We have only a short report today, and less goofy than the usual. But those who are new here are going to learn about kawaigari. Learning is a good thing, isn’t it?
So, let’s start in the morning. The first activity of the day is handshakes with the fans. Yoshikaze participates.
But notice that he does it in a yukata, which is rather unusual. Most of the rikishi do the handshakes in their practice mawashi. This tells us that not only is Yoshikaze off the torikumi, he is also not doing any keiko. One has to wonder what ails him, or rather, what is it that ails him enough not to do keiko, but still not enough to excuse himself from part or all of the Jungyo.
On the sidelines, we have Okinoumi doing some push-ups:
I think he is not quite up to par by military standards.
Next we have some moshi-ai bouts. First, Takakeisho vs. Daieisho, followed by Takakeisho vs. Onosho:
I wonder who it was who got tossed off the dohyo.
Next we have Abi vs. Onosho, followed by Abi vs. Ichinojo.
A direct push doesn’t work against the boulder, so Abi goes for a (somewhat crude) death spin.
Next up, Takayasu vs. Endo, then Takayasu vs. Tochiozan:
Tochinoshin with Ichinojo:
Oof, Ichinojo’s legs don’t look very pretty.
And neither does his sumo. 😩
Finally, the Yokozuna gets on the dohyo. This is significant, as up till now he didn’t do any on-dohyo activity. Well, technically he did some stretches and shiko at the corner of the dohyo, but that’s not something he really needs a dohyo for.
The Yokozuna – all of them – tend to scale their activity up through the Jungyo. There are different degrees of intensity. Doing basics is ground level. Then you have butsukari geiko (where you are the dominant), which is slightly higher (you have to use your feet and you get smashed in the chest). Then there is doing your own butsukari, and doing bouts with low and high ranking rikishi.
The Yokozuna is not yet on the torikumi list – the Musubi is between the two participating Ozeki – but he did start giving butsukari today. The pushing partner was Takakeisho.
Butsukari is a drill in which one side – usually higher-ranked – offers his chest, and the other side has to push him, again and again, all the way to the edge of the dohyo. If you succeed, you do a squat, and continue until the high-ranker decides you’ve had enough. If you fail, the dominant throws you on the floor, or he may choose to get you to walk around in what I call a “monkey walk” – it’s not exactly the same as suri-ashi, and the dominant usually has his hand on your neck to bend you down.
That’s the basics. But then there is kawaigari. Now, you wouldn’t know it from the NSK video above, but this was actually a kawaigari session.
A kawaigari session is butsukari with extra testosterone. On the dominant’s part, that is. It’s a show of dominance, and a serious challenge for the submissive. You get shouted at. And kicked. And your hair may be pulled, or your ass slapped. And all you can do is go “yes, sir”, “yes, sir”, and keep up. At some point you get exhausted. But you have to get up and keep going. You are not supposed to waste the time of the high-ranking rikishi who is giving you his precious attention.
This is a well known ritual in the sumo world. And watching it is not easy for newcomers. Though the original version is worse – it includes spits and hard beating with a bamboo stick. I’m told this still goes on today – though not in public. The public version is not really hazardous to one’s health.
Hakuho loves kawaigari. Having been a Yokozuna so long, nobody can give him one. But he can sure give it to others, they can’t refuse, and it’s considered an honor – while it makes it very clear who’s boss, which is exactly how the Yokozuna likes it. And so, you won a Yusho, young man? Get some “TLC” (that’s what “kawaigari” means) from the Yokozuna. Here is the extended version:
Hakuho is an excellent performer. He makes sure all of the spectators get a good view – standing at different edges of the dohyo each time. He gets more laughs than the shokkiri team – but also signals to the audience when to applaud the exhausted Komusubi. He kicks and growls – and makes sure that Takakeisho’s mawashi knot doesn’t come undone.
But this performance caused quite a stir with one faction of sumo fans – the so-called “Takanohana cultists” (not all Takanohana fans belong to this category). They – or rather, some of them, because I don’t believe anybody who has been a sumo fan for any serious length of time would be – were outraged by Hakuho’s “hideous” treatment of Takakeisho. “That man does not deserve to be a Yokozuna!”. “Why did the NSK censor all the kicking and hair pulling?”. “I really hope Takakeisho makes it through this Jungyo uninjured”. “Hakuho makes sure no young talent can rise in the sumo world”. Some even searched the Internet and found evidence that Harumafuji used to do the same! Those awful Mongolians!
That, my friends, is called “cherry picking”. Because the practice is quite widespread, and no, it’s not restricted to awful Mongolians. Here we have some kawaigari Goeido gave Hokutofuji in 2016.
I think Goeido has never been in Mongolia. Here is one Takayasu gave a youngster from his heya a few years back in a public training:
OK. Lesson over. Now, unlike those cultists, you’ll know a kawaigari when you see one.
I do not have much from the latter part of the day. I do have these two serious, stern-faced sekitori doing their dohyo-iri:
Who are we kidding? You think Abi can stay serious for more than two seconds?
Hey, concentrate on the dohyo-iri, Daddy-Long-Legs.
To wrap up, here is a pixie:
Enho is giving butsukari to one of the low-rankers. Thing is, Hakuho is on the dohyo, and seems to be saying something to his wee uchi-deshi, which gives Enho an expression which is completely incompatible with butsukari or sekitori dominance in general. 🤗
At this point in the Jungyo journey, all hell breaks loose as hitherto fairly unknown Sandanme rikishi Takataisho fails to arrive in the morning, and when his friends convince him to come, the chaperones notice, start questioning him, and… Takanoiwa exits the world of sumo, stage left.
Maybe that is the reason why social media coverage of this day is limited. Or maybe the fact that Yukuhashi is a fairly small town, but today’s event coverage will mostly be in photos rather than videos.
So, rikishi practice along the walls. Here is Ichinojo making a rubber strap wish it has never been born:
On day 3, we had ryuden princess-lifting Shobushi. Now the portable weight is utilized by Kagayaki – who prefers piggyback.
Well, riding piggyback on the back of one of the tallest rikishi seems to give Shobushi a serious fear of heights.
The previous day, we learned that Asakayama oyakata only accepts greetings from rikishi after they do some squatting with his favorite sack of salt. But apparently, some rikishi get a free pass:
Gee, I wonder why that is.
Another person who exchanged greetings with the brass was Gokushindo.
If you’re wondering why Gokushindo would be all chummy with Izutsu oyakata, it’s probably to do with the fact that he was a longtime tsukebito of Kakuryu’s.
By the way, Izutsu is the only oyakata who sits in a chair in Jungyo. My guess is that this has to do with that hip he fractured after Hakuho dame-oshied Yoshikaze on top of him in 2016.
Speaking of Gokushindo, he, Nishikigi and Wakatakakage were all checking the torikumi plan for the day in peace and harmony…
…when all of a sudden Abi burst onto the scene.
Abi merely laid his dainty bear paws hands on Nishikigi’s back, and Gokushindo suddenly found himself splat against the wall.
Meanwhile, in the shitakubeya:
Kyonosato: “There is no possible way you can make me look more ridiculous after that silly ‘Wiggle the Wattle’ routine yesterday”
Narutaki: “Hold my beer”
“No, I mean literally, hold my beer. Now, you were saying?”
Here are some moshi-ai bouts:
And two Ozeki engaging in san-ban:
Hakuho keeps practicing below the dohyo. A middle-aged man in the crowd calls out “Hakuho, Gambare!…”
The Yokozuna turns around and shoots a smile at him. And that’s how you become a fansa-kami-sama (“God of fan service”).
As the sekitori get ready for their bouts, Enho seems to be deeply cogitating:
“So, this proves that f is differentiable at every point in this domain, so to calculate ∇f, let’s first do the partial derivative w.r.t. x₁. Good, now…”
In the previous report, I received complaints about the dearth of Abi. So, here you go. One high shiko coming up:
This preceded Abi’s bout with Nishikigi, a bout from which I only have this tantalizing photo:
From which we can draw two conclusions
Kimura Konosuke is diligent even in Jungyo events.
Abi is trying up Yotsu again.
Another tantalizing glimpse of a bout:
Tochinoshin is doing the Tochinoshin. Man, this is the musubi-no-ichiban. That’s a full sized bear Ozeki you have there, not a five-year-old playing Upsy-daisy!
So, let’s say our goodbyes to Yukuhashi. Our pinup rikishi is, once again, Wakatakakage:
Because even when he covers his freezing nipples, he manages to look totally cool.
Yes, we’re back with the series of Jungyo Newsreels that will try to keep your blood sumo levels above the emergency threshold until a new tournament is in site.
As a reminder – the Jungyo is a promotional tour in which the sekitori (Juryo and Makuuchi) participate. Each takes one tsukebito (manservant, a wrestler ranked between Jonidan and Makushita), except Yokozuna and Ozeki who get to have a “team”. Together with a bunch of shimpan, gyoji and yobidashi, and of course the big heads from the Jungyo department, they travel through small towns around Japan, performing from morning through the afternoon, and letting the locals get a bit of live sumo and sumo-related fun. For a fuller description, refer to the Introduction To The Jungyo I published a while back.
The winter Jungyo is supposed to be the shortest Jungyo of the year. However, with the rising popularity of sumo, it’s not that short any more. The 2013 Fuyu Jungyo included only six events. The 2018 Fuyu Jungyo includes 17 events spread over 21 days! In fact, there were more Jungyo days in 2018 than honbasho days!
So without further ado, let’s see what we had on day 1.
Nagasaki is a popular tourist destination in Japan. So some members of the entourage took time to explore. While Hakuho had a little excursion to the lighthouse to have some Champon (a Nagasaki noodle dish), Kokonoe oyakata decided to visit the famous Spectacles Bridge:
One rikishi was on the tour, who was neither sekitori nor tsukebito. Tachiai favorite Wakaichiro had a one-day adventure. The reason for this is that he is registered as coming from Nagasaki. His mother is from Nagasaki, and his grandparents came to this day’s event to watch him. As you all know, he actually grew up in Texas. He mostly spent summer vacations in Nagasaki. This being his first Jungyo, he had a bit of trouble getting the hang of things (remember, there are no sekitori in Musashigawa). The press was mostly amused that he decided a good place to camp in the shitaku-beya would be right between Takayasu and Tochinoshin. (Well, yeah, it is a good place!)
As a “local boy”, he received some kawaigari (TLC – the euphemism for butsukari, especially when used as a torture session) from Jokoryu. This was the effect:
Wakaichiro was not the only novice in the Jungyo – though the others have the advantage of traveling with familiar faces and being used to the company of sekitori. One new face in the Jungyo is Midorifuji, who is serving as Terutsuyoshi’s tsukebito (I’m getting worried about Terunohana, Terutsuyoshi’s long-time tsukebito, who has been kyujo for quite some time). Midorifuji is considered one of the most promising current talents at Isegahama beya, and I think they decided to send him on the Jungyo to get some “sekitori experience”. Here he is with Terutsuyoshi and Aminishiki’s tsukebito, Terumichi:
Another new face in the Jungyo is Wakamotoharu (though he had been on at least one event in the past). He is there as his little brother’s tsukebito – the little brother being Wakatakakage, of course.
The shimpan squad has also been refreshed. In the previous Jungyo we saw Futagoyama, Tomozuna and Furiwake. This tour we have Asakayama, Hanaregoma and, of course, Kokonoe.
And what are the rikishi up to? Well, it’s early morning, so Ichinojo demonstrates his ability to squat while sound asleep:
Then there are these inseparable two. Surprisingly, Terutsuyoshi is rather hands-off today:
But of course, most of the attention goes to one participant: Hakuho, back from his post-operative kyujo, and trying to regain some fitness. Here he is doing some shiko:
Mmmm… Hakuho said he can stomp with power now, but this seems to be very tentative shiko.
By the way, the Yokozuna also changed his seating arrangements in the Jungyo bus. Apparently, one of the reason his leg got worse in the previous Jungyo was sitting with cramped, bent knees for hours on end, while traveling. He used to sit in the front seat of the bus, but decided to change to the back seat, to allow himself to fully stretch his legs. I suppose that means he took the entire back bench to himself and stretches himself on it – he did mention something about getting some sleep. Maybe he should borrow one of Yoshikaze’s folding mattresses…
By the way, I did not mention this before, but there are several rikishi who are kyujo from this Jungyo – at least for the time being. Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Goeido, Kaisei and Arawashi from Makuuchi, and Kyokushuho, Kyokutaisei and Chiyonoo from Juryo. All Tomozuna sekitori are absent! Yoshikaze was also off the torikumi, but he is definitely in the Jungyo.
This also means that Hakuho is left with only one Makuuchi rikishi from his own ichimon for the dohyo-iri. Indeed, his tsuyuharai is Chiyoshoma:
The shiko here is stronger, of course.
Chiyoshoma looks a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing. I predict that for the Meiji-Jingue dohyo iri of January 2019, we’ll see Terutsuyoshi as his tsuyuharai (this will be after the new banzuke is announced so Terutsuyoshi is expected to be in Makuuchi).
Let’s take a look at some practice bouts. First, Hakuyozan vs. Takagenji.
Then, Meisei and Aoiyama:
Aoiyama seems to be getting more and more confident lately. Here he is vs. the Yusho winner (that’s Takakeisho, if you have been on another planet last month).
Takayasu is saying he wants to work towards his first yusho, but he won’t get there if his keiko looks like this:
That’s Tochiozan – not exactly a semitrailer.
Here is todays full Sumo Jinku. Yes, that’s 15 minutes of Jinku. You are allowed to press stop only if you understand everything they say. 😛
The members of the Jinku team this Jungyo are:
It’s easy to recognize Mutsukaze by his prominent mutton chops. If you can’t recognize the others, here’s a little challenge: try to guess who is who by the kesho-mawashi they wear. It’s supposed to be borrowed from a sekitori in their heya (OK, so that won’t help you with the two Sadogatake guys…).
Going into the competition part of the event, the lower divisions each had its own elimination-format tournament, while the upper divisions had the traditional format torikumi. I’m sorry to say that Wakaichiro dropped in the first round of the Jonidan tournament. The winners got prizes – which is not an everyday occurrence for lower-division wrestlers.
Jonidan winner, Imafuku, won a bag of rice. At least, that’s what it looks like.
Sandanme winner, Wakanofuji, won a big bottle of saké.
Makushita winner, Obamaumi, won a… picture of rice crackers? Hey… It sucks to be in Makushita!
OK, so if you’re wondering about those two Goofometer points above, here is what was afoot between Juryo bouts:
Hidenoumi decides to tickle Terutsuyoshi with his sagari. Terutsuyoshi, in response, goes all “Oh yeah, baby, ooh, that’s good, give it to me, baby”.
Hidenoumi has an expression like “God, man, aren’t you enjoying this just a little bit too much?”, or maybe “Whoa… do I really want this guy hanging around anywhere near my little brother?”
Not that his little brother is any better…
OK, OK, so we have a few bouts to see! Here are the “Kore-yori-san-yaku”. Well, two of them. By the way, there was a slip in the torikumi program. They had Hakuho doing the musubi with Takayasu. Hakuho is not really dohyo-ready in any way, shape or form. So eventually Asanoyama was placed at the bottom of san-yaku for a second bout, and everybody else was shifted one space up, sort of.
And once again Takakeisho needs a mawashi adjustment right before the bout.
Asanoyama, of course, is no match for the mighty tadpole – who gets some kensho.
The Mitakeumi/Ichinojo bout is rather comical. I’m not sure Ichinojo actually intended to belly-bump Mitakeumi. That’s a funny tsukiotoshi.
OK, so who shall we put up as our pin-up boy this time? Maybe Terutsuyoshi?
Hey, what’s with the sour face? We know you are quite capable of a big smile. Especially if you’re looking at Enho. Anyway, that photo looks a bit like a Soviet propaganda poster, doesn’t it?
So maybe just revert to Enho:
Now we can all have a big smile! This commercial for “Macho” proteins brought to you by Ishiura, by the way.
Today I have few bouts for you from the black cotton mawashi divisions for you, as the interesting yusho-related bouts start tomorrow. Er… in about an hour or so. We’ll get to that shortly.
Let’s start with a Jonidan bout. I picked this one up for the big name. Well, not that big, but familiar: Kasugaryu, Hakuho’s tsukebito and the current official performer of the Yumitori-shiki. At this level, I wasn’t quite ready for the excellent sumo.
The rival is Chura, from Miyagino beya, which means he and Kasugaryu probably know each other quite well. But although Kasugaryu is Hakuho’s tsukebito, he is from Nakagawa beya rather than Miyagino, and so they are eligible for a match. (The video includes two additional matches – Tamanoryu/Okunisato, Dewanosora/Ezuka).
Wasn’t that lovely? Both sides have good control of their feet and balance, and so recover several times before the deciding move. I guess Kasugaryu’s age is one of the deciding factors. If Kasugaryu was Chura’s age, we might have ended up with a…
Here is a little gem for you. Sumo is not a sport of stamina. When the bout is long, the wrestlers lose much of their power. This, in turn, may prolong it further as they go into a leaning contest which is hard for either to break.
Therefore, there is a limit to the length of the bout. In the top two divisions, after four minutes of wrestling with the bout in a stalemate, a procedure called “Mizu-iri” (water break) takes place. This involves the gyoji (at a signal from the shimpan) tapping the wrestlers’ backs (much like when he needs to retie a mawashi). He then memorizes the positions of their feet and grips, and then they get a short break, after which they assume the same position, based on the gyoji’s memory and help from the video room if needed.
That’s a complex procedure, and in Makushita and below they have a simpler one. As the time limit is reached, again, the timekeeping shimpan signals to the head shimpan, who in turn raises a hand to attract the gyoji’s attention. But in this case, the bout is simply stopped, and a torinaoshi is called. The torinaoshi, unlike one that comes after a monoii resolution, doesn’t take place immediately, but rather, after the next two bouts. This allows the participants to rest a while.
Here is what it looks like, in today’s Jonidan bout between Kototaiko and Mori:
The video title says it’s a mizu-iri, but it isn’t one. The gyoji, it appears, is inexperienced, and the shimpan have to remind him what to do.
By the way, I should mention that although there are four sides to the dohyo, there are five shimpan sitting around it. The one sitting closest to the red tassel is the time-keeping shimpan (left hand ref in the video above).
For comparison, I’m adding a video of a mizu-iri, in the bout between Terunofuji and Ichinojo, Haru 2015. The video is timed just before the break.
Here is a Makushita bout between Ryuko and Ichiyamamoto. Ichiyamamoto has reached as far as Makushita 3 in the past year, but has struggled to survive in the Heaven/Hell interface area with his light frame. Ryuko is also a young up-and-comer, but also suffered a slump as he hit mid-Makushita – from which he seems to have recovered. They are both 4-1 coming into this bout.
Very nice ashitori there. Ryuko is the winner, and will continue his climb up the banzuke and into the purgatory area.
State of the Yusho races Makushita and below
In Jonokuchi, the only lossless rikishi, with 6-0, is Hatooka. Today he is facing Kojikara, who is 5-1. Besides Kojikara, four more wrestlers are 5-1. So if Hatooka wins, it’s his yusho, and if he loses, there will be an interesting playoff situation, where it’s still unclear how many will participate – between 3 and 5. This is because two of the wrestlers who are 5-1 (Yuma and Kokuryunami) have already faced each other, so they are scheduled for their last bout against wrestlers who are not in the yusho race, so both, either or neither may win. In short – ask me tomorrow!
The situation in Jonidan and Sandanme is slightly less confusing. Both of these divisions have three remaining 6-0 wrestlers. So the lowest ranked of the Sandanme 6-0 men, Fukunofuji, is scheduled against the highest ranked of the Jonidan 6-0 men, Mitsuuchi. Also scheduled tomorrow are Ura vs. Hikarifuji (the remaining Sandanme 6-0 men), and Kenho vs. Kotourasaki.
Thus, if Mitsuuchi wins, there will be a playoff in Jonidan on Senshuraku, whereas Sandanme will be decided today. If Fukunofuji wins, there will be a playoff in Sandame on Senshuraku, and Jonidan will be decided today. So anybody hoping to see Ura on Senshuraku should cheer for Fukunofuji.
The simplest situation is in Makushita – we have Sokokurai vs. Takaryu today. Winner is yusho, no playoff possible.
Irodori is brought up from Makushita, perhaps as a test case to see if he should be promoted to Juryo from his Ms2 position. Jokoryu doesn’t waste much time taking him down. Irodori is make-koshi, and will not advance to Juryo this basho. Jokoryu still needs to win through to get his kachi-koshi.
Tobizaru is back to himself. A bit of a cautious start on the part of Azumaryu, and the monkey kicks his legs from under him. Yes, low kicks are a perfectly legitimate sumo technique. The monkey needs one more win for a kachi-koshi, Azumaryu will need to get two in the next three days.
Takekaze doesn’t seem to be able to do anything against Mitoryu, and is easily swept away. He cannot afford to lose any of the three remaining bouts or his drop down the banzuke will continue. Mitoryu in no danger, and seems to have finally overcome that injury he suffered in Haru.
Gokushindo faces Chiyonoo, and will probably face him again in Makushita next basho. Chiyonoo tries everything he can to avoid the double-digit make-koshi, but to no avail. Gokushindo finds an opening for a drop, and keeps his own make-koshi at a minimum for the time being.
Tsurugisho does not henka Shimanoumi, but still his sumo is a backward-moving one, and that doesn’t end well for him. He is nearing make-koshi land, and can’t afford a single loss, whereas Shimanoumi needs a single win in three days.
In an interview after this bout with Ishiura, Toyonoshima said that he is just no good at fighting with small rikishi. He is used to fighting taller rikishi and using his lower center of gravity to his advantage, but this is nullified when the opponent is short and low. Good sumo on Ishiura’s part today. He has a good chance at a kachi-koshi.
Highlight bout of the day – Terutsuyoshi, the leader, vs. Tomokaze, the newcomer. Terutsuyoshi does have a good mawashi hold, but that fatigue I mentioned yesterday shows. His feet remain on the tawara – Terutsuyoshi is nothing if not tenacious – but his body topples over, dipping his hair straight into the salt basket. The salt sticks to the suki-abura (the pomade used to keep the hairdo stiff) dying half of Terutsuyoshi’s hair white. Well, Terutsuyoshi is a sodium fan, so why not have some in his hair? Terutsuyoshi loses the lead.
Chiyonoumi is not a mawashi wrestler, but he hangs on to Takagenji for dear life. Eventually, the twin, who is more experienced in belt battles, gets a good hold on Chiyonoumi’s mawashi knot and rolls him. The knot is undone, and so is Chiyonoumi. He is make-koshi and should be very careful not to lose more because he is in the danger zone for demotion. Takagenji still needs to win out to avoid a make-koshi.
This bout between Enho and Kotoyuki was a really sad one. As a result of being locked yesterday by Mitoryu, Enho has lost his confidence in the technique that brought him all the way to the top of the leaderboard. Or perhaps it’s the remembered pain and being afraid Kotoyuki will do the same, as that arm lock seemed rather painful. Whichever, Enho tries to circle around Kotoyuki rather than getting inside, has no real plan, and his sumo is all the way back to what it was in his first Juryo visit. I hope he got some guidance from Hakuho about that (I’m assuming that Hakuho is still with his heya in Fukuoka), because although I don’t think he can contribute any of his own techniques to a deshi so different than him in body type, I’m sure he could teach him a river of knowledge about resilience and maintaining his self confidence through difficulty. Enho drops to the chaser group.
Kyokushuho aggressive out of the Tachiai, but Tokushoryu twists himself and lets him drop down. Kyokushuho make-koshi, Tokushoryu staving off the make-koshi for the time being.
Not sure what to say about the Kyokutaisei-Daishoho bout. It just looked too easy. Daishoho suffers some unseen injury? Kyokutaisei needs one more win for a kachi-koshi.
Aminishiki getting dangerously close to make-koshi zone, again. He starts by pulling, rallies a bit and sticks his head into Hakuyozan’s chest. But he makes an untypical mistake by trying to drag Hakuyozan to the tawara and show him out. Hakuyozan keeps on his feet, but now Aminishiki is too close to the edge and easy to topple himself. Uncle Sumo usually has better dohyo sense than that.
Akiseyama starts the bout vs. Yago with a clear advantage and nearly manages to get him out. Yago can’t get a grip while Akiseyama has a good one. But then it seems that Yago simply doubles the output of power and Akiseyama suddenly moves backwards and out. Yago kachi-koshi, and we’ll see him in Kintamayama’s reel every day next basho.
Kotoeko makes good use of his weight advantage against Wakatakakage. It seems all the light-weight rikishi have started to flag towards the end of the basho – except Ishiura, who has been, er, preserving his strength. Ahem.
For the time being, Gokushindo and Chiyonoo seem certain to drop to Makushita in the next banzuke. They will be replaced by the top two wrestlers in Makushita, Daiseido and Gagamaru, who are both kachi-koshi. If a third rikishi drops – Gokushindo or Chiyonoumi – the most likely replacement is Sokokurai.
It’s day three, and it’s clear that this basho is taking a completely different direction than the previous one. The Yusho question should, perhaps, be kept for a later part of the basho, as anybody with 0-3 at the moment can still theoretically win 12 and take the cup. But it’s already clear that the dominance of the upper echelon, which caused the entire banzuke to flip over last time around, has evaporated, and we have early signs of a free-for-all.
But we start at the bottom. The first bout of the day was between two hapless and winless rikishi. One of them had to take a white star from this bout, and Chiyomaru, starting with a morotezuki (double handed push) followed by a quick hatakikomi was the lucky man. Arawashi‘s legs simply can’t move forward. He couldn’t cope with the quick change in the position of his center of gravity, and dropped like a stone.
Daiamami and Meisei, the next pair, both hail from the Amami Oshima island in Kagoshima prefecture. That island is actually closer to Okinawa than to mainland Kagoshima. And yes, Daiamami is named after it. Meisei is fighting fiercely this basho, but although he had his right hand inside first Daiamami managed to insert his as well, lifted Meisei’s left arm high and neutralized him, then pushed him out. Meisei looked rather frustrated at the end of the bout. Yoritaoshi.
The bout between Daishomaru and Chiyoshoma was a bit odd. Daishomaru gets Chiyoshoma’s back and pushes him down pretty quickly, but although Chiyoshoma touches the ground quite clearly, the bout continues and Daishomaru chases him outside the ring, confusing the Japanese announcer – and myself. It was a tsukiotoshi – that hand touch is what counted, not the following exit. I guess Chiyoshoma’s copy of “1001 Sneaky, Dirty, Devious Sumo Moves Which Are Not Actually Cheating” (thank you for that, Tigerboy) also has an appendix about “Moves Which Are Cheating But Worth Trying Anyway”.
Onosho clashes into Takanosho, then quickly pulls and tries to pull Takanosho down. The Chiganoura man is stable on his feet. Onosho tries again. Fails. At this point Takanosho has got a better positioning and starts to attack and lift Onosho, including a nodowa which was more of a face-hugger. Takanosho gets his first win by yoritaoshi.
Aoiyama tries the same tactic Onosho has – starts with some tsuki-oshi, then attempts to pull Endo down. But he doesn’t make the mistake of trying it again. Instead he goes forward and paws Endo until it looks like he volunteers to step over the bales rather than have his pretty face redesigned. Tsukidashi.
Okinoumi is the faster off the Tachiai, enveloping Chiyonokuni almost immediately. Chiyonokuni would have preferred a tsuki-oshi bout but he does have yotsu abilities and even attempts a gaburi-yori, kotoshogiku-style. At this point Okinoumi lifts him by the belt and neatly performs a shitatenage.
Sadanoumi tries to get a migi-yotsu on Yutakayama, but Yutakayama manages to slip out of his “sashi” (arm insertion) and the two go into serious windmill action. Sadanoumi nearly loses balance and compensate by lifting a leg – it almost looks like an attempt at a forbidden high kick, but it isn’t aimed at Yutakayama. Yutakayama tries to use that loss of balance and gets Sadanoumi to the bales, but Sadanoumi recovers, and somehow manages to turn the tables, push Yutakayama to the same exact bale, and yori-kiri him without a belt hold.
Kotoshogiku gets Daieisho into his favorite hold and is ready to start the pump action. Daieisho, however, lifts the former Ozeki. Not the kind of construction crane lift Tochinoshin lives by, but enough to prevent Kotoshogiku from having any traction with his feet. Kotoshogiku’s gaburi may seem to be powered by his pelvis, but it is in fact his legs that transfer all the power, and with his feet barely touching the ground, Daieisho is the one who ends with the yori-kiri.
In yet another meeting between winless rikishi, Ikioi smartly crashes into Takarafuji. However, despite Ikioi’s attempt to lock his armpit, takarafuji manages to slip in his left hand and find his mawashi. At this point it’s just a question of how much power Takarafuji has. The legs – not so much. So he gives up the attempt at a force-out and instead goes for a shitatenage and his first win.
Abi, alas, is not showing us any of those mawashi skills he supposedly tried to develop during the Jungyo. He goes for his usual morotezuki. Shohozan also starts with a tsuppari attack, but Abi’s reach is greater, and so he has the upper hand – literally, as this ends with him pulling and slamming Shohozan with an uwatenage.
There is not much to say about the Takanoiwa–Kagayaki bout. Takanoiwa throws himself into Kagayaki and successfully defends against Kagayaki’s left – but then Kagayaki, who is a little too forward, simply slips. Slippiotoshi, officially tsukiotoshi. And yet another Chiganoura sekitori wins the day – first win for Takanoiwa.
Chiyotairyu, starts his bout with Asanoyama with his usual booming clash. Asanoyama is a yotsu man and tries to get inside on the big Kokonoe man, but Chiyotairyu’s tsuki attack blocks him again and again – until he finds himself out. Oshidashi.
Yoshikaze hits Shodai low and seems to have the better Tachiai – which is not surprising with Shodai – but as he tries to get inside Shodai again and again gets his arm away and secure his own hold, but then realizes that he has moved far enough forward that he can simply shove Yoshikaze powerfully, and that would be enough to get him out. Yet another oshidashi.
The smallest of the tadpoles, Takakeisho, faces no challenge in Ryuden, after downing a Yokozuna and an Ozeki. Ryuden is quickly dispatched by the angry bowling ball. Another Chiganoura win – by tsukidashi this time.
A little trivia item about Takakeisho: When he received his first kensho, he was asked by the press what he intends to do with it. He said “I’ll give it to my tsukebito, who has been supporting me all this time – though I have to give some to my oyakata”. His dissimilarity with Takayoshitoshi is not only in their outward appearance.
Tamawashi lands a nodowashi on Ichinojo right out of the tachiai, and doesn’t his hand off the Sekiwake’s throat until Ichinojo – who isn’t giving up easily this time – simply can’t go anywhere but across the tawara. I’m sure Ichinojo will not be able to sing for at least a week – which may not be a bad thing:
Most of the next bout is actually Mitakeumi sliding his arms under Nishikigi‘s valiantly locked armpits. This takes a few seconds, and then with the morozashi thus achieved he quickly dispatches of the Isenoumi man. A reminder to you: Nishikigi said in his pre-basho interview that he is aiming to be a Yokozuna. Having challenging goals is important.
Welcome back, Kaisei. You have three seconds to spend on the dohyo, because it’s getting late and all. Clash. Push. A half-hearted pat on the back, and Kaisei finds himself eating dirt. Hatakikomi. I don’t think Takayasu broke even one bead of sweat. Takayasu now the only one in the top two ranks with a 3-0 record.
By rights, Tochiozan should not have been much of a challenge for Goeido. But as Goeido charges into and sweeps him to the tawara as Goeido does, Tochiozan sidesteps, lifts a leg ballerina-style, then just hangs there on tip-toe, while Goeido tries to rebalance and fails. I’m not good at kimarite, so I have no idea why this was called a sukuinage. I guess there is just no official kimarite for winning by sidestep.
Myogiryu proves himself a dangerous opponent this basho – considering how long ago it was that he was in the joi. His tactic is, quite sensibly, to keep Tochinoshin away from his mawashi. He keeps the Ozeki high by leaning against him diagonally, and having his arms right under Tochinoshin’s armpit, shortening their reach. With his left he is having a fumbling battle which he rather wins. However, the downside of this tactic is that, as I said, he is leaning on Tochinoshin. Eventually the Georgian takes a few steps backwards, Myogiryu has his legs trailing behind him, and Tochinoshin survives by letting him drop down.
What’s next? The musubi-no-ichiban, Kisenosato vs. Hokutofuji. We had most of the tadpole corps win by now (with the exception of Onosho). Can Hokutofuji join the rest? He is facing a Yokozuna with two losses already and dignity on the line.
Well, it seems that the Yokozuna is trying to attack with the left side that he no longer has. It may be the pressure causing him to revert to what’s familiar to his body. I don’t know. But a weak ottsuke against Hokutofuji’s strong right – it’s not working. The Yokozuna is too high. Hokutofuji keeps low and keeps pushing at Kise’s left chest with his strong right, making sure he stays high. He even attempts a tottari for a fraction of a second there. By the time the Yokozuna starts attacking with his right, it’s too little and too late. Hokutofuji plants his head in his chest. Adding a nodowa with his left hand. He manages to get the Yokozuna’s right side away from him again, and has his right under the Yokozuna’s left arm, and then – well, to me it looked like a kotenage, but the shimpan call it a tsukiotoshi, so what do I know. All I know is that the Yokozuna is rolling on the dohyo, with his third consecutive loss. He is only the seventh Yokozuna to start a basho with three straight losses. And the last one who did so was Asahifuji (the current Isegahama oyakata) in 1992, and he retired the next day.
There is a lot of speculation going on as to what Kisenosato is going to do now. Clearly, in the past this would be a reason for immediate retirement – that’s what Chiyonofuji did (with only two losses) and that’s what Asahifuji did.
But in recent times it has become a matter of norm that Yokozuna find a hitherto-unknown injury (it’s not as if they don’t have enough real ones for the doctor to be honest – they just usually keep them from public knowledge), and go kyujo.
Only, earlier this year the YDC warned Kisenosato against exactly this sort of thing. “If you are not absolutely 100%, don’t start the basho. We do not want to see you go kyujo in mid-basho again”.
I believe this warning to Kisenosato is also the reason why Kakuryu opted not to start the basho at all, rather than try anyway. It seems the rules have slightly changed. So what are the options?
He can still try the old trick of going kyujo and hope that the YDC will be forgiving, as they don’t have a spare Japanese Yokozuna. This seems to me to be beneath his dignity, but I don’t know how much pressure he will be under.
He can injure himself purposefully. Nobody is going to say he can’t leave in the middle if he actually breaks a bone. This is, of course, very risky.
He may choose the old-fashioned mid-basho retirement.
He may choose to stay the entire basho – there are still enough days for him to get a kachi-koshi, and even if he doesn’t, it may not be the end. Wakanohana Masaru, Takanohana’s brother, once stayed through a basho despite injury and had a make-koshi. He handed his resignation after the basho, but the NSK decided not to accept it, and he lingered as Yokozuna – but not for long. So Kisenosato may do the same, especially given that he is sole Yokozuna and it will be considered a show of responsibility.
I personally think the last option is the most sensible. He may yet win 8 bouts. That’s not a Yokozuna kachi-koshi, but it will be tolerated if it is done in the name of responsibility to the spectators. And if he has a make-koshi – he’ll have to hand in his resignation. And then it’s not up to him – the pressure will be on the shoulders of the NSK.
Note: I do not have the time for two posts today, so I will have to forego the lower division report. I leave you the Juryo digest, though. If you haven’t seen Enho’s bout on Kintamayama’s reel, don’t miss it! Also Gokushindo’s first win, Toyonoshima, Tobizaru… Juryo is great!