Kyushu Day 11 Highlights


For readers who don’t want to know the details of today’s bouts, including some oddities around Hakuho: stop reading now, and wait to see the NHK highlights later today. There will likely be a significant amount of discussion here and in other forums to examine that match, and we will cover it below. Yes, we are flying the rare but useful “What the hell was that?” tag on this post.

In order to give readers a bit of visual buffer on the page, let’s start from the lower Makuuchi matches of note…

Highlight Matches

Okinoumi defeats Kagayaki – After multiple basho of middling or weak performance, Okinoumi seems to be cleaning up in lower Makuuchi. After a brief oshi contest following the tachiai, Okinoumi established a solid right-hand grip on Kagayaki’s mawashi and marched Kagayaki backward and out for an easy win.

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – The Man-Mountain Aoiyama has no strength in his injured legs, and in sumo, defense starts with the lower body. Asanoyama, who appeared to be headed towards make-koshi, is rallying and may finish with a respectable record.

Kotoyuki defeats Daieisho – Kotoyuki goes for the face straight out of the tachiai and puts Daieisho in a reactive mode. From there Kotoyuki keeps up the pressure and the oshi attack until Daieisho loses balance, handing Kotoyuki a much-needed victory.

Endo defeats Nishikigi – I would say that maybe, just maybe, Endo is back to workable health. At the tachiai, Endo tries to land a grip but is repelled by a solid thrusting attack by Nishikigi, forcing Endo back and to the bales, where he finally does land his right hand. From here Endo takes control and gets them chest to chest. Points to Nishikigi who rallies and moves to throw Endo, but can’t finish it. Instead, Endo improves his grip steadily and wins by yorikiri. Endo is now kachi-koshi and looking genki for the first time in what seems like ages.

Daiamami defeats Chiyomaru – A surprisingly solid match between two oshi-zumo men. The battle raged across the dohyo, with these two behemoths each testing their strength, and discovering that weighty men are difficult to push around. After tiring of this, the two go chest to chest and lean on each other for a time, breathing heavily. Daiamami returns to the attack first and neatly shoves Chiyomaru out.

Shodai defeats Aminishiki – A great effort from Uncle Sumo trying to prevent Shodai’s win. As always, Shodai comes in high in the tachiai, and Aminishiki begins to try and pull him forward and down. Clearly, Shodai is expecting this (and at this point, who isn’t) and manages to land a right-hand grip during all of the tugging. From there he takes control of Aminishiki, who knows that he has a problem. Both men work to throw the other, but it’s Shodai who seals the deal by reversing and pulling Aminishiki down. For a second day, Aminishiki misses out on his first Makuuchi kachi-koshi in a long time.

Kaisei defeats Chiyoshoma – Kaisei wins the tachiai, landing inside Chiyoshoma and putting a solid grip under both arms, and pressing forward with his enormous mass. Chiyoshoma counters well, landing his left hand on Kaisei’s mawashi, and loading up for a throw. But the giant Brazilian won’t go over. Chiyoshoma adds juice to the throw by trying to trip Kaisei, but even that is not enough, as Kaisei maintains excellent balance on his left leg alone. Time and again Chiyoshoma works to throw Kaisei, each time Kaisei counters until at the edge he manages to get him over, but sadly lands before Kaisei does, losing the match. Remember sumo fans, if you know you are going to fall, make sure you fall last.

Takarafuji defeats Shohozan – It seems that maybe Shohozan skipped anatomy class, as he repeatedly attempts to apply a strong nodowa against a man with no neck. This provides ample time for Takarafuji to patiently, methodically work his sumo while Shohozan blazes away against a nonexistent body part. Suddenly distracted by the absurdity of the situation (how does he breathe, speak or even swallow without the organs located in the neck?), Takarafuji slaps the medically stupefied Shohozan to the clay.

Tamawashi defeats Arawashi – In the Oshi-Washi battle, it’s clear that Tamawashi wants back in San’yaku, and with a performance like this, he shall have it. With this win, he picks up his kachi-koshi and makes a strong case for at least a Komusubi slot.

Tochiozan defeats Onosho – In spite of the red mawashi of power, Onosho once again over-commits, gets his weight too far forward, and Tochiozan makes him pay. Onosho is a solid, up and coming rikishi, and this is his primary weakness now. Sadly for him, everyone now sees it and exploits it when Onosho makes the mistake.

Kotoshogiku defeats Takakeisho – The Kyushu Bulldozer denies Takakeisho his kachi-koshi, in a brilliant display of containment and ejection strategy. The crowd loved it, and so did I. Takakeisho tends to win by applying some truly powerful oshi, but he made the mistake of allowing Kotoshogiku grab a piece of him with both hands. This is really all this guy needs to give you a bumpy ride back to the dressing room, and we got to see a very rough and chaotic version of this dance today.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – In spite of foot problems, Mitakeumi is gamberizing well. He took a very short time to shove Chiyotairyu out, and inches closer to his kachi-koshi and returning to Sekiwake.

Takayasu defeats Ichinojo – The Ichinojo we saw on day 1 did not make an appearance. Fans were hoping that these two would take a 5-minute lean-to siesta in a show of mass vs force, but it was not to be. I hope that Ichinojo did not re-injure his back during his match with Hakuho.

Hokutofuji defeats Goeido – This match was a thing of beauty, as I think we got a glimpse of a possible future Ozeki Hokutofuji. Goeido was fast and fighting with strength and skill, but Hokutofuji held on and prevailed. Goeido landed a strong right hand inside grip straight out of the tachiai, and in many cases, that’s all he needs to have his way. Hokutofuji moved to counter, and the two separated, just to clash again. In Goeido’s second charge, Hokutofuji sidestepped deftly and got behind the Ozeki. Now Goeido is off balance and in a weakened position. Hokutofuji charges forward strongly, but Goeido deflects and again establishes a mawashi grip. Hokutofuji holds tight, lands his own grip and struggles as Goeido writhes in defense. Somehow Hokutofuji keeps his left hand on Goeido’s mawashi knot, and works the Ozeki sideways, then pushes with everything he has left. Goeido sails backward and out. Excellent match from both.

Yoshikaze defeats Hakuho – This match is one of those sumo moments where you can only throw up your hands in disbelief and perhaps a bit of frustration and move on. Yoshikaze is the kind of rikishi that can, and will, beat anyone on any given day. Both men lined up on the shikiri-sen, and as is typical, Yoshikaze went into his launch position with his hands firmly on the clay early and stayed put. Hakuho took longer and went into a Konishiki-style crouch before accelerating into the tachiai. Like normal, the Yokozuna led with his face slap and was perhaps a bit early. But keep in mind, Yoshikaze had already given consent for the match to begin. Rising late, he landed moro-zashi, as it seemed Hakuho eased up, expecting a matta to be called. Instead, the gyoji kept the match running. Yoshikaze charged forward, under minimal resistance from the matta-expectant Hakuho, who went for a ride into the second row of zabuton. What followed was quite awkward, as Hakuho waited below the dohyo for the shimpan to call a monoii, and decide to run the match “for real”. Sadly for him, Yoshikaze gave consent, Hakuho took it and launched into battle. His opponent accepted the challenge and finished the match victorious. This gives Hakuho his first loss of the basho, which will not deter him from his likely yusho.

More from the Japan Times:

Hakuho got quickly rammed out by sekiwake Yoshikaze in the day’s final bout at Fukuoka Kokusai Center and in a rare act unfitting of a yokozuna, raised his arm in protest at the referee’s decision.

Hakuho (10-1) took his foot off the pedal after the charge, suggesting he thought Yoshikaze (6-5) had made a matta (false start). He left the ring shaking his head.

“The yokozuna thought it was a matta and eased up but I heard even more clearly than usual the referee say nokotta (you’re still in it),” said Yoshikaze.

“I got the okay so just had to keep charging forward. I will try and wrestle well for the remaining four days.”

50 thoughts on “Kyushu Day 11 Highlights

  1. When the not-a-matta happened in Aki between Harumafuji and Kotoshogiku, I had the same reaction “what the hell was that” reaction. To see this happen again and so soon after the last time really surprised me. I would not want to be Mitakeumi right about now. He’s going to have to answer to a very angry Hakuho tomorrow.

    • I am delighted Yoshikaze got the win. Hopefully, Hakuho realizes it was all his mistake and moves on. I would want to see him focused and ready for battle on day 12.

      • Oh I agree. As much as I love Hakuho, that was definitely his fault. A rare mistake for the Yokozuna, and it’s made everything a little more interesting!

  2. One thing is certain: it was not a matta in any way, shape or form. It was a misjudgment on Hakuho’s part.

    Yoshikaze says he decided on a stand-up tachiai on purpose. Apparently he decided that both attempting to launch or attempting to dodge are going to be countered by Hakhuo, so he decided to stand up and see. I don’t think he could predict Hakuho’s reaction. But he said he felt that Hakuho loosened, so he listened carefully to the gyoji, and when the gyoji said “nokotta”, he knew he could charge.

    Hakuho claimed that their breathing wasn’t matched. But I don’t think you can get a monoii called on breathing. On hands not being on the ground, maybe. But not on breathing. And anyway, that’s nonsense. The reason he thought it was matta was because of his sense of the tachiai, not because of respiratory problems.

    • If the gyoji didn’t give Haramafuji a matta against Kotoshogiku in Aki, then there’s no way Hakuho would get one here. He fully committed and got outfoxed by Yoshikaze. The only claim that Hakuho might have, and it’s really slim, is that his left hand didn’t touch the dohyo. But, he could have stopped a lot earlier if that was the case. Also, if Yoshikaze could hear the gyoji asying “nokatta”, then Hakuho should have been paying attention too. It’s as simple as that, really.

    • I initially thought the standing-up tachiai that Yoshikaze deployed with a huge mistake that Hakuho was going to punish, but given who Yoshikaze is, and also what he said in his interview, I completely believe that this was his Hail Mary tachiai strategy to try and mess with Hakuho’s strategy, and it totally worked. It’s a shame Hakuho a) didn’t just keep attacking, and b) didn’t accept the result with a sort of embarrassed shrug.

      Is there any reason to try and stop after a matta until the gyoji calls it? That seems like weird behavior to see from two yokozuna two basho in a row.

      • The reason I can think of is to save energy. If it is a matta, and you expend all your energy, you lower your chances in the rematch.

      • While trying to explain what happened to my wife, I think I talked myself into agreeing with this theory or something like it. Once Hakuho processed Yoshikaze’s weird tachiai, he mistakenly thought Yoshikaze was signaling matta and stopped fighting. The gyoji shouted that they were still in it, Hakuho ignored him, and Yoshikaze drove him out. Bad mistake by Hakuho (and you can bet the next four guys are going to get planted on tachiai–someone ought to throw a henka at him soon).

        Everything after that, of course, was Hakuho embarrassing himself. To what degree and to what punishment, I have no idea.

  3. I would like to take a moment to highlight Hokutofuji’s excellent sense of fighting rang, timing, and balance. After getting the ozeki turned around a less skilled rikishi might have tried to charge back in as fast as possible and been easy meat for the slap down. Hokutofuji keeps his gaze up and sees Goeido make a full turn back toward him in the time it take Hokutofuji to take a single step forward. At that moment Hokutofuji knows instinctively that Goeido will dodge and slap down and also knows exactly how to respond:
    – one more big step forward with the left leg
    – plant the left leg to reduce momentum and maintain balance
    – only once the slap down has been foiled, continue following Goeido’s center of mass

    Goeido tries another slap down as they move across the dohyo but Hokutofuji maintains perfect balance and is not vulnerable even as he chases the ozeki down.

    Onosho take note! This is how you do it.

    • Of all the up and comers, Hokutofuji has shown over a long period of time that he is the most versatile and confident of the lot. Fantastic adaptability and guile, I predict big things for him.

      Sadly Onosho seemed to lose his confidence a bit in the last few matches of Aki, and hasn’t seemed to regain it.

  4. Yohikaze/Hakuho: here’s an irony for you. I watched the last bit of the match in 1/4 time … I think Yoshikaze touches dirt just before Hakuho lands outside the dohyo. Mind you, it’s close. Instead of focusing on the tachiai, the judges should have reviewed the conclusion.

    Oh well. Hakuho has to sweat a bit for his 14th.

    Congratulations to Yoshikaze!

    • Nice catch, but I think Hakuho was probably a shinitai at that point. Anyway, he wasn’t protesting the touch. He was protesting the matta.

  5. While it’s tempting to credit Takayasu’s victory to Ichinojo’s heart not being in it, watch the tachiai in slow motion. Ichinojo doesn’t seem to have a weak tachiai, and he’s leaning well forwards, but he gets driven backwards like he was shot with a cannon. I’m not surprised he was a bit stunned after that.

    Edit: Takayasu is now kachi-koshi and safely out of kadoban status. And I just saw that Hokutofuji – Takayasu is tomorrow!

    • I think the problem was not the tachiai. It was Ichinojo’s tendency to give up too easily when pushed to the tawara. He doesn’t fight back, doesn’t get low and plant his toes in the tawara like other rikishi do. And that’s the “his heart is not in it” part.

      • He did just that a few days ago…can’t remember which match off the top of my head, but we all said, “the old Ichinojo would have given up right there.”

  6. Looking at the slo-mo I’m not convinced that Hakuho touched down outside before Yoshikaze. If Hakuho missed the edge of the dohyo then his foot didn’t hit the actual ground until Yoshikaze landed.

    My slo-mo wasn’t quite good enough to tell whether hakuho’s foot touched the edge of the dohyo

    • You may be correct, but as Herouth replied to another comment later, Hakuho was a shinitai at that point.

  7. I have commented in both English and Japanese about this Hakuho bout, but once again. Hakuho clearly was unprofessional and this sort of thing should not be coming from a dai-Yokozuna, according to media. I strongly agree. He refused to get back on the dohyo, bow, and accept defeat for (what it felt like an hour) about a minute. IF he had won the match, I am 100% sure he wouldn’t have argued a matta. He clearly touched the ground before charging, and even manages his usual face slap to yoshikaze right after the tachiai, basically stating it was “approved”. I believe he called a matta due to embarrassment. what is he whining about anyway? He’s going to yusho regardless. A huge thumbs up to yoshikaze for being calm and collected during this. Great win.

    • Quite right. Yoshikaze signaled consent to start by assuming the pre-launch position. Hakuho then accepted as well when he charged forward and slapped Yoshikaze. At that point, it was on. It may be an American thing, but we teach in all things that you apply yourself fully until the referee or official calls a stop. I am not sure if that is the way in Japan or not, but Hakuho should have just prosecuted his attack and let the gyoji sort it out.

      But I don’t think that his reaction is too big of a deal. It was embarrassing for him, but at the end of the day, it’s just an amusing footnote to what will likely be his 40th yusho.

      • Seems to me Yoshikaze did exactly what you described. ;)

        Also, it’s especially strange trying to call a matta with Yoshikaze, as he often (almost always?) drops right down to his hands (like he did here) and who I can’t really remember trying to play any games at this point.

        Hm. That was just all around strange.

        • Again, matta is not necessarily about the hands. It’s supposed to be a “synchronization of breath”. In the past (80s-90s) it was not even necessary to touch the ground with your hands (the gyoji called “te wo oroshite” – “lower your hands”, rather than “te wo tsuite” – “touch the ground with your hands”). And even today, many gyoji don’t make a deal about non-touching, provided there was clear consent in the tachiai.

      • The Japanese do make a big deal about his reaction. Remember a couple of days ago we discussed the fact that Takagenji didn’t bow to Terutsuyoshi after that grudge match? Hakuho basically did the same but on a large scale. He was disrespectful to the Gyoji, the Shimpan, Yoshikaze, and poor Satonofuji waiting to twirl the bow.

        Personally, I think he should be judged much more harshly for his dame-oshi than for this sort of childish display, because dame-oshi is actually dangerous to his opponent’s health. But the Japanese seem to have a different set of values.

        • I mostly felt bad for Satonofuji, another great part of the older guy brigade. Hakuho was totally trying to steal his thunder, and deserves a cushion smacking him in the head. The only reason I try to stay awake to see the end of the matches live is to see some awesome bow twirling action, not a pouty yokozuna.

      • Once again I’m finding myself agreeing with you Bruce. I’ll admite I’m biased since Hakuho is my all time favourite and the reason I watch sumo, but I didn’t see his actions after the match to be as disrespectful as some have. I just saw a man whose drive for excellence meant he wasn’t going to say “oh well” and give up when he believed The match didn’t. He wouldn’t have been nearly as succesful in his career if he had taken this approach to the sport. We have to remember, this isn’t hockey or football and there isn’t a giant screen above the dohyo showing replays of the bout. We know there wasn’t a matta because the NHK showed us replays from every angle almost immediately after. But Hakuho didn’t have that option, so he waited for the review rather than walk away from a match that he believes should have been re-done. Does that make him a poor loser? Maybe, but to me it makes him a driven competitor who would rather be proven wrong than give up. But that’s just my opinion on the situation.

        • Is any of the above a reason not to bow to your opponent once you are told that your appeal is not accepted?

          • No, that I didn’t agree with. At that point when it didn’t go his way he should have been the bigger man and bowed. I don’t fully know how I feel about this yet. My fandom for him is at odds with some of his actions. Like any polorizing event, this one is complex.

        • I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mono-ii to deliberate if there was an uncalled matta at the start of the bout, so I have no idea what exactly Hakuho was hoping to achieve with his actions.

        • “I just saw a man whose drive for excellence meant he wasn’t going to say ‘oh well’ and give up”

          If that was the case, he would have kept fighting and waited for the gyoji’s call rather than taking it upon himself to declare a matta after being confused by his opponent’s strategy.

          I tend to think the matta rule is there to protect the rikishi taken by surprise, but in this case it was Hakuho who was clearly fully committed, and yet Yoshikaze kept fighting. If the disadvantaged wrestler decides to let it slide, then the bout should go on.

          (I was more sympathetic to Harumafuji when this happened in the last basho, but the decision there set the clear precedent: keep fighting until you’re told to stop. And certainly don’t throw a tantrum if the call goes against you.)

          • All fair points. As I said before this is a complicated event with so many ways to interpret it. I’m just glad this didn’t happen on the last day, and there are still four more days of sumo left. This incident has left a bad taste in my mouth.

            Despite all this, I’ll still be cheering for Hakuho, and I hope he can redeem himself and start living up to the standards of a Yokozuna.

    • Agree with all the comments by all but I want to add one more thing about Hakuho: the weirdest part is that he clearly gave up in the middle of the ring, by which I mean he wasn’t just coming up with an excuse for why he lost after the fact. He stands up and goes limp–even as it was happening it was clearly “Harumafuji all over again?!” His mind was clearly not in it, or something weird was going on in his head, because he really did seem to believe from the beginning that there was a matta. Truly bizarre.

      The other thing that really needs to be said is that this freak show at the end overshadowed a fantastic performance by Hokutofuji, who really deserves to be the sumo talk of the day. Very disappointing.

  8. The Hakuho made the rest of my day very gloomy. I was kind of rooting for him to get a zensho-yusho this basho.

    Why, you may wonder, would I root for Hakuho after I said clearly that I’m not his fan and that I don’t like his disrespectful attitude (today almost broke the record he set with the Takakeisho butsukari-in-prime-time two bashos ago).

    Well, because of the Harumafuji-Takanoiwa story. To explain, here is the up-to-date story of what happened in that infamous incidence, as gleaned by the papers so far:

    On the 25th of October, the jungyo landed in Tottori. Some rikishi are invited to a dinner party which included graduates of the Tottori Johoku High School, Ishiura, Takanoiwa and Terunofuji, together with Ishiura’s father (the head of the sumo department of that school) and one or more administrators from that school, and all the Yokozuna except Kisenosato, along with tsukebito.

    Now, in that dinner party Takanoiwa was showing some disrespect to the Yokozuna, and was told off by Hakuho. This continued into the after-party, where some of those involved became seriously inebriated, and Takanoiwa started to seriously trash-talk. The notable line was something like “Move over, geezers, your days are over”. Which I believe is extremely disrespectful, considering that he probably owes the fact that sumo is still a paying job to Hakuho and in part to Harumafuji.

    Now, there are two main ways to respond to a trash-talking twat. Unfortunately, Harumafuji selected the wrong one: answering with his fists (and the karaoke remote, and some say a bottle). When this happens in a basketball court or something, the trash-talking twat usually gets the satisfaction of seeing the fist-wielding guy (justly) ejected, and I’m sorry to say, this is exactly what is happening here, only Harumafuji is about to be ejected out of his profession, and probably out of Japan, leaving a trail of broken hearts along the way.

    First Terunofuji tried to break the fight, and got punched several times himself. Then, according to Hakuho, the beer bottle materialised, fell harmlessly, and Hakuho proceeded to intervene, and managed to get Harumafuji under control and out of the room.

    What the more level-headed athletes do when faced with a trash-talking twat is to give the best game of their life and make the trash-talker choke on his own words. And it seems that Hakuho was more determined than ever to prove that neither is he a geezer nor is his career close to being over. And for the first 10 days of the basho he did that very effectively, causing people to ask themselves how they could have said that his career is at its end earlier this year. And it is this effort which I was rooting for. The smart athlete’s way of dealing with a heckler.

    And then comes day 11, and Hakuho makes the same mistake that Harumafuji did in the Aki basho, and which to me was a sign that Harumafuji was starting to lose the sharpness of his senses. And I think that through the gloss of Hakuho’s genius, this matta incident may signify the same thing. The reason we don’t see “non-matta” like this often is probably that usually a sharp rikishi will overcome his surprise and rally somewhat – maybe not enough to win, but enough to make it look like a match.

    And this made me gloomy, because somewhere, wherever it is that Takanohana is hiding Takanoiwa at the moment, he was watching his TV and having a nasty little laugh.

    • I note that twitter cartoonist color_sumo decided not to draw during Kyushu after the Harumafuji incident exploded. I was quite down about it too, but as more of the story comes out, it seems to me that it is less cut and dried than how it was first presented. The core fact that Harumafuji went into a drunken rage against another rikishi means that he has behaved at less than Yokozuna standards.

      The more I think about the Hakuho match today, the more embarrassed I feel for him. I have no idea what was going through his mind, but in reflection, he probably is quite unhappy with his performance.

  9. I agree with the comments above as well. I was born in raised in California but I am Japanese, and love the NBA myself, so yes, almost all of the time the guy throwing the punches gets ejected. Agreed that Takanoiwa should not have been talking trash, however what’s worse is how Haruma answered back. Being intoxicated is no excuse for a yokozuna beating the crap out of somebody.

    I don’t want to go off topic here, so back to Hakuho. I understand how he is one of the greatest Yokozuna (I still think Chiyonofuji and Takanohana were better- just my opinion) and he has brought back life to the dying and controversial sumo of Japan. I guess I just don’t like his disrespectful attitude, and yesterday that was brought into light than ever before. My mom and I always joke about how he clenches/grapples his kenshokin after every win instead of saying “thank you”. I don’t see other rikishi behaving badly like that. Unless, of course, one is intoxicated 😉

    • Well, my point above was not to say that Harumafuji was justified because Takanoiwa is a prat. My point was that Harumafuji chose the wrong way, and it seemed to me that Hakuho chose the right way. And I wanted to see the right way succeed. And that kind of broke today.

    • The Mongolians are the only reason why Sumo is still alive in Japan! Without them it would be a boring congress of old maids!

      • Disagree. Ultimately, the reason why Sumo is still alive in Japan are the fans sitting in the stadium. Diversity among the wrestlers is undoubtedly a good thing but there are some great non-Mongolian wrestlers as well.

      • Yeah, I think Hakuho takes more flak than he should sometimes, but he just straight-up deserved to lose that one. Mind isn’t just part of sumo, it’s the main part. Hard to see how a restart makes sense there.

  10. I watched Hakuho match on Jasons youtube page. He made a good point. He said Hakuho “is a yokozuna and should get some consideration” and the judges “should at least look at the video replay.”

    • 1) a ykosuna should act with respect to the rank and sump. Hakaho did not do this. He is not bigger than sump no matter how great his achievements are.

      2) Why should a ykosuna have special considerations? They have gotten to the rank because they are better than all the other rikishi. They do not need spa I am considerations.

      I personally think Hokuho has really shown great performance in his career, however he is not above reproach. He has too much hubris for me. As a leader he should have accepted the decision with humility and should have given everybody respect.

      I am not sure what usually the penalty for this kind of behaviour is, but I personally would suspend any rikishi with such behaviour for the remaining basho.

      • This 60-some seconds of stubborn lapse in judgment just adds an amusing anecdote to his career. He wanted to win. He wanted a zensho. He’s a competitor and I love him for it. But his hands were down and that was not going to be a matta.


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