Ah, the middle weekend of a basho. I have such fond memories of the privilege of being able to visit Japan and watch sumo in person. I hope the world evolves to allow such wonders to take place once more. I have never been fortunate enough to attend the Haru basho in Osaka, but maybe some day.
The action today featured a lot of short, quick, decisive matches. There was some brilliant sumo on display, and I continue to marvel at just how sharp the joi-jin is this tournament. I think we are in for some great sumo in the coming years as these guys battle their way to the top.
Early Saturday, in Japan, it was announced that Chiyonokuni had withdrawn from Haru. He seems to have re-injured that left shoulder in the prior days. A give away would have been the heavy taping across his back and left arm on day 6. We hope he recovers soon. As a result Terutsuyoshi picks up a most welcome freebie win, boosting him to 4-3.
In tonight’s day 8 preview, we will begin our coverage of the yusho race. While Takayasu is 1 win ahead of everyone, the pack behind him with one loss is rowdy, genki, and likely to be competitive. With Terunofuji out healing up his undercarriage, it’s anyone’s guess who will hoist the hardware a week from tomorrow.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Akua – That was more like Ichiyamamoto’s normal sumo, and it payed off with a win over Akua, who really can’t seem to get it together right now. Double arm thrusts against Akua’s head and shoulders is the recipe for today, sending Akua into the front row to visit (I think) Dr Takasu. Ichiyamamoto improves to 2-5.
Kotoshoho defeats Kagayaki – Only the second match of the day, and I am already loving it. Kotoshoho goes right hand inside at the tachiai, and Kagayaki’s arm lock is not enough to prevent Kotoshoho from going to work. As has happened too many times lately, Kagayaki is too high, and Kotoshoho has little problem dropping his hips and advancing. Both end the day 4-3.
Chiyomaru defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin had Chiyomaru stalemated at the center of the dohyo, but a grip shift gave Chiyomaru a left hand outside mawashi grip, and it was time to take Tochinoshin out. Probably some of the better sumo from Chiyomaru this March, he improves to 3-4.
Chiyotairyu defeats Yutakayama – It must be “back to your roots” kind of day, because we also got Chiyotairyu’s “thunder god” tachiai today. Blasted Yutakayama clear out of whatever sumo he was going to try first, and three steps later he is out of the ring. Chiyotairyu improves to 3-4, and I am grinning.
Kotokuzan defeats Kotoeko – Kotokuzan read Kotoeko’s opening move perfectly. Kotoeko was working hard for any kind of frontal hold, and Kotokuzan slapped him down. While I would have rather seen them brawl it out, Kotokuzan really needed this win. Both end the day 4-3.
Nishikigi defeats Aoiyama – Solid tachiai from both, but for an unknown reason Aoiyama decided to immedately try to pull. Of course Nishikigi has that response wired into his DNA, advancing from underneath to motor Big Day out of the ring in 3 easy steps. Nishikigi improves to 5-2.
Tobizaru defeats Myogiryu – Not sure I would call that an henka, but Tobizaru moved back and to his left rather than forward at the tachiai, Myogiryu turned to pursue. Tobizaru quickly set up a right hand inside and pulled Myogiryu to the clay. Tobizaru’s 4th win, now at 4-3.
Wakamotoharu defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma had his hands outside at the tachiai, I think to block Wakamotoharu’s initial grab. Chiyoshoma set up a right hand outside, but did not have a solid hold. After consolidating his grip, Wakamotoharu dropped his hips and moved forward to set Chiyomaru outside the ring. Wakamotoharu now 5-2, with some solid no-frills yotsu-zumo.
Shimanoumi defeats Okinoumi – We got to see a strong attack by Okinoumi today, but Shimanoumi picked an inopportune moment to slip to his right, sending Okinoumi forward to receive the hikiotoshi, and step out. Shimanoumi now 3-4, and Okinoumi at 1-5, having one of his “bad” basho.
Kotonowaka defeats Sadanoumi – The Kotonowaka train keeps rolling down the tracks, taking out Sadanoumi today. Sadanoumi blows his opening combo at the tachiai, and Kotonowaka immediately circles behind him, driving him out from the rear for an okuridashi win. Kotonowaka improves to 6-1.
Takayasu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s opening attack was to try for hazu-oshi (armpit attack) to raise Takayasu up, instead he fell a bit short and left hims chest open. Takayasu’s hands found center mass, and Hokutofuji reacted with a pull down attempt. Poor choice, and he found Takayasu deliver a series of relentless thrusting combos to his chest. Under blistering pressure, Hokutofuji stepped out of the ring, giving Takayasu his 7th straight win to improve to 7-0. Not sure where this is going for Takayasu, but he has not looked this good in quite some time.
Endo defeats Takarafuji – At this point I don’t need to see a medical report to know that Takarafuji is likely injured. His sumo still has the forms of normal, but he’s got no power, especially trying to set up his traditional defensive stance. He put up a solid fight today against Endo, with Endo getting advantage on his 3rd attack combo, grabbing Takarafuji and throwing him down to advance to 5-2.
Kiribayama defeats Ichinojo – I liked that Kiribayama used his superior mobility against Ichinojo, who did indeed seem to be ready to use his enormity as his primary weapon today. With Kiribayama latched on to his mawashi, Ichinojo decided to wear him down. Kiribayama wises up to this, breaks contact and attempts to thrust against Ichinojo’s chest. No, too huge to move. Kiribayama is relentless, and gets a left and behind, on Ichinojo’s mawashi knot, and pushes him out from the rear. Nice endurance match, and kind of impressed that Kiribayama could out last Ichinojo. He improves to 5-2.
Hoshoryu defeats Takanosho – There was plenty to love about this Komusubi fight. I liked that Takanosho’s opening strategy was to passivate Hoshoryu, and slow down his sumo. Takanosho, deciding he was ready to attack, lifted and moved forward. Hoshoryu was ready and countered with a throw into Takanosho’s advance. Hoshoryu made it stick, and picked up his 4th win to finish the day 4-3. Takanosho continues to fight well, but has a dismal 1-6.
Abi defeats Ura – Crazy ass match, I think that probably should have been a matta. Instead you get Abi launching early, Ura responding with a reverse tachiai, and then its two of sumo’s biggest chaos merchants turning their reality disfunction generators up to “what was that?” territory. I am not even sure of everything that happened in that 10 seconds as it was some kind of amalgam of Abi-zumo, Hokutofuji, Ura v1.2 Ura v2.1, and maybe even a little Hattorizakura around the edges. With Ura driving forward, Abi shows incredible agility and slams him to the clay just as both cross the bales. As reality snaps back into place there is a monoii, instant replay, a special session of the Diet and maybe a meeting of the UN Security Council to sort this out. The wisest of the world do conclude that Abi won this one, and he advances to 5-2.
Wakatakakage defeats Daieisho – Oh Lordy Lord! Daieisho opens with his power thrusting, but he gets a bit too far ahead of his toes and Wakatakakage captures him with a left hand frontal / right hand rear grip. If you are thinking back to Murray saying “That left hand is a bit of a worry”, YOU ARE NOT WRONG. Wakatakakage lifts Daieisho by the crotch and hurls him to the deck. A glorious okuritsuriotoshi, or as I might call it, kintamadashinage. Wakatakakage improves to 6-1, Daieisho makes an appointment to see a urologist.
Mitakeumi defeats Onosho – High marks for Onosho’s opening salvo, nicely done. He got Mitakeumi to step back, and that’s when trouble began. Onosho re-engaged without taking a step forward. Mitakeumi read this perfectly, and slapped him down with force. Quick and effective, Mitakeumi stays one behind Takayasu at 6-1.
Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi had a good start, but immediately tried to pull against Takakeisho. His timing was terrible and pulled directly into the upward / forward cycle of Takakeisho’s wave action, and caught full power in his chest. Three steps forward for Takakeisho, and he had Tamawashi out. 5-2 for Takakeisho, 3 more wins to clear kadoban.
Shodai defeats Meisei – Maybe the saddest match of day 7, these two 1-5 rikishi, having terrible basho, face off to see who can squeeze out a measly second win. It turned into a wild see-saw match, mostly because Shodai could not stick any kind of foot placement, and was constantly off balance and dancing around. He managed to get an arm wrapped around Meisei as Meisei lost footing, and completed the motion for a sukuinage. Shodai improves to 2-5.