataki-komi.

M12 Kotoyuki (0-1) vs. M11 Ishiura (1-0)
Kotoyuki should crush and kill at this level. Okay, go ahead then. He poked his tiny foe in the face and drove him backwards; lucky for him the wee Ishiura was still impaled on his hand a bit when they both went out, and Ishiura out first, or Ishiura would have won it by evasion as he almost escaped to his right.

M10 Tochinoshin (1-0) vs. M11 Arawashi (0-1)
Manful, working force out by Tochinoshin, left hand on the belt outside looking powerful. Arawashi is strong enough to hang with most guys on the belt lately, but not this one, not by a long shot. Yori-kiri win, Tochinoshin. And that rhymes. 

M10 Ura (1-0) vs. M9 Kagayaki (0-1)
It is possible Kagayaki is a very smart guy, but he’s a simpleton in the ring, frustratingly vulnerable to any kind of evasion, thought, or lateral movement. Hence, as expected, he hadn’t a prayer against the king of tricks, Ura, who kept underneath him and dodged and rammed and yanked this way and that while patiently--and easily--waiting for the right moment to push Kagayaki out, oshi-dashi.

M8 Shohozan (0-1) vs. M9 Ichinojo (0-1)
Darth Hozan bashed Ichinojo in the face a couple of times at the tachi-ai and looked to have Ichinojo off balance and in trouble, but Ichinojo was stable this one, and followed Shohozan meatily when he retreated, and put a couple of carful, hard slap-down pull attempts on him that were safe because he didn’t move backwards. Kind of fun to watch an attempted manhandling like that. Eventually Ichinojo put a hand in Shohozan’s chaw and forced him out, yori-kiri.

M8 Sokokurai (1-0) vs. M7 Takakeisho (1-0)
Takakeisho was working hard and Sokokurai was looking weak, I suppose, Takakeisho thrusting away and Sokokurai backing, backing. But as often happens, it seemed Sokokurai knew exactly where and when he had to be, because while Takakeisho was falling down sloppily in front of him, Sokokurai’s heels were atop the straw. Casual like. And that’s a hataki-komi win for Sokokurai.

M6 Takekaze (0-1) vs. M7 Hokutofuji (0-1)
Glad to see Hokutofuji, somewhat miraculously, not fall for the immediate and repeated head pulls the best puller I’ve ever watched, Takekaze, employed. Hokutofuji was aggressive and brought his feet along, and hence managed not to fall, instead completing the easy-looking oshi-dashi win. But it ain’t easy against this tub of tricks. Anyway, yaaay!

M6 Ikioi (1-0) vs. M5 Shodai (1-0)
Nice separation of the feet by Ikioi, and nice stiff arm. He looked like a yogi doing an “arrow at the sun” pose or some such. Very good-looking in the sumo context. After dismantling Shodai’s defenses that way, he chased the helpless Vanilla Softcream around the ring and out. Oshi-dashi win, Ikioi.

M4 Tochiohzan (1-0) vs. M4 Takarafuji (1-0)
Nice drive and focus by Tochiohzan, who had both arms inside and kept his feet back and spread and patiently stuck with the circling, evading Takarafuji. But Takarafuji had nothing going on here and eventually just gave in to an experienced guy working a better line of attack, yori-kiri.

M5 Takanoiwa (0-1) vs. M3 Aoiyama (0-1)
Takanoiwa yanked and pulled with a good left outside and Aoiyama just kind of stood there and took it. Bump on a log and a loss for him, yori-kiri win for Takanoiwa.

K Mitakeumi (1-0) vs. M3 Daieisho (0-1)
It seems like it is all shoves these days. All arm grappling, all roundhouse belts. I just don’t care for it much. When the matches start that way, I’m going, “again? Another one???” Both of these guys are very aggressive in the ring and usually fun to watch, but it was too much of a mismatch in power here. Mitakeumi is the much better wrestler and destroyed his opponent like a leedle fly on the windowsill: smack! Well, okay, smack, smack, smack, smack, smack, smack, smack! Daieisho only tried to stick with it for a moment before disappointingly bailing and looking for cover as he went under assault. Well, I suppose I would too. But I’m not paid to be a sumo wrestler. Oshi-dashi win, Daieisho.

S Kotoshogiku (0-1) vs. M2 Chiyoshoma (0-1)
If there were justice in the world, Chiyoshoma would have picked Kotoshogetoutofherealready’s deflated carcass and flung him to the rafters like a sand-filled balloon. But instead he let Kotoshogiku get one arm inside and was going backwards. No matter. He is younger, stronger, and better, and when under threat he collapsed senior-showboat-Kotoshogiku inside and in front of him, tsuki-otoshi.

O Terunofuji (0-1) vs. S Tamawashi (1-0)
Oh, Terunofuji, why do you have to be so silly? Yes, Tamawashi is a good wrestler, but are we really going to have to endure another “now I can, now I can’t!” tournament from Terunofuji? Tamawashi grabbed Teru by the teat and boinged him forwards and backward for a moment like a horizontal yoyo, then flicked him out, oshi-dashi. Yeah, Tamawashi is this good, but Fuji the terrible is not this bad.

S Takayasu (1-0) vs. O Goeido (1-0)
Some things are still fine. As was about right, Takayasu played “practice dummy” with Goeido, tattooing him jackhammer-style, battering him out oshi-dashi. Good.

Y Kisenosato (0-1) vs. M2 Okinoumi (0-1)
Dang, that Okinoumi feller had an arm inside and under on the left and is purty strong. But he jist couldn’t move that consarned big ‘ol yokozuna, now could he? For all he pushed and juddered, Kisenosato didn’t move back, like a mountain of granite. Made of melting jello. So Okinoumi was yori-kiri’ed out when the mountain came forward. I just never seed granite so soft looking, like congealed day-old strawberry yoghurt left on the counter. That’s our yokozuna: rotten tofu. But implacable!

K Yoshikaze (1-0) vs. Y Hakuho (1-0)
Yoshikaze wasn’t ready at the tachi-ai, and Hakuho got the first blow in and just kept hitting, while Yoshikaze, with inferior reach, strength, and power, mostly just stood there and took it, looking compliant. Eventually Yoshikaze collapsed down and in on what was really a pull-with -blows by Hakuho, hataki-komi. Um, this looked dumb as usual from the frenetic-of-late Hakuho. But he won.

Y Harumafuji (1-0) vs. M1 Endo (1-0)
Endo is a kind of litmus test: he’s really easy to beat when you try, so you know when guys are trying. Except they don’t have to try very hard. Harumafuji besozzled Endo with befuddering blamo blows, oshi-dashi, like a guy from a different league.

M1 Chiyonokuni (0-1) vs. Y Kakuryu (0-1)
You know what, Kakuryu is kind of useless as a Yokozuna. And I was thinking that before he lost this one. When he’s losing tournaments he hangs back and is just kind of there, pulling for losses. When he wins tournaments it’s like, “well, there was a hole to fill.” He got beat good and solid here, because why not? Chiyonokuni took advantage of Kakuryu’s low slung charge and did what he does best, evading out backwards and sideways lightning quick off first contact, almost like Takekaze might, leaving Kakuryu's free-floating, abandoned face nowhere to go but down to the dirt--unless he were to put two hands out to stop such a thing, which of course so he did: two hands on the dirt, loss, hataki-komi.

Mike takes you to other worlds tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I don't remember a time in the last 25 years when I've been so disinterested in a basho, but the night before I emailed Harvye asking if he was still up to it, and his reply was in the affirmative, so here we go again. I haven't read any of the headlines leading into the basho, so my day one will be buttsuke honban as they say in the sumo world.

I always enjoy the first few minutes of the broadcast before the action starts, and today they focused mostly on Hakuho, who is supposedly recovering from a leg injury. Injury shminjury. The coverage on Hakuho can best be summed up by a graphic NHK displayed showing the Yokozuna's results over the past year. Hakuho only managed 49 wins in the last 365 days, so out of a possible 90 bouts in a year, Hakuho won just over half of them. Now, the Yokozuna did sit out an entire basho, but he also went 15-0 at last year's Natsu basho, so in between those two tournaments, he was still barely over .500.

Hakuho's career best in a calendar year was 86 wins in 2010, and then if you take his best six basho in a row, he's actually gone 88-2...a clip that I maintain he could do every year should he choose.

So, falling from wins in the 80's down to less than 50 wins a year is a huge drop-off, but it's not only Hakuho. Terunofuji mustered just 39 wins the last six basho and one of those was his 13-2 in March. Kakuryu tallied 52 wins, and Harumafuji was king of the Mongolian hill with 60 wins. Should Hakuho choose, he could easily win in the 80's every year, and the other three should easily be in the 70's. So you look at those poor numbers over the past year, and that is exactly what has enabled Japanese yusho three of the last four basho, a Japanese Yokozuna, a Japanese rikishi to sit in the prestigious East Yokozuna slot, a Japanese rikishi to win the Saitasho award in 2016 for most wins that calendar year, and then a couple of average guys in Shodai and Mitakeumi who are being sold as sanyaku caliber guys.

I raised a red flag after Terunofuji was promoted to Ozeki warning everyone that these four rikishi were good for an average of 45-48 wins per basho, but a decision was made somewhere after that to have the four lower the bar immensely, and the result is the sumo we've seen the last eight basho or so.

I'm sorry to say that the yaocho would continue today from the git-go, so let's get to the action. The day began with rookie M16 Yutakayama, who up until his promotion to the big dance was fighting under his real last name of Oyanagi. I remember watching this dude the last time I was in Japan during the 2016 Nagoya basho, and I really liked him and have been following him since then. Today he was paired against M15 Kaisei who got the easy right arm to the inside as Yutakayama pushed into Kaisei's neck with his left paw, but the move was ineffective. Kaisei actually had his left close to the inside as well and could have easily assumed moro-zashi, but he relented in favor of a half-assed right kote-nage with no lower body, and so Yutakayama was able to score the ridiculously easy yori-kiri win in the end. I mean, here you have a rookie who is an oshi guy by trade, and he comes out with an awful tachi-ai where his feet are aligned, and yet he's able to beat a seasoned veteran in Kaisei at the belt just like that?? Shull bit as my partner in crime likes to say as Yutakayama is gifted his first Makuuchi win. Here we go again right?

M14 Chiyotairyu just destroyed M15 Myogiryu with a perfect tachi-ai, sharp shoves, and beautiful de-ashi, and the result was the easy tsuki-dashi win in maybe two seconds. This was the Chiyotairyu whom I fell in love with all those years ago.

Our other rookie, M14 Onosho, stepped into the ring to face M13 Daishomaru, and the rookie panicked at the tachi-ai quickly going for a backwards pull after the initial charge, and so Daishomaru got the right arm to the inside, and as Onosho reached for a belt grip, Daishomaru switched gears going for a risky pull/shoulder slap down that barely felled his opponent before Daishomaru crashed out of the ring himself. It was close, but Daishomaru took advantage of Onosho's early pull.

M13 Toyohibiki and M12 Kotoyuki treated us to as good of a tsuppari affair as you can expect when neither guy is using the lower body, and the action actually got pretty fierce with Kotoyuki slowly nudging his gal back, but near the edge, Toyohibiki sprung the perfect tsuki-otoshi trap shifting to his right and firing a lethal tsuki into the side of Kotoyuki sending him off the dohyo for good.

M11 Ishiura ducked under M12 Tokushoryu getting the left arm inside early, and as Tokushoryu tried to escape to his right, he slipped out of a kote-nage attempt as Ishiura stayed low and easily worked Tokushoryu upright and back from there.

M11 Arawashi whiffed on a left hari-te as M10 Ura ducked in low, but Arawashi still had the right arm to the inside...which he promptly pulled to the outside as he focused on what could have only been a tottari move except Arawashi still stayed square with his opponent instead of moving to the side. As Ura squared back up, Arawashi moved his left arm way outside fiddling with the left outer while bringing his right arm up high in pull fashion allowing Ura to easily force him back and off the dohyo in mere seconds. Obvious yaocho here as Arawashi remembered to stay square throughout even though he wasn't trying to get to the inside at any point of the bout. Remember how unimpressed we all were by Ura's debut? Today's bout looked like a blowout, but what it really was was another foreigner letting up for his oft-hyped Japanese opponent.

M9 Kagayaki is a guy who gets no hype, and so M10 Tochinoshin easily shook off his oshi charge by yanking him forward with a left arm wrapped around Kagayaki's melon and a shift to his right that cleared the path for Tochinoshin to pull his foe forward and down for good. Though the sumo wasn't stellar here for Tochinoshin, the bout wasn't close.

M8 Sokokurai henka'd to his left against M9 Ichinojo and was able to yank Ichinojo beyond the bales by tugging at his right arm and pulling him down by the neck. Ugly sumo here from Sokokurai who knows he can't beat Ichinojo in a straight up bout.

M8 Shohozan and M7 Takakeisho engaged in a fierce-looking tsuppari contest that was all bark and no bite. With sound fundamentals having been thrown out the window from the tachi-ai, the two shoved this way and that before Takakeisho went for a shoulder slap that Shohozan survived, but as he looked to counter with a pull of his own, Shohozan sloppily stepped out of the ring before executing the move. Shohozan was mukiryoku in this one.

As M7 Hokutofuji shoved up high into M6 Ikioi's neck area, Ikioi responded with the right arm to the inside and his left hand pushing up into Hokutofuji's tit, and with Hokutofuji voluntarily upright after the bad tachi-ai, Ikioi just kept him upright shoving him off of the dohyo for good in mere seconds.

M6 Takekaze kept his arms out wide at the tachi-ai as he struck M5 Shodai and then moved left, but he had no intention of winning here as he stayed wide open and allowed Shodai to catch him with one punch on the move that resulted in Takekaze's twisting himself around 180 degrees at the edge and mounting the judge at the base of the West side as he hopped off the dohyo. Ridiculous theatrics here that have no place in sumo as Takekaze gifted Shodai the win.

At this point of the broadcast, Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife, Masako-sama, entered the arena with Commissioner Hakkaku in tow, and I was amazed at how large the bags were under Masako-sama's eyes. Nothing like the pressures of marrying into Japan's monarchy where everything is scripted, even the method in which you must wave to the masses below.  Hmm...things in Japan scripted??  That's a new one.

M5 Takanoiwa secured the quick left belt grip against M4 Tochiohzan at the tachi-ai, but he gave up moro-zashi in the process. Still, it wasn't as if Tochiohzan crushed his opponent back and upright at the tachi-ai. To the contrary, it was Takanoiwa who won the charge, but he quickly abandoned his left outer grip standing upright and going for these nonsensical looking left kote-nage throws with half-assed trip attempts thrown in for boot. I mean, this could have been legit sumo, but Takanoiwa's moves just didn't make sense as Tochiohzan scored the force-out win that was the result of Takanoiwa's sloppily stepping out and not Tochiohzan's driving him back with some oomph.

As long as we're talking ugly sumo, let's move to M3 Aoiyama who came with his usual shove attack against M4 Takarafuji, but it lacked the hissing tsuppari and any de-ashi. Still, Aoiyama was able to to bully Takarafuji around the ring this way and that with the upper body and dictate the pace throughout, but just when you thought Aoiyama had his gal set up, he'd retreat for no reason keeping Takarafuji alive, and in the end, Aoiyama put his arms up high going for a meager pull that actually worked, but Aoiyama carelessly--or should I say intentionally--stepped out before Takarafuji hit the dirt. This was one of those bouts where one guy did all the work and totally dictated the pace, and the guy who did absolutely nothing came away with the win. Funny how this always happens when the foreigner loses to the Japanese rikishi.

At this point there was a light stir in the crowd, and I was trying to think who was giving the fans a stiffie, and then they showed Sekiwake Takayasu who is being hyped as the sport's next Ozeki, and as we've seen the last year or so, any fantasy Japan can conjure up magically comes true. Today against M3 Daieisho, the two began with sloppy tsuppari with Takayasu looking to have the upper hand with a few choke holds, and then as soon as he went for a light swipe at the back of Daieisho's left shoulder, Daieisho just dove forward and down in a very unorthodox ending to the bout, especially after such a lightweight move from Takayasu. I mean, I think Takayasu is the superior rikishi here, but the sumo content was lacking and Daieisho's fall was quite unnatural, and my opinion is that Daieisho had no intention of winning here.

Sekiwake Tamawashi, who should be the real candidate for Ozeki, displayed his usual good sumo bullying the smaller M2 Chiyoshoma back with his tsuppari from the tachi-ai, and as Chiyoshoma tried to mawari-komu to his left, Tamawashi stayed square and easily forced Chiyoshoma back and off the dohyo altogether. You watch these two bouts, and it's like, "Why is Takayasu the one getting all the hype?" The contrast here was stunning but is obviously lost on most.

In the Ozeki ranks, Goeido was looking for the gift from M2 Okinoumi, and he got it as the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu. With the Ozeki unable to budge his opponent, he went for a maki-kae with the right arm, and the maki-kae is usually a do-or-die move, but if your opponent isn't applying any pressure, then you can get away with anything you want, and so after executing the maki-kae with the right, Goeido didn't even try for moro-zashi instead moving to his left and pulling Okinoumi forward and down shita-te-nage style. It was such an unorthodox ending that when they asked Kitanofuji for comment, he said of Goeido, "Well, he did win." And that about sums it up. Yes, he did win, but it's hard to analyze sumo when one of the parties is clearly mukiryoku.

Kane and I were talking after the March tournament, and I speculated that Isegahama-oyakata was really in a pickle after day 14. On day 13, his boy Harumafuji really roughed up Kisenosato, and then on day 14, his other Mongolian, Terunofuji, henka'd Kotoshogiku ensuring that the latter would not be restored to his Ozeki rank. I can only imagine the guilt he felt at the action of his two rikishi, and he repented quickly by having Terunofuji just bow down to Kisenosato two times in a row on senshuraku. And the penance continued today as Ozeki Terunofuji greeted M1 Endoh with a nice thump at the tachi-ai knocking Endoh upright, but he relented from there giving Endoh moro-zashi as he kept his feet aligned and stayed upright. Endoh accepted the gift and pressed forward as Terunofuji faked a left kote-nage, but his footwork was all wrong for the move, and he stayed upright allowing Endoh to recover and force the Ozeki back and across in just a few seconds. This was an easy yaocho call, and you look at the pic at right and think "Endoh came back from that with Terunofuji trying his hardest?"  Uh no.  The bottom line is this:  if Endoh was really able to do Terunofuji in that fashion, he'd be a frequent sanyaku rikishi. In reality, Endoh has never entered the sanyaku nor has he consistently displayed sumo worthy of a sanyaku rikishi. Terunofuji clearly let Endoh do his bidding in this one.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho faced M1 Chiyonokuni, and it was one of those bouts where Hakuho is intentionally sloppy. The Yokozuna executed a quick hari-zashi tachi-ai grabbing the left outer grip, but he made no effort to secure his gal with the inside right just charging forward haphazardly. Chiyonokuni ain't got no game, however, and as he moved right trying to set up a tsuki-otoshi near the edge, he stepped out before Hakuho just flew out of the ring of his own accord. The gunbai correctly went to Hakuho, but this was reckless sumo from the Yokozuna who is likely setting up a loss in the near future. Ugly stuff here, so let's move on.

Yokozuna Harumafuji executed a nice hari-zashi tachi-ai with the left slapping and getting that arm to the inside, and with Kotoshogiku unable to do anything of his own volition, Harumafuji got the easy left inside as well giving him moro-zashi, and so he kept Kotoshogiku upright and respectfully drove him back and across.  Kotoshogiku went for some weak tsuki-otoshi motions during the bout, and I say motions because he's unable to actually set up the move when a Yokozuna has him in tight like that, but he went for them just in case Harumafuji had yaocho on his mind. Thankfully he didn't in this lopsided affair.

The usual plot line of a bout involving Shodai and Mitakeumi is the two do nothing the entire bout but somehow end up the victor in the end. Today, Yokozuna Kakuryu caught Komusubi Mitakeumi with some sharp tsuppari from the tachi-ai immediately driving the Komusubi back, and as Mitakeumi looked to evade to his right, Kakuryu said, "not so fast" and actually pulled Mitakeumi squarely into him as he just backed up out of the dohyo giving Mitakeumi the comical oshi-dashi win. After the bout, Kitanofuji and Mainoumi were in deep speculation as to why Kakuryu would suddenly go for that pull move, and they never did figure it out, and so I'll solve it for them. Kakuryu threw it ya dumbasses. Not only is the sumo fake these days, but you can totally tell it's all yaocho by the comments afterwards. The announcers sputter this way and that and try and conjure up explanations out of thin air, and I'm like, "Are you guys actually watching the same slow motion replays as I am?"  To their credit, they know exactly what's going on, but damned if they're going to be the nail that sticks up only to get pounded back down.

In the day's final affair, Kisenosato was his usual self meaning a bad tachi-ai where he was wide open and at the mercy of his opponent, who in this case happened to be Komusubi Yoshikaze. I think Yoshikaze got a stiffie looking at all those kensho banners marched around the ring and the roughly $16K on the line because he meant business securing the left inside grip against his defenseless opponent at the tachi-ai and then keeping Kisenosato away from anything on the other side. As Yoshikaze easily drove his opponent back to the straw, he never needed the right outer grip though he came close to getting it, and then he just laughed off a final weak tsuki-otoshi attempt from the Kiddie before he dumped him clear off the dohyo in a lopsided affair.

After the bout, NHK panned in close to a dejected looking Kisenosato, and of course they did so from the angle that highlighted the bandage wrapped tightly around his left biceps and over the top of his left teet. As they showed the replays, Mainoumi commented, "If he wasn't injured, he would have easily been able to get that left to the inside." Oh really?  My response would have been, "Wait a minute...Kisenosato defeated Terunofuji twice on senshuraku using moves we haven't seen from him in years, and now he's had two full months to recover from that injury sustained against Harumafuji, and you're still making excuses for him?"  What a pathetic display today from Kisenosato, and that dejected look on his face is because he's knows he's nothing but a huge fraud.  I mean, I doubt that he had much of a choice in the matter, but getting worked like that at the hands of Yoshikaze?  It's embarrassing stuff, and the problem is that this loss doesn't matter one bit. What does matter are the choices Kisenosato's opponents will make the final fourteen days of the tournament.

Expertly analyze sumo I can; read minds I can't, so I'll leave the Jedi mind tricks to Harvye tomorrow.






















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