Day 6 – It’s not easy being an Ozeki


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tired-kakuryu
Man, this is tiring work

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

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day6

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

Yusho Arasoi

6-0

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

5-1

  • M9 Shohozan
  • M13 Daieisho

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

 

Day 5 – New Hopes, Dashed Hopes


So let’s start at the very bottom.

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

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

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

And today, these two were matched against each other.

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

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

The technique is not quite there yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tochinoshin-goeido

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

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

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day5

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

Yusho Arasoi

The leader list is now down to four:

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

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

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:

 

Final Jungyo Newsreel – December 17th


🌐 Location: Ginowan, Okinawa

Today was the second day at Ginowan, but the last day of the Jungyo. Today’s newsreel centers on bouts, bouts, bouts!

hakuho-takayasu
Hakuho vs. Takayasu

Before we sit back to enjoy our sumo, it should be mentioned that Kakuryu’s health took a turn for the worse in the past couple of days, as he developed an inflammation in his left foot (or leg – the word in Japanese is the same). He says that once everybody returns to Tokyo, he’ll be able to get care for it, but nevertheless, this is a source for worry. Remember, Kakuryu has to participate in Hatsu, and have a good showing. Having been kyujo from Aki with a problem in his right foot, in the preparations for Kyushu he got his lower back in trouble again, and was kyujo from Kyushu as well. He is running out of body parts to spare.

He did participate in today’s tournament, and did a dohyo iri-with a baby, but Hakuho was the one doing the tsuna-shime ceremony today.

tsuna-shime-enho

Those who followed the Jungyo reports diligently will notice that Enho has been promoted from “thread bearer” to “rope puller #5”, an important position that comes with white gloves!

OK, so let’s finish this Jungyo with a bit of sumo. As in the previous 3 days, the top 16 Makuuchi (which is basically Ichinojo and up on the Kyushu banzuke, deducting Harumafuji, Kisenosato and Chiyonokuni) competed in elimination format. Below that, the torikumi went the usual way.

The Makuuchi bouts started with Aminishiki vs. Yutakayama. Yutakayama won – and the audience let out a sigh. Poor Yutakayama! It’s not his fault that Aminishiki is the most popular rikishi in Japan!

No visuals from that torikumi, I’m sorry to say, but here is the Maru bout, Chiyomaru vs. Daishomaru:

Arawashi vs. Ikioi:

Now let’s move to the tournement part. Hakuho starts with Onosho:

…and makes short work of it. Onosho, where is your red mawashi?

Mitakeumi takes on Tochiozan:

Nexw was the battle of the Fujis – Hokutofuji vs. Terunofuji. No video for that, but Terunofuji wins. So did Goeido vs. Takakeisho. So the two top tadpoles were eliminated in the first round already.

Takayasu took on Chiyotairyu in the first round. Remember Takayasu took the title yesterday:

Sorry for the lack of Tachiai. Next was Ichinojo vs. Tamawashi. Ichinojo wins.

Now Yoshikaze vs. Shohozan:

And the end of the first round is Kakuryu vs. Kotoshogiku:

This, despite the left foot issue…

Next round. Hakuho vs. Mitakeumi:

No repeat of Nagoya basho… And also no video of the Terunofuji-Goeido bout. But Terunofuji won. Terunofuji actually able to beat both Hokutofuji and Goeido is great news. Please don’t let him find a new way to ruin his knees in January.

Next was Takayasu vs. Ichinojo.

I do wish Ichinojo would not give up so easily at the tawara. 😦

To finish this second round, Kakuryu vs. Yoshikaze:

Yori-no-questions-about-it-kiri!

Semifinals. Hakuho wants to finish this Jungyo with a freaking yusho. Terunofuji hung on for about 20 seconds:

Takayasu got the other Yokozuna and won. No video.

And so we come to the final: Hakuho vs. Takayasu:

And here is a different angle with better video quality but poorer view:

Okinawa Jungyo day 2 - tournament brackets

Hakuho was, of course, delighted, and felt that he has tied up the Jungyo in a satisfactory way, giving the audience something to enjoy.

Now everybody has already landed back in Tokyo, having been absent since September. And this is the end of this newsreel series, see you in the next Jungyo!

 

Jungyo Newsreel – December 13th


🌐 Location: Miyakojima, Okinawa

After freezing in Kitakyushu, the jungyo entourage boarded planes and headed down south to Okinawa. In fact, so much down south, that they were almost within waving distance to Taiwan. This means warm weather, and rikishi going around in Yukata.

Right off the plane, landing in Miyakojima airport on Dec. 12, Hakuho was doing the fansa rounds, sought after by both the passengers who shared his plane, and awaiting fans.

hakuho-at-airport
Both handfan and Yukata adorned with “Hakuho”

The press was there as well, to ask Hakuho for his comment about the death threat letter he received at Kitakyushu (He didn’t actually receive it personally. It was delivered to his contacts there, and they handed it to the Fukuoka Prefectural Police). He deferred his comment to the next day (the next day he said “The Kyokai is handling all communication about it”).

Other rikishi were also making use of the hiatus. Yutakayama and Toyonoshima visited a local hospital’s day care center for the elderly, together with Yutakayama’s tsukebito, Rikito.

toyonoshima-with-elderly
Toyonoshima receiving flowers and a hug

The locals were thrilled, and shot questions at the rikishi: “How much do you weigh?”, one of them asked Yutakayama. “Well, officially, 175kg. But lately I’ve been eating too much, I am about 180kg by now”.

Rikito is a member of the Jinku team, so he entertained the locals with some Jinku, and everybody around joined in the “haa-dosukoi-dosukoi” calls.

The jungyo event itself includes two days at Miyakojima, both “nighters” as the Japanese call events being held in evening time. This is also why this newsreel is posted late. Usually a Jungyo day starts in the morning with asa-geiko, but these “nighters” start in the afternoon and only make it to the media sites the next day. The format is also a bit different, though of course it includes the popular kiddie sumo, tsuna-shime, jinku and shokkiri.

Hakuho was looking less genki than usual. He settled for some keiko with low-rankers:

hakuho-practice

This downturn in his health may also explain why it was Kakuryu who did the tsuna-shime (rope tying) demonstration (which has been performed regularly by Hakuho on all previous days).

On the dohyo, Kakuryu took Daieisho for a full workout, including both san-ban (no information on content) and butsukari, which you can see here:

kakuryu-daieisho-butsukari

It seems to be a peculiarity of the Izutsu Yokozuna, that he doesn’t take his butsukari partners for a monkey-walk (that’s what I call that type of suri-ashi Daieisho is performing in the above image) while holding on to the back of their head. He just tells them to walk it and stands aside. He also does away with the korogari (the roll that follows a failure to push) many times, ordering them to try again instead.

The main change in the format was that the top 16 rankers (excepting kyujo rikishi) fought in elimination format rather than the usual rank-for-rank torikumi. Both Yokozuna and Both Ozeki were eliminated in the first round. The winner was Yoshikaze.

yoshikaze-pushes-mitakeumi
That’s a bout, not Shokkiri.

Those below the top 16 fought as usual, as you can see in this video (together with some drumming, babies galore, and the usual apology for Harumafuji’s behavior)

Aminishiki tries the Hakuho trick of harite right off the tachiai, and discovers that you need to be really, really fast to pull it off…

Here is another TV video, blissfully free of the scandal and full of interesting stuff (and bouts):

  • Tochinoshin in moshi-age (winner picks next partner)
  • Kakuryu vs. Daieisho in one of their san-ban.
  • Memorial corner for Yuho (see below)
  • A local amateur (well, a dan 3 judoka…) defeats Shodai
  • Kaisei vs. Chiyomaru
  • Ichinojo vs. Kotoshogiku
  • Yoshikaze vs. Mitakeumi
  • Everybody dances around the dohyo!

Despite his fatigue, Hakuho continued to service the flocking fans:

hakuho-fansa
Among the many duties of tsukebito: taking pictures of fans with The Boss

And now for the treat of the day. In September, the former Yuho, who hailed from Miyakojima, passed away. He continued as a sewanin (a non-toshiyori NSK employee) since his retirement. The NSK put up a commemorative exhibition for him at the Jungyo venue. In addition to that, a special verse in his memory was added to the sumo Jinku, performed by no other than Ikioi:

Remember that sekitori do not usually take part of the Jinku. Ikioi is the only one there in his own Kesho-Mawashi, and of course an oicho-mage. Never mind the fact that he towers above the rest. He reads the verse off the paper fan in his hand. Dosukoi!

 

Jungyo Newsreel – December 7th


🌐 Location: Usa, Oita

Today the Jungyo arrived at the city of Usa, which happens to be the birth place of the one Yokozuna Hakuho is still looking up to – Futabayama Sadaji.

This, of course, meant that many rikishi were fiercely working their smartphones to get a pic with the most awesome Yokozuna in the world:

gaga-sokokurai-futabayama
One awesome Yokozuna, one Georgian patriot, and one Juryo Yusho winner

2300 spectators flocked to the venue despite the cold weather. Once again, Harumafuji goods were sold out as soon as they were offered.

Yoshikaze was the main man of the day, hailing from close-by Saiki. He entertained the crowd in the kiddie sumo:

girl-sumo

Yes, from time to time you’ll see a girl sumo enthusiast. They get to wear something modest in addition to the mawashi. Alas, they cannot dream of growing up to be rikishi.

But although Yoshikaze drew a lot of spectator attention, when Hakuho decided to step up the dohyo and do some kiddie sumo, the crowd blew up.

hakuho-kiddie

Yokozuna and Ozeki don’t normally do the kiddie sumo duty. In the previous Jungyo, Goeido chose to participate when the Jungyo passed through his home territory. Hakuho also chose one stop to play with the kids. So the crowd was delighted that the Yokozuna chose their town this time.

Back to Yoshikaze, when time came for the torikumi, the warm local support caused him to go for spectacular sumo, and he ended up with a tsuri-dashi win over Mitakeumi. Shohozan, who studied in a local high school, won against Takakeisho by okuridashi. Hakuho was less fortunate today, and got yori-kiried by Kakuryu. 2:2.

As you can see in that video, there is a new Shokkiri team. I feel a bit sorry for Baraki for losing his Shokkiri status so quickly. He seems to be the perfect fit for the job. I guess with Akua being promoted to sekitori, it couldn’t be helped.

Here is the full Shokkiri performance by the new duo:

Did someone from the crowd throw back some salt to the dohyo?