Jungyo Newsreel – Days 15 and 16

Day 15

return-of-the-satonofuji-2
Ohisashiburi, Yumi-chan

🌐 Location: Takasaki, Gunma prefecture

Kiddie sumo – Abi purifies a scalp:

abi-purifies-boys-head

Trust Abi to be more childish than his child rival.

Shodai had to go kyujo due to an inflammation. This meant Kakuryu was a tachimochi short. So, for the first time in his life, Yutakayama bore the sword for the Yokozuna dohyo-iri.

yutakayama-the-tachimochi

In his bout with Tochinoshin, Mitakeumi had a wardrobe malfunction:

You can see the two in a mawashi-matta. Explanation to newcomers: if a mawashi knot comes undone and reveals the wrestler’s family jewels, he loses immediately by disqualification. For this reason, if the gyoji or someone around the ring spots an undone knot, the gyoji calls a “mawashi-matta”, signals the rikishi to freeze, ties back the naughty knot, then slaps the backs of both rikishi to signal them to continue from the same position.

The only bout I have is actually Takayasu vs. Goeido, but I warn you in advance that you probably want to silence your speakers. This was shot by a very enthusiastic Philipino patriot who seems bent on embarrassing Takayasu very loudly:

The Gunma prefecture locals who came to watch this day’s event got a rare treat – they got to see Satonofuji perform the yumitori-shiki again. Satonofuji is a Gunma native.

Satonofuji also got many requests for photographs and autographs from his enthusiastic neighbors.

Day 16

 

three-yokozuna-backs
Unryu, Shiranui, Unryu

🌐 Location: Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo

Today’s honozumo event (a sumo event performed in the precincts of a shrine) marked the rikishi’s return to Tokyo after a very long while – those who participate in the Jungyo have been on the road since before the Haru basho.

Here come the entire Makuuchi – gathering at the main yard for a purification ceremony.

It’s really hard to have an elegant walk in a kesho-mawashi, isn’t it? Myogiryu manages it quite well, though.

This event marked the return of Hakuho to the Jungyo. The Yokozuna reported to the NSK board and expressed his appreciation for receiving permission to participate in his father’s funeral.

I’m not really sure what that new adornment to his right ankle is supposed to mean.

The main event took place at an outdoors, permanent dohyo by the side of the shrine. As usual, they started with some keiko. Enho got lots of wedgies practice.

enho-wedgie

Especially from this guy:

Looks like despite his recent kyujo, Terunofuji is gaining some of his physical strength back. Aminishiki, by the way, is still MIA.

Kakuryu performed his dohyo-iri accompanied by a mini-yokozuna with a perfect little Unryu-style rope. The little tyke was none other than Kakuryu’s own son. Pay attention to Nishikigi-mama.

Please excuse the quality. The video shows the dohyo-iri of all three Yokozuna. I think both Hakuho and Kisenosato improved their shiko recently.

This has been Kisenosato’s first dohyo-iri at Yasukuni shrine.

This time I have several bouts to show you.

A few seconds of Enho vs. Akiseyama:

I guess all that practice pays.

Here – with a couple of glitches – is the Ichinojo-Tochinoshin bout, followed by the san-yaku soroi-bumi (synchronized shiko stomps – though the west side is a little disappointing):

Here is the Kisenosato-Goeido bout. What is Goeido doing there, exactly?

And here is the full Hakuho vs. Kakuryu bout.

Note how Hakuho, fresh off the dohyo, immediately switches to fansa mode.

Jungyo Newsreel – Catching up at Kanagawa

Hello again, Jungyo enthusiasts. I have strayed off the trail after day 6. Let’s try to do some catching up and join the sekitori again at Kanagawa, where they have been spending days 13 and 14.

So what happened during that interval?

Little girls can no longer participate in kiddie sumo

Despite public outcry, the NSK is asking each hosting town not to send little girls to the kiddie sumo events of the Jungyo. The reason given “Safety first”. When various outlets pointed out that boys and girls are equally susceptible to injury on the dohyo, the answer was “We don’t want to risk girls sustaining permanent injuries to the face”.

Hakuho’s father passed away

On April 9th, Hakuho’s father, Mönkhbat, the former Olympic medalist in wrestling, and the equivalent of Dai-Yokozuna in Mongolian Wrestling, passed away at the age of 76 of liver cancer.

Hakuho fully participated in the event in Ina, Nagano prefecture, but asked for – and received – a leave of absence to attend his father’s funeral in Mongolia starting from April 11th. He will re-join the Jungyo for the Honozumo event at Yasukuni shrine on April 16th.

hakuho-funeral

The late Mönkhbat has been a national hero in Mongolia, and his funeral drew much attention and included military escort.

hakuho-funeral-son

Hakuho has always been very strongly connected to his father and looked up to him. When the father was diagnosed with liver cancer, Hakuho had him flown to Japan for treatment, then back to the comfort of his own home in Mongolia. Of course, even the best modern medical intervention has its limitations.

Kisenosato joins the Jungyo

Kisenosato announced that he will re-join the Jungyo. His return was planned for the 13th, but he joined one day earlier – may be to avoid Friday the 13th, or maybe to cover up for Hakuho’s absence.

kisenosato-tsuna-shime

In the couple of days he’s been participating he has been showing mixed results. I’d warn you against developing high hopes hearing reports that he wins his Jungyo bouts. We’ve been here before – Kisenosato managing to win bouts and elimination tournaments in Jungyo, getting breathless coverage from the press, then hitting a wall in honbasho. That injury is not going away any time soon.

Terunofuji and Aminishiki absent

I reported in my Day 6 coverage that Terunofuji was absent from the torikumi. The next day he was joined by his stablemate, Aminishiki. Terunofuji was reportedly back on duty today (April 14th) at the Fujisawa event, but Aminishiki is still out.

Birthdays

Goeido had a birthday on April  6th – day 6 of the Jungyo – and is now 32. The following day, Ichinojo celebrated his 25th birthday.

ichinojo-25

Today, although he is never again going to be on any Jungyo, many sumo fans celebrated Harumafuji’s 34th birthday.


So let’s now proceed to the daily coverage.

Day 13

🌐 Location: Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture

Here is Chiyomaru’s version of kiddie sumo:

Ahaha… poor kids.

Tochinoshin offered his chest for some butsukari to Tobizaru and Takanosho. Bigger men have failed to move the Georgian Cliff:

Things look a little different when it’s reverse butsukari (the higher ranking guy is the pusher). You just let the Wookiee win:

Endo is getting a lot of high-rank attention this Jungyo. Apparently that’s because he is going to make san-yaku in the Natsu basho. Previously he got juiced by Takayasu. This time, Kakuryu invited him to san-ban (practice form in which the same two wrestlers go through full bouts repeatedly until the higher ranking one calls it off).

kakuryu-vs-endo

This one consisted of 13 bouts, all won by the Yokozuna. Rather than counting wins, the Yokozuna concentrated on adjusting his own movement and building up his body.

After practice, the Yokozuna was seen having a talk with Endo. It turned out that they were exchanging injury-related experience.

Kakuryu’s finger injury lingers on. He seems able to use his grip, but says that after applying sudden force, when he lets go of the opponent’s mawashi, the pain hits. “But it’s not preventing me from doing sumo”.

Kisenosato engaged Meisei from Juryo for a 9-bout sanban, and won them all. Also watch for the bout vs. Kakuryu at the musubi-no-ichiban. Just remember my warning above.

Day 14

🌐 Location: Fujisawa, Kanagawa prefecture

Help, a group of fierce robbers has taken to the streets of Fujisawa!

fierce-robbers

(A word of advice to Kyokushuho: your highwayman career is going to be very short if you wear kimono with your name (and those of current and former stable mates) splashed all over it).

The spectators got to enjoy double bills, both in the oicho construction performance:

And in the tsuna-shime performance, where the two Yokozuna present showed off their ropes. I think this was originally planned to include Hakuho, which would have given the spectators both Shiranui and Unryu style rope tying, but unfortunately Hakuho is in Mongolia, and so they got a double Unryu.

The top 16 members of Makuuchi participated in an elimination tournament. So here is Kisenosato vs. Tamawashi:

Kisenosato vs. Shodai (who has beaten Tochinoshin in the first round):

Kisenosato vs. Kaisei:

And finally, the final, Kisenosato vs. Takayasu. When playing in elimination format, the restriction against matching rikishi from the same stable does not apply:

Kisenosato wins today’s yusho.

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”)

Hatsu Day 1 – New hairdos, old problems

Troubles at the top

Perhaps the highlight of the day was the rather embarrassing error made by the substitute gyoji, Shikimori Kandayu, who pointed his Gunbai to Kisenosato’s side in his bout vs. Takakeisho.

kandayu-monoii
That feeling when you just made a boo-boo in front of 127,000,000 people.

A gyoji-gunbai-sashi-chigae – 行司軍配差し違え – is when the gyoji points to one wrestler, a monoii is called, and the shimpan reverse the gyoji’s decision. These things happen. Only, they are not supposed to happen at the top levels. The suspended tate-gyoji, Shikimori Inosuke, was suspended once before, and his promotion to Shonosuke never materialized, exactly because of a series of sashi-chigae. A tate-gyoji is not supposed to have those. That’s what the short sword is for.

Now Kandayu, based on seniority, is supposed to be promoted to tate-gyoji once the Inosuke position is officially vacant. His judgement in this basho and the ones that follow is supposed to prove that he is worthy of that promotion. So then, the first bout he referees, what does he do?

Yes, a gyoji-gunbai-sashi-chigae.

To say nothing of the poor Kisenosato who for a moment thought he managed to somehow snatch this win. The Yokozuna was very unhappy at the end of that event.

By the way, I think what’s killed Kisenosato in this bout was not his missing left pec or any of his injuries. He is mobile, and Takakeisho didn’t really force him to use his left side. I think what kills him is his lack of confidence. If he can’t dominate from the beginning he loses his nerve.

Hakuho faired only slightly better. I agree with Kintamayama and Sankei Shinbun as well as our reader Coreyyanofski’s comment on Bruce’s post: Hakuho was one step away from starting Hatsu with a black star.

Hakuho committed himself to adhering to the criticism the YDC made at him in their last meeting. No harite, no kachiage to the face area. Only, he committed himself a little too late, with too little time to find and refine a winning tachiai. He himself said, after his final pre-basho keiko: “I’ll have to see what the results will be”. If he wants his kachiage to hit a man’s chest or shoulder, he needs to have a very low tachiai, especially with rivals who are 20cm shorter than he is. It’s not his style of tachiai.

Onosho had Hakuho at the tawara in the blink of an eye. Hakuho becomes very quick when he smells straw, and he managed to move and pull Onosho, and then to get himself out of the way before being taken down together with the loser. Happy – he wasn’t.

Miyagino oyakata also divulges that in his morning practice, Hakuho aggravated his old problematic toe. It got swollen and had to be iced. This may be a cause for concern as the basho continues.

Good Hair Day

But I said I’ll talk about hairdos! OK, so ladies and gentlemen, I give you the new version of Torakio, straight up with a new miniature chon-mage. I must say it looks much better on him than his original zanbara:

The rival is Terunohana from Isegahama beya. Torakio starts to look like a rikishi.

Here is Terutsuyoshi for you. In the previous tournament he wore an oicho-mage. Alas, he dropped to Makushita, and now wears a chon-mage. But he is still Terutsuyoshi:

(C/O SumoSoul)

The rival is Asabenkei, Makushita #2, who also looks to return to Juryo. Enjoyed Terutsuyoshi’s dogged tenacity? Well, here is someone we all know and love, who still wears a zanbara. I think his hair looks long enough but perhaps he doesn’t want to have to endure a dekopin from Hakuho just yet.

Edit: better video from One And Only:

I declare Enho to be the new Ura. Jokoryu is no pushover, and he beat Enho in their previous match.

What else in the hairdo department? Yes! Finally, the two mountain boys get to wear oicho-mage:

oicho-mage
Left: Asanoyama, Right: Yutakayama. Big boys!

Asanoyama got to celebrate his oicho with a win. Yutakayama, on the other hand, suffered under the surprisingly active hands of Ishiura today.

Edit: Can’t finish the hairdo section without honorable mention of Wakaichiro, who also got his first chon-mage (though he did not participate in day 1):

Isegahama woes continue

The NHK highlight editors were very merciful. They did not include Terunofuji nor Aminishiki. But we had to face the harsh truth in Kintamayama’s summary.

Hmmm… Look at Terunohana and Terutsuyoshi’s videos above. Could it be that Isegahama oyakata stands with a baseball bat and crashes the knees of every rikishi who dares to join his heya? Seriously, it seems like nobody in that heya has a whole pair of knees to his name.

But Terunofuji’s problems go deeper than just his knees. He is still on a rampage of self-destruction. He put on so much weight that he can hardly move. His upper body muscles sag and he finds it hard to even hug his opponent as he used to. Twitter gossip says he has a fiancee. If so, she may find herself the sole breadwinner of their common household, should a wedding occur. For a man who answered the question “What do you like best in the world?” with “Money!”, he sure seems to be wrecking his main means for earning it.

But Terunofuji is not the only trouble at Isegahama. In fact, of 17 rikishi who participated in today’s bout, from Jonokuchi to Makuuchi, 9 came back empty-handed, including every single sekitori from Takarafuji through Homarefuji (who lost to Amakaze). We can only hope that Aminishiki’s slippiotoshi was accidental and that he will show us some of his good old Uncle Sumo stuff starting tomorrow.

But to finish on a high note, let’s mention that Shunba won his bout today vs. Fujisato by Okuridashi. If I find a video I’ll share.

Another lighter piece of news is that Satonofuji is still doing the yumitori shiki! I suppose that the Kyokai is waiting to see how many Yokozuna heyas it has left before it can appoint a new bow twirler. So for the time being, we can still glimpse Satonofuji’s serious face beside the dohyo while the winner of the musubi-no-ichiban accepts his kensho-kin.

Satonofuji
Satonofuji. Oh, and Hakuho.

Other quick notes

Ryuden wins his first Makuuchi bout. If you watched the NHK preview, you may have seen Raja Pradhan explain Uwatenage. Ryuden looked like a demonstration of “how this is done in real life”.

Abi has an amazing body. His legs are longer than Betty Grable’s. I think he is wasting that body on mere oshi-zumo. And I don’t think he is going to be Ozeki just yet. Young Peter Pan, you should use those legs to stabilize yourself. Take a look at some Bokh videos!

Chiyoshoma very impressive. I just hope he can grow a personality.

Mitakeumi beating Kotoshogiku by gaburi-yori. That’s not something you see every day. Also, the shimpan halting the fight and the gyoji having to tap the shoulders of both rikishi to signal that the bout is over.

I enjoyed seeing Ichinojo being active rather than lethargic. But he still gives in too early at the tawara. Even Terunofuji held up longer.

Kakuryu beat Hokutofuji at his own game. It’s usually the man from Hakkaku beya who neutralizes his rival with tsuppari and nodowa. But that was a mighty clash of skulls there, ending with Kakuryu bleeding.

Can’t wait for day 2!

YDC Keiko-Soken

Before every Tokyo basho, a special training session takes place at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, called the YDC “Keiko-Soken” (Group observation of keiko). Members of the YDC and the NSK board watch the sekitori practice. This allows the YDC to assess the situation of the Yokozuna, potential Yokozuna, and Grand Sumo in general.

This month’s Keiko-Soken took place earlier today.

kakuryu-vs-kisenosato
Kakuryu vs. Kisenosato

The one who drew the most positive attention was Yokozuna Kakuryu. He first took up Onosho and Mitakeumi. Out of 10 bouts with these lower san-yaku, he won 9. After a bit of rest outside the dohyo, he called upon Kisenosato and Takayasu for four bouts, all won by the Izutsu Yokozuna. He was pleased: “Not bad. One worry less”.

kisenosato-vs-goeido
Kisenosato and Goeido

Kisenosato, on the other hand, was lacklustre. Despite practicing with Takayasu like he was on fire for the past few days, he ended up with a miserable 2-6 balance in his bouts with Kakuryu and Goeido. His stance was too high and he couldn’t force his opponents to retreat. As Goeido shook off his left arm and threw him with a kotenage, the Yokozuna sighed.

This performance caused considerable worry among the members of the YDC. Kitamura, the head of the YDC, said that “I have the impression that his strength has not come back. He had some good tachiai, but when pushed, his ability to return the push has not come back. At this rate, he should take another basho off”. When asked whether his “life or death” basho can still be put off he said “Well, five consecutive kyujo is not unprecedented”. Indeed, Takanohana in his day took seven consecutive full kyujo.

Kisenosato was not happy, either: “Oh, that was not good. I have less than two weeks to correct what needs to be corrected”.

Hakkaku, chairman of the NSK board, commented: “He is still too light. If he doesn’t do more bouts, this will not improve. But if he does too many bouts, he may injure himself. There is also a problem of age. If he overdoes things, he will injure some other part. It’s hard to adjust around all that”. [In this context, “light” doesn’t refer to physical mass; rather it’s a description of how easy it is for the other rikishi to push him around. –PinkMawashi]

The third Yokozuna, Hakuho, seems unable to go through an interaction with the YDC without friction.

hakuho-stretching
Hakuho stretching. In the background, his favorite towel rack, Enho.

This public practice was, in fact, Hakuho’s first keiko since the beginning of the year. Actually, the first since the banzuke was announced on December 26th. He started the day doing stretches, shiko, and suri-ashi, while the other Yokozuna and Ozeki were doing actual sumo inside the dohyo. That appeared to be his plan for the day, but Hakkaku was having none of that. “Hakuho!” he snapped at the dai-yokozuna, and instructed him to mount the dohyo. The yokozuna entered the dohyo without even taping himself up, and named Shodai as his partner. Unsurprisingly, he won all seven bouts with the Maegashira.

Shodai was not the partner Hakkaku wanted him to engage, though. “I meant for him to engage an Ozeki if he can. He must have misunderstood.” said Hakkaku.

Furthermore, one of those bouts with Shodai included his now-infamous harite. This caused Kitanofuji, the commentator, to say with a bitter smile: “That man is a scoundrel. He was warned about that by the YDC. Is he trying to start a fight with them?” The members of the YDC, however, avoided criticizing Hakuho for this, perhaps because it was only a single one in a series of 7 bouts. Nevertheless, they did say that “His performance was uninteresting. He just drove Shodai to exhaustion”.

takaiasu-v-goeido
Takayasu vs. Goeido

Goeido was performing well in this keiko-soken. In his engagement with Kisenosato, he won three and lost two bouts, and against Takayasu he won three and lost 1. He was showing his Goeido 2.0 power-tachiai and relentless forward motion.

While Takayasu had a less than brilliant tally of wins vs. losses, he was showing no signs of favoring his right thigh, and was performing his usual powerful rushes. Hakkaku commented: “I have a good feeling about Goeido, and Takayasu is back. I have high hopes from both Ozeki.” Takayasu himself was not too happy, but still hopes to be in the yusho run in Hatsu.

Finally, here is a short video from NHK where you can see some of the aforementioned action:

 

Everything You Need to Know After Act Two

Sumo wrestlers line up as they pray before the start of the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan

The curtain has dropped on act two. The stage is now set, and the actors are ready for the grand finale of the Kyushu basho. While the early days of this tournament were overshadowed by scandal, the sumo took center stage in act two. So far we’ve seen triumph, defeat, skill and and even a little luck. But the best is yet to come! Here is a quick run down of everything you need to know going into the last five days of sumo in 2017.

Yusho Race

After two acts, only one man remains lord on high in the yusho race: Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho. With a 10-0 record and a two-win cushion separating him from second place, this is truly Hakuho’s yusho to lose. The story is not over yet, however, as two men are trailing Hakuho, just waiting for him to make one crucial mistake that will bring them closer to yusho contention. These rikishi are Okinoumi and Hokutofuji, who both ended day 10 with eight wins apiece. Should he keep his record spotless, Hakuho can clinch the yusho with a win on day 14, if not sooner.

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

There were only three men who secured their kachi koshi by the end of act two. In addition to Hakuho, only Okinoumi and Hokutofuji have earned a winning record so far, and are safe from demotion for the New Year Tournament. Conversely, there are three rikishi with make koshi losing records, beginning with Tochiozan who went winless in his first eight bouts. Chiyonokuni and Kotoshogiku also have losing records and can expect to move down the banzuke for January. For a closer look at the kachi koshi and make koshi  projections, please see this article by fellow Tachiai authour lksumo.

Kinboshi

Yokozuna Kisenosato surrendered three more kinboshi during the second act of the kyusho basho, bringing the overall total to six. These kinboshi were claimed by Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, and Takarafuji respectively. Having lost to five Maegashira rikishi, Kisenosato tied the record for the most kinboshi given up in a single basho since 1949.

Kyujo and Absences

On day 3 it was announced that Aoiyama had withdrawn from competition due to issues with his ankle. He returned to action on day 8 in what many believe to be a desperate attempt to stave off a major demotion down the banzuke. Since the end of act one, only one more rikishi has joined those who have pulled out of the Kyushu basho. Early in day 10, Kisenosato withdrew from the competition due to ankle and lower back issues. This marks the third time he has had to end a tournament prematurely this year. The kyujo and Absentee list so far includes Kakuryu, Ura, Takanoiwa, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, and Kisenosato.

Tozai-Sei

After ten days, the West now leads the East by a score of 104-85. The West side of the banzuke is really beginning to pull away from the East, mostly due to Hakuho, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, and Arawashi, who have all won seven or more matches. That being said, the East has been far more affected by injuries and has lost many top point-earners this basho. The next five days will see the crowning of the first unofficial Tozai-sei championship.

Like a play, each act of the Kyushu basho has been better than the last. There’s still so much fantastic sumo that awaits us as we head into the final days of competition. So with that, let’s open the curtain on act 3. Let the finale begin!

Day 6 – There Can Be Only One

hakuho-2017-11-day-06
Another day at the office

Day 6 leaves us with only one man having any mathematical possibility of a zensho-yusho. Of course, the basho is still in early days, and the king may lose his crown yet, but at the moment, Hakuho reigns supreme.

But he is not the only sekitori with a clean, white score sheet. Down in Juryo, there is another man who is 6-0. The name may sound familiar: he’s a former chicken farmer, the only Chinese national on the banzuke. I give you Sokokurai!

Today the Inner-Mongolian had a match with the other all-win Juryo man, young Abi. Abi was all over the veteran, with his signature quick moves, but Sokokurai secured first a left-hand belt grip, then a morozashi, and showed Abi the way out with an okuridashi.

While we are in Juryo, want to see a beautiful kakenage? Here is the bout between Yutakayama and Kyokutaisei:

And now, how about a wardrobe malfunction, featuring, unsurprisingly, Ishiura messing around with a mawashi knot?

The way it looks, one of the shimpan must have informed the gyoji that the knot was untied, as he wasn’t in an angle to see it. So Ryuden – whom I must have jinxed yesterday in my comments about his standing among obasan – was lucky to lose by shitatenage rather than by exposure of manhood.

BTW, is it only me, or did Ishiura take advantage of the situation to improve his hold on the knot?

My advice to sekitori who are assigned to Ishiura: get your tsukebito to sew your mawashi knot before the bout.

OK, moving on to the Makuuchi, what did we have today?

Nishikigi is showing surprising tenacity, and at this rate, will secure his stay in Makuuchi for yet another basho. His match with Myogiryu was a battle for grips, but as Myogiryu changed his grip that last time, Nishikigi drove him out of the ring. Those grip changes are always risky.

Kagayaki is back to his bad sumo, where he looks more like Kermit the Frog flailing wildly than like a sumo wrestler with effective tsuppari. Kotoyuki says thank you and goodbye.

Asanoyama decided he has to regain his sumo, which is a good thing, but the hapless rival is our favorite Aminishiki, who is now down with the rest of the chasers. I hope he hasn’t damaged good old Uncle Sumo. That throw was all like “You wanted to get back to Makuuchi? Well, let me remind you what Makuuchi is really like”. Very aggressive. But can’t blame him. Aminishiki knows he is playing with the big boys again. Anyway, Asanoyama was on the offensive from the start, and although Aminishiki was the first to securely grab some silk, Asanoyama grabbed some of his own on the same side and performed that decisive uwatenage. Let’s hope Aminishiki returns tomorrow with his sneaky sumo and funny interviews.

Okinoumi certainly looks genki, and Endo didn’t make his bout easy in any way, as he was on the offensive and secured a grip with his right hand. But it was Okinoumi who grabbed his arm for a kotenage at the end.

Day 6 is an even day! And on even days, Chiyomaru brings his sumo to the arena! His match with Ikioi starts with a tsuppari barrage, and then suddenly he goes for a hug. Of course, no way for him to get anywhere close to Ikioi’s mawashi, but he doesn’t need to. He simply pushes the man down for a tsukiotoshi.

Kaisei doesn’t give Daishomaru any room to do anything. This bout was over in a flash, with Kaisei driving the maru in a quick arch to the bales.

Shodai‘s bout with Daieisho is also a matter of seconds. Shodai was simply not there today.

Continuing with the flash bouts, Chiyoshoma and Arawashi was supposed to be a lovely bout, but here is one henka I could certainly do without. The Japanese announcer: “It was disappointing sumo today”.

Curiously, now that Aminishiki has lost, it seems like everybody else in Isegahama finally started to win. I checked, and Homarefuji and even poor Terutsuyoshi who was winless until today won. And they are joined by Takarafuji, who unbelievably wins a tsuppari battle with Chiyonokuni.

Ichinojo bounces back from yesterday’s loss. Well, not “bounces”. More like “rises ponderously”. It’s a battle between his weight and patience and Tochinoshin‘s strength. Tochinoshin is the first to secure two hands on Ichinojo’s mawashi, although one of them is at the front. Ichinojo manages to undo that grip, and eventually they settle into a standard migi-yotsu, and Tochinoshin tries to lift the boulder. Um, no. With all due respect, nobody can lift that thing. And after he wastes his energy on this attempt, Ichinojo starts pushing him all the way to a plain and simple yori-kiri. I’m glad Tochinoshin did not cause further harm to his knee in that attempt, but go, go Mongolian boulder!

Hokutofuji continues to impress. He keeps his pelvis miles from Kotoshogiku‘s, pushes forward, then retreats fast and pulls the Komusubi down. Kotoshogiku is going to drop back down to Maegashira at this rate.

Tamawashi goes on a slapping match with Yoshikaze. But the elderly sekiwake is not what he used to be. Tamawashi gets him overcommitted and pushes him down.

Even Mitakeumi got the memo: Onosho can be easily beaten if you get him to charge at you like a billy-goat. So they get forwards and backwards a few time, and then Mitakeumi make a fast retreat, and hands Onosho yet another hatakikomi. Sad. In the last basho Onosho said that he learned what his weak points were and he’ll work on them, but I guess he was thinking about different weak points. That man also seems to be heading back to maegashira, unless he learns the art of footwork fast. Mitakeumi, on the other hand, despite his injury, is sailing through quite nicely and is looking to maintain his sekiwake position easily.

Goeido booted up in the wrong mode today. He didn’t really engage Chiyotairyu. He was reactive. And eventually, he lost his balance. Chiyotairyu is probably surprised that he managed to scrape a white star off of the hitherto undefeated Ozeki, and without even breaking much sweat. The Ozeki also drops off the leader list, and joins the legion who will now have to wait for the Dai-Yokozuna to make a mistake.

Takayasu, however, drops even further, with his second loss of the bout. He was actually initiating a strong tsuppari, but he didn’t seem to realize that Takakeisho is a newer model from the same locomotive factory where he himself was manufactured. The Ozeki found himself further away from the center than he wanted, and got pushed out decisively.

And finally we get actual Yokozuna sumo from Kisenosato. This one was decisive and dominant, despite the fact that Tochiozan had him in a Morozashi for a couple of seconds. And did my eyes decieve me or did Kisenosato use his left side to twist Tochiozan back for the tsukiotoshi? More of this, please, Kisenosato. We are low on Yokozuna right now!

Finally, another wonderful textbook uwatenage from the Lord Of The Ring, Hakuho. Tachiai. Slap. Quick migi-yotsu. Drag to the tawara. Then perform the throw. And as both bodies were already on a trajectory, the Yokozuna deftly lifts his left leg and gives Shohozan a little more torque to ensure that he falls down first. Again, a work of art.

The leader list:

only one man. The almighty Hakuho.

The chaser list:

Goeido (O)
Mitakeumi (S)
Hokutofuji (M3)
Ichinojo (M4)
Arawashi (M5)
Okinoumi (M12)
Aminishiki (M13)


For your enjoyment, here are the Taka Twins – with a guest appearance by Enho!

Enho/Takayoshitoshi

Takagenji/Daiseido

Everything You Need to Know After Act One

 

With the first act of the Kyushu basho coming to an end, here is a quick rundown of everything you need to know to get all caught up.

Yusho Race

Five days in and the leaderboard has already dwindled down to three men, all with perfect records. Maegashira 13 Aminishiki, Ozeki Goeido, and a very genki Yokozuna Hakuho have five wins each and are neck and neck in the yusho race. Behind them with four wins are Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, Arawashi, and surprisingly, Okinoumi. I expect this group to be much smaller by the end of act two.

Kinboshi

So far, there have been three kinboshi surrendered this basho. Tamawashi earned the first of these gold star victories on day 1 when he defeated Yokozuna Kisenosato. Up and comer Takakeisho claimed the other two when he beat Harumafuji on day 2 and Kisenosato on day 4.

Kyujo and Absences

There are currently six men on the banzuke who have pulled out of the competition. Ura, Takanoiwa and Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew citing health issues before the start of the basho. Aoiyama joined them on day 3 after sustaining an ankle injury in his match with Okinoumi. Day 3 would also see Yokozuna Harumafuji pull out of the competition following accusations of an assault on Takanoiwa during the October jungyo tour. After four straight losses, former Ozeki Terunofuji withdrew on day 5 to address the multiple health issues that have been plaguing him as of late.

Tozai-Sei

On day 1, I mentioned that I would be keeping track of the unofficial Tozai-sei Championship going on between the East and West sides of the banzuke. The Tozai-sei was an award used in the early 20th century and was given to the side of the banzuke with the most wins, and I’ve decided to resurrect it for a bit of added fun this basho. The rules are simple: for every win a rikishi gets, his side receives a point. After five days, the West leads the East with a record of 53 to 46. This lead is no doubt thanks to Aminishiki, Ichinojo, Takayasu, and Hakuho, who have a combined 18 points thus far. The top point earners on the East side are Okinoumi, Mitakeumi, and Goeido, who have 14 points between them.

With day 6 set to start in just a few short hours, there are still so many great sumo highlights to look forward to as the Kyushu basho rolls on.

Day 5 – Flash Flood

Today we saw two of the leader group being washed away.

ichinojo-takayasu-down
Ichinojo, Takayasu, bye!

And now the leader group consists of only three men. One of whom is – as it turns out – the same age as Onosho’s dad.

But let’s start at the beginning. We had a flood of flash bouts today. The first of them was Myogiryu taking on Juryo visitor Tokushoryu. Myogiryu gets both hands inside and quickly yori-kiris Tokushoryu.

Not much beauty in the Nishikigi vs. Kotoyuki bout. Kotoyuki retreats, retreats, until he runs out of dohyo. He seems on his way back to Juryo, possibly to be replaced by a very motivated Ryuden.

And then we move to the first serious challenge to Aminishiki‘s reign over the Maegashira ranks. Daiamami knows Aminishiki well, and knows where the Ancient Mariner’s weakness is. He pushes him against the tawara. But Aminishiki somehow manages to do his bale dance and get away, only to be caught again. The old wizard’s knees almost cave, when he gives a final dance to his right, and uses the grip he has on Daiamami’s left arm for a sukuinage. Uncle Sumo visibly pants as he picks his kensho-kin. But he is still in the yusho race!

Ikioi gives Takekaze another black star, as this elderly man fails to mimic the senior citizen from the previous bout. Ikioi gets him in a double-hand-inside, holds him high and leads him out.

Kagayaki once again goes into a belt battle with Kaisei. He nearly turns the Brazilian around, but Kaisei rallies and gets face to face again. Kaisei has the upper hand, at least as far as mass is concerned, and then dispatches the man in the mustard mawashi in short order.

Okinoumi continues in his good performance vs. Daieisho. It starts with an exchange of slaps, and Daieisho gets Okinoumi to the bales, but he take a risk, grabs Daieisho under his shoulders and presses down for a Katasukashi. By the way, did you know that “Katasukashi” also means “disappointment” or “letdown”? I’m sure that’s how Daieisho felt.

Asanoyama is probably not going to repeat his double-digits from Aki. In fact, the way it looks, he’ll be happy if he can get a kachi-koshi at all! All he does against Endo just doesn’t work. The strength is there, but he can’t put it together.

Chiyomaru continues in his on-off-on-off series. The NHK commentator explains that Chiyomaru has a problem with mawashi fighting because he can’t reach the opponent’s belt owing to his huge belly. Tochinoshin, on the other hand, doesn’t have much of a belly, has long arms, and he catches Chiyomaru in a belt grip right away and just leads him out without the Kokonoe meatball ever showing much defense.

Arawashi grabs Shodai‘s arm and tries to pull. Shodai resists. Arawashi tries again. Shodai gets out. Arawashi gets a belt grip, but Shodai is not letting him do much. So the Mongolian goes for the arm yet agai, and this time pulls the kotonage he was aiming for from the start. Very nice bout!

Takarafuji manages to scrape a second win today vs. Daishomaru. He keeps his opponent at an arm’s length, showing his usual patience, he evades an attack and keeps the distance between their bodies. He finally gets a yori-kiri without ever getting any sort of firm grip. I must say that it looks like the goings-on at Isegahama are taking their toll on all their sekitori. Though winning, Takarafuji looks tired and gloomy.

It’s a wonder how Chiyoshoma keeps winning against Ichinojo, who is about twice his weight. Today’s bout wasn’t even very long. As soon as he got a mawashi grip, he sent the boulder outside. Of course, if he had tried to do this with only the one hand on the mawashi, he would have to get a new elbow installed tomorrow. He helped the giant along by pushing him with his left hand. I hope Ichinojo rallies and continues his good form as the basho continues.

It’s rare to see Chiyonokuni in a mawashi match. And Hokutofuji is no yotsu expert, either. But still, this is where they found themselves, locked into each other’s mawashi. At some point, Hokutofuji tries to throw Chiyonokuni, but Chiyonokuni rallies. Then there’s an attempt at a kotonage, which eventually leaves Chiyonokuni open, and Hokutofuji pushes him out. Again, a great bout to watch.

And here we begin the flash flood. Kotoshogiku vs. Chiyotairyu. Going, going, gone! I wouldn’t have believed Kotoshogiku could win so fast these days. Especially against Chiyotairyu, which is usually not a pushover.

Then, Takakeisho pushes at Yoshikaze for just a second, side steps, Yoshikaze would have regained his footing – but Takakeisho is there to push him out. Wham, bam, gone in a flash!

This is followed by Takayasu, who is pushed by Tamawashi right out of the dohyo before he manages to get his breath back after the tachiai. You snooze, you lose. And our Kadoban Ozeki drops off the leaderboard.

But have no fear! Goeido is here. He must have been watching the videos from the previous Onosho matches. Usually, I’d complain about him doing his sumo backwards, but for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven, you know. And since Onosho proved that he overcommits and can’t stay on his feet, Goeido served him up with the exact kind of dish that he cooked for himself. So, Goeido still in the lossless group.

Now, what followed in the Hakuho vs. Tochiozan was a very strange thing. This was not your regular “matta”, where the two wrestlers don’t find the correct second to rise. This was actually before the Gyoji started the bout (the gyoji changes the position of his feet during the pre-bout, and this marks which of the shikiri rituals is the “real” one). Events outside the venue must have been weighing on Hakuho’s mind.

Although the bout itself ends pretty quickly and decisively in Hakuho’s favor, he once again pulls one of his “extracurriculars”, though at this point he really doesn’t need any hint of misconduct. That push was certainly a dame-oshi.

Now, the musubi-no-ichiban was worth the money. Shohozan must have watched Takakeisho’s bout with Kisenosato yesterday, as he went for basically the same thing: constant attacks on the Yokozuna’s left side, combined with nodowa, that left the Yokozuna defenseless. Then he tried to throw the Yokozuna, but Kisenosato is not an easy fellow to throw. But Shohozan continued with his pressure and pressed the Yokozuna against the tawara. Unfortunately for Shohozan, the Yokozuna’s right side is still functioning, and he managed a suicidal throw, that got the Yokozuna the come-from-behind win in this bout, which was completely dominated by the Maegashira. Oh wow.


So, what does the leader list look like now, a third of the way into the basho?

Yokozuna Hakhuo
Ozeki Goeido
Maegashira #13 Aminishiki

Say what?

By the way, there is another leader list to follow: those with the most wins for the year. As we started this basho, which is the last of the year, Harumafuji was leading with 47 wins. With Harumafuji no longer able to earn any stars this year (and probably ever), the list looks like this.

Mitakeumi 49
Takayasu 48
Harumafuji 47
Hakuho 47
Takakeisho 46
Hokutofuji 45
Tamawashi 44
Ichinojo 44
Yoshikaze 43
Goeido 41
Daishomaru 41

Whoever ends up as the yearly leader is going to have a negative record: the worst number of wins for the leader of the year, after Takanohana’s 60,  which he achieved years ago. With only 10 days to go, matching 60 is going to be impossible without a playoff.


Finally, here are a couple of Juryo matches for your pleasure:

Ishiura vs. Yutakayama:

Ryuden vs. Homarefuji

Again, nobody from Isegahama, with the exception of Aminishiki, seems to be doing any sumo. Ryuden, on the other hand, got his first kensho-kin yesterday and is very uppity.

 

Day 4 – Five Men In The Lead

aminishiki-the-magician
Hatakikomus Magnificus!

There are three men keeping this basho from becoming as wacky as the previous one: one Dai-Yokozuna and two Ozeki, who keep delivering the goods expected from Yokozuna and Ozeki, and neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will stop them from doing so.

All hail the king and the two princes, but don’t tell me you’re not cheering for the other two guys who are 4-0 at the moment. One is a big boulder from the steppes of Mongolia who suddenly decided to be a sumo wrestler. And the other is the “Magician From Tsugaru”, in the picture above.

First let’s start with Ryuden, who aspires to enter Makuuchi, vs. Kotoyuki, who aspires not to fall back to Juryo. As they dance, it seems for a moment that Kotoyuki has achieved a bear hug around Ryuden, but the Japanese announcer calls it right: “Ryuden is in”. Meaning Ryuden achieved a morozashi, and indeed, within two seconds Kotoyuki is out.

In the next bout, between Nishikigi and Takekaze, Takekaze also achieves a morozashi for a second. Nishikigi manages to escape one side, but Takekaze uses that hand to catch on to Nishikigi’s belt and throw him down. Both of them are now 2:2, and apparently Takekaze is not leaving us yet.

And now we get to the waza lesson of the day by Uncle Sumo. After a matta from a somewhat nervous Myogiryu, Aminishiki slips in a slap at the tachiai, pretends to be going for a grip, but within a split of a second has his hand on Myogiryu’s nape, and dances back. Years of experience tell Uncle exactly where he is on the dohyo, and Myogiryu meets clay before Aminishiki sets foot outside the tawara. Work of art.

Daiamami can’t get two wins in a row, as a very improved Kagayaki, who seems to be going more for grips than for slaps this basho, turns him around and introduces him to the audience.

Okinoumi tries to get a hidari-yotsu on Kaisei, but the Brazilian is just a bit too big for that. No matter, Okinoumi has a firm left hand on Kaisei’s mawashi, and succeeds in twisting him for a shitatenage.

Ikioi comes back after yesterday’s loss, and shows us he has some waza in him as well. It’s impressive that he can pull that kotonage with his bandaged elbow. Poor Endo will have to wait for his next W.

Asanoyama is somehow not showing the same brilliance he showed last basho. Perhaps the other Maegashira have come to know him. Perhaps he has too much self-confidence. Daieisho attacks him with oshi-zumo, and he doesn’t find a defense against it in time.

Chiyomaru continues in his day-on-day-off schedule. This time he got into a yotsu match with Shodai. This is dangerous, as Shodai is pretty strong once past the tachiai. Indeed, Shodai manages to get a morozashi, But Chiyomaru rallies beautifully by pulling on Shodai’s neck from both sides and sending him down to the clay.

Now, second waza lesson of the day, from our throws expert, Chiyoshoma. As soon as he catches Daishomaru‘s mawashi, he immediately makes the maru fly. An uwatenage for the books.

Takarafuji continues the Isegahama misery (after Homarefuji and Terutsuyoshi lost again in Juryo), when he meets Tochinoshin, who shows us some of his good sumo today.

Today, Ichinojo was given all sorts of trouble by Arawashi, who had him in a really firm morozashi (but couldn’t really push the boulder out). Arawashi then managed to throw him down. However, in doing so, he stepped out, and Ichinojo maintained his perfect record. The Japanese commentator noted that unlike previous basho, in which Ichinojo tended to give up easily, this time he stands his ground.

Hokutofuji continues in his good performance, impressive for a broken wrist. But what is wrong with Tochiozan? He seems to be strong, but just can’t get that first white star.

Allow me to skip the description of Kotoshogiku performing the easiest hip pumps in the world on the ghost of Terunofuji. I’m sure there wasn’t even a sense of revenge there. On the Isegahama page, Terunofuji comments. “No good. I have no idea what to do anymore.”, and Isegahama fans are urging him to go for a long kyujo and heal himself.

Onosho seems to fulfill Moti’s predictions for this basho. In a match with Yoshikaze, in which I would expect the ambitious tadpole to win decisively, he gets pulled to the ground by the elderly sekiwake. Once again he loses his balance, though it’s not a slippiotoshi this time – just bad footwork. I suggested to him from these pages in the past to go ask the Tagonoura brothers for a lesson in self-balance, because this was his weak point even in his shiny Aki basho. I doubt they will give him that lesson, though, as this will make him very very dangerous.

Mitakeumi shows that he can do well in a slapfest, even with the best of them, Chiyonokuni. But the Kokonoe man looks out of his league at this level.

Tamawashi tried the same sort of matta tricks against Goeido as he did in his bout with Kisenosato. Goeido was visibly annoyed the second time. But that annoyance didn’t cause him to lose his concentration or his clean record. In an untypical slap match, he manages to achieve his second katasukashi in a row and stay at the top.

Takayasu continues with his supercool sumo. He is so cool you could chill a beer bottle on his head (too soon? Anyway the beer man is not around). He takes Shohozan for a long, protracted hug (the match was a minute and seventeen seconds long), and then, all of a sudden, wakes up and pushes him decisively all the way out. The man is half-way out of his kadoban.

Takakeisho attacks Kisenosato‘s left side with heavy tsuppari, combined with the occasional nodowa to the Yokozuna’s right side, and completely shuts out the big K for his third kinboshi. Kisenosato is simply left powerless, and should be worried, very worried.

And then there’s a Dai-Yokozuna who fights like one. Hakuho gets a high morozashi on Chiyotairyu right from the tachiai, and the Kokonoe man flails and flails to no avail. From then on it’s just a matter of Hakuho’s leg muscles vs. Chiyotairyu’s dead weight, and Hakuho has leg muscles enough.

Flawless Leader group:

Yokozuna Hakuho
Ozeki Goeido
Ozeki Takayasu
Maegashira #4 Ichinojo
Maegashira #13 Aminishiki

What a basho!

And here’s Enho’s bout from today. Look at the tenacity of the boy wonder. Comments compare him to Ura. May his knees be strong and healthy.

 

Five Quick Thoughts on Day 3

Asanoyama

 

With day 3 done and dusted, and day 4 on the horizon, here are a few quick thoughts on some of the lower Makuuchi matches that I wanted to give a little extra time and attention to.

1. Mr. Happy and the Day 3 Blues

Let’s start with one of my favorite rikishi, Mr. Happy himself, Asanoyama. Today he went head to head with Kagayaki, who not only defeated Asanoyama but also beat his own archenemy, gravity. In September, Asanoyama remarked that he felt jinxed by the east entrance early on in the basho, as his first two losses came from that side of the dohyo. He doesn’t seem to be jinxed in Kyushu so far, as he has now lost on the east and the west side, marking the first time Asanoyama has had consecutive losses in the top division. This is not the start he or his fans had hoped for. It is still very early in the tournament though, and it will be interesting to see how Asanoyama handles this setback.

2. Shodai Comes Alive

Now where has this Shodai been!? After two lackluster basho, Shodai appears to have found a bit of the fighting spirit that had carried him to such great success in 2016. His match with Endo began with a shocking turn of events, as Shodai actually looked like he took a step forward at the tachiai! From there, the two young mawashi-grapplers fought with some uncharacteristic otsu-sumo thrusts. Despite Endo putting up most of the offense early in the bout, once he strayed into Shodai’s grip he was done for, and quickly found himself on the wrong side of the tawara. Shodai showed some much-needed passion today, and I hope this is the beginning of an upward trend for him.

3. What is Up With Chiyomaru?

On the opposite side of the passion spectrum, was Chiyomaru. The rotund rikishi looked deflated (not physically of course), and put up no resistance against Daishomaru. This has led me to speculate that he may be dealing with an as of yet undisclosed injury. Considering his physique, it would not be a surprise if he is dealing with back or knee issues. Chiyomaru could benefit from following Kaisei’s example and shedding a bit of mass to improve his health and sumo. I’d hate to see sumo lose its most kawaii rikishi because of injury.

4. The Great Wall of Ichinojo

There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes, and a genki Ichinojo is nearly impossible to push around. Today it was Hokutofuji’s turn to take on the immovable object, but he was not up to the task and immediately fell to the clay after making contact with Ichinojo’s mighty frame. The giant Mongolian is undefeated thus far and could be a major force in the yusho race. With Terunofuji a shell of his former self, Ichinojo could one day find himself taking on the mantle of sumo’s resident Kaiju.

5. A Look on the Bright Side

With the shadow of the Harumafuji scandal cast on this basho, it is important to recognize that there are still many positive stories coming out of Fukuoka. For starters, the young crop of rikishi continue to make their mark in the Makuuchi division and their matches remain competitive and enjoyable. Kisenosato and Takayasu seem up to the task of competing this basho, with the later of the two looking like an early contender for the yusho. Finally, Hakuho appears focused and determined to make more history this November, and become the first man to ever to win forty yusho. With so much to look forward to, let’s remember that there is still some great sumo to come.

 

Day 3 – Katasukashi Galore

Elephant Crosses Dohyo
What Yokozuna Incident?

So… let’s start with a couple of Juryo bouts. First, if there are any Ishiura fans out there, take a look:

Finally, Ishiura gets a win, against the hapless Homarefuji. He plants his head and keeps his feet in order, and manages to take the Isegahama man out. Of course, this black star is probably the last worry on Isegahama Oyakata’s mind this day. But they keep piling on.

Now take a look at Yutakayama vs. Tokushoryu:

A couple of days ago I said that there’s a level of difference between Yutakayama and Asanoyama. But as it turns out, the larger man is already in possession of three wins, while Asanoyama is not doing as well.

Up into Makuuchi we go, and Daiamami gets his first win today! Admittedly, Kyokushuho is just a Juryo rival, but any white star is a gold star at this point for the newcomer. It starts with a matta, but in the second round, Daiamami just cannons into Kyokushuho and gaburi’s him out. The fans enjoy his interview face:

Kotoyuki also grabbed his first win today, in a bit of a confused battle. Myogiryu throws Kotoyuki down, but falls a split second before the huge meatball. Air resistance?

Up we go to take a look at everybody’s favorite uncle. Whatever is happening around him in his heya, and the fact that he is going to do his dohyo-iri in his own kesho-mawashi from now on, do not seem to affect him. Nishikigi tried to do the smart thing – to press the kneeless man against the tawara. But Aminishiki just tiptoed aside like a ballerina, and handed Nishikigi the first Katasukashi of the day.

Aminishiki’s comment on the Isegahama website: “The heya has met with a serious situation, but the remaining rikishi must do their best. As the eldest I will strive to lead everybody forward”.

Takekaze seems to be headed to Juryo (if he doesn’t decide to retire). Okinoumi exchanges some thrusts with him until he gets a nice hold of his neck and ends it with a hatakikomi (if anybody can explain to me why this is not a tokkurinage… sigh).

The Asanoyama vs. Kagayaki bout was different than I expected. I’m used to seeing Kagayaki flailing wildly with his arms and his… additional appendages… This time he basically got his hands on Asanoyama’s body and managed to beat the Yotsu man at his own game.

Daiesho gets a first win today as well, when, after some attempts to slap and defend on Ikioi‘s side, he finally sidesteps and lets the big man hit the clay.

Endo decides to use thrusts vs. Shodai, and doesn’t make any use of his tachiai advantage. Shodai withstands the tsuppari attack, and manages to get a grip on Endo’s upper body. That’s the end for the recovering man in the golden mawashi, as Shodai has more than enough power to get him out even without a mawashi grip.

Not much can be said about the battle of the Marus. Again, Chiyomaru seems to have come to the dohyo without his usual genki. Daishomaru easily pushes him out.

Arawashi takes Tochinoshin to the bales and executes a beautiful sukui-nage. As Tochinoshin tries to resist the fall, Arawashi uses his right leg against Tochinoshin’s left and “helps” him complete the roll. Very nice!

Takarafuji earns his first win today vs. Chiyoshoma. It was Chiyoshoma’s initial initiative, but Takarafuji rallied, didn’t let Chiyoshoma get any grip on him for a throw (come on, Chiyoshoma, don’t try neck grips with Takarafuji, those are futile!) – and then throws the thrower in a nice uwatenage.

The second Katasukashi of the day came from Ichinojo. But this one was rather weird. Hokutofuji came at him low at the tachiai, and Ichinojo grabbed him under his arms, and then just let him drop. Not sure if slippiotoshi or sloppy tachiai on Hokutofuji’s part.

Chiyonokuni‘s match with Shohozan was less of a slapfest than I thought it would be, and ended pretty quickly with the Kokonoe man slapping his opponent down. All-important first win for Chiyonokuni.

Kotoshogiku nearly succeeds in his game plan today, and starts pumping his hips. However, Mitakeumi makes sure to be loose on one side, and concentrates his power on his grip on the pump-man’s arm for a well-executed sukuinage. Still bothered by his toe, but as long as he can execute throws like that, I’m sure the sekiwake is happy. Kotoshogiku is not getting the comeback he was hoping for, now 0-3.

Terunofuji‘s ghost continues to float over the dohyo without ever being able to latch its feet to it. Yet another loss for the former kaiju, this time against Yoshikaze who picks up his first win.

I wonder when Onosho is going to switch back to his fiery red mawashi. Rikishi are usually quick to blame their mawashi for their troubles, and the tadpole clearly suffers some bad lack, with his second slippiotoshi in a row against Takayasu. Unlike yesterday, when the Yokozuna really could take no credit for anything in the bout, Takayasu can be commended for managing to keep his footing first against a sidestep and then when pushed to the tawara. Excellent footwork from someone who tore a major leg muscle less than two months ago.

Goeido diversifies. In the two previous matches he hugged his opponent and swept him all the way to the other edge. Today he heard it was Katasukashi day, so he showed Tochiozan that he has waza as well as brute force.

If anybody hoped for another pedagogic bout between Hakuho and Takakeisho, this was not to be. Takakeisho exhibited welcome fearlessness in this bout, and even attempted to throw the dai-yokozuna. And if he had managed to do that I would really be worried that we’re seeing the decline of the One True King. But of course, Hakuho maintained his footing, got his other arm on Takakeisho and quickly swept him off the dohyo.

Finally, in the musubi of the day, Kisenosato manages to overwhelm Chiyotairyu in a way that he can feel happier about than yesterday’s silly bout vs. Onosho. He almost dances back to his position on the east to take his prize money.


Some more lower-ranks action:

Osunaarashi – Takagenji:

For followers of Shunba:

 

Day 2 – Slip Slidin’ Away

aminishiki-2017-11-day-02
The Battle of the Tsuyuharai

Before we turn to Aminishiki, who is still carrying Isegahama beya on his shoulders all alone (well, Homarefuji also won today), let’s drop and visit one of our favorites down in Makushita.

Yes. Unfortunately, Tokoryu was not letting the boy wonder outdo him. Hakuho’s pretty uchi-deshi tastes his first defeat.

In my personal watch list of Naruto beya – Torakio wins, Sumidagawa lost yesterday to Ezuka, who is a third of his size. Gap starts to open?


So, back up to Makuuchi. Nishikigi shows good fighting spirit and pushes Ishiura’s face with his lower arm several times. Ishiura, on the other hand, shows why he is in Juryo. Something is not working there.

Takekaze gets Kotoyuki down, stumbles over him, and both fall awkwardly below the dohyo. Takekaze seems to be OK, but Kotoyuki limping. Unfortunately, it’s not the worst injury of the day. Following the Aminishiki-Kagayaki bout, we have Aoiyama vs. Okinoumi. Aoiyama somehow damages his foot against the tawara, and ends up in the dreaded giant wheelchair. Following the doctor’s check, his stablemaster says that he hurt his heel, and that there was a “snapping sound”. This does not bode well for the Bulgarian.

This is not basho-related, but if we’re in the hospital already, the NSK finally released the reason for Takanoiwa’s kyujo, and it sounds very unpleasant: Concussion, ear canal inflammation, skull fracture, and a suspicion of cranial fluid leakage. For some unfathomable reason, the press says the expected recovery time is two weeks. From a skull fracture? Hmmm. Wishes of health go out to Kotoyuki, Aoiyama and Takanoiwa.

So, rewind a bit to the battle of the Tsuyuharai. That is, Kagayaki is Kisenosato’s tsuyuharai, whereas Aminishiki continues to serve as Harumafuji’s tsuyuharai, despite the fact that it strains his knees and ankles, and that it leaves him precious little time to get ready for his bouts. An honor is an honor. And anyway, he doesn’t seem to be affected by it too much, and might be running out of Yokozuna pretty soon the way things look up the banzuke. The torikumi itself was pretty short: Uncle chose to rise high at the tachiai to match Kagayaki’s height, and already had a grip in preparation whilst rising. Then it was left, down, and 2-0.

Endo and Kaisei take some time to fight over their mawashi grips, when Endo decides he has had enough, pulls on the one side of Kaisei’s mawashi he has a firm grip on, and twists him down. Shitatehineri. Nice!

Chiyomaru seems to have had a good night sleep, and came back with his usual genki today. Slap-slappity-slap, grab, push, and out with Daieisho.

Chiyoshoma on the other hand, makes the mistake of retreating after a good tachiai vs. Shodai, tries to grab something for one of his throws, but runs out of dohyo doing so.

Chiyonokuni loses by slippiotoshi – not the last one of the day – to Arawashi. Today was not a very good day for Kokonoe, either. But really, their fare is better than Isegahama…

What mode did Ichinojo boot up in for this basho? What a lovely bout against Takarafuji. Shoulder blast at the tachiai, a combination of oshi and yotsu zumo, some patience, and a couple of gaburi to put the Isegahama man out. As a general Isegahama fan this makes me a bit sad, but on the other hand, I really like Ichinojo. Especially when he’s wide awake.

OK, we’re up in the sanyaku. Hokutofuji looks convincing vs. Mitakeumi. Or is it that Mitakeumi is all… fishy…? Sorry, but that man’s face…

The ghost of Terunofuji tries to do all sorts of things with Shohozan, but, quite expectedly, fails. Shohozan is kind enough not to push the ailing Kaiju off the dohyo.

Chiyotairyu drops the lid on Yoshikaze‘s hopes to make an Ozeki run.

Goeido. Well, Goeido. That is, Goeido. He does to Kotoshogiku exactly what Harumafuji did to him in the playoff match in Aki. Simply prevents the henka and pushes the local man out so quickly he doesn’t know what hit him. Well, it was Goeido, Giku-zeki. He studied the monitor well and probably watched that match dozens of times since. The way Goeido looks right now, Hakhuo can start worrying.

Takayasu is back. Blast, push, and Tochiozan learns the pain of the joi. So, you’re saying the man from Tagonoura was injured? When was that?

And now we’re into the Yokozuna. And… when was the last time Harumafuji had two black stars from day one? The answer is Natsu 2010. Never as a Yokozuna, of course. He tried to tackle Takakeisho. Once. Didn’t work. Twice. Didn’t work. Third time… and he ran out of clay. Takakeisho was benevolent enough to pull him in so he will not roll off the dohyo (this is the real meaning of karma, by the way). The Yokozuna has as much chance of becoming a dai-yokozuna as I have of becoming a Japanese…

The bout between Kisenosato and Onosho was, in Onosho’s words, “Not what I thought it would be”. It looked a bit like a cartoon character starting to run, with feet shuffling but no forward motion. Big, big, slippiotoshi, and all Kisenosato had to do was let him fall in a way that could be called a kimarite.

kisenosato-2017-11-day-02
Slippiotoshi, reverse angle

The Japanese broadcaster said he did a “left ottsuke”. Anybody see an ottsuke there? Because I don’t. I see a man falling down.

Finally, Hakuho back in the musubi-no-ichiban. Slips in his usual face slap. Disengages for a second, and before Tamawashi can think of anything, shows him the way out.

hakuho-2017-11-day-02
Get out, trespasser!

So, two days go by. Maybe we’ll see a yusho playoff between Hakuho, Goeido, and, er… Aminishiki? Nah, I’m just jinxing him talking like that. Seriously, though, Hakuho, Goeido and Takayasu are currently the only dominant-looking rikishi on the clay.

 

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Who Is The Genkiest Of Them All?

I had a feeling of déjà vu as I watched the opening day today. It looked like the Nagoya basho all over again. Yokozuna falling left and right, Terunofuji looking like a ghost. And one Lord of the Ring.

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The boss, under pressure

But do I detect a worried look on the face of the King of Kings?

Hakuho was very careful and kept his pelvis about a meter away from Kotoshogiku’s. The man in the blue mawashi did try one gaburi before he realized that he had nothing but Hakuho’s classical Mongolian wrestling grip – all upper body – and from there it was only a matter of hakuho getting his hands sorted for a throw.

What pain in his body has given him that worried look, we’ll never know.

Moving to the less pleasant yokozuna stories. It was every bit as painful to see Harumafuji as I thought it would be. His shikiri/salt throwing routine was slow, heavy and stiff. His tachiai was slow, heavy and stiff. If it was just his elbow that didn’t work, well, an injury is an injury. But my favorite Yokozuna’s whole body is screaming for retirement. Onosho, of course, is not taking any prisoners. The only positive thing that can be said about this bout from the Yokozuna’s perspective is that it was short.

Kisenosato’s bout, with all its mattas, was pretty strange. I would have thought that the big, experienced man would have at least the same composure as Takayasu has shown, but his nerves were all over the dohyo.

At some point in the bout Kisenosato pushed Tamawashi away, and then seemed to be surprised that Tamawashi came back as strong as he did. In fact, as soon as they re-engaged Kisenosato didn’t stand a chance. What the injured Yokozuna has going for him at the moment is a great angle on the Tachiai (which was somewhat neutralized by all the mattas and nerves), and excellent balance. But at the point they re-engaged, it was in a standing position with no angle of attack advantage, and Tamawashi wasn’t going for anything that would require unbalancing the Yokozuna. Just applying power where the Yokozuna couldn’t answer.

Bruce has already said all that there was to say about the Goeido bout. I still maintain that in their Aki bout, Goeido lost by slippiotoshi and bad state of mind. Takakeisho is not a quick thinker or a sly planner. Goeido simply used him as a slider today.

Takayasu is one guy who doesn’t just say that he’s cool. When he says it, he means it. He simply doesn’t stress too much about his kadoban. He opened with his signature shoulder blast, and once he got that out of the way he didn’t shy away from a sidestep and an easy win.

On to Terunofuji. Well no, on second thought, let’s pretend that Terunofuji is not in this basho. How did that man succeed in damaging his knees that thoroughly in less than a month? When he joined the jungyo he looked sharp and strong. That Utchari! And then he managed to overdo it so badly that he is hardly able to move, much less threaten his opponents.

It really was a bad day for Isegahama. With the exception of Uncle “Who Needs Ligaments Or Tendons” Aminishiki, not a single sekitori from that heya won. At least most of their lower-level rikishi won, including our favorite Shunba:

shunba
Obamaumi rising after Shunba’s Tsukiotoshi

The situation is very similar for Kokonoe. With the exception of Chiyoshoma’s excellent katasukashi, all their sekitori lost their bouts. It was Chiyoshoma’s 8th katasukashi, by the way. The thin thewy thug thrives on thrilling throws.

Poor Chiyonokuni was just unlucky to face Ichinojo on one of the rare occasions he comes out of hibernation. But what happened to Chiyomaru? The fire in his eyes seems to have gone out. Yes, it’s lovely that Endo is back, but at least give the man a fight!

Now, what about the Yokozuna’s favorite toy, Asanoyama? One thing that I noticed about his rather quick bout today was that he used hidari-yotsu. That’s not his favorite grip. But he did get to practice it a lot in his bouts with Kisenosato during the Jungyo. The fruits of Yokozuna love?

I liked Nishikigi’s bout with Daiamami. It’s not often that you get to see a good mawashi fight that low down the banzuke.

Here are a couple of Makuuchi dropouts. I mean, potential come-back men. Start with Ishiura. Um, forget about the comeback. But at least he didn’t try a henka.

And here’s Yutakayama. He is said to be Asanoyama’s rival, but despite the win, what a difference of level:

Now, who will get an oicho-mage first? Asanoyama or Yutakayama? That’s a point on which Yutakayama may actually stand a chance…


In news unrelated to the basho: Ura’s “people in charge” officially made it known that he’ll have his operation and rehabilitation.

Ura Gets The Chair
No more of this, please.

As it turned out, during the pre-basho practice, he tried to practice with a brace etc., and caused himself serious damage including an internal hemorrhage, and couldn’t even walk. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way, I guess. They are optimistic about his recovery chances after that operation. Go Ura! Listen to the doctors!

Decisions, Decisions

Tomorrow the torikumi for the first two days are to be announced. And this is when wrestlers who have been tottering on the edge of kyujo announce their decisions.

ura

We already learned that Kakuryu will be kyujo. The head of the YDC reacted to this announcement by making it clear that Hatsu will be Kakuryu’s life-or-death basho. The press has already started to speculate on what the gentle yokozuna will be doing after his retirement.

Ura has also announced that he will be kyujo. This means that in Hatsu, we will no longer see him in the NHK highlights show, Kintamayama’s videos or Jason’s videos, as he will drop to Juryo. But this is probably just the start of a long drop – which we can only hope he will be doing with a properly operated-on ligament, with a view to bounce back into his pink mawashi.

Edit: turns out Ura went to get a doctor’s certificate from a Fukuoka hospital. The verdict, unsurprisingly, is that he has damage to the meniscus in one knee, and damage to the ACL in the other knee, and has to have surgery and rehabilitation, which will require, per that certificate, three months (sounds overly optimistic to me, and I suspect that Fukuoka hospital is not a world center of sports medicine). I hope that this means that he actually will undergo that surgery this time.

Terunofuji, on the other hand, decided that he will participate in the basho. I predict that the scenario from Aki will repeat itself, but I can understand why he is doing this: winning 10 bouts is probably a long shot, but much like Tochinoshin and Aoiyama in Aki, he probably wants to pad his fall down the banzuke with at least a few wins, rather than find himself at Maegashira 11 with a close view at Juryo in short order.

His decision follows a positive degeiko visit to Kokonoe stable, where he practiced with Chiyonokuni and Chiyotairyu. Here is a little sample:

Kisenosato has made it clear that he will participate.

Harumafuji also makes a clear statement that he will participate, and wants to serve for the full 15 days. Yep. As I said in a Tweet, that man will show up even dead.

Hakuho will participate, of course, and makes all sorts of statements about going for his 40th yusho and breaking Futabayama’s winning percentage record (not the same as the consecutive wins record). But reporters around him note that he is still not 100% clear of injury.

Takayasu doesn’t make any bold statements, but apparently, he will participate, and says that he’ll do what he has to do and if that doesn’t clear his kadoban, he’ll have another go in the next basho.

Edit: as noted in the comments, Takanoiwa as well as Juryo Chiyootori will also be absent from day one, though they made no public announcements and the reason and length of their absence have not been published.