Haru Day 10 – Kinjite, Henka, and a Lone Yokozuna

What a marvellous day we had today at the EDION arena in Osaka.

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Ikioi grabbing Yutakayama’s oicho-mage

The first bout in Makuuchi featured a visitor from Juryo, Takekaze, who seems to be quite on the genki side and ready to come back to the top level. He was faced with Aoiyama, still part of the Yusho arasoi.

This time, no Henka, and Aoiyama pulled away from the tachiai to give himself space for his usual tsuppari attack, then pushed Takekaze forward – but one advantage the little bullfrog has over Aoiyama is that he is much lighter on his feet. Lateral movement, and the Bulgarian’s inertia did the rest. Aoiyama now out of the yusho race, but he will get his kachi-koshi, and probably double digits.

Asanoyama faced shocking pink Hidenoumi, but was not blinded by his mawashi. He got a safe hold on Hidenoumi’s mawashi, tried a yori in one direction, then a yori in the other direction, then just pulled the man down. Uwatedashinage, and Hidenoumi is make-koshi and heading back to Juryo.

Ishiura didn’t do the most flagrant henka on the dohyo today. It was only a half-henka. Myogiryu managed to turn around at the edge, but not quickly enough to avoid the push.

Kotoyuki must be spending a large fraction of his keiko time perfecting his rolling technique. Even when he doesn’t roll off the dohyo, he still manages to roll. And today the bowler was Sokokurai, with a very typical uwatenage. Kotoyuki still winless.

Daiamami, who has had a strong basho this far, surprises by doing a henka. Still not the most flagrant one of the day. And also rather ineffectual. Tochiozan easily recovers and returns the favor, and it’s Daiamami who is on the receiving end of the hatakikomi, and off the yusho race.

Ikioi seems as good as he has been this basho. Pushes here and there, and then slams Yutakayama to the ground. Yutakayama’s hand goes straight to his topknot before he even rises, and for a good reason. His hair got pulled. Was it a forbidden hair pull or a hand accidentally getting caught in the elaborate hairdo? A monoii is called. The shimpan confer and decide: he pulled.

It’s worth noting that the point here is not so much if the hand in the hair is what caused Yutakayama to fall, and it’s also not whether it was intentional or not. Japanese culture regards people’s intentions and feelings as something that can’t be judged easily from the outside, so it tends to concentrate on observable behavior. The point is, therefore, whether Ikioi was grabbing the hair or not. And the replays show him bending his fingers as they get caught in the hair. This makes it a grab. Hatakikomi experts like Aminishiki know to keep their fingers straight when this happens. If your fingers are straight, you’re pretty much safe.

Ikioi, therefore, loses by hansoku – a disqualification – for using a kinjite – a forbidden technique. This is very rare in the top divisions. Ikioi says he thought his hand was already free of the mage when he pulled down.

Chiyonokuni gives Nishikigi his standard treatment. Forward attack with fierce tsuppari, and then a sharp pull. Nishikigi, as he has been for quite a few basho, is struggling to string wins together.

Kagayaki beats Daishomaru by a straightforward yori-kiri. Kagayaki has really improved his sumo style, and I would have expected him to be more than 5-5 at this point. Daishomaru missed his kachi-koshi opportunity this time.

Daieisho tries to develop an oshi battle against Chiyoshoma, but Chiyoshoma catches his mawashi and it turns into a yotsu battle. Chiyoshoma goes back and forth trying to create one of his favorite throws. He is having a hard time of it this basho, though. Eventually he gives up and completes this by a simple, straightforward yori-kiri.

The two rikishi who won the kanto-sho together last basho, Ryuden and Abi, are now being sorted into two different levels. Ryuden, though he is a very nice rikishi, will stay at the low to middle ranks, while Abi is definitely going places. Abi did his standard routine. Long hands landing a barrage of tsuppari, long legs moving forward fast. Ryuden could not withstand that attack or try anything. Abi, if he improves his footwork, may get to sanyaku in a couple of basho.

Something very strange is happening to Yoshikaze. Are we seeing the initial signs of concussion-related issues? He looks pretty much alright in his match with Okinoumi, when suddenly his left foot develops a mind of its own and he crumbles to the ground. The kimarite is kainahineri, but it doesn’t really look like one, and the only reason he escaped being sent off with a tsukihiza (which is a hiwaza – a non-technique, a default) is that Okinoumi was, in fact, applying some force to his body.

Takakeisho continues his weak, supposedly injury-related, sumo vs. the struggling Hokutofuji. For a couple of basho, the tadpoles have been the great hope for the future, and now they are all crumbling together.

Takarafuji showed today what he is really worth, in a patient and strong match with Kotoshogiku. He even attempts to gaburi the gaburi-master at some point there, but eventually finishes with a cleanly executed throw. The Isegahama man is a clear demonstration of the hardship of the joi. In the first week he got pummeled by much superior rikishi, and then, with low confidence and accumulated bangs, lost a couple of matches he should have won if they were in the beginning of his schedule. Thus, a make-koshi for an otherwise excellent wrestler. All he can do is try to pad his slide down the banzuke with a few wins.

Arawashi, whose left knee bandage seems to grow larger every day, is no real match for Endo, who gets him quickly out of the circle. Off-dohyo issues may also be affecting the injured Eagle, as apparently his tsukebito, Hikarugenji, is involved in yet another violence scandal and is kyujo as of today.

And now we come to the highlight match of the day. 420kg on the dohyo, not counting the gyoji. On one side, the new kaiju, Ichinojo, flexing his muscles and looking for young horses to toss around. On the other side, Kaisei, with a perfect 9-0 record, eyeing the yusho. Tachiai. Boom! The meeting of bodies nearly causes the seismographs in the Kansai area to send the signal for all shinkansen to stop in their tracks. It’s lucky that the honbasho dohyo is not made of beer crates like the jungyo dohyo are.

Kaisei takes the initiative and manages to get Ichinojo to the bales, but the Kyomusubi rallies and step by step pushes back to the middle of the ring. Then he sets his alarm clock for the next day, finds a soft spot on Kaisei’s shoulder to rest his head and goes to sleep. Remember, there are no wolves in Japan. Ichinojo can allow himself to sleep deeply, while Kaisei’s eyes start to bulge. The next day, Ichinojo wakes up, pushes a bit, sees that Kaisei still has some stamina left, hits the snooze button, and sleeps some more. Then he wakes up, picks the spent Brazilian up, and heaves him across the tawara.

Kaisei is too heavy to stop dead, and drops down, but Ichinojo still has enough stamina to pull at the Tomozuna man, enough to make him land lightly on his feet with little impact. Well done, Kyomusubi. Ichinojo is kachi-koshi, and Kaisei receives his first loss.

(OK, OK, I’m sure my Japanese jokes are lost on the crowd here. I’m calling him Kyomusubi because Komusubi – 小結 – means “little knot”, but 巨結 – Kyomusubi – giant knot – seems somehow more appropriate).

ichinojo-kaisei
Ichinojo, feeling refreshed after a long nap

But would you believe that this battle of titans, with immediate implications for the yusho run, was honored with not a single envelope of kensho? None. Zero. Ichinojo got to take home only his pride and the fans’ adoration.

Tamawashi has settled into a “one day sunshine, the next day rain” pattern. Where is the strong Tamawashi of yesterday? Chiyotairyu pushes him off the dohyo before the gyoji completes his first “hakkioi”.

The bout between Mitakeumi and Shohozan turns out to be a very nice piece of sumo. Shohozan goes for a harizashi but doesn’t quite gets the “zashi” part (slap-and-grab, but where’s the grab?). Then a slapfest ensues. Another harite! And another! And a body clash! Then Shohozan attempts to pull and sidestep. Mitakeumi keeps his balance and manages to re-engage. But Shohozan has now achieved the “grab” he was looking for, with a right-hand-outside. Mitakeumi’s left hand goes outside Shohozan’s grip, and he attempts to grab at Shohozan with his right, but this only ends with Shohozan having a tight morozashi with both hands firmly on Mitakeumi’s left back mawashi. Mitakeumi tries to do something with the arm he has on Shohozan’s neck, but Shohozan’s mighty pythons are doing their job, and Mitakeumi finds himself rolling below the dohyo.

Takayasu makes short work of Shodai. Kachiage. A couple of Nodowa, and good-bye. Takayasu is kachi-koshi, safe from kadoban, and looks pretty much like he did in the previous basho.

And now we come to the most flagrant henka of the day. By, you guessed it, Ozeki Go-Away-Do. And I don’t want to hear any complaints about me using that nickname when he does this. Are you under 170cm, Ozeki? Perhaps you weigh less than 100kg? Are you injured? Coming back from a long, rust inducing kyujo? In kadoban? Facing a man ranked 10 levels above you? Bah. Chicken. His home crowd at Osaka didn’t like it, either. There was a babble of disapproval where there should have been applause for their hero. The Osaka crowd are sumo aficionados. They know what’s right and what’s not. Tochinoshin managed to circle around in time, but couldn’t rally fast enough. He is now out of the yusho race. But I certainly hope he can continue the Ozeki run. Goeido, on the other hand, gets about 20 envelopes of kensho for this display.

Kakuryu, after his display of tawara-waltz yesterday, probably decided it’s time to show some Yokozuna-worthy sumo. He starts with a harizashi (which some argue is not yokozuna sumo. Well, at least not when the Yokozuna is Hakuho). Then gets his typical migi-yotsu, firmly holding to Chiyomaru‘s mawashi with his right hand.

This was, in fact, only the second time he used that grip in this basho. That’s the injured hand, and most of his bouts have been about working around it. He attempts to use it for the yori, but it’s actually Chiyomaru who advances. The yokozuna changes his overarm grip – the left hand – placing it closer to the front of Chiyomaru’s mawashi, and then uses it cleanly and efficiently and Chiyomaru finds himself outside in no time. This has been the first time for Chiyomaru to appear on the musubi-no-ichiban, or engage with a Yokozuna at all. He said “It was an atmosphere which I have never experienced before”.

chiyomaru-kakuryu
Sniff, sniff. Love your aftershave, Maru.

Kakuryu achieves his “Yokozuna kachi-koshi”. It now remains to see if his faith is going to be different than in the previous basho, as he goes into the last third where he faces the strongest opponents. And the first challenge is Kyomusubi Ichinojo!

Yusho Arasoi

  • 10-0 – Y1E Kakuryu
  • 9-1 – M6E Kaisei
  • 8-2 – OE Takayasu, KE Ichinojo

Juryo

As I said, I’m combining my coverages today, and here is the Juryo summary.

homarefuji-takanoiwa
Takanoiwa can’t find his sea legs as yet

At the very bottom, Enho is edging closer to a make-koshi, and his chance of winning all of his next five bouts are vanishingly small, much like himself. He will need to spend some more time at Makushita and get those kilograms rolling.

 

 

Tobizaru pretty much sweeps the floor with him.

Terutsuyoshi is not fairing much better, and I believe he is heading back to Makushita yet again, despite being stronger than Enho. He complains of various injuries on the Isegahama website.

 

The rest of the Isegahama sekitori surprisingly all won today, while all of Takanohana’s lost. In fact, Takanoiwa lost to Homarefuji.

Homarefuji got him into an oshi battle, which is clearly not his specialty.

Terunofuji got to meet the much higher-ranked Kyokutaisei. And once again, showed a glimpse of the old Terunofuji:

Harizashi, yotsu, yori-kiri. The former Ozeki and Kyokutaisei both hit the even 5-5 mark.

For some reason, One And Only seems not to like Aminishiki, and never posts a video of his bouts. So here is a time-stamped (46m 18s) full Juryo video from Miselet:

I have a hunch Aminishiki is going to announce his retirement soon – after this basho, or maybe the next. He is having a real hard time, and I suppose he is getting tired of suffering pain day after day and seeing not much in return.

But for the time being, he manages to scrape another win and break his fall down Juryo somewhat. Tokushoryu tries a tottari, but Aminishiki uses the same elbow to push him away and out.

Mitoryu and Sadanoumi are the only two Juryo wrestlers to achieve kachi-koshi by day 10. Tsurugisho and Amakaze are, alas, make-koshi.

Finally, at Jonokuchi, here is the Hoshoryu of the day. Congratulations, first kachi koshi!

Haru Day 2 Highlights

Kakuryu Osaka 2018

A quick recap of day two action from Osaka. Ichinojo looks to be the real spoiler for this basho, and as long as he keeps up this run, he’s going to be tough to beat. Takayasu seems to be off to a cold start, and Mitakeumi can smell the opportunity ripe in the air. Can he finally score double digits this time? We get to see Takakeisho unleash his wave-action attack, and Shohozan lands a beauty of a slap.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Daiamami – It’s tough to know what plagued Aoiyama in Kyushu, but he looks to be back to his overpowering self now. At the very bottom of the Makuuchi division, he can do a lot of damage if he is healthy. The enormous left knee bandage is a worry, but he seems to be moving well enough for now.

Hidenoumi defeats Takekaze – Takekaze tries to hit and shift, but Hidenoumi stays low and engaged. Clearly, Hidenoumi knew what to expect, and read the situation well. This could be the twilight of veteran Takekaze’s time on camera.

Ikioi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu came out of the tachiai strong, but Ikioi very effectively blocked him, tied him up and shut him down. Myogiryu rallied, but Ikioi had the inside position and stepped back, forcing Myogiryu off balance. Ikioi charged and used his momentum to drive Myogiryu from the dohyo. Nicely done, in spite of Ikioi’s injuries.

Ishiura defeats Daishomaru – These Ishiura henkas are getting boring. This one had a nice variation, in that Ishiura rolled into a quick sukuinage.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyoshoma – Nice drive from Yutakayama, and Chiyoshoma can put up almost no resistance. Yutakayama had difficulty holding on to his Maegashira rank in his first few attempts, but he seems to have settled into the top division.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan is clearly still injured, but Chiyonokuni drives hard (as he always does), and dominates Tochiozan.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Some nice work here by Kagayaki, who fights hard to get inside, and focuses on keeping control of Okinoumi’s upper body while relentlessly driving forward. The veteran can’t recover, and it’s Kagayaki’s win.

Daieisho defeats Ryuden – Daieisho came off the line hard and was nothing short of fierce in his bout today against Ryuden. At no point did he let Ryuden mount an effective defense or offense. A half step ahead from the start, Daieisho drove Ryuden from the ring.

Kaisei defeats Abi – It’s really interesting to see Abi work at this higher rank. He is encountering some big men who are fairly genki this tournament. Abi starts with nodowa and tries to convert that into a slap down, but Kaisei is too massive and too stable. Once Abi starts moving backward, Kaisei chases him down for the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji really applies himself in this match and has Yoshikaze back in a hurry, and off balance. But the Berserker rallies and gets Hokutofuji in retreat. Both of them take a dive off the lip of the dohyo, with an unfortunate tea-bag delivered by Yozhikaze in the lap of a shimpan.

Shohozan defeats Chiyomaru – Trading blows from the tachiai, this match features a really energetic slap delivered to Chiyomaru’s face, which seems to disrupt his thrusting attack. From there it’s all Shohozan for the win.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – Takakeisho takes full advantage of Shodai’s weak and high tachiai, coming in low, strong and fast. From there, he fires up the “wave action” and Shodai is doomed. Shodai tries a wave himself and receives a pride obliterating face-slap from Takakeisho. This was all Takakeisho’s sumo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – While it looked like Kotoshogiku was going to set up the Hug-N-Chug, he rolled to his right for a nice sukuinage. Chiyotairyu was defeated before he knew what happened.

Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji – Mitakeumi battles hard immediately to block Takarafuji landing a controlling grip, and for a time the two of them struggle almost motionless in the middle of the dohyo. You can see the extreme exertion as each man tries to overpower the other. To Mitakeumi’s credit, Takarafuji breaks the scrum and manages to get Mitakeumi moving backward, but Mitakeumi takes his time and counter-attacks. Nice sumo from both men.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin was driving hard for a grip, and Tamawashi used that to his advantage. Unable to get the match on his terms, Tochinoshin battled hard but it was Tamawashi who called the tune.

Ichinojo defeats Takayasu – I fear that Pooh-Bear has gotten so used to using that shoulder blast, he is not sure how to engage someone like Ichinojo. Clearly, he is off the pace and out of his element from the start, and Ichinojo gives him no quarter. Takayasu drives forward against Ichinojo’s immovable bulk, and Ichinojo helps him continue in motion all the way to the clay. The big Mongolian made it look easy.

Goeido defeats Arawashi – Good thing, too! Goeido launched early, and it should have probably been a matta. He was in Arawashi’s chest in no time and drove him back and out.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo made him work hard for this win, and really put up a strong fight against the sole surviving Yokozuna. Endo drove Kakuryu back to the tawara within the first few moments, but the Yokozuna’s reactive sumo took over and got Endo off balance and moving towards the center of the ring. A well-timed hatakikomi sent Endo to the clay.

Day 14 – Yusho, packed and delivered

We have ourselves a yusho winner. The first from Georgia. The first Maegashira to win the title since Kyokutenho in in Natsu 2012. The first Kasugano yusho winner in 46 years (Tochiazuma Tomoyori, Hatsu 1972 – also Maegashira at the time). No wonder the Kasugano support club wanted to see a fish and to see it now:

tochinoshin-with-fish
I lifted Mitakeumi, I almost lifted Ichinojo. What’s this puny fish to me?

Down at Jonokuchi, I’m glad to inform you that Yoshoyama managed to scrape his kachi-koshi today, facing the hapless Osumifuji.

Now I hope someone at Tokitsukaze – preferably not Shodai – will use the time until Haru to teach the kid how to do a tachiai properly. Osumifuji joins the droves of make-koshi rikishi from Isegahama.

yoshoyama
Yoshoyama. Now you’ll be able to pick him up in a lineup.

37 year old Hokutogo from Hakkaku beya says goodbye to the sumo world after 22 years. Never made it higher than Makushita 54.

His heya mates brought him flowers to the hana-michi.

In Makushita, Wakamotoharu lost his final bout and is make-koshi. No video at this time.

Up in Juryo, Meisei goes against Takagenji:

Takagenji still doesn’t have kachi-koshi. Both he and Meisei will need a win tomorrow. Takagenji will face the strong Hidenoumi who wants the Yusho.

On to the top division we go:

Sokokurai and Daiamami engage in a lengthy hidari-yotsu, with Sokokurai burying his head in Daiamami’s chest. Eventually Sokokurai tries a throw, but it doesn’t quite work and Daiamami uses it to yori-kiri him.

Kotoyuki and Daieisho go on a tsuppari battle, that ends up with Kotoyuki spread across the dohyo. Hikiotoshi. Kotoyuki’s last chance of a kachi-koshi is tomorrow.

Yutakayama pushes Daishomaru mightily to the edge. Daishomaru tries a side step. Yutakayama slams to the ground – but Daishomaru is also out. Gunbai says Yutakayama, a monoii is called – but Daishomaru’s foot was out first, and it is indeed Yutakayama’s win – and kachi-koshi.

Aminishiki tries to be as genki as he can and bumps into Nishikigi. Gives a harite and tries to get a mawashi grip. This doesn’t quite work, and Nishikigi drives him to the edge. Then hovers around with a worried face to see that he didn’t damage the old man. On the Isegahama web site, Aminishiki writes “Tomorrow is the last match, so I want to win”. Somehow it sounds to me that he means that it’s the ultimate last match. He may not want to go down to Juryo again.

And… Ishiura does a henka against Chiyomaru. Ishiura kachi-koshi. So we’ll see more of his henka in Haru. Sigh.

Ryuden takes on Kaisei and gets in a quick morozashi. Kaisei has the weight advantage and good mobility on his side, and he shifts and turns and gets one of Ryuden’s hands out. Then tries to pull an uwatenage, but he ends up on the floor first, and it’s declared Ryuden’s shitatenage. Ryuden hits the double digits on his debut – which is impressive because he was never a double digits man.

Chiyoshoma gets a fast hold on Asanoyama and they go on a raging battle, but Chiyoshoma loses his hold, and once Asanoyama has his grip, he pushes the Mongolian out with a defiant head nod. Chiyoshoma make-koshi, Asanoyama kachi-koshi again. It’s funny to hear people in the crowd cheering for him using his real name (Ishibashi).

The Ghost of Terunofuji vs. Ikioi. Move along. Nothing to see here. It’s a yoritaoshi despite Ikioi both hurting and trying to be gentle. Terunofuji says that he wants to win at least tomorrow’s bout. Fat chance.

Takekaze comes in strong at the tachiai and gets his left hand inside… but that’s about all he can manage. Okinoumi brushes him out as if he was a fly.

Kagayaki starts an oshi battle vs. Endo, but after a couple of clashes, falls pray to slippiotoshi, Endo swiftly moving aside to let him “split the dohyo” as the Japanese expression goes.

The camera has been following Tochinoshin through the previous two bouts. A few obligatory shots of Shohozan as well, but he is not the story here. When those two finally get at it, you can cut the tension with a knife. Shohozan starts a tsuppari barrage which Tochinoshin can only fend off. This goes on for some time, then Shohozan tries to sidestep. This nearly gets Tochinoshin, and the spectators let out a big “whoa”. But he quickly turns around, and when he does, he also gets a good grip on Shohozan, and from there it’s a couple of yori followed by a yori-kiri. The man from Georgia gets his first yusho. The crowd bursts into applause. It’s party time… but there are still bouts to go.

Yoshikaze and Chiyotairyu are apparently graduates of the same university. So they are sempai and kohai. But Chiyotairyu doesn’t give Yoshikaze any precedence, and quickly pulls at him for a hatakikomi. Yoshikaze looked for a moment like he was going for an outstanding performance prize, but that moment passed several bouts ago.

In yet another battle of opposite ends, Abi draws former Ozeki Kotoshogiku in a battle of the up-and-coming vs. the down-and-going. However, Kotoshogiku is not going anywhere without a fight. Abi tries to pull Kotoshogiku down quickly, but Kotoshogiku not falling for that. Abi then sticks his head in Kotoshogiku’s chest and grabs at his armpits. But a yori battle will favor the Chrisanthemum. Abi’s pelvis is about the height of Kotoshogiku’s chest, so Kotoshogiku refrains from pumping his hips, but he does know how to push, and yori-kiris Abi right out. In Yiddish we call this “rebe-gelt” – “tuition”, what you pay when you learn a lesson.

Chiyonokuni doesn’t give Hokutofuji even two seconds before slapping him down. Hatakikomi, and the Kokonoe man slowly reduces the damage of his make-koshi, while Hokutofuji is 4-10 and will drop way down the banzuke at Haru.

Now, I hate it when the torikumi guys pit two guys I like against each other, but oh well, I can always be happy for the winner. This time Takarafuji was trying to get his kachi-koshi from Ichinojo. And Ichinojo is not in the business of letting his rivals win this basho. If they want to, they have to work for it. Ichinojo unbelievably tries for a nodowa on his left and momentarily allows Takarafuji to get his hand in on his right. Nodowa? The boulder quickly realizes his mistake, abandons the nonexistent throat, and changes his grip on the right. Now it’s migi-yotsu, which favors Ichinojo. But there is no extended leaning battle this time, as Ichinojo grabs Takarafuji’s mawashi tightly and throws him outside for a shitatedashinage, no ifs, ands and buts.

Today it was the old Shodai vs. the old Takakeisho. Shodai stands up at the tachiai. Doesn’t get anything done. Takakeisho bumps him a couple of time. No kachi-koshi for Shodai as yet.

In the match of the Eagles, Arawashi with his bad knees gets a better tachiai. I would even call this one a matta. But Tamawashi regroups and goes into a tsuppari attack. Arawashi sidesteps, and Tamawashi flies over the edge. Arawashi still has a chance for a kachi-koshi tomorrow.

Goeido avoids kadoban and gets Mitakeumi all the way to the tawara in a blink of an eye. Correct bootup today, apparently.

Musubi no ichiban. Takayasu  drives hard and gets Kakuryu to the edge. But Kakuryu is looking better today, circles and regroups. Tries to get a grip on Takayasu, but Takayasu turns him around. The Yokozuna quickly turns right back and lunges at Takayasu. And then…. he… pulls… again…. Oshidashi, yet another loss for the Yokozuna. And Takayasu has the jun-yusho (though theoretically he can lose tomorrow and Ryuden or Kakuryu win).

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day14

So the yusho goes to Tochinoshin. Both the Georgian prime minister and president tweet their congratulations.

Tochinoshin's family in Georgia
Tochinoshin’s family watching his bout back in Georgia

The jun-yusho, with high probability, goes to Takayasu. My assumption is that he will do his best to win tomorrow, to make it a decent 12-3 jun-yusho, which may allow him to lay claim to a rope should he win the yusho in Haru. One of my twitter followers says that not having been in the yusho picture, this wouldn’t count for Takayasu, but I think that if he does happen to win Haru, given that he has the all-important Japanese birth certificate, the NSK and the YDC may avoid nitpicking.

What’s left tomorrow is to see if the Yokozuna can pull at least the win from Goeido. To see who gets the various sansho (Abi still has a shot, Ryuden certainly has, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ichinojo gets one). And then we will get to see Tochinoshin lifting cup after cup, and being driven around in the NSK’s spiffy new Mercedes-Benz.

 

Hatsu Day 14 Preview

yobidashi

Let the trumpets blow, and the banners fly! We are entering the final weekend of what has been a fantastic basho. Should mighty Tochinoshin manage one more wins sumo fans will be treated to the rare event of a rank-and-file rikishi winning the Emperor’s cup. The only path for this not to happen would be for Tochinoshin to lose his last two matches, and for either Takayasu or Kakuryu to win both of their last two. This would force a day 15 playoff. The odds of this are very very slim.

As I mentioned in comments on Herouth’s fantastic day 13 summary, I believe the Yokozuna Kakuryu has re-injured himself, possibly his lower back. He is no longer generating much in the way of forward pressure. If this were a normal basho, he would probably consider withdrawing at this point, as he has a healthy 10 wins. But a combination of him being the lone surviving Yokozuna, and the mandate from the YDC that he finishes his next basho keeps him on the torikumi, even though it seems pretty clear that he is no longer fit to fight.

Takayasu, on the other hand, is fit to fight. He has picked up some unhealthy habits in the past 9 months but seems strong, stable and unhurt. Because he faces Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 14, the winner of this match will likely pick up the Jun-Yusho for Hatsu 2018. If that honor falls to Takayasu, it would be his second. If it’s Kakuryu, it would be his 7th.

For the second day in a row, the scheduling team has created huge moves across the banzuke, with upper and lower rikishi facing off. Many have kachi/make-koshi on the line.

Hatsu Leader Board

Its all down to Tochinoshin – one more win and he’s in.

Leader – Tochinoshin
Hunter Group – Takayasu, Kakuryu

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

*Abbreviated again as your humble associate editor continues to nurse the flu.

Kotoyuki vs Daieisho – Kotoyuki looking for win #8, and Daieisho may not put up too much of a fight. Kotoyuki holds a 3-1 career advantage.

Yutakayama vs Daishomaru – Yutakayama also trying to pick up #8, but he has never taken a match from Daishomaru, who needs 2 wins to secure a winning record.

Ishiura vs Chiyomaru – One of the big gap matches, Ishiura (M15) goes up against the bulbous Chiyomaru (M9). Ishiura is still one win away from a kachi-koshi to hold on to his position as a Makuuchi rikishi. Chiyomaru already kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru will look to keep Ishiura from getting too low and grabbing the mawashi to set up a throw. Given Chiyomaru’s enormous girth, that grip could be hard to achieve.

Ryuden vs Kaisei – Both men are kachi-koshi, but Ryuden is pushing for 10 wins and a possible sansho to start the year. Ryuden (M16) has actually beaten Kaisei (M8) the only time they matched, during Kaisei’s Juryo furlough.

Chiyoshoma vs Asanoyama – The happy rikishi Asanoyama (M16) has his first time meeting with Chiyoshoma (M7). This is a real Darwin match as Chiyoshoma needs both wins to secure a winning record, and Asanoyama needs one more to avoid being returned to Juryo for March.

Kagayaki vs Endo – Our very own buxom rikishi Kagayaki (M12) will try his sumo against the surprisingly agile and balanced Endo (M5) who had a fantastic match against Kotoshogiku on day 13. Both are kachi-koshi, so this is more of a “test match” than anything. Kagayaki has a surprising 4-1 career advantage over Endo.

Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – This one is for all the hardware. Shohozan is never a pushover and will fight hard to slap the presumptive Yusho winner away from his belt at every chance. He can rest assured that once Tochinoshin lands his grip, he’s going to take Shohozan out for a loss.

Abi vs Kotoshogiku – The biggest banzuke gap match of the day pits Abi (M14) against former Ozeki Kotoshokigu (M2). Kotoshogiku wants to pick up at least one more win, and Abi wants to qualify for one of the magical sansho special prizes he has coveted. This is their first ever match.

Takarafuji vs Ichinojo – Calm and competent Takarafuji needs one more win in the last two days to secure a winning record. While we get to see if Ichinojo got hurt in Friday’s match, or if he returns ready to swat the smaller rikishi around like bugs once more. Ichinojo holds a 9-2 career advantage.

Takakeisho vs Shodai – Takakeisho’s record is a lost cause for Hatsu, but against all odds, Shodai could still walk out of this one with kachi-koshi. Takakeisho is looking slightly rough, and I am not sure if it’s because he has gotten a right good beating this basho, or if he is nursing some nagging mechanical injury.

Arawashi vs Tamawashi – Battle of the Eagles sets Arawashi of the damaged legs against Tamawashi the smiter of men. Tamawashi holds a 6-3 career advantage, and I am expecting Arawashi to end up make-koshi after this bout.

Goeido vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi seems to have remembered his sumo on day 13, and we are all glad for it. Now if whatever happened to him can be uploaded to GoeidOS 0.5 beta 3 before the unit is declared defective and stamped “kadoban” once again, the sumo world will rejoice.

Kakuryu vs Takayasu – My guess is Takayasu blasts Kakuryu out in a hurry, and Big K offers little resistance. Not because he does not care or does not want to win, I will state again I am pretty sure he is injured. If I am wrong, this could be a really first-class battle as Kakuryu has a 12-5 career advantage over Takayasu, and when healthy can generally cause all kind of havoc with a rikishi (even an Ozeki) that is chaotic and sloppy as Takayasu has become.

Day 13 – It’s Georgia. Not the US state, the country.

The Makuuchi Chamipionship is all but determined, as Tochinoshin goes from chasing to being chased. But before we make ourselves familiar with the Caucasus and the Georgian cuisine, rich in walnuts and cheeses, we already have a champion today – in the Makushita division.

wakatakakage
Your shikona is Wakatakakage. Now repeat that 10 times at high speed.

The schedulers matched Wakatakakage (Ms #17) with the other yusho contender, Tochiseiryu (Ms #47). Both came into the bout with 6-0.

Tochiseiryu’s pre-bout looks similar to Tochiozan’s, doesn’t it? Anyway, W.T.K. dispatches of him easily, as the difference in rank would suggest, and wins a zensho-yusho. I believe his position is just below the Juryo promotion line, though, and in any case the upper Makushita have many kachi-koshi wrestlers waiting for one of the (probably 7) open Juryo positions.

One of those on line for those 7 positions is Prince Enho, who today had a battle for the kachi-koshi with Shonannoumi. Both coming into this match 3-3.

Ah… Enho… I guess with Hakuho’s royal feet being kyujo, Enho has to settle for taking lessons from Ishiura. Which is not something I’d recommend. What’s with the henka? Was that really necessary?

OK, I’ll try my hand at a bit of demotion-promotion speculation. Here is a summary of the situation of the bottom of Juryo:

#14E Akua Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#14W Kizenryu Make-koshi, only three wins so far.
#12E Yamaguchi Make-koshi, only two wins so far.
#12W Tochihiryu Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#11E Ura Full kyujo due to surgery.
#9W Toyohibiki Full kyujo due to injury.
#8W Osunaarashi 1 win. Kyujo due to scandal. Drop from Juryo certain, may face retirement.

The others in between are either kachi-koshi or minimal make-koshi. So these are seven potential slots, though I suppose Tochihiryu may still be saved.

The situation at the top of Makushita is:

#1E Yago kachi-koshi
#1W Terutsuyoshi kachi-koshi
#2W Shimanoumi kachi-koshi
#3W Tobizaru kachi-koshi
#4W Akiseyama kachi-koshi
#6E Enho kachi-koshi
#7E Takayoshitoshi kachi-koshi

So Takayoshitoshi is on the bubble, it seems, but he still has one bout to go, and if he wins it, he’ll have a better kachi-koshi than Enho and may pass him in on the promotion line.

Down in Sandanme, unfortunately, Torakio suffered an injury. I will not post his bout from yesterday as I don’t like to share videos of people rolling around in pain. He could not return to the dohyo for his bout after his loss, and he is now on the kyujo list. He will be make-koshi. Too bad to have an injury at such an early stage of his career, let’s hope it’s not as bad as it looked – shoulder and arm issue).

I’m not going to give you the Hattorizakura video this time – because the kid is back to his old way, walking backward just being looked at, which is a real shame. Anyway, he has now completed is usual set of 7 losses, and will have to wait until Haru to show us some progress again.

Tomorrow Yoshoyama-Osumifuji, both 3-3, vying for the kachi-koshi.

Up in Juryo, Kyokutaisei has ensured his kachi-koshi, and being Juryo #1, has ensured his promotion to Makuuchi. The papers make much of the fact that he is from Hokkaido, but I’m making much of the fact that he is from Tomozuna beya (Kaisei’s heya), and will therefore help the Isegahama ichimon a little bit in the coming power rankings. 🙂

kyokutaisei-kachi-koshi
Kyokutaisei vs. Takagenji

Mitoryu has also ensured his kachi-koshi and will continue wearing his kesho-mawashi for a second tournament.

If you’re interested in the Juryo bouts, there’s this channel where the owner seems to upload each of the lower division’s complete bouts a few hours after each day ends.

So… we go up to Makuuchi, and what do we see?

Sokokurai trying hard to stay at Makuuchi. Today he faced Yutakayama who is still looking for a kachi-koshi. He can’t get a mawashi hold on Yutakayama, but eventually sidesteps and gets a hikiotoshi.

Today Ishiura decided to go for plain, forward-moving sumo. Maybe because Daishomaru is not much taller than he is. And what do you know, it worked! He grabs Daishomaru’s mawashi with his left hand and shows him the way out, yori-kiri.

Kotoyuki gets an easy one against Daiamami. They call this a tsukitaoshi, but I’d say it was a tsukite (which is a hiwaza).

The ghost of Terunofuji meets Takekaze and gives the old man a little more padding against the Juryo drop. Terunofuji unable to do a proper tachiai, let alone keep from being pushed.

A… Asanoyama… where are you? Who is that scarecrow who mounts the dohyo in your place in the second week? Chiyomaru needed exactly half a second to pull Asanoyama to the ground. Is Asanoyama sitting too close to the Isegahama guys in the shitakubeya or what?

Shohozan makes short work of Daieisho, who seems to have lost his will to do sumo once he secured his kachi-koshi. Shohozan gets in a couple of harite, then wraps Daieisho’s body and flips him for a sukuinage.

Abi really looks like he is enjoying his work, even during the actual bout. He got Kaisei, who has a huge weight advantage on him. He starts as usual with a “morotezuki”, which means he thrusts with both hands. Then he sidesteps and nearly gets Kaisei off-balance. Kaisei stays on his feet but it’s enough for Abi to grab at his mawashi, turn him around and send him out by okuri-dashi. What weight advantage? The youngster is 9-4, and may actually get one of those sansho prizes he talked about.

Chiyonokuni seems to have improved once he got his make-koshi. He starts with his tsuppari attack before Nishikigi completes his tachiai, and then pulls for a tsukiotoshi.

Chiyoshoma gets in for a fine tachiai, but Kagayaki gets a grip on his belt, and they start dancing around the dohyo. Although Chiyoshoma manages to escape from that grip, that wild dance ends with him putting a foot outside the dohyo. Kagayaki secures his first kachi-koshi since Natsu.

The shimpan gave poor old Aminishiki a real scare. This match was nervous for both him and Ikioi (which one is more injured?), with two mattas to begin with. And then he threw a flying henka and somehow managed to get Ikioi down  before he ran out of dohyo. Not his usual precision, though. Anyway, Konosuke called it Aminishiki’s. The shimpan called a monoii. And as Kintamayama will tell you, a monoii on Konosuke’s shift is an exercise in futility. Finally the shimpan agree that Konosuke is right, and the head shimpan tries to explain the decision. But he seems to be in his cups – mutters and forgets what he wanted to say. He goes as far as saying that it was a “gunbai sashi-chigae” – which it certainly was not, before the crowd’s murmur wakes him up and he corrects himself and lets Aminishiki get his kensho. Poor Uncle.

Ryuden gets a better start than Takarafuji, but Takarafuji manages to get his left hand inside, which is his favorite grip. Ryuden circles and squirms and gets rid of that hand, while himself maintaining a hold on Takarafuji’s mawashi. A battle of grips ensues. Takarafuji gets Ryuden’s hand off his mawashi, but Ryuden still has a hold on his body. Ryuden tries to make a throw. Loses the mawashi grip he momentarily regained. Takarafuji manages to lock both Ryuden’s arm in front of his chest. But at this point Takarafuji runs out of stamina and eventually Ryuden yori-kiri’s him. I hope Takarafuji hasn’t contracted that Isegahama flu. Ryuden is an excellent wrestler, and I believe we’ll see him in sanyaku at some point. And yes, he has 9 wins, like Abi, and may also become a sansho winner.

Endo starts by pulling and sending a couple of slaps in Kotoshogiku‘s direction. Grabs at Kotoshogiku’s hand, then converts that into a right-hand-inside mawashi grip with Kotoshogiku between him and the tawara. Kotoshogiku dances and gains some ground. Grabs at Endo’s right hand and tries for a kotenage. Endo manages to retain his footing. Kotoshogiku still has his right hand, but he has his left on Kotoshogiku’s torso. He then pushes against the right hand – the one Kotoshogiku is still latched onto – for a yori-kiri. Excellent match, and Endo gets a kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo and Tochinoshin… what is a yusho-related bout doing here, so early in the day? Well, Ichinojo and Tochinoshin grab at each other’s mawashi right off the tachiai. It’s a migi-yotsu and both of them have firm mawashi grips on both sides. So who’s going to be stronger? For a moment it looks undecided, but Ichinojo loses his left hand grip, and Tochinoshin goes for the kill. Ichinojo sticks to the tawara – good boy! But Tochinoshin applies some sideways force and gets Ichinojo out. Titanic.

ichinojo-tochinoshin
Note to self: don’t try tsuri-dashi again on this guy

Hokutofuji comes in strong at Yoshikaze. The man in the green mawashi seems not to have completely recovered from yesterday’s Force-choke. Hokutofuji finally gets to show the sumo he became famous for. Oshidashi.

Chiyotairyu overwhelms Takakeisho who once again finds himself flying off the dohyo (and into Arawashi’s lap). Oshitaoshi.

Shodai once again comes straight off the tachiai into a morozashi. But Tamawashi gets himself released and answers with an expert tsuppari attack that sends Shodai outside, looking for his kachi-koshi elsewhere.

Arawashi, still suffering the effects of a Takakeisho bomb landing on him, has to suffer yet again as the Takayasu locomotive slams into him. Boom! Seismographs around Tokyo register a level 3 tremor while the Eagle flies into Goeido’s arms. Sitting on the East side of the dohyo today has been a serious health risk. Takayasu gets double digits for the first time since his Ozeki run.

Goeido gets a grip on Okinoumi‘s body and pushes forward, though it looks half-hearted. Gets his 7th win. Will try to get his kachi-koshi vs. Mitakeumi tomorrow.

And now, the musubi-no-ichiban. It’s a bit of an anti-climax as we already know that Tochinoshin maintained his lead. But let’s see…

Mitakeumi just lifts the Yokozuna’s upper part with his left hand and pushes forward. Kakuryu finds himself backpaddling again. And out again. And… the yusho flies away, probably never to return.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day13

The Yokozuna has his Yokozuna kachi-koshi, that’s true. But this crumble at money time is bound to raise murmurs among the YDC this Monday. One of the guys on Twitter wrote something along the lines of: “In the first few days, all my friends were saying Kakuryu stands up to pressure much better than Harumafuji. I had to nod. But now we can see the real difference, because Harumafuji’s nerves held up much better once the yusho was on the table”.

The Yokozuna still has a couple of days to improve his score. But the chances that Tochinoshin will drop two consecutive bouts are very slim. And who knows if it’s the Yokozuna who’ll be doing the playoff with him if that happens.

Yusho Arasoi:

Leader (12-1): M3 Tochinoshin

Chasers (10-3):

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Ozeki Takayasu

Tomorrow those two face each other, and oh boy, Takayasu looks much better at the moment.

So, start learning about Georgia, because it sure looks like the Emperor’s Cup is going there right now.

 

Hatsu Day 12 Highlights

Kakuryu-Hand

The mad-cap roller-coaster of Sumo that is our wonderful Hatsu basho took another wild and exciting turn on day 12. Unlike Kyushu, which was another relentless march of the dai-Yokozuna towards an inevitable victory, the sole remaining (weak) Yokozuna has made this basho exciting, unpredictable and frankly a whole lot of fun. Read no further if you don’t want to know what happened.

On day 11, Yokozuna Kakuryu lost to Tamawashi, making a tactical mistake that his opponent knew would come, and was eager to exploit. In that moment when Kakuryu, the sole undefeated rikishi lost, the yusho race opened wide, and a giant bear of a man stepped up. On day 12, that picture changes again.

So many good matches today. Many good bouts from all rikishi at all levels of the banzuke. The Hatsu basho continues to delight and impress.

Following Herouth’s approach, let’s start at the bottom of the list

Day 12 Matches

Hidenoumi defeats Ishiura – Visiting from Juryo, Ishiura gifts him with a shiny new kachi-koshi. From the tachiai, Ishiura attempts to hit and shift left, but Hidenoumi tracks him perfectly. Now Ishiura’s gambit is in trouble, as his back is to the tawara, and he’s very close to being out. Ishiura manages to break contact and attempt a slap, but Hidenoumi is completely dialed into Ishiura’s sumo, wraps him up, and delivers the yorikiri.

Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – Massive respect for Nishikigi, who refuses to give up and go away to Juryo again. The match starts with a big hit at the tachiai, and both men lock up with each going for a left hand inside grip. The crowd goes quiet as each leans in, working to wear the other down. When Kagayaki lifts and shifts to try to get his right hand inside, Nishikigi makes his move. Well executed sumo from both, but Nishikigi showed superior skill.

Kotoyuki defeats Asanoyama – It’s clear from the tachiai that Asanoyama wants to get a belt grip and negate Kotoyuki’s oshi attack. Asanoyama comes in low aiming for the belt, and Kotoyuki opens by pounding on Asanoyama’s face and neck. To his credit, Asanoyama stands up to the beating for a while, struggling to land a grip, but Kotoyuki knows this game, and keeps moving forward. Asanoyama changes tactics, and tries to pull, but his transition puts him off balance and Kotoyuki finishes him off. Oshidashi for the win.

Ryuden defeats Daishomaru – Ryuden kachi-koshi. This bout was quite one sided, with Ryuden landing a double inside grip straight out of the tachiai. Driving forward, Ryuden prevented Daishomaru from mounting any real defense. It’s been a long hard road for Ryuden, and this winning record from his first Makuuchi tournament must be a sweet victory indeed.

Daiamami defeats Terunofuji – Rather the Ghost of Terunofuji. The poor Kaiju has nothing left. I rarely feel sorry for anyone who competes in a warrior sport, but this is just brutal to watch.

Takekaze defeats Aminishiki – Really Isegahama? What on earth are you doing? You are already somewhat diminished by the Harumafuji scandal, and now you put on this show of pain and suffering for the fans?

Shohozan defeats Sokokurai – What an awesome match! It starts with a traditional Shohozan bull rush with arms flailing, and Sokokurai gives ground, but does not give up. As they circle, Sokokurai is trying like mad to wrap up one of Shohozan’s massive arms, and he gets a good hold on the left arm at the wrist. He parlays that into a left hand inside grip, and the two are dancing to set up a throw. Shohozan launches an uwatenage attempt first, but Sokokurai counters masterfully. As Sokokurai rotates to try his own throw, Shohozan moves forward strongly and Sokokurai collapses. Yoritaoshi. Shohozan is kachi-koshi.

Abi defeats Chiyomaru – Abi tries a slap down henka at the tachiai, but Chiyomaru is either expecting it, or his bulbous midsection kept him slow off the line. Either way the move fails and Chiyomaru attacks a now back-tracking Abi. But Abi is an unstoppable ball of energy, and launches his now familiar thrusting attack, most of which is landing on Chiyomaru’s neck and face. Chiyomaru rallies at one point, but Abi’s attack is too intense, and Chiyomaru steps out. Oshidashi, with Abi kachi-koshi in his first top division tournament.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – The new plus size Kaisei seems to be nearly impossible to move. Even Daieisho’s normally solid pushing attack had no effect. The bulk of the match is Kaisei breathlessly chasing Daieisho around the dohyo until Daieisho steps out. Kaisei gets his 8th win.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – What has happened to the soft, flabby and unimpressive Shodai? I think he’s on holiday somewhere in Okinawa. This is the other Shodai, the one who wants to be an Ozeki, has fairly good sumo and can win in spite of a somewhat high tachiai. His win over Chiyoshoma was straightforward, he kept moving forward while Chiyoshoma was trying to find a grip. Solid sumo again from Shodai.

Chiyonokuni defeats Arawashi – This match was lost at the tachiai, when Arawashi went to land a left hand outside grip and missed. Chiyonokuni opens with an oshi attack, and Arawashi does not really get a good second chance to lock things up on his terms. Arawashi keeps trying to work inside, but Chiyonokuni has his thrusting attack on full, and Arawashi can’t even establish a solid defensive footing. Chiyonokuni wins by tsukiotoshi as Arawashi does his gymnastics tumble once more.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Straightforward thrusting match. Takarafuji could not overcome Chiyotairyu’s massive bulk and strong upper body. Takarafuji still needs one win for kachi-koshi.

Hokutofuji defeats Ikioi – Ikioi is hurt, and not really able to execute Makuuchi grade sumo. From the tachiai Hokutofuji stood him up with a firm nodowa, and then slapped him down. Both men are make-koshi and will need to try again in Osaka.

Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – As predicted last night, this match was almost painful to watch. Yoshikaze seems to be only at 75% of his normal self, and Ichinojo’s massive size and strength mean that normal forces of sumo, much like space-time, are warped and distorted the closer you get to him. Yoshikaze comes in low at the tachiai, looking to get a grip at center-mass, but Ichinojo lands a brutal choke hold, and moves forward. There was absolutely nothing that Yoshikaze could do to stop it. Ichinojo goes kachi-koshi while Yoshikaze is now make-koshi, and probably has a headache. Ichinojo faces Tochinoshin on day 13. Hoo-boy!

Kotoshogiku defeats Takakeisho – Dare I whisper it? Kotoshogiku may come back from a dismal start to be in striking distance of kachi-koshi? Takakeisho is a bold young man of immense strength, and he decided to try to push against the Kyushu Bulldozer. Kotoshogiku masterfully shuts down Takakeisho’s wave action tsuppari, and it’s down to a contest of strength. While not quite able to get the hug-n-chug running, Kotoshogiku keeps moving forward, and avoids Takakeisho’s last minute attempt at a hineri at the edge. Takakeisho kept grabbing his mage after the match, I was curious if he was trying to signal something. Yeah, Kotoshogiku’s hand was on the back of his head, but I am not sure it’s a mage pull at all. Takakeisho now make-koshi.

Okinoumi defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi continues his meltdown, and it’s quite a disappointment to watch. As with prior matches, he tries to pull early on, but Okinoumi uses his backward motion to take control and win. After his failed pull, Mitakeumi cannot recover any forward momentum. Bad move, bad strategy, bad outcome for the Ozeki hopeful. Go back and try again.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin prevails to stay at one loss, while Tamawashi is now make-koshi. From the tachiai Tamawashi lands a strong nodowa, but this seems to only power up the Georgain battle mech. With a strong shove, Tochinoshin breaks the neck grip and goes on the attack. Tamawashi puts everything he has into a couple of huge tsuppari, and nearly brings Tochinoshin down, but it also left him wide open. Tochinoshin surges forward and lands a double inside grip. We, of course, know how this ends with Tochinoshin’s massive yorikiri.

Takayasu defeats Goeido – Goeido, unable to exit debug mode, is once again stuck playing Tetris instead of Osumo. Takayasu is a half step ahead at the tachiai, and focuses on applying rapid pressure to Goeido’s shoulders. Goeido never has a chance to produce any offense, or set up any kind of defensive stance. Goeido now needs to pick up 2 wins to not go kadoban.. again.

Endo defeats Kakuryu – Yes, sumo fans. Big K dropped his match with Endo, leaving Tochinoshin as the sole leader of the yusho race at the end of day 12. As with day 11, his attempt to pull left him off balance, and Endo was ready for it. Endo moved strongly forward and made the Yokozuna pay. Endo picks up a kinboshi, and Kakuryu loses his share of the lead. The cushions fly in the Kokugikan.

That’s it for day 12. It’s a brawl right to the end now, with a decent chance that a rank-and-file rikishi could lift the Emperor’s Cup!

Hatsu Day 12 Preview

Tochinoshin-2

Day 11 dialed this basho up to maximum and then added a box of firecrackers. Takarafuji’s battle against Tochinoshin was magnificent, no other way to describe it. Time and again Takarafuji blunted the big Georgian’s move to land his mighty grip and out-muscle him. But the rikishi with no neck would have none of it. Sure Tochinoshin won in the end, but what a battle!

With that win, and Kakuryu’s loss, the Yusho race is now a head to head run to Sunday. If each man can close out the remainder of his bouts without a further loss, they will face off for the second time at the end of the basho. There are fans in Japan who are ready to dismiss it as an uninteresting battle of foreigners, but for sumo fans globally, it’s more about the strength, skill, and speed of the contestants that matter. To get to that Sunday showdown, Yokozuna Kakuryu has the harder path. He faces both Ozeki and Mitakeumi, though neither Goeido nor Mitakeumi are looking formidable at this point.

Mitakeumi, in particular, is proving he is not yet ready to try to compete at Ozeki levels. That said, look at the bench standard here: Goeido. I hate to say it, but Goeido needs to take 2 of the last 4 matches to avoid once again being kadoban. Sure, you tell me – no worries. He faces Takayasu on day 12 and will face Mitakeumi soon. With his past two losses, he has proven that even Wakaichiro might have a fair chance against him. Not good.

Hatsu Leader Board

The Yusho race is down to two for now. Both of them have already matched, with Kakuryu the winner.

Leaders – Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Hunter Group – Takayasu, Daieisho

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Nishikigi vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki is working closer to his kachi-koshi, and he may pick it up today. Somehow, Nishikigi is hanging on to Makuuchi with everything he has. Who can blame him? The chicks dig the top division guys, plus you can score free bi-ru (ビール) at any pub in Japan. Career record is 5-3 in Kagayaki’s favor.

Kotoyuki vs Asanoyama – Kotoyuki looked like he got a bit hurt in his day 11 match, but this guy has limped off the dohyo more times than I can accurately count. He tends to rebound and return, even if it looked like he was dismembered and on life support the prior day. Asanoyama is one win away from kachi-koshi, and a move away from the bottom edge of Maegashira. Kotoyuki took their only prior match.

Ryuden vs Daishomaru – Also in the category of new faces looking to pick up their 8th win is Ryuden. In his first ever match against Daishomaru, he will be looking to get things mobile and light, which favors his sumo. Daishomaru will look to pummel Ryuden into a disoriented mess and shove whatever remains out with enthusiasm.

Shohozan vs Sokokurai – Shohozan is fighting well, and a win here would give him kachi-koshi and Sokokurai make-koshi at the same time. Brutal but effective. Last basho, Sokokurai took the Juryo yusho, but he has been struggling in his return to the top division.

Abi vs Chiyomaru – The winner of this match will pick up the coveted kachi-koshi and an interview slot on the NHK broadcast. Plus, I would guess, several additional bi-ru payable on demand. Of course, Abi has never won against Chiyomaru, but perhaps Chiyomaru’s enormous bulk will somehow prevent him from winning. NAH! Of course, he will do just fine.

Shodai vs Chiyoshoma – What happened here? How is Shodai winning? Where did the man-droid version of Shodai go? That one was pretty crappy at sumo and just sort of flopped around like day old fugu in Tsukiji. Shodai is actually 2-0 against Chiyoshoma, and a win here would leave us facing the ugly possibility that Shodai could actually be promoted going to Osaka. Please, more bi-ru here. I need to get my head straight on this one.

Yoshikaze vs Ichinojo – There is no good way for this to go. Their career record is 3-3, and Ichinojo is looking genki, and Yoshikaze is not. As much as I love to see the berserker’s arms move at speed, there may be little to do against the boulder save to get him off balance and roll him over. Ichinojo, on the other hand, could probably bounce Yoshikaze on his knee like a toddler. Please, oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, don’t let this happen, and if it does, don’t let it make it to video.

Takakeisho vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these guys are in a bit of a mood to throw caution to the wind it seems. Takakeisho’s flipper fight against Yoshikaze left him bloody. Kotoshogiku has been finding people giving him the chance to land the hug-n-chug. Maybe everyone thinks because he is Maegashira 2, they don’t have to guard against it. I am sure that Takakeisho won’t let him grab hold. Their career record is an even 1-1.

Mitakeumi vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi is make-koshi. So, my guess is that he drops Mitakeumi who once again regains his feet blinking in surprise. Get it together man!

Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – This is THE big match of the day. Tamawashi is the first, and so far only rikishi to put dirt on Kakuryu, and in doing so he pulled Tochinoshin back into the yusho lead. Now Tochinoshin gets to face down the same Tamawashi, who seems to have regained his sumo. Tamawashi typically presents a nearly unstoppable thrusting attack, which will be the antithesis of Tochinoshin’s yotsu style. We will see who sets the terms of the match coming out of the tachiai. Hopefully, Tamawashi is studying Takarafuji’s masterful defense.

Goeido vs Takayasu – Normally I would be very excited for an Ozeki battle. But Goeido is on hard times. He needs this win to keep outside of the kadoban penalty box, but Takayasu is looking slightly more genki. Notice I didn’t say a lot more genki. What is plaguing Takayasu, I can’t tell. It might be that he is worried about his senpai Kisenosato.

Kakuryu vs Endo – Lesson from day 11, Big K. Keep moving forward. Once you stepped back, Tamawashi had your number and you had no way to correct. Take the fight to Endo and power him out. You have this one, just be strong and go tonbo (蜻蛉) on him.

 

Day 11 – The Eagles Are Coming

the-eagles-are-coming
Tamawashi and Arawashi changing the plot

For those who are not familiar their shikona, Arawashi (荒鷲) is “Wild Eagle”, and Tamawashi (玉鷲) is “Bejewelled Eagle”. We’ll see what they wrought as we go along. But as usual, I’d like to start with some off-Makuuchi battles.

My previous posts have been dotted with bouts by Prince Enho and Terutsuyoshi My Main Man. And today you get two for the price of one, as these two faced each other in a battle for the kachi-koshi, both coming in 3-2.

And both get to pick on someone their own size for a change, in a match of homunculi.

This is sort of anticlimactic, I know. But it’s Terutsuyoshi’s first kakenage, and also a kachi-koshi and a likely re-promotion to Juryo. I’m afraid Enho’s chances look rather slim at the moment, with many higher-ranking Makushita having a kachi-koshi.

Another battle at the top of Makushita was between Ms#1 Yago, the former sekitori, and “One to watch” Ms #17 Wakatakakage, both of whom came into this match 5-0.

Nice reversal! The Arashio man is now 6-0, vying for the Makushita yusho with #47 Tochiseiryu. Yago will still likely be re-promoted to Juryo.

Up we go to Makuuchi.

In the first bout, we have Aoimama… er… Aoiyama on a visit from Juryo. Aoiyama actually looks strong, and Nishikigi can’t find an entry point, and out he goes.

Ryuden shows his strong sumo. Catches Daieisho in a morozashi after a booming tachiai, and stops his yusho hunt… or does he?

Asanoyama chooses not to go into a yotsu battle with Sokokurai (may well be a wise decision. The veteran is very experienced). Some tsuppari and Sokokurai out by oshi-dashi. Sokokurai needs to win out to get a kachi-koshi.

Kotoyuki opens with a henka – not the last one of the day – against the resurging Kagayaki. Then tries to grab Kagayaki’s belt. Pushes, pushes, but Kagayaki manages to grab his arm for a kotonage. Kotoyuki’s first loss to Kagayaki – and he hurts his knee on his fall, unable to go to the shitakubeya unassisted. Kintamayama informs us that he ended up in that wheelchair and was taken to a hospital. 🙁

Aminishiki didn’t hurt any limb today. But he just isn’t able to do his sumo. Daiamami, like Chiyoshoma yesterday, was very gentle about showing him out. Sigh. I have a feeling that the Ajigawa kabu is going to go back into active duty following this basho.

Ishiura deploys the second henka of the day, against the Ghost of Terunofuji. At least that meant that there was no further injury to any former kaiju knees. Terunofuji remarks that he has not gained back his dohyo sense. Perhaps the only good news I heard is that he lost those 10kg he recently gained. Good start there. It did look like he regained some neck.

terunofuji-ishiura
“Once I dropped out of Ozeki, it’s all the same to me how many ranks down I go”

The KaiseiYutakayama looked like a cartoon battle. You know the type: small man strikes large man with a barrage of blows without having any effect. Then big man returns with two mighty blows of his own, and small man ends up with little birds circling around his head. Well, Yutakayama stays on his feet as he is pushed out, but you catch the drift. Note how Kaisei always attempts to land a hand up to the rivals he pushes out.

Abi barely manages to land two harite on Tochiozan before the Kasugano man goes out. Abi looks dissatisfied. Tochiozan probably afraid for his injured shoulder. Abi one win away from kachi-koshi.

Chiyonokuni once again starts a bout with his energetic tsuppari. But Takekaze somehow manages to pivot and have Chiyonokuni between himself and the tawara. He then applies a strong nodowa and forces Chiyonokuni out. Welcome back, old man. Chiyonokuni now make-koshi.

Daishomaru in another little henka against Chiyoshoma. Hikiotoshi. Chiyoshoma not happy.

Ikioi tries to look genkier than he is vs. Shohozan, who seems to have an upper arm issue. The two go on a rapid slugfest, but eventually Shohozan locks Ikioi’s arms and leads him outside.

Chiyomaru is Kokonoe’s only ray of light this basho. Apparently nobody is shouting “Chiyomaru-tan” in the Kokugikan these days. Endo has what looks like a lower and better tachiai, but Chiyonokuni soon sidesteps and hands him a hatakikomi.

Now, one of the highlight bouts of the day begins. Tochinoshin wants to keep his single loss. Takarafuji wants to prevent the Georgian from closing in on him. These two are kenka-yotsu, meaning that Takarafuji prefers a hidari-yotsu (left-hand-inside), while Tochinoshin prefers a migi-yotsu (right-hand-inside). And they fend off each other’s sashi (slipping a hand inside) attempts. Tochinoshin succeeds in landing his grip for a second but Takarafuji draws back and tries again. Near the tawara, Takarafuji manages to get his sashi, but Tochinoshin is pressing his head down very powerfully at this point and eventually Takarafuji’s elbow touches down before Tochinoshin is forced out. The gyoji points to Tochinoshin. A monoii is called, and takes a really long time. But it’s Tochinoshin’s tsukiotoshi. Excellent match. Tochinoshin stays glued to the top.

takarafuji-tochinoshin

Kotoshogiku puts a stop to Chiyotairyu‘s winning streak. Doesn’t get a mawashi grip, but he does have the Kokonoe man in a strong high grip and then does the Kotoshogiku Lambada all the way to the edge.

Ichinojo seems to have a little problem with oshi wrestlers. This time he takes up Hokutofuji. But it really isn’t Hokutofuji’s basho. Yes, his knee is in wraps but he doesn’t seem to have a mobility problem. Ichinojo tries to find a grip as usual. Hokutofuji fends and defends. Tries to push at Ichinojo’s armpits to get him up and away, but this doesn’t work so well with the heavy Ichinojo, Hokutofuji slide a little back to try a stronger leaning angle – but Ichinojo just uses that to smack Hokutofuji to the floor. Hokutofuji on all fours again. The announcer calls it “Large Scale Sumo”.

The bout between Yoshikaze and Takakeisho turns out to be one of the more entertaining oshi battles. A rapid exchange of tsuppari, both bobbing their heads up and down, up and down as they engage and disengage. Yoshikaze tries a push, but he is already too stretched and Takakeisho easily fends him off. As they regroup, Takakeisho grabs hold of Yoshikaze’s arm and forces him to the edge where he adds a decisive nodowa. And Takakeisho ends up with a banged lip again.

Shodai somehow manages to surprise his rival again and again with his somehow amended tachiai. He gets below Mitakeumi. Not quite enough for his favorite morozashi, but enough to cause the sekiwake to draw back. Shodai then follows up and gets Mitakeumi out by oshidashi. Those double digits and ozeki run seem further and further away from Mitakeumi.

Takayasu wins almost effortlessly against Okinoumi. Hands the Shimane-man his make-koshi while gaining his own kachi-koshi. No kadoban to see here, move along.

And here lands out first Eagle, Arawashi, with his bandaged legs and a less-than-brilliant 5-5 balance, to face the other Ozeki, Goeido. Tachiai, Arawashi quickly gets a hold on Goeido’s mawashi with his left hand. Goeido retreats in a half circle, working hard to remove Arawashi’s hand from his mawashi and eventually holds on to Arawashi’s arm and gets his left arm inside, but at this point Arawashi changes direction, and that left arm becomes a liability. Arawashi holds on to it for a kotenage. Ozeki down, and hovering on the edge of kadoban again.

But if you thought that Eagle was surprising, just wait for the musubi-no-ichiban.

Kakuryu once again comes low off  the tachiai, but doesn’t find the quick mawashi grip he is hoping for. Tamawashi is an oshi man, and as the Yokozuna goes into a tsuppari exchange with him, he watches the Yokozuna’s feet. Kakuryu tries a pull down and draws back a little, and that’s all the Bejewelled Eagle needs. He pounces and the surprised Yokozuna lands his first kuro-boshi. Although Tamawashi is sanyaku, zabutons are flying in the kokugikan.

tamawashi-happy
Happy Eagle flying down the hana-michi

And suddenly, in a Tolkienesque plot-twist, what looked like a sure-bet yusho for the Yokozuna no longer looks anywhere near that. Remember he still has to work two Ozekis and a sekiwake, while Tochinoshin is only going to face Maegashira until the end of the basho. The yusho suddenly looks a lot closer to Georgia than it is to Mongolia.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day11

The Yokozuna can not afford even a single loss from now on if he wants that Yusho.

Yusho Arasoi

10-1:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • M3 Tochinoshin

8-3:

  • Ozeki Takayasu
  • M13 Daieisho

 

 

Day 10 – Sanyaku crumbling

As two thirds of the basho are behind us, things start to boil up… or crash down. Let’s start at the bottom. Enho gets matched with Wakamotoharu, who certainly doesn’t want to lose, in a bout that produces one of the most beautiful sumo photos I’ve seen in a while:

enho-wakamotoharu

Here is the One And Only version:

And here is the TV version (C/O Kimihiro Suzuki):

Wakamotoharu looks pretty frustrated at being the receiving end of this shitatehineri. Enho gets his third win and gets closer to a kachi-koshi. One And Only seems to expect him to be in Juryo next basho, but the top of Makushita is very, very hot at the moment.

And hey, Enho didn’t dive head first off the dohyo this time!

Another Tachiai favorite has returned to the dohyo today. This one after a flu-related short kyujo. Please welcome Shunba!

Shunba looks so genki he nearly bounces up the dohyo. Keep up the good work!

However, not all of my favorite fare as well. Torakio continues his downfall:

He seems to have hurt his elbow, and now something about his shoulder as well? Hmmm… not good.

 

So, let’s climb up to Makuuchi.

The first bout features a visitor from Juryo, Azumaryu, facing Ryuden. The two take their time synchronizing their breath for the tachiai. When it finally starts, although Azumaryu gets the inside grip, Ryuden gets an outside one on the same side, and pushes him out without much resistance.

Abi (who has the curious habit of arranging his butt strap right on camera when he goes to the salt corner) starts off as usual vs Yutakayama, with some fierce tsuppari. But Yutakayama somehow picks on Abi’s bandaged arm, and this seems to throw Peter Pan off course completely, and he finds himself down from the dohyo in short order.

yutakayama-abi

Takekaze finally manages to land a W, vs. Ishiura, with a quick push down – no henka. Hatakikomi.

takekaze-ishiura
Sumo, Ishiura, not artistic gymnastics

Sokokurai starts with a harite and an ottsuke vs. Nishikigi. He manages to secure a right-hand outside grip, while Nishikigi secures his own left hand on Sokokurai’s mawashi.  Nishikigi can’t get an outside grip on Sokokurai’s mawashi, and in the grip battle that ensues, eventually it’s Sokokurai who manages to hold both sides of Nishikigi’s mawashi, when suddenly Nishikigi turns the tables on him and gets him out by yori-kiri. Very nice match.

Kagayaki and Daiamami start their match, both pushing as hard as they can. Eventually, Daiamami throws Kagayaki to the ground, but a monoii is called: Daiamami had a foot out. You can see that Kagayaki noticed that immediately. Of course he said nothing and waited for the shimpan, who came to the right conclusion, and gave him the oshidashi.

Asanoyama seems dazed and confused. Daishomaru pushes him out almost with no resistance. Mental issues?

Daieisho starts with some strong nodowa at Tochiozan, but suddenly his arm gets stuck at an awkward angle. However, he quickly recovers from that error, and pushes Tochiozan outside before he can make anything of it. Daieisho now kachi-koshi.

Aminishiki looks well enough as he ascends the dohyo and performs his Shiko. Chiyoshoma opens with a harizashi (slap-and-grab), and Uncle looks in pain. I don’t believe it’s just the harite. He said that his “knee got in” at the Tachiai and he couldn’t put any power into it. As soon as Chiyoshoma has that grip he gently leads Aminishiki to the edge. Yori-kiri. Aminishiki is determined to continue until all four wheels drop off.

chiyoshoma-aminishiki

Chiyonokuni finally manages to scrape another win against Kotoyuki. His barrage of tsuppari quickly gets the larger man out. He really should be more than 3-7 at this point.

Kaisei has a huge weight advantage over Takarafuji. Takarafuji manages to secure his favorite grip, but Kaisei uses the Ichinojo tactic and just leans onto him. In an effort to get out of the stalemate, Takarafuji loses the grip and has to start over. He gets his hidari-yotsu again, this time without an underhand grip on Kaisei’s mawashi. But no matter, he uses that left hand inside to grab Kaisei’s arm for a sukuinage. Takarafuji is on a roll, and needs just one more win for a kachi-koshi.

Ikioi faces Chiyomaru, who pushes and then pulls and finishes the bout in the blink of an eye. According to the NHK announcer, Ikioi’s problem is not just his ankle injury, but also “lower back issues”, which I take to mean that his bulging disc is giving him trouble again. It’s really hard to do sumo with a bulging disc. Ikioi make-koshi.

Shohozan starts his bout with Endo with all guns blazing, and tries to catch Endo’s arm. Endo manages to break loose. Then there’s a barrage of tsuppari, which Endo somehow defends against and stays alive. Then Shohozan tries capturing an arm again, dragging Endo to the rim, but here Endo reverses the charges and leaves Shohozan outside for a yori-kiri.

It seems strange to see the match between Tochinoshin and Kotoshogiku this early in the day, given the level of Tochinoshin’s game lately. I have to remind myself that both are maegashira. Most sane rikishi would not want to get into a belt battle with Kotoshogiku. But we are talking about the Incredible Hulk here, and his strategy continues as usual: get one huge arm inside, one huge arm outside, get the belt, and drive. Kotoshogiku’s gaburi is no match to the Georgian Hulk.

Hokutofuji will want to forget this basho. In the final battle of the rank-and-filers, he faces Chiyotairyu, only a couple of days ago the welcome mat of the entire Makuuchi. One kachiage and a few tsuppari later, the gentleman from Hakkaku beya finds himself out by tsuki-dashi, and with a make-koshi.

Now we go up to the san-yaku matches, where rank-and-filers are wrecking havoc.

Ichinojo faces more of a problem with Takakeisho than he did with Onosho. Takakeisho has his attack-and-retreat style which prevents the boulder from getting a mawashi grip or any other kind of grip. So Ichinojo finds himself in an unfamiliar oshi territory, and for a while looks like he is trying to swat an annoying mosquito. As he tries to pull Takakeisho down, Takakeisho advances and nearly gets the mountain off balance, but Ichinojo is very careful about his center of (ultra) gravity this tournament. They go on, and Takakeisho tries a sidestep to usher the boulder out, but the side that he stepped to still includes Ichinojo’s arm. And that arm just takes Takakeisho along for the trip before its owner starts the journey himself. The result of all this mess is the Takanohana man lying in a heap at the bottom of the dohyo, only one loss away from a make-koshi.

The next bout is supposed to be Onosho-Yoshikaze. But the Komusubi is kyujo, and won’t be a komusubi next time. In fact, other than Mitakeumi, who will probably stay Sekiwake once again, it appears that there will be a purge in the lower sanyaku, and this time there will be a lot less of a logjam for the available slots. Two more wins for our boulder and he is Komusubi for sure. Though maybe for him they should change it from “komusubi” (小結 – small knot) to “omusubi” (大結 – big knot), or even “kyomusubi” (巨結 – “giant knot”). 🙂

Moving right along, Arawashi got to meet Mitakeumi who was trying to maintain his position in the hunt group. Arawashi seems to want to get Mitakeumi’s mawashi on the left side, but at the second attempt, his right arm is already folding around Mitakeumi’s left, for an arm-bar throw – tottari. Mitakeumi finds himself face down at the dohyo’s corner.

arawashi-mitakeumi

Shodai bounces back from the loss that frustrated him so much yesterday. Straight from the tachiai he gets a morozashi on Goeido and drives forward. He does lose one of those arms as Goeido tries to create some kind of a throw, but gets a good mawashi hold and forces the Ozeki out.

Takayasu, the other Ozeki, stares hard at Tamawashi as they get ready for the tachiai. Takayasu’s kachiage happens to hit Tamawashi’s face. A hard tsuppari exchange ensues, and eventually Takayasu pushes the sekiwake out of the ring. Tamawashi one loss away from a make-koshi.

And in the musubi-no-ichiban, Kakuryu starts of with the low tachiai he has been sporting of late, and gaining many compliments for. No grip at first, but drives Okinoumi back. Then gets his hand on Okinoumi’s mawashi with his right hand, and that’s about the end of Okinoumi. Kakuryu just swings him out, as one of the comments said on one of the previous days, “with a mighty hand and outstretched arm”.

The Yokozuna finally secures his “Yokozuna kachi koshi”. Now he’ll be facing some harder opponents. Or are they? The sanyaku seems to be a mess. Nobody with a kachi-koshi yet, some nearing make-koshi.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

Yusho Arasoi

  • 10-0: Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • 9-1: M3 Tochinoshin
  • 8-2: M13 Daieisho

Hatsu Day 10 Preview

Tochinoshin

The snow was coming down in big, heavy globs today across Tokyo. It’s amazing how quickly a bit of snow turns a modern metropolis into Ukiyo-e scene, complete with burly figures in robes making their way through the drifts. At the end of day 9, there was really only one rikishi who had a chance to impact the yusho favorite, Kakuryu. In his winning match, Tochinoshin showed a level of power and vigor that he has been unable to bring to the dohyo for quite some time, and sumo fans worldwide are delighted to see him lift a smaller rikishi like Mitakeumi and carry him to the curb.

Day 10 marks the end of the second act, and true to form, on the closing day of the second act, we know who is a competitor, and whose dreams have been crushed. For Kakuryu, he enters the final five days of Hatsu as the sole surviving Yokozuna, and in a commanding lead. He is thus far unbeaten, and his sumo is as sharp and effective as the heady days when he was an unstoppable Ozeki on his way up.

Mitakeumi has faltered in the past few days, but his goal of a double-digit win record for Hatsu and the beginning of an Ozkei campaign is still within reach.

Hatsu Leader Board

Leader – Kakuryu
Chasers – Tochinoshin
Hunt Group – Mitakeumi, Daieisho

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Ryuden vs Azumaryu – Juryo 2E Azumaryu joins Makuuchi for the day to even out the ranks. Azumaryu and Ryuden have had eight prior matches, and have split them evenly. Azumaryu is nowhere near contention for the Juryo yusho, but his one day pass to Makuuchi may give fans in the US their first look at another rikishi fighting to rejoin the upper division.

Abi vs Yutakayama – Abi has been steadily improving after starting with two straight losses. Though he has struggled in the past, this may be the basho where Yutakayama is able to secure a kachi-koshi in the top division and stick around. Yutakayama won their only prior engagement, but at present, there is likely a slight advantage to Abi.

Asanoyama vs Daishomaru – Asanoyama had an impressive 6-0 start, and has now endured three straight losses. He is looking to turn that around against a struggling Daishomaru, who has been fighting injuries since Aki. Daishomaru won their only prior match, which was during Aki.

Tochiozan vs Daieisho – Daieisho is fighting strong this tournament, so the schedulers pulled Maegashira 8 Tochiozan down to face off against Maegashira 13 Daieisho. This will be interesting because two of their prior matches went to Daieisho.

Chiyoshoma vs Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo returns! Fans around the globe dearly hope that he is well enough to compete, and is not risking further or increased injury. Although he is already make-koshi, a few wins might make the difference in allowing him to remain at the bottom of Makuuchi for March.

Takarafuji vs Kaisei – Two strong 6-3 rikishi battle it out in a fight of steady and strong. Takarafuji prefers to get a grip on Kaisei and yorikiri the Brazilian, where Kaisei tends to apply throws against Takarafuji. Their career record of 12-9 favors Kaisei.

Shohozan vs Endo – After a strong start, Endo has been struggling, and fans have to wonder if maybe he has aggravated one of his chronic injuries. Today he goes against Shohozan, who has been bludgeoning everyone into submission. Their career record of 4-2 favors Endo, but I am going to see if Shohozan can apply an immediate hatakikomi.

Tochinoshin vs Kotoshogiku – An injured and demoralized Kotoshogiku goes against a raging mass of genki named Tochinoshin. While it would be great to see the Kyushu Bulldozer put the doom on Tochinoshin, there is no way Kotoshogiku’s knees could withstand the amount of pressure it would take for him to force the big Georgian out. Career record of 24-5 favors Kotoshogiku.

Takakeisho vs Ichinojo – I am going to assume that the Boulder is going to use the same approach he used on Onosho, that is, to just go bowling with his roly-poly tadpole opponent. To be honest, it may not be that easy, as Ichinojo has never beaten Takakeisho in the three times they have faced off. But Ichinojo seems to have recovered the zen of mass and seems unafraid to use his enormity to win.

Mitakeumi vs Arawashi – Arawashi is struggling this basho, and will be lucky to hit kachi-koshi. But Mitakeumi needs three more wins to tick over to the magical double digits. After his humiliating defeat at the hands of Tochinoshin on day 9, Mitakeumi probably has a lot of frustration to resolve. Arawashi has never won a match against Mitakeumi so this could be a foregone conclusion.

Goeido vs Shodai – The Shodai match is a unit-test for GoeidOS 2.0. If he applies maximum upward force from below and inside Shodai’s high tachiai, we can assume that GoeidOS 2.0 is working as planned. Honestly, this should be pretty easy for Goeido.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Not going to be an easy day for a struggling Takayasu. Tamawashi more or less has his number, beating him 10 times out of their 16 career matches. With Takayasu looking disorganized and chaotic on the dohyo, he may fall prey to a focused, organized and concentrated attack. Sadly for Tamawashi, he has not been able to execute that kind of engagement this tournament.

Kakuryu vs Okinoumi – It would be a huge surprise if this were not a rapid win #10 for the surviving Yokozuna. Okinoumi has, in the past, been a worthy foe for Kakuryu, but this Kakuryu is strong and fast, Okinoumi is looking disorganized and injured once more.

Day 9 – Ichinojo goes bowling, Tochinoshin dangling bait.

As usual, I shall start somewhat below Makuuchi.

For those who are not aware of it yet, Osunaarashi is kyujo as of today (day 9), due to a suspicion of rear-ending a car while driving without a valid license. This was bad enough to make the NHK World news yesterday.

But we are here to talk about sumo, not yet another scandal, so let’s start with my main man Terutsuyoshi, who made a visit to Juryo today to face Kizenryu.

The video doesn’t contain the explanation of the monoii, but if I understand the announcers correctly, the question was who initiated the throw. If it was Terutsuyoshi, then clearly Kizenryu touched first. But if it was Kizenryu, then Terutsuyoshi was shinitai.

The monoii ended with a torinaoshi. And the second bout didn’t look very different from the first, but this time it was pretty clear cut:

Too bad for my man from Isegahama, but win or lose – he entertains.

OK, let’s go on with the matches of the day in Makuuchi.

Abi starts with his usual tsuppari attack, which doesn’t seem to effective against Asanoyama, so Abi gives a strong pull and Asanoyama finds himself on the ground.

abi-with-kensho
Hey, look what I found tied to my sagari!

Ishiura starts off his bout with his hand straight on Daieisho‘s mawashi knot, and deftly undoes it. Wardrobe malfunction. The gyoji stops them, corrects, restarts the bout, and Ishiura, with one hand on the knot and one on the front, flips Daieisho into a shitatehineri. But wait, I have a sense of Deja vu:

That’s Kyushu 2017. Ishiura vs. Ryuden – both in Juryo at the time. Ishiura must have been one of those teenagers who practice undoing a bra with one hand.

Nishikigi really does nothing in the tachiai, and lets Takekaze slam into him. Doesn’t get any kind of a grip, and Takekaze pulls at him for a katasukashi – but doing that he flies outside, and the gunbai goes to Nishikigi. No monoii. I think both the gyoji and the shimpan took this to be Nishikigi’s attack. Takekaze now make-koshi.

Sokokurai  gets into a classic yotsu bout with Ryuden. Tries a shitatenage, Ryuden keeps on his feet. Tries the same on the other side of the ring. Still no results. Sokokurai puts some more force into it and manages a yoritaoshi – rolling together with his rival. Kintamayama says he hurt his back, let’s hope it’s fine by tomorrow. No need for more injuries.

Daiamami beats Chiyomaru in a slow motion oshi battle. Boom. Boom. Boom. Yawn.

Kagayaki, on the other hand, is very sharp and fast. He doesn’t let Shohozan get anywhere near his belt, and instead slaps him all the way out. Kagayaki back to the form he has shown in the first couple of days.

As long as Chiyonokuni can keep the bout on the tsuki-oshi side, he seems fine. But eventually Yutakayama decides he has had enough harite for one day, grabs the Kokonoe man and throws him out. Yoritaoshi. Chiyonokuni one loss away from a make-koshi.

Chiyoshoma‘s bout with Kotoyuki was over in the blink of an eye. No wiles, no throws, and Kotoyuki just pushing the slender Mongolian out.

Ikioi finally manages to attack and win – a couple of strong pushes and then a desparate lunge, and Daishomaru is out. But Ikioi seems to have caused himself further injury.

Takarafuji wins very decisively. Tochiozan gets a morozashi on him, but he applies his mighty arms in a “hasami” – basically a pincer hold – and doesn’t let Tochiozan do anything with that morozashi. Oshidashi for the only Isegahama man who seems to be in working order nowadays.

Kaisei first grabs a hold of Endo‘s arm. Endo manages to shake him off, but Kaisei maintains his balance and responds with another attack. This time Endo is driven to the edge. Desparately tries a leg trip, doesn’t work. Yorikiri for the Brasilian (who is not too enthusiastic about the snow currently enveloping Tokyo: “I loved it when I saw my first snow, but…”)

Chiyotairyu gets his second win in a row, and very quickly, too. Okinoumi touches down before you blink.

In the battle of the veterans, Kotoshogiku gets a pretty firm hold of Yoshikaze‘s left arm. They then fight over the hold on the other side. Kotoshogiku tries again and again to get his left hand inside. Yoshikaze catches on to his wrist. Eventually Kotoshogiku gets that sashi (hand inside) and finishes Yoshikaze off with a couple of gaburi. Classic Kotoshogiku.

Onosho tries, for some unfathomable reason, to grab at Ichinojo‘s belt. Probably realizes that a tsuppari attack against the boulder’s midriff is going to give him no results. But Ichinojo doesn’t really care what Onosho plans. That arm that went to his belly? He sticks his own hand to the armpit and rolls Onosho out like a bowling ball in a red mawashi. What can I say? “Ichinojo is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh Onosho to lie down below the dohyo” [Book of Mountainous Mongolians, Chapter 6, verse 3]

Hokutofuji and Takakeisho go on what is half way an oshi battle, and half way keeping each other at arm’s length. Again, typical tadpole sumo. Amazingly, both manage to stay on their feet and neither ends up in doggy position. Takakeisho manages to get Hokutofuji moving a bit to the right as he gets to the tawara, and uses that to get the man off balance and out of the ring.

And now, to the battle of the chasers. Both 7-1 coming into this bout, Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi both want to stay in the yusho race. They start off with Mitakeumi trying to prevent the Georgian from getting at his mawashi, but Tochinoshin gets the left hand outside pretty quickly. Now it’s a fight on the right hand. Mitakeumi gets his own right hand on Tochinoshin’s mawashi. But Tochinoshin does the same, gets a secure grip on both side. And at this point he just picks up Mitakeumi for a new world record in wedgies. Upsie-daisy… not out yet? Upsie-daisy… now you’re out.

tochinoshin-mitakeumi

The kimari-te is tsuri-dashi, “dangle-and-out”. I’m still waiting for the fish to bite. Tochinoshin the second man in Makuuchi to make a kachi-koshi, but I’m sure he’s not settling for that any more than Kakuryu is.

By the way, it’s not Mitakeumi’s first tsuri-wedgie. This used to be a Terunofuji specialty. Maybe Tochinoshin could have a talk with Terunofuji and explain about knees, healing and regaining strength.

So basically, Mitakeumi is out of the yusho race unless Kakuryu drops a couple of bouts (and Mitakeumi doesn’t).

Compared to that bout, the two Ozeki bouts that followed were meh.

Takayasu dispatches Shodai in an eye blink with a tsukiotoshi. Shodai looks pretty frustrated.

Goeido all over Tamawashi in his usual 2.0 steamroller style.

Finally, in the musubi-no-ichiban, Kakuryu continues to dominate. Gets his left hand on Arawashi‘s mawashi, and while still seeking the right hand grip, pushes him to the tawara. Plain and simple yori-kiri, still unbeaten.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

Yusho Arasoi

Leader: Yokozuna Kakuryu

Chaser: M3 Tochinoshin

Hopefuls:

  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M13 Daieisho

Tomorrow Aminishiki is back on the dohyo. He says that his condition is “Good enough to be able to wrestle”. He is already make-koshi, and desparately needs wins to cushion his fall from reaching all the way to Juryo.

 

Day 8 – What an exciting “nakabi”!

The 8th day of a basho is called “nakabi” – 中日 – “middle day”. This exciting basho produced a no-less exciting nakabi, from bottom to top!

One nakabi tradition is the presentation of shin-deshi – new wrestlers who passed their maezumo this basho. So, leading the group is the young Naya, wearing his grandfather, Taiho’s, kesho-mawashi. Third, in the yellow kesho-mawashi, is Hoshoryu. No, he’s not wearing his uncle’s kesho-mawashi. That’s actually Akua’s spiffy new kesho-mawashi.

I believe this is the last we’ll see of these two for a while. Now they have to work hard to make promise reality.

Once again, I give you Hattorizakura. No, he still hasn’t managed to win, but the boy is showing real tenacity of late, and I’m sure that win is going to come:

This bout was nearly 2 minutes long!

Now, how long do you think Enho can hold on without breathing? His bout today was certainly an attempt to answer that question:

Talk about David and Goliath… By the way, that yobidashi who calls their names in the beginning sure has an impressive voice.

And what is happening with Torakio? Does he have the flu or what? His bout today was… somewhat disappointing:

Ouch.

Up we go to Makuuchi.

Abi decided to start the Makuuchi bouts with a flying henka. Attempts to pull Daiamami down, but it doesn’t work, so he works in some of his usual tsuki-oshi. Daiamami ends out flying outside for a tsuki-dashi. If you’re so strong, Abi, why do you have to henka?

Takekaze continues to slip slidin’ away. Yutakayama is lucky that the veteran is in such dire straits. He can’t seem to find his footing anymore. Too bad.

Sokokurai, on the other hand, finally shows some of the effects of experience. Keeps Ishiura‘s head away from his body. Ishiura tries to grab him by the arm. Doesn’t work. Holds Ishiura at arm’s length by his shoulders, but Ishiura manages to land his head in for his specialty torpedo… only Sokokurai grabs his mawashi from above, squats, and Ishiura finds himself on his knees.

Asanoyama manages to get a quick grip at Kagayaki. With Asanoyama being the yotsu man and Kagayaki the tsuki-oshi man, you’d think this favors Asanoyama. But Kagayaki is the one who lands a convincing uwatenage and Asanoyama finds himself on all fours and says bye-bye to the yusho race.

Now that we know that Daiamami pulls at his nose in his prebout, let’s introduce you to Ryuden‘s pre-bout routine: ragdoll on springs. He shakes and bounces. Kotoyuki starts this bout with an oshi attack, but bouncy-ball Ryuden bounces back from the tawara, gets a grip on Kotoyuki and yori-kiris him.

Daishomaru  makes short work of Nishikigi in the battle of the bottle-green mawashis, simply overpowering the Isenoumi man.

And in the bout of the wine-red mawashis, Daieisho puts an end to Chiyomaru‘s little series of wins. Comes at the eternally-round Kokonoe man from below and pushes him right out despite his tsuppari.

Takarafuji fights Shohozan for a grip – it’s really fascinating to see the battle of arms down there below their chests. The Isegahama heya-gashira (highest ranking deshi in a heya… yes… he is…) lands first a right-hand-outside, then his favorite left-hand-inside. From this point it’s all Takarafuji, in a battle of two very muscular men. We keep laughing at Takarafuji for having no neck, but the man certainly has shoulders and arms. Takarafuji: “I’m glad I broke out of my consecutive loss habit”.

Kaisei gets a firm grip on Ikioi‘s mawashi. Ikioi tries for a morozashi, but fails to get one before being pushed out. Apparently he has an ankle injury, which may serve as an explanation for his really bad form this basho.

Chiyonokuni tries every trick in the book against Okinoumi. First tsuppari, nodowa, then grabs on to Okinoumi’s arm. Tries a trip. Then finally he pulls at Okinoumi’s neck for a hatakikomi. The shimpan call a monoii, questioning whether Chiyonokuni may have pulled on Okinoumi’s mage. It looked like it from one angle – but no, the replay is very clear. Konosuke is right as usual, and Chiyonokuni got his white star fair and square.

Tochiozan doesn’t wait much time before landing Endo on the floor. Endo’s sumo is not stable.

Now, the next match was between Chiyoshoma and Arawashi. I have to say, though some pictures make them look very similar, I don’t really see why people will be confused between them. Anyway, Chiyoshoma on his fast attack, going for a hari-zashi (slap-and-grab) again,  then helps Arawashi out with his knee. Yori-kiri.

Tochinoshin got Yoshikaze today. Yoshikaze wisely not letting the Incredible Hulk anywhere near his Mawashi. So Tochinoshin just runs a tsuppari attack, which turns out to be effective and Yoshikaze finds himself out. Tochinoshin keeps himself in the chaser group.

tochinoshin-yoshikaze

Tochinoshin: “I just couldn’t grab the mawashi. So with my heart thumping I went for the tsuppari.”

Next we had two tadpoles meeting – Hokutofuji and Onosho. This was a push-me-pull-you bout which ended with Hokutofuji on his knees. Personally, I don’t like that sumo. Red mawashi comes on top. Hokutofuji not having the best basho of his life.

Mitakeumi, with 7-0, got intimate with the Mongolian boulder, Ichinojo, who quite quickly got a left hand outside. Mitakeumi works hard to deny Ichinojo the right hand inside on his mawashi, and tries to be patient. But patience doesn’t necessarily pay when you have 215kg leaning on you. Ichinojo can sleep riding a horse. He can also sleep leaning. Eventually Ichinojo wakes up, decides Mitakeumi is not so warm and fluffy that he should stay there much longer, and pushes the sekiwake to the edge. Mitakeumi drops to the chaser group.

mitakeumi-ichinojo

Tamawashi finally looks a little more like a sekiwake, pushing Kotoshogiku quickly away. I suspect the coconut clash there at the beginning might have had something to do with it. Tamawashi has had his skull rattled rather a lot this basho, I hope this doesn’t have long lasting effects.

Goeido goes into a nirami-ai (staredown) with Chiyotairyu right when they are supposed to be matching their breaths. This backfires, and Chiyotairyu gets his first on-dohyo win in this basho, giving the Ozeki the same de-ashi (forward-moving sumo) he usually gives his opponents when he boots up in the proper mode.

Takayasu is matched with another tadpole – Takakeisho – and decides to do some tadpole sumo. Push, pull, and now it’s Takakeisho on all fours. Did I mention that I don’t like this sumo? Anyway, the big bear wins. Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, he opened up with a hari-zashi (slap-and-grab). Do you want to be a yokozuna, Takayasu?

Finally, the musubi-no-ichiban. Could the new Shodai dent the invincible Kakuryu’s dragon scales? The tachiai looks pretty convincing, and Shodai begins to advance, but by his second step Kakuryu has a secure overarm grip on his mawashi, and just pulls. Pulls so hard, in fact, that Shodai finds himself flat on his face, and Kakuryu is checking to see if his elbow is still connected.

kakuryu-shodai

Michinoku oyakata, who served as Abema TV’s commentator for today, is asked about Kakuryu’s performance following his kyujo issues and all. He says “His sumo is much better than it was before he went kyujo”. Kakuryu hasn’t had a 8-0 opening since he won his last yusho in Kyushu 2016.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

Our kakuryumeter remains the same, full to the top. The papers make much of the fact that Kakuryu secured his kachi-koshi, but we all know that this is not a Yokozuna kachi-koshi just yet, and Kakuryu himself says “I don’t care about that, there are 7 days to go”.

Yusho arasoi

8-0: Yokozuna Kakuryu.

7-1:

  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M13 Daieisho

But tomorrow this chaser list will be down to no more than two, with Mitakeumi facing Tochinoshin.

Day 7 – Pressure? What Pressure?

So, as usual, I’ll start with some lower division bouts. Remember Yago (nickname “Ago” – “chin”)? His visit to the sekitori ranks was not as successful as he would have hoped, and he dropped back to Makushita for this basho. However, in Makushita he feels right at home.

This bout marks his fourth straight win – a kachi koshi – and an almost sure return to Juryo, as he is ranked Ms1 at the moment. And he may well repeat the zensho-yusho he got in Makushita back in Nagoya 2017.

My main man, Terutsuyoshi, did not let his loss the other day put him down. Here he faces the same potato, er, rikishi, who defeated Enho yesterday:

Enho, watch and learn!

Terutsuyoshi is also ranked at Ms1, and will probably need just one more win to get himself back to Juryo. Next basho he is likely to meet Takanoiwa there. Wonder how that will turn out.

Toyonoshima attempted to return after he was kyujo on day 4. Unfortunately, Asabenkei is not a pushover, and Toyonoshima got his first Makekoshi in four basho.

OK, up to Makuuchi we go.

Ryuden shows why so much was expected of him. He evades Yutakayama‘s tsuppari attack, gets inside, takes hold of Yutakayama’s armpit, and applies power. Oshidashi, and Ryuden in has a positive balanace.

Abi starts with a tsuppari attack. Tries for a second to grab at Nishikigi‘s mawashi but it looks more like a distraction. It’s actually Nishikigi who is trying to get a grip and can’t. Eventually Nishikigi lunges desparately at Abi’s mawashi, at which point Abi grabs him for a quick sukuinage. So there is more to the young Peter Pan than just tsuppari.

It looks like Asanoyama woke up this morning and thought he was still in Fukuoka. Daieisho overwhelmed him and bang – there goes the zensho. Perhaps this will prevent Asanoyama from being scheduled against joi wrestlers.

Daiamami pulls at his nose no fewer than three times, and then proceeds to rain tsuppari at Takekaze. The veteran has no answer. He is two losses away from a make-koshi, and if he doesn’t start winning somehow, will join many familiar faces in Juryo next basho.

In the battle of the meh, Ishiura gets pushed to the tawara by Kagayaki, but manages to circle and defend. Then he seems to go too low and be in risk of losing his balance, but it is in fact Kagayaki who slips on the dohyo and ends up face down. Tsukiotoshi.

Chiyomaru doesn’t really have to work hard to beat Sokokurai. The man from Inner Mongolia tries a couple of times to get at the mawashi behind that huge belly, but doesn’t even get close. Easiest oshi-dashi in the world.

Kaisei makes short work of Daishomaru, gets him turned around and sends him off the dohyo. Tries to give him a helping hand up, but Daishomaru refuses it and goes up on his own.

Kotoyuki seems to get in control in the bout vs. Tochiozan, as oshi is his game, whereas Tochiozan usually prefers to get a morozashi on his opponents. However, once again Kotoyuki overreaches and find himself getting intimate with the spectators.

Chiyoshoma up to his old tricks. Two mattas. Then starts the bout with a harizashi. Gets several more harite in, but Shohozan is not impressed and pushes the lighter man out.

Chiyonokuni is having a miserable time in this basho. Only one win to his name at the moment, and Endo is not a good place to look for the second one. Chiyonokuni starts with his tsuppari barrage, Endo manages to get a half-grip on his mawashi, nearly loses balance but eventually gets the Kokonoe man out of the ring for an oshidashi.

Ikioi manages to get his left hand inside, but Okinoumi turns this against him as he wraps his arm around Ikioi’s for a kotenage. Okinoumi seems to be on his way back. Ikioi in deep trouble.

Takarafuji and Shodai fight for a grip for a few minutes. It’s Shodai who gets his morozashi, and quickly dispatches of the Isegahama man. This new Shodai is dangerous. Kakuryu better be careful.

Chiyotairyu is yet another Kokonoe man who is in trouble, with his only win a fusen. Kokonoe is only fairing better than Isegahama in that it doesn’t have as many injuries. Arawashi, with or without legs, manages to sidestep and roll the huge Chiyotairyu. Hatakikomi.

Onosho came fast and strong at Kotoshogiku, pushing the veteran all the way up to the tawara. Giku hung on by his tiptoes, moved around, grabbed hold of Onosho’s left arm and took him down for a kotenage. Still has some juice flowing, Kotoshogiku.

I don’t know what’s up with TamawashiHokutofuji could not ask for an easier rival. A henka, Tamawashi running into thin air, and Hokutofuji coming from behind and finishing the job. Okuridashi.

Yoshikaze was hoping he could continue in his giant-toppling routine today, but Mitakeumi had other plans. Yoshikaze tries to pull Mitakeumi down, fails, is driven to the edge, and then tries to launch an attack, when Mitakeumi simply pulls back and pulls him down. Mitakeumi keeps his perfect record.

Takayasu may have had a good record against Ichinojo, but the Mongolian boulder has brought some fighting spirit to this basho. He takes Takayasu’s kachiage with nonchalance and they both grapple, neither getting an overarm grip. Takayasu tries to change the grip, gets the grip he wants and tries to pull at ichinojo, but ichinojo has an underarm grip of his own, pulls at Takayasu’s mawashi and throws him outside as if he was a rag doll. That man is powerful, make no mistakes. Takayasu finds himself with two losses in a row, three in total, and depending on the strength of competition in the second week, a serious chance of kadoban.

Goeido, on the other hand, booted up in the correct version today. Two losses are enough, and despite a weak tachiai, he just grabs and overwhelms Takakeisho, leading him all the way out. Still an Ozeki.

And then, the musubi-no-ichiban, the one we have been waiting for. Truth be told, Tochinoshin had a miserable score against Kakuryu, 20-1 before today, with that one victory being somewhere in 2010, when Kakuryu was still sekiwake. Still, Tochinoshin looks great in this basho, as strong as a grizzly bear. And Kakuryu is only back from injury, and is smaller than the big Georgian.

kakuryu-tochinoshin
For the blink of an eye I could have sworn I saw Harumafuji there

But we have a Yokozuna here, and he wasn’t letting Tochinoshin anywhere near his mawashi. He speedily got a strong mawashi grip himself, and just drove forward, in a determined de-ashi that reminded me very much of Harumafuji. Tochinoshin looked pretty frustrated there at the end, but there you have it. A yokozuna is a yokozuna.

And this yokozuna is now 7-0.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

No point in keeping track of Hakuho and Kisenosato anymore, so we are down to a Kakuryumeter. So far, so good. Despite the pressure to perform, being the only yokozuna in attendance, and not being paid for this basho other than those mountains of kensho, Kakuryu shows amazing resilience to pressure.

Yusho arasoi:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi

Chasers:

  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M9 Shohozan
  • M13 Daieisho
  • M16 Asanoyama

The san-yaku is really doing miserably this basho. Tomorrow Kakuryu is going to meet the dangerous Shodai. I hope he realizes that Shodai no just stands up at the tachiai. Mitakeumi is facing an equally dangerous Ichinojo. And I’m going to be rooting for the boulder. Go go Mongolian geography!

Day 6 – It’s not easy being an Ozeki

First, I would have liked to bring you news of Hattorizakura’s first win, but alas, he lost his 70th consecutive bout today. However, this has been one of the best efforts we have seen from the “Inverted Hakuho” so far:

And if you want to see more of Hoshoryu, and how he looks when his rival isn’t Naya, here’s today’s maezumo:

(I have no idea why One And Only calls him Toyoshoryu. Both the yobidashi and the gyoji are pretty clear).

Sumidagawa from Naruto beya is currently the only one in his heya still in zanbara. He is also two losses to one win now:

And alas, Enho is having a worse time than we thought he would have at this level of Makushita:

…and with a rival who can’t seem to be able to bend his knees enough for the tachiai.

enho-has-the-sads
Enho today, doesn’t seem very happy

So, let’s ascend to Makuuchi and check what happened there today.

Just before Asanoyama starts his bout with Ishiura, the announcer wonders aloud “What is Asanoyama going to do about Ishiura’s quick movements?” The answer seems to be “Tsuppari, not let him get inside, and push him out within seconds”.

asanoyama-ishiura
“See there, that’s the tawara. Go to the other side. Thank you.”

If Asanoyama stays 7-0 tomorrow, don’t be surprised to find him matched with Tochinoshin the next day or so.

Nishikigi is not letting go of Makuuchi easily. Daiamami pulls at his nose and attacks, but Nishikigi takes a hold of his right arm and drags him to the edge for a quick kotenage. BTW, the gyoji who announced the torikumi just before the bouts began doesn’t know who Daiamami is, calling him “Oamami” instead (it’s an alternative reading of the same kanji).

Takekaze, on the other hand, seems to be past his swan song. Ryuden gets a grip on him very easily and pushes him out. Oshidashi, and Ryuden now even at 3-3. Takekaze worked very hard pumping iron before the basho – he was the only one in the gym during the New Year’s break – but those muscles are not bringing back his sumo.

Sokokurai is also in dire straits, and may find himself right back in Juryo, with Daieisho pushing him out faster than you can say “ah” (that’s an actual Japanese phrase). Daieisho is, in fact, in the chaser list for the Yusho, with only one loss so far.

Abi gets slapped down in another oshi match with Daishomaru. If Abi could learn yotsu zumo, which is a bit unlikely given his shisho, he may become known as the Yokozuna with the most beautiful dohyo-iri in history. Just sayin’.

Shohozan goes for a slap-fest with Kotoyuki. The latter finds himself rolling down the dohyo. What’s the bowling score for hitting 3 pins, er, spectators?

Kotoyuki may be pissed off because of Shohozan’s harite off the tachiai. In the first days of the basho, nobody was doing that. There was some speculation that this was due to the criticism Hakuho got for this move. Shohozan decided to break the “taboo”, and he is not the last one doing that today.

Chiyomaru vs. Tochiozan. “Ah”… And the Kokonoe man wins.

Chiyonokuni attacks Takarafuji with his trademark barrage of tsuppari. Takarafuji defends and defends, and tries to get an arm inside. He knows why: as soon as his left arm is inside, he pushes Chiyonokuni out like a rag doll. Currently Takarafuji is the only ray of light at Isegahama. 😲

Okinoumi finally looks more like himself against Chiyoshoma. The Kokonoe Mongolian still hasn’t mastered the channeling of Harumafuji as well as he would have liked. He finds himself hugged and with no room for one of his throws, and hurts his ankle in the process. I guess mimicking the Horse means his injuries as well…

Shodai uses an effective tachiai to… Wait, what did I just write? The words “Shodai”, “effective” and “tachiai” are shocked to find themselves together in the same sentence. But so it is. Shodai secures a quick morozashi on Endo and pushes him out. Perhaps his win against Ichinojo was not so much Ichinojo’s fault as I thought it was.

Ikioi seems to be in deep trouble, with only one win to his name so far, with Arawashi converting his attempt at a sukuinage into a beautiful sotogake. Kintamayama says Arawashi has bad knees, and that’s obvious from the mummy-like bandaging, but I suspect Ikioi also has some trouble in that department.

This sums up the low-to-middle maegashira. But the joi bouts is where the excitement is! Let’s move straight on to Tochinoshin vs. Takakeisho. Which style will win, Takakeisho’s in-and-out tsuki-oshi, or Tochinoshin’s “Red Incredible Hulk” mode?

Well, Takakeisho got as far as pushing Tochinoshin to one side and trying to send him out. This got Tochinoshin angry. And this Incredible Hulk (a) turns red rather than green when he’s mad, and (b) wraps the puny meatball of a rikishi in front of him with his long arm and shows him how sumo is supposed to be done. Tochinoshin still riding the zensho train!

Mitakeumi doesn’t even bother with any tsuppari, where Hokutofuji may have an advantage over him. He just applies force as if Hokutofuji was giving him a butsukari. Mitakeumi looks like he seriously wants that next rank, and with two Yokozuna missing again – who knows?

And here comes the second harizashi of the day (“slap and grab”). While the first one was just a slap, not a grab, Ichinojo goes for the full monty. What taboo? I want to win, dammit. Tamawashi barely knows which Mongolian mountain hit him before he hits the bottom of the dohyo with his head. I hope he’s alright.

Goeido meets the Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze, and finds out that he also keeps a side job as an Ozeki bane. This was over so fast Goeido may still be wondering if the bout took place. The Ozeki finds himself, again, out of the yusho race – unless all four leaders drop two more bouts. My guess is that he’ll just concentrate on not going kadoban from now on.

yoshikaze-goeido
Yoshikaze. After a slow start, now a candidate for the Outsanding Performance Award

Takayasu prepared his usual kachiage for Onosho, but the red mawashi would have none of that. Blocking him with his outstretched arm, he started his own attack, and combined with an unfortunate slip, Takayasu joins Goeido in the “Maybe next time” club.

Maybe this is the time to pause and comment that both Takayasu and Kisenosato suffer from “koshi daka”… “high pelvis”, if you please. Meaning that their stance gets too high and unstable. This is a shame, because stability and balance used to be the Tagonoura brothers’ specialty. The combination of two injured rikishi losing their dohyo sense, followed by them mostly practicing with each other, may be the cause for both men’s troubles. This is why there are still some in the NSK who believe that Kisenosato can redeem himself – by curing that koshi-daka. The problem is less pronounced with Takayasu, of course, who is not permanently damaged, has been off the dohyo a shorter time, and has practiced with more people than did the damaged Yokozuna.

Ah, what, did I leave you hanging in the air? Let’s go to the musubi-no-ichiban. And what a bout that was! Kotoshogiku determined to show he is still Ozeki material, grabs Kakuryu right from the start and starts his gaburi attack. The Yokozuna hurriedly dances hither and tither, on the one hand evading the tawara, and on the other, looking for a grip. When he finally finds one, the two stop, assess the situation, and finally Kotoshogiku attacks again. And then, Kakuryu reverses that attack into his own attack and leads the former Ozeki out. He sure was winded when that ended.

tired-kakuryu
Man, this is tiring work

So the Yokozuna maintains his record. Let’s look at the Yokozuna situation at the moment:

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day6

So we have one Yokozuna carrying the basho on his shoulders (unpaid), and two Yokozuna undergoing repairs. And I think neither of them will be putting his main effort into the injury that he submitted on his medical certificate. Hakuho will have to figure out a winning tachiai technique or two. Kisenosato, who actually ran out of injuries and had to report his original one (“aggravated by a hit to the chest”) as the reason for his kyujo, will have to work on that koshidaka. And if that doesn’t work, he’ll have to work on a new hairstyle.

Yusho Arasoi

6-0

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

5-1

  • M9 Shohozan
  • M13 Daieisho

Tomorrow the leader list is going to be down one man, as Kakuryu is to face Tochinoshin. Will kakuryu lose a notch in my meter, or will he prevail against the Incredible Hulk? Don’t miss the next episode of Hatsu 2018!

 

Day 5 – New Hopes, Dashed Hopes

So let’s start at the very bottom.

naya-hoshoryu
Naya and Hoshoryu – didn’t look like maezumo

There are mae-zumo bouts in every tournament. They usually pass almost unobserved, with only the sumo database to recall them from oblivion. But this tournament, we have two sublime scions who promise to make sumo interesting 10 years from now.

These are, of course, Taiho’s grandchild, Naya (who also happens to be Takatoriki’s son, but that fact is not paraded on TV and the press as much), and Hoshoryu, formerly known as Byambasuren, Asashoryu’s nephew.

And today, these two were matched against each other.

Hoshoryu is certainly channeling his uncle there when the gunbai points to his rival. Anyway, this looks a lot better than maezumo usually is.

Moving up a little bit, Torakio suffered his first loss today, after two wins.

The technique is not quite there yet.

And unfortunately, my main man Terutsuyoshi also suffered his first loss, in the battle of the former sekitori with Yago:

A valiant attempt at an ipponzeoi there at the end, but Yago had him from the get-go.

Let’s get up to Makuuchi, then. It was my day off today, so I was able to watch some live sumo for the first time. I caught the stream (Abema TV + VPN) right when Kakuryu was finishing his dohyo-iri. I must say I prefer the NHK broadcasts (which I got to watch recorded, never live). Too much stuff on the screen obscures the view, and the “female guests” that they promised only enhance the image of the “stupid broad who doesn’t understand sports and needs to be told basic things”. Bah.

But all this doesn’t make for bad sumo, right? So let’s go through the bouts:

Asanoyama got a Juryo rival today, Kyokutaisei, who was not really a match for the revamped Asanoyama. Yorikiri within the blink of an eye.

Ishiura was impressive in the first three days but now seems to be slumping back. We’ll have to see if he really improved when the sample size grows a bit. Ryuden did not let him do anything, really, and rebalanced his score a bit.

Daiamami, tells us Abema TV, has a pre-bout routine in which he pulls at his nose. Hmm… I prefer Arawashi’s salty mawashi. His bout with Yutakayama starts with some tsuppari, he follows with a nodowa. Yutakayama overcommits as he pushes him forward, but who got out first? Quite a long monoii ensues, and although Yutakayama was already flying out of control, Daiamami touched first, so Yutakayama gets the oshidashi win.

Nishikigi seemed to be in control of the bout, but Daieisho circled, causing Nishikigi to lose balance and winning by hatakikomi.

Abi and Kagayaki are of the same age. Abi just advanced from Juryo, and Kagayaki has more Makuuchi experience and looked strong in the beginning of the basho. He also has a slight height advantage over the Shikoroyama Peter Pan. But all of this list of advantages doesn’t do much for the buxom rikishi, as Abi moves quickly and pulls him down for a hikiotoshi.

Takekaze‘s game plan has been pulling down Daishomaru. Tried once, didn’t work, tried again. Tsukiotoshi and the old man’s first win this basho.

Sokokurai can’t seem to produce whatever magic he produced in Juryo. Kotoyuki pushes him out very easily for a tsukidashi.

Shohozan and Chiyomaru start with a tsuppari barrage, but Shohozan tries to get a mawashi grip. Chiyomaru evades and evades, but eventually Shohozan catches on and pushes him towards the edge. Chiyomaru only manages to stop himself when his toes are already outside. Hikiotoshi.

Now, the Aminishiki vs. Chiyonokuni battle did not look good. First, there’s Uncle Sumo’s sumo. I mean, it isn’t there. He can’t catch a grip on his rivals nape for one of the pull downs he likes, and he can’t get inside for a mawashi grip. But the worst part is that as Chiyonokuni rolls him to the exactly same corner when he ended up yesterday,  Uncle lands badly and hurts his right leg – the one with the snapped ligament and the brace. He had to go to the shitaku-beya leaning on someone’s shoulder. He will make a decision whether to go kyujo or not tomorrow morning.

aminishiki-hurt
Aminishiki. Couldn’t get back on the dohyo for the bow.

Next to Kaisei, Chiyoshoma looks like a teen. However, after he finishes his Harumafuji-like shikiri, they both struggle for a mawashi grip. Chiyoshoma gets a secure shitate grip, and uses it for a shitatenage. Once Kaisei is on the floor, Chiyoshoma gives him a helping hand up. Now that’s the Chiyoshoma I want to see.

Tochiozan doesn’t manage to get any grip on Ikioi, and starts to back away as Ikioi pushes, but then manages to catch at Ikioi’s neck and pull him down for a hatakikomi.

In the battle of the “Ikemen” (manly men), Okinoumi just can’t repeat his success from the previous basho. Endo fights him for the grip, and they end up in a hidari-yotsu, but apparently Endo’s hold is stronger and he pushes relentlessly for the yori-kiri.

Takarafuji, however, is back in the land of white stars. Arawashi doesn’t seem to even pose a problem for him. A harite, a nodowa, and an oshi-dashi. This despite the TV team (Kasugano oyakata commentating) speaking at length about the type of yotsu each of them prefers.

Shodai gets a good grip on Ichinojo, and proves to him that even mountains can be moved. Losing to Shodai, Ichinojo? Ichinojo gets his favorite grip first, but Shodai manages to switch grips without penalty, gets him all the way to the edge, and then dances a bit on the tawara and lets Ichinojo’s momentum do the rest. The Yokozuna must be thinking “Is it that easy?”.

BTW, In the “fun facts” box on Abema TV, they wrote that Ichinojo can sleep on the back of a horse. The TV team – especially Kasugano oyakata – start to crack jokes about the poor horses in Mongolia and Ichinojo’s weight…

What was supposed to be the highlight of the evening, the tadpole battle, ended up with Takakeisho doing the splits within seconds, and Onosho with another easy win.

Mitakeumi and Tamawashi get into a pushing battle. But Mitakeumi is the stronger one of these two, and Tamawashi can do nothing but retreat until he’s out.

Although he lost to Hokutofuji twice already, in addition to one fusen, Takayasu is fearless as he comes to the dohyo today. Takayasu combines a mawashi grip with oshi, and expertly gets Hokutofuji out in an oshidashi. Keeps himself within one loss of the leader group.

Now, Tochinoshin‘s bout with Goeido is one for the history books. Kasugano oyakata at the commentator seat looked like a cat who swallowed a bowl of cream. At first, the two battled for a grip, each denying the other his hold and looking for his own opening. Tochinoshin managed to secure a firm grip, and started pushing Goeido relentlessly towards the tawara. Goeido didn’t go out without a fight, though, and tried a leg trip. Tochinoshin maintained perfect balance, and kept applying his unbelievable force. Goeido joins Takayasu in the “1 behind” group. Great match.

tochinoshin-goeido

Kakuryu keeps sailing from one bout to the next with poise and hinkaku… Chiyotairyu is really no match, as Kakuryu gets a grip on him right off the tachiai and lifts and pushes, lifts and pushes until the Sumo Elvis passes the bales. I was relieved to see that Kakuryu’s attempt at gaburi-yori yesterday vs. Ichinojo (didn’t work, he had to change tactics and move the mountain sideways to win) did not cause him to wake up this morning with his back wrecked again. Keep up the good work, Yokozuna!

And now, to the musubi-no-ichiban. The last bout of the day. Yokozuna Kisenosato vs. Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze. And the man in the green mawashi was not giving the crippled Yokozuna an inch of slack. Yoshikaze tried a pulldown at first, then got into a morozashi, and dropped him unceremoniously off the dohyo. He went down to offer him a hand up, which Kisenosato rejected. Things are not looking good for the one-year-old Yokozuna.

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day5

So Hakuho is out for repairs, Kisenosato has a serious kinboshi leak, and only Kakuryu is in a state of “Need a Yokozuna? I’m right here!”.

Yusho Arasoi

The leader list is now down to four:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

(Asanoyama? “Been there, done that, got the sansho”)