Aki 2018, Day 15. That’s all, folks!

It is my sad duty to break these news to you, but it must be done: the basho is over. All yusho have been decided. All kachi-koshi and make-koshi have been achieved. And now we are in for a month and a half of… well, mostly Jungyo.

So what did we have today?

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Hakuho and his flag-bearer and uchi-deshi, Enho
Well, the first Makuuchi bout is between Chiyomaru and Aminishiki, but it turns out that Chiyomaru has a bone fracture in his foot, and is kyujo on senshuraku. He will probably end up in Juryo for this. Aminishiki must be frustrated – you go to Makuuchi, you win – but you don’t get any kensho for fusensho! Aminishiki with a minimal make-koshi, though, 7-8, and although he won’t advance, he will also not drop much.

Takanoiwa achieves a left hand outside on the tachiai vs Okinoumi. He is not happy with that and manages a makikae. Another fumble, a pull, and he wins by uwatedashinage, achieving double digits on his return to Makuuchi. Will he get a sansho?

Er, no. And neither will any of the hard working rikishi who strive for 10 wins today. Earlier the NSK announces that no rikishi have been found worthy of any special prizes today – not the technique prize, not the outstanding performance prize, and – weirdest of all – no fighting spirit prize. So, the basho we thought was wonderful, the NSK considered so lackluster that for the first time since the institution of special prizes, none have been awarded.

Aoiyama meets Kotoyuki. Both are make-koshi, but both are seeking to keep themselves 7-8 rather than 6-9. Kotoyuki starts with a bit of not-too-enthusiastic tsuppari, but Aoiyama soon catches him, gives him a nice pat on the nape of his nake, and sends him to his favorite place – waddling between the spectators in the front rows.

Ryuden manages a proper tachiai, and gets his left arm inside, despite Daishomaru‘s ottsuke. Although still fumbling on the right side, he manages an easy yori-kiri, and gets his 10th win. Again, no sansho, and all the rikishi with 10 wins will have to settle for the additional ¥10,000 in their bi-monthly bonus.

Hokutofuji starts with his usual right-arm forward and rhythmic thrusts, but Yoshikaze achieves a left hand inside almost instantly and yori-kiris him to oblivion. Yoshikaze, as expected for a man of his experience finding himself so low down the banzuke, has been cutting swaths through his opponents and will be back in a saner and more challenging position next basho.

Nishikigi gets a left hand inside and a grip on Kotoshogiku‘s mawashi right off the tachiai. He ottsuke’s the former Ozeki’s left arm with his own right, and then decides to go for the grip, which he achieves. The two lock powerfully, and though Nishikigi loses his initial left hand grip, he never lets go of that right. It gets into a leaning war. Nishikigi gets the left hand mawashi grip again. Eventually he pulls up a little, and pushes Kotoshogiku all the way out. Did we just watch Nishikigi beat Kotoshogiku by a powerful yori-ikiri? Yes we did! Nishikigi also in double digits this basho, to the sound of millions of jaws dropping in amazement. Kotoshogiku, despite a good showing this basho, is make-koshi.

Takarafuji yet again fails to achieve his favorite position, but somehow prevails over Sadanoumi with some ottsuke, a pull and a thrust. He is not happy, but he finishes the basho with a win, and minimizes his make-koshi to 7-8. My sources tell me that the Tachiai delegation at the Kokugikan has been cheering for the Isegahama man.

(The towels say “keppare Takarafuji”)

Tochiozan achieves a quick morozashi on Chiyoshoma on the tachiai, and after a few hugs manages to aim and shoot at the head shimpan. Shitatehineri, and Tochiozan is kachi-koshi.

Shohozan attempts a harizashi on Takanosho, but fails the “sashi” part. Takanosho gets the advantage with some tsuppari that gets Shohozan to the edge, but then Shohozan decides to arm those guns, and Takanosho soon finds himself at the opposite edge, and over it. Shohozan keeps his make-koshi at a minimal 7-8. Takanosho luckily clinched his kachi-koshi already.

Not much to say about the Onosho vs. Ishiura bout, which started with yet another matta 🙄. Ishiura tries to go low, Onosho catches his neck, and Ishiura, rather than persevering like his ototo-deshi (rikish from the same heya who joined later), frees his head, finds himself without any position or grip, and is soon driven out. Bot wrestlers are now 4-11, and if Ishiura doesn’t start watching Enho and learning, today’s Yokozuna dohyo-iri was his last.

The bout between Kagayaki and Daieisho is a bout of desparation, as both parties are 7-7 entering it. Daieisho is shorter, and makes use of that to attack the tall Kagayaki at just the right angle, from below. Kagayaki has no answer to Daieisho’s fierce rain of tsuppari and is soon out. On his way down the hana michi he looks like he is on the verge of tears. Daieisho is 8-7, Kagayaki 7-8.

Another matta precedes the Yutakayama match vs. Chiyonokuni. Chiyonokuni starts with his enthusiastic thrust attack, from below, from above, and Yutakayama can barely defend. One of Yutakayama’s defensive left hand moves catches the back of Chiyonokuni’s head as Yutakayama spins around, and the Kokonoe man is surprised to find himself flat on his face on the edge. Yutakayama manages to keep his toes inside in this spin, and gets a win to sweeten a rather bitter basho.

Kaisei latches on to the left side of Shodai‘s mawashi a half-second after the tachiai, and soon follows with his right hand. Although it’s a bit of an odd soto-yotsu (both hands outside, but rather on the front Shodai’s mawashi rather than the back), it’s enough for him to easily walk Shodai out. Kaisei is kachi-koshi, 8-7, and Tamawashi’s komusubi position is virtually in his pocket.

Chiyotairyu slams into Ikioi and immediately steps to the left. Ikioi not fulled, stays with him and catches one of his arms in what seems to be a preparation for a kotenage. However, after some wriggling, Chiyotairyu manages to shake that arm lock off, and shake Ikioi off the dohyo. Ikioi lands on his injured foot, further aggravating his injured ankle. I hope Ikioi will absent himself from the Jungyo, which starts October 3rd – he and the rest of the maimed rikishi that have been heaping up this basho.

Today was Asanoyama‘s last chance of a kachi-koshi, after four consecutive losses following his seventh win. He did his best to neutralize Takakeisho‘s barrage of tsuppari, keeping him at an arm’s length. The bout developed into a long stalemate, when Asanoyama decided to try to slip a hand in for a grip. Takakeisho didn’t let that pass – Asanoyama’s “sashi” lasted for two milliseconds before the Takakeisho windmill had him over the bales. Five straight losses and make-koshi for Asanoyama.

For some reason, Tamawashi decided that the basho starts today, and finally made an appearance at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. Too bad it’s the last day, old Eagle. His thrust attack against Endo was powerful and effective, but only got him his 4th win. As for Endo, let’s hope he rallies the same way that Yoshikaze has this basho. Otherwise, what who will the ladies of the Kokugikan swoon over?

Ichinojo is 7-7 coming into this bout with Myogiryu. Myogiryu is going to find himself in the joi next basho, having already secured his kachi-koshi. And he has a 6-2 record against the boulder. But Ichinojo has had six consecutive kachi-koshi. And he seems to like being sekiwake. Tachiai, boom. Ichinojo has both hands folded in his lap on the tachiai, then releases them and catches Myogiryu’s arm. Myogiryu starts pushing. Ichinojo pulls, and lets Myogiryu drop just before stepping over the bales himself. Not exactly powerful sumo, but much to the disbelief of anybody reading this blog only 5 days ago, Ichinojo gets yet another kachi-koshi, seventh in a row, and keeps his rank.

At this point you don’t need Leonid’s massive banzuke-fu to figure out the sanyaku for next basho: It’s much the same as this one, with Hakuho and Takakeisho moving East and Kaisei replacing Tamawashi.

Abi starts with his usual morotezuki and tsuppari, nothing to write home about. Mitakeumi matches him thrust for thrust. Round and round and round they go, until Abi loses patience and foolishly tries to reach Mitakeumi’s mawashi. Mitakeumi finds a handy Abi cranium to push down. The End. Mitakeumi improves to 9-6, and the argument about his Ozeki chances in 2018 will continue to rage until he goes and messes Kyushu the same way he messed Aki. Abi is 6-9 and can rest assured that he won’t need to face any sanyaku next time around.

The top three bouts, for the first time in two years, feature only Yokozuna and Ozeki. Watch the sanyaku soroi-bumi in Kintamayama’s reel – it’s a good one.

Tochinoshin, after having relieved himself of the awful pressure of the Kadoban, makes short work of Takayasu. He starts with a kachiage, neutralizes Takayasu’s left arm and keeps himself away from the right, and then pushes with all his double-bear power. Takayasu drops, Tochinoshin 9-6.

Goeido slams into Kisenosato, attempts to start a gaburi attack. Kisenosato is a bit too heavy for this stuff. Goeido pulls slightly, and rolls the Yokozuna easily. Kisenosato must be glad he got his 10th yesterday. He finishes 10-5. Goeido has the jun-yusho with 12-3.

Musubi no ichiban. Hakuho has his zensho to defend. Kakuryu – his Yokozuna dignity. Clash, no harite, and Hakuho gets the left-hand mawashi grip. The two enter into a classical yotsu lock hold. Hakuho tries to lift Kakuryu several times, but he is no Tochinoshin. Besides, he only has “ichimai” on the right hand side. The third attack sees Kakuryu lose his mawashi grip, and then he suddenly goes limp and just leaves the dohyo. That’s a bit sad for a Yokozuna, but at least it’s a good way to escape an injury-risking dame-oshi. Hakuho maintains his zensho yusho. ¥200,000 are added to his bi-monthly bonus, which is already the largest in history. I’m guessing Kakuryu is going to be grilled by the YDC tomorrow, having lost all his Yokozuna and Ozeki bouts.

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The Yokozuna on the left came back from a lengthy injury. The one on the right won two yusho this year. Go figure.

It’s been a pleasurable basho, and now the long wait begins for the last Kyushu basho of the Heisei era.

 

Day 14 – and the winner is…

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Yokozuna Hakuho, in a year of injuries, in which he previously completed just one basho, is back, and is breaking records. Today he won his 41st yusho. It was also his 1000th Makuuchi win, with Kaio trailing far behind with 879. Also, this is the 13th consecutive year in which he wins at least one yusho – breaking Taiho’s record of 12. In the shitaku-beya he said “I am leaving the children who will be entering Grand Sumo in the future a big challenge to aim for”. I doubt if the child who will break those records is going to be born any time soon – perhaps if sports medicine advances far enough, and the world of sumo changes its mindset well enough, to extend an average rikishi’s viable career as a sekitori into his forties. Then, maybe, maybe.

But the Yokozuna’s yusho was just the cap on yet another good day of sumo, so let’s dive right in.

Arawashi visited Makuuchi today, to see if he should be exchanged for Kotoyuki. Kotoyuki denies him any access to his mawashi, and in the tsuppari match that ensues, Arawashi’s foot slips to the janome (the ring of fine sand surrounding the tawara). This has been happening a lot this basho. Bales slippery or buried a tad too deeply? Only the Yobidashi and the gods of the dohyo know. Arawashi needs to win his bout tomorrow to still secure his kachi-koshi and return to Makuuchi – especially now that Aminishiki is make-koshi and will not advance (Aminishiki has been the victim of two consecutive henkas by men almost half his age, believe it or not).

Chiyoshoma, who has secured his kachi-koshi for the first time since the Haru basho (the only Kokonoe sekitori to do so so far), got a mawashi grip on Okinoumi right from the get-go. However, it was Okinoumi who executed a lovely uwatenage, usually Chiyoshoma’s expertise, rolling the Kokonoe man to the edge of the dohyo. Okinoumi is kachi-koshi.

Ryuden aims to get a morozashi on Sadanoumi. He achieves a left hand inside with a good grip, while Sadanoumi latches on with his right hand outside. The two fight over the hold with the other hand, Ryuden trying to lock his armpit, and Sadanoumi getting a “nozoki” (his left hand peeks through). Then Sadanoumi suddenly reverses direction, and uses the good hold he has on Ryuden with his right to pull the man in the black mawashi over to the edge and force him out with a yori-kiri. Both fly to the front rows. Sadanoumi checks with Ryuden that he is alright, Ryuden nods. Sadanoumi is kachi-koshi, and Ryuden may yet get to double digits, but not today.

Takanosho and Daieisho both use their arms to pad their impact. From there, it takes Takanosho half a second to drop Daieisho to ground. Oshitaoshi.

Hokutofuji seems to be Takanoiwa‘s Kryptonite. Takanoiwa has not beaten him in any of their bouts. It seems Takanoiwa is always aiming for a right “sashi” (hand insertion), and Hokutofuji always succeeds in sealing that side off. And this time, too, he gets rid of the posky right hand and proceeds to destroy Takanoiwa’s game plan. Oshidashi, Hokutofuji wins, both are 9-5, may get double digits tomorrow.

Ishiura tries to get a mae-mitsu grip on Daishomaru, but realizes that he has achieved a morozashi (both hands inside), and simply proceeds to yori-kiri the Oitekaze man. Where was this Ishiura for the length of this basho?

Aoiyama, who only two days ago pommeled Ishiura in anger for trying a henka, decided to go that way himself, and sidestepped Takarafuji mightily. Does Aoiyama really need to henka the fading Isegahama heyagashira? Takarafuji is now make-koshi and in sore need of rest and recuperation.

Nishikigi continues to surprise. With a large bruise on his right elbow he faces Shohozan, whom he has never beaten before. Shohozan starts with a harite, and while the two fumble with their arms on one side, Shohozan manages to insert his left hand inside through Nishikigi’s ottsuke on the other. But Nishikigi cooly converts that ottsuke into a kotenage – remember, that’s his injured elbow – and Shohozan finds himself below the dohyo. Nishikigi is yet another rikishi who may secure double digits tomorrow. Shohozan, on the other hand, is make-koshi.

Chiyomaru starts his bout with Tochiozan with a morotezuki – thrust with both hands – and then pulls and tries to slam the veteran Kasugano rikishi to the ground. Tochiozan survives, wraps his arms around the Eternally Round One, and sends him rolling with a tsukiotoshi. Chiyomaru is now officially make-koshi and in danger of demotion to Juryo. Tochiozan will have to wait until tomorrow for his kachi (or make) koshi.

Kotoshogiku doesn’t leave much to write about. He slams into Kagayaki, lifting him up, and then drives him out Goeido-style before Kagayaki can think of any response. Kotoshogiku wins, and both parties are now 7-7 and wait for senshuraku to decide their fates.

Asanoyama tries to land a yotsu hold on Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze pulls and drops the young man to the ground. Experience, experience… Yoshikaze and his magical rash are in double digits. Asanoyama has to wait for tomorrow to try for a kachi-koshi.

Endo‘s present to Yutakayama for his birthday is a quick and merciless tsukidashi. Yutakayama is 2-10-2, Endo 3-11. Both are not going to be anywhere near the joi the next basho, and I hope they’ll both find some time to heal (whatever it is that is ailing Endo).

This is followed by yet another match-of-the-hapless, in which Ikioi manages to win yet another one of those kensho envelopes pledged for him by his fiancee’s sponsor. A barrage of tsuppari finds Onosho spread on the dohyo by hatakikomi. Onosho doesn’t look injured, but like Yoshikaze in the previous basho and Endo in this one, something seems to be plaguing him. Both parties are now 3-11.

Chiyotairyu somehow fools himself into believing that going chest-to-chest with Kaisei is going to benefit him. Although he has a morozashi, he doesn’t use it to secure a hold – probably because he doesn’t have the reach, with both Kaisei’s bulk and his own increasing the circumference he needs to cover. Kaisei, on the other hand, secures a good grip in a soto-yotsu, much like Tochinoshin had a few days ago, and calmly walks Chiyotairyu to the edge. Chiyotairyu increases his losing score to 4-10. Kaisei is now 7-7, and if he wins on senshuraku, may find himself in sanyaku again.

That sanyaku spot is going to be vacated by Tamawashi, who faced Chiyonokuni. They start a tsuki-oshi exchange, but Chiyonokuni manages to land a couple of thrusts that set Tamawashi spinning like a top. Tamawashi is not really with us. Next basho he is probably safely away from any Yokozuna and Ozeki.

Takakeisho pulls Myogiryu down in a typical hikiotoshi. Takakeisho is kachi-koshi, and will stay in sanyaku. Depending on Ferdinand the Bull he may even advance to Sekiwake – but we’ll get to Ichinojo in a minute.

So Ferdinand, I mean, Ichinojo, slams into Shodai and the impact drives the maegashira almost to the edge. The two frantically attempt to land a grip and defend against being gripped, when Ichinojo realizes that he has gained enough ground to safely pull. Hatakikomi, and as is usual with Ichinojo, this means Shodai is spread on the dohyo like Philadelphia cheese, and Ichinojo is hovering over him with a slightly worried “Did I do that?” face. Shodai manages to stand up. It’s Ichinojo’s win, and somehow, unbelievably, Ichinojo once again finds himself with a possibility of a kachi-koshi on senshuraku. If he does that, he maintains his Sekiwake position, and his winning streak at 7 consecutive kachi koshi. If he doesn’t – well, he’ll be komusubi, and Takakeisho Sekiwake. Shodai, by the way, is make-koshi.

Tochinoshin finds a way through Abi‘s tsuppari, and catches on Peter Pan’s mawashi. The latter squirms and bends. I’m pretty sure he actually touched the dohyo with the top part of his foot at some point there – but it’s a moot point, as Tochinoshin performs the shitatenage, and finally gets that precious 8th win that he needed so dearly. Tochinoshin maintains his Ozeki rank, and avoids repeating Musoyama’s quick relegation to Ozekiwake following one kyujo as shin-ozeki and one kadoban in 2000 (Musoyama went on to win 10 bouts and regained his Ozeki rank at the time). Everybody in Georgia lets out a sigh of relief – we still have three Ozeki going into Kyushu. Abi, by the way, is now make-koshi.

The next bout features the suffering Mitakeumi against the near-perfect Takayasu. Takayasu’s usual slam is properly met by the sekiwake. Takayasu tries to slide his left hand through, and Mitakeumi uses a ferocious ottsuke while both of them are also defending on the other side, keeping their mawashi away from each other’s arms. Takayasu does manage to overcome Mitakeumi’s ottsuke and gets to Mitakeumi’s Mawashi. At the same time Mitakeumi pierces his right side. But Mitakeumi converts his ottsuke into a strong lock on Takayasu’s arm, and drags him down the dohyo. Both of them fall. The gyoji points to Mitakeumi.

The result of the monoii deliberation: both are out, “dotai”, but since Mitakeumi was clearly the attacking side, it’s his win.

So Mitakeumi gets the win, secures his kachi-koshi, and maintains his Sekiwake status. Takayasu, however, goes 11-3, and loses his place in the Yusho race.

Then follows the Yokozuna bout of the day. Kakuryu starts with a good forward-moving attack, and Kisenosato defends with all the tools that he has – mainly his lower body. At some point Kakuryu runs out of energy, and a leaning session ensues, as both try to find an opening. But then Kakuryu makes what seems to me like a rookie mistake – he reacts to the gyoji’s call of “oi-hakioi”, trying to do something prematurely. This leaves him open, and Kisenosato, one-armed Yokozuna though he is, seems to be very sharp this basho. Sharp enough to envelope Kakuryu and get him to the nearest edge. Kakuryu loses for the fourth day in a row. Amazingly, the Yokozuna who looked like he was going to take the Yusho only five days ago, winning decisively and brilliantly, is suddenly neck to neck with the Yokozuna we all predicted will have a hard time getting an F-ing kachi-koshi. Hats off for Kisenosato. He achieves his yokozuna kachi-koshi of 10 wins.

Musubi no ichiban. Hakuho is zensho, but had some very precarious bouts in this basho. Goeido, other than his first day bout, has been magnificent this basho. Who is going to prevail? The bout is preceded by yet another set of matta. Both the fault of Hakuho, who seems to be very tense. Upon the second one, I was sure we are going to see the Yokozuna being swept away by a raging Ozeki.

Er, nope. Nopity-nope-nope. Hakuho goes straight forward, grabs Goeido’s mawashi with his left hand, and within a couple of seconds the Ozeki is in a heap on the nearest shimpan. Hakuho is feeling magnanimous enough to help Goeido back up the dohyo. The dai-yokozuna gets his 41st yusho, his 1000th Makuuchi win, his 1094th win overall, his 13th year in a row winning a yusho, and who knows how many more records, with just one typical uwatenage.

All that is left is to see whether Kakuryu will manage to spoil his zensho.

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Kakuryu and Kisenosato tied. Unbelievable.

 

Aki Day 11 Recap – Mayhem At The Top

Here we are, in the last leg of this wonderful basho. The yusho race is getting hot. Tochinoshin’s kadoban is not clear yet. Some rikishi are teetering on the edge of make-koshi. Let’s dive in!

tochinoshin-carrying-kakuryu
What morozashi?

Kotoyuki determined not to roll today. He and Ryuden clash heads at the tachiai, and Kotoyuki continues with some strong tsuppari. It could be that Ryuden is a little dizzy from that clash, but I have a feeling he has his foot slightly off the accelerator now that he is kachi-koshi.

In the match of the dew-gatherers, Kakuryu’s tsuyuharai, Nishikigi, faces Hakuho’s Ishiura, who has seven losses and can’t afford another one. Ishiura has the faster tachiai and slips in his arms. It takes him about a second to secure a grip – but Nishikigi already has him at the edge, and makes sure he is no longer a dew-gatherer as of next basho (only Makuuchi wrestler participate in a Yokozuna dohyo-iri).

Takanosho, the newcomer, faces Okinoumi, with the NHK broadcast team (Japanese) making much of the fact that Okinoumi has sanyaku experience. Takanosho cares about none of that – goes low and upwards at the tachiai, applies “hazu” to Okinoumi’s armpits, and quickly drives him out. Takanosho has a good chance of achieving kachi-koshi in the next few days.

The next bout features the man who would have been the natural replacement for Ishiura in Hakuho’s dohyo-iri. Alas, Kyokutaisei has gone kyujo again. Damage to the meniscus in the right knee. Chiyomaru gets the fusensho, and Kyokutaisei will join Ishiura in Juryo next basho.

Chiyoshoma starts his bout with Sadanoumi with a kachiage, but has no follow-up, and Sadanoumi uses his right elbow to push the Mongolian to the edge rather quickly. Then he slides his arms around Chiyoshoma and drives him out… or so he thinks. Chiyoshoma does some of his acrobatics, and turns the tables with a throw. Pay attention to how Chiyoshoma works to keep his tiptoe planted on the dohyo until the very moment Sadanoumi touches ground. Thus, no monoii, and it’s Chiyoshoma’s win.

Daieisho overwhelmes Yoshikaze with some windmill tsuppari. A few thrusts, then a hazu to direct Yoshikaze around towards the nearest bales, then some more thrusts. Yoshikaze tries to land a grip, but can’t get through the barrage, and ends up landing on Futagoyama oyakata.

Takanoiwa and Kotoshogiku are kenka-yotsu – meaning that they prefer opposite grips. This normally means that whoever manages to land his favorite grip has the advantage. In this bout, it’s Kotoshogiku who gets his hidari-yotsu. But Takanoiwa is unfazed, secures a strong grip on both sides, and pulls Kotoshogiku up, occasionally even lifting him off the ground a bit. This completely neutralizes Kotoshogiku’s ability to chug, because a gaburi-yori is less about the pelvis, and all about the traction your feet have transferring power into aforesaid pelvis. Not touching the ground, he can’t do that, and when he gets a start, Takanoiwa finishes him with a shitatenage. Takanoiwa well deserves the spot in the yusho arasoi where he finds himself at the moment.

Hokutofuji is getting tired of seeing his kachi-koshi slipping away time and time again. This time he sticks to his guns. And although Shohozan throws his own guns and the kitchen sink at him, he just patiently continues with that tsuppari, his right hand forming large circles, each pushing Shohozan further. Oshi-dashi and kachi-koshi.

Aoiyama and Onosho start their match with the expected exchange of thrusts. Aoiyama probably realizes that Onosho plans to pull at some point and let him drop, so he envelopes him in his big arms. Onosho, with his inferior reach, can’t do much against that, and the bout ends with a yori-kiri and a make-koshi for Onosho, who will have to spend some time in the nether regions of Makuuchi before regaining his Prince Tadpole status.

Asanoyama falls for Daishomaru‘s henka, hook, line and sinker. His hand touches the ground before the gyoji even completes his “hakki-yoi”. For some reason, Daishomaru looks disappointed.

Takarafuji can’t recreate his magic from yesterday. He tries to circle around the dohyo until he gets his grip, but Myogiryu makes sure he leaves orbit. Oshidashi. Takarafuji 5-6, Myagiryu nearing his kachi-koshi.

Tochiozan slams into Chiyonokuni. Kuni doesn’t really have much power in him this basho, and soon finds himself outside – and make-koshi.

Endo has a good tachiai vs. Kagayaki, but Kagayaki has the better reach and, really, Endo doesn’t have much power in him. At the edge he tries to sidestep and start his own attack. Kagayaki rallies, and Endo runs out of gas. It seems to me that whatever mystery disease was plaguing Yoshikaze in the previous basho has taken Endo in this one. He simply can’t produce any power. But while everybody was very gentle with Yoshikaze, nobody is giving Endo any breaks. Must be all those kensho envelopes.

Abi and Chiyotairyu start a tsuki-oshi match, which suddenly comes to a halt as Abi holds Chiyotairyu at arms length. Abi, however, shows the same lack of patience he has shown yesterday, miscalculates his footing, and tries to restart the attack, promptly falling on his face. Chiyotairyu doesn’t say no to free gifts.

Takakeisho slams into Ikioi, knocking the air out of him, then sidesteps, and lets the taller man find his way to the opposite side. By the time Ikioi turns back, the tadpole is there to give him that final farewell. Given the joi carnage this basho, Takakeisho is doing rather well with a 5-6. Ikiyoyo is 1-10.

Yutakayama still has nothing to offer having returned from kyujo. He lands a classic tsuppari on Tamawashi‘s chest. Tamawashi, unimpressed, gives him one big shove for his trouble, which seems to land him on Kaisei. See, Tamawashi is very considerate about Yutakayama’s health (less so about Kaisei’s).

I don’t know what posessed Mitakeumi to try that little henka, but Kaisei sees through it. He gets all over Mitakeumi and hands him what must be his most humiliating loss so far. Mitakeumi is 6-5, and kisses his Ozeki run goodbye. Although some media people still hope that he can do something if he wins out (giving him 10-5, thus 32 wins over three basho), Shibatayama oyakata says “not with this sumo”, rather emphatically.

Goeido continues his generally good performance this basho. Slams into Shodai, and starts pushing him. Shodai can only pride himself on surviving more than the one second it usually gets to reach one side, as he causes Goeido’s circle to be larger than usual. That’s all.

And then Kakuryu meets Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin.

Really, Kakuryu has been absolutely wonderful this basho. He went through those wins day after day. Straight forward and with power. But Tochinoshin is both desperate and, apparently, on the mend.

Kakuryu starts with his usual tachiai this basho, which looks like he is dropping head first into his rival’s chest. And he gets not just a grip – he gets a tight morozashi. Now, in that situation, most rikishi start saying their prayers and wondering which shimpan they are about to hit. But not Tochinoshin. His weapon against morozashi is a soto-yotsu grip, which means both arms outside. With the height difference between him and the yokozuna, he gets a very good one. And then it starts to look like a crane game in one of the ubiquitous Japanese arcades. Lift once… drop… lift again… and you got your prize toy. The kadoban is not clear yet – one more win needed – but the Incredible Hulk (red version) is back, and tomorrow’s bout between him and Hakuho is going to be a doozy.

Moving on to the next Yokozuna match, Kisenosato, and his much celebrated kachi-koshi, faces up the near make-koshi Ichinojo. Now, although he lost to Hakuho yesterday (and got that annoying extra push), Ichinojo already looked better in that match than he did most of this basho. So my guess is that his back stopped hurting. Ichinojo has a good-boy tachiai – both fists on the ground waiting for his rival’s initiative – so there is nothing the gyoji can do to help the ailing yokozuna this time. Ichinojo straightens, and hands Kisenosato three servings of kaiju nodowa. The Yokozuna doesn’t get to lift a finger, he is blown away that fast. And he is very very unhappy about that. He has to sit down for the last bout as make-nokori, and his face is more clouded than the Tokyo sky.

Musubi no ichiban. Hakuho faces Takayasu, who is just one behind at this point. Win, and given Kakuryu’s loss, Takayasu would be in the leader group for the yusho. Lose, and he drops behind the chasers.

Takayasu stands up too early. Matta. Bad, bad mistake. This pisses off Hakuho, who reacts by stepping over the shikiri-sen and giving Takayasu a penetrating death stare.

Now, the Yokozuna is trying to get Takayasu to lay both fists on the ground like a good boy. Takayasu lays just one fist down, as does the Yokozuna. Hakuho doesn’t like the fact that Takayasu is not committing himself, and straightens up. It’s a second matta.

Now, the third time that Takayasu tries a tachiai without committing himself, Hakuho  throws hinkaku to the wind. He doesn’t care what they say – he shoots at Takayasu who still doesn’t have his fists on the ground, hands him a slap from the right side, and a kachiage aimed at the nose from the other. Let tongues wag. That… wasn’t really sumo. And yes, there was another dame-oshi there.

hakuho-takayasu-blink-of-an-eye

Mere mortal, don’t try playing mind games with a kitsune. The Dai-yokozuna is now the sole leader of the yusho arasoi – although Tochinoshin may change things come tomorrow.

Yusho arasoi Day 11

11-0Y1WHakuho
10-1Y2EKakuryu
9-2O1EGoeido
O2ETakayasu
M13WTakanoiwa

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Day 6 – Tanabata Wish Fulfilled

chiyotairyu-got-money
Remember Chiyotairyu’s “I need money” Tanabata wish?

Day 6 of the Aki basho, opening the second act, continued the excellent action we had in the first five days. We start the day with seven rikishi at 5-0. How many will finish it with 6-0?

Ishiura attempts to do straight sumo vs. Takanosho, the newcomer, but he can’t get inside for a grip on the front of his mawashi. He tries to pull back for a hatakikomi, but Takanosho is stable enough, and the pull puts Ishiura at a disadvantage, which Takanosho is quick to exploit. Yorikiri, and unless Ishiura seriously upgrades his sumo, Hakuho will need to look for a new dew-gatherer for Kyushu.

In the matta parade that this basho is turning out to be, Ryuden‘s premature slam into Yoshikaze must be one of the most eye-popping ones. Although Yoshikaze seems to maintain his cool, and starts a tsuppari attack after the real tachiai, he is quickly swept off with a hatakikomi. There goes the first perfect record. Yoshikaze 5-1 (and somewhat surprisingly, so is Ryuden).

Kotoyuki seemed to do much better in his pale cyan mawashi, but today he faced Takanoiwa, who seems to have gotten over his little lapse of sumo from days 3 and 4. Takanoiwa unfazed by the Kotoyuki’s thrusts, circles a bit and lets the man do his usual Neymar roll into the suna-kaburi (the rows of spectators right next to the dohyo).

Chiyoshoma tries a henka against Nishikigi. Against Nishikigi? You need a henka against Nishikigi, Mr. Wile. E. Throwing-Technician? Nishikigi doesn’t have patience for nonesense this basho. He sees through that henka even without his glasses, and chases Chiyoshoma out of the dohyo. Oshidashi.

Chiyomaru starts his bout with a morotezuki straight to Sadanoumi‘s throat. He follows that with a couple more thrusts, then stops and pulls, causing Sadanoumi to lose his balance. Tsukidashi, and Chiyomaru secures his second win this basho.

Okinoumi launches quickly into the tachiai vs. Daishomaru. He is all over the Oitekaze man and dispatches him within seconds.

The other Oitekaze man, Daieisho, faces Takarafuji. The latter tries again and again to land his favorite grip but his injured left elbow seems to be a serious hindrance. He circles around again and again as Daieisho leads him to the tawara, and eventually manages a kotenage and sends Daieisho out.

Aoiyama finally starts a match with his signature rain of fierce tsuppari. Kotoshogiku, who had a good first few days, is overwhelmed. He never gets even close to landing his own signature attack or even laying hands on Aoiyama. Tsukidashi and first win for the Bulgarian, and Kotoshogiku drops to 3-3.

Hokutofuji, when he waited for his bout in the shitaku-beya, heard of Yoshikaze’s first loss. Being the only other rank-and-filer with a perfect record, he said he ascended the dohyo today rather nervous. Yet another matta ensued. In the actual bout, he leads once again with his right hand, a couple of thrusts, and grabs Tochiozan‘s mawashi momentarily. Tochiozan shakes him off. Hokutofuji fends off Tochiozan’s own attempts to get at his mawashi, and as they go back and forth, Tochiozan loses his balance and Hokutofuji follows up. Hatakikomi, and Hokutofuji stays perfect.

As Shohozan and Asanoyama clash, it’s Shohozan who gets his right hand inside first. However, Asanoyama bars it on the left, applies an ottsuke on the right and promptly forces the muscular Nishonoseki man out with a kimedashi. This was a fine display of technique despite its short duration.

What is up with Onosho? His tachiai vs. Chiyonokuni seems to be rather weak, and the Kokonoe man blasts him out of the ring in no time. A very frustrated Onosho mounts the dohyo again to give his bow. Onosho merely 2-4 so far.

Abi faces a very tall rikishi today – Kagayaki. He knows that his reach is no greater than his opponent. So his game plan today is not his windmill tsuppari, but rather – after the obligatory morotezuki – he takes a step to the right, grabs Kagayaki’s belt and neck and throws him smartly outside. Abi may look like a gangly, happy-go-lucky boy who just happened to find himself in a silk mawashi by sheer accident, but those arms are really strong and the skill is there. All he needs is to balance his tsuki-oshi “one weird trick” (OK, two weird tricks, because that throw is also something he uses from time to time) with some belt work, and he will really be a pleasure to behold (though I’m sure the NSK officials will cringe when he finishes his Ozeki acceptance speech with a “wara!” [“LOL!”]).

Take Myogiryu, for example. He is famous enough for his tsuki-oshi sumo, that the illustration under the definition of “oshi-zumo” in my sumo dictionary is a drawing of Myogiryu. But today he launches himself at Endo, and goes chest to chest for a lightning fast yoritaoshi. Keep your skill set wide, and your rivals will never know what’s coming.

And today Ichinojo definitely woke up with his back acting up again. He simply let Takakeisho attack. Didn’t try anything, and as soon as he got to the bales, just went obediently outside. Lose that extra weight, sekiwake. It’s painful to watch you when you are like that.

Takayasu delivers his usual kachiage, but the hefty Kaisei is rather unimpressed by it. But the Ozeki adds a half-hearted harizashi – half-hearted in that the harite was very weak, and the grip itself is not very strong. He then proceeds to propel Kaisei towards the edge, and loses the grip. Kaisei tries a desperate kotenage. The Ozeki stays on his feet, and soon finishes the Brazilian off. Kaisei is only 2-4, but that’s still a good record for this basho’s Maegashira 1-3 wrestlers.

The next bout is the highlight of the day. The unbeaten Mitakeumi in his second Ozeki bout, this time against a healthy Goeido. Goeido starts with a harizashi. Although it’s not exactly a harizashi as his left hand did not go inside (“harizashi” is a combination of “harite” – a slap – and “sashi” – an insertion of the hand under the opponent’s arm) but rather outside. So I guess the expression “slap and grab” works better here. So Mitakeumi has his right hand inside, and strives to “sashi” the other one as well for a morozashi (that’s the same “sashi” – a double-sided insertion of hands). But Goeido is not easily pierced. He locks his right armpit and moves forward with that unstoppable force that we wish he would show more consistently. By the time Mitakeumi has both arms inside, it does him no good whatsoever – he is already stepping on straw. Yet another one of the perfect records broken, and the Sekiwake misses an opportunity for a “quality win” for his Ozeki run. The King of Practice beats the King of Why-Practice.

Ikioi goes through his pre-bout routine with precision. Actually, it’s not his. He mimics Hakuho’s pre-bout routine to the last detail. The crouch with hands open palms up on his knees, the trot towards the towel. Every single point. And this is why it seems comical to me to see Tochinoshin – whose eye looks like a train wreck – flatten Ikioi on his face within half a second – which is mostly the time it took for them to complete the tachiai, rather than the time it took him to perform the tsukiotoshi. You can copy Hakuho’s external mannerisms all the way to the supporter on his right elbow, but once it comes down to Sumo, Ikioi is Ikioi (or as Bruce coined him, Ikiyoyo, because once again he is going to drop in rank after a barren visit to the joi), and Hakuho is… Hakuho.

However, today Hakuho seemed to be a bit of Ikioi instead of Hakuho. Hakuho knows he should make use of his much superior tachiai when faced with Shodai, and he does slam very quickly into the rank-and-filer. He tries to get a grip on Shodai’s mawashi with his left, but instead, it’s Shodai who gets a firm hold on the Yokozuna’s mawashi. Furthermore, Shodai manages a quick makikae with his left arm and gets a morozashi on Hakuho. Of course, at this point he is at the edge of the dohyo, but he knows how to use a morozashi, and attempts a throw which sees the Yokozuna flying in the air. Not something he would expect from anybody who is still an active rikishi.

Both men fall out. The gyoji points towards Shodai. Hakuho looks shocked. But a monoii is called. There is a question about Shodai’s heel – did it touch outside? And if not, who is the winner and who is the loser? After the conference, the shimpan reverse the gyoji’s decision – it’s Hakuho’s win. “正代のかかとが先に出ており” – “Shodai’s heel went out first”.

If you watch the replay, take a look at how Hakuho strives to keep the tip of his toe touching inside the dohyo, like a snooker player. As long as that toe is inside, it’s his win. He knew the toe was lost at some point there, and if it wasn’t for Shodai’s heel, which went out while Hakuho’s toe was still in, it would have been the same situation as Chiyonokuni vs. Asanoyama the day before.

Hakuho picks the prize money, but looks far from happy. He is still 6-0, but… right?

Kakuryu clashes heads with Tamawashi (why are you wrecking that fine brain, Yokozuna?), then proceeds with a tsuki-oshi attack – Tamawashi’s own weapon. Kakuryu simply looks great this basho. His only slightly icky bout was that little pull – day 2, was it? – but since then he has been formidable. If he keeps that up, we are going to have an awesome senshuraku.

Chiyotairyu, who so far didn’t look too good against any of the upper ranks, and went into this bout 0-5, faced Kisenosato in the musubi-no-ichiban. Rows on rows of flags pass by. Tachiai. Great clash. I think again their heads met. Chiyotairyu lands a couple of tsuppari, then pulls and lets the Yokozuna’s mass do the rest. In all the bouts so far, Kisenosato had an opportunity to come up with plans B and C. But Chiyotairyu leaves him no time to do anything before he gives him that last little push over the edge. First gold star of the tournament, and the Kokonoe man, whose Tanabata wish was “I need money”, not only got a hefty stack of kensho envelopes, but a nice extra income every basho from now until he drops below Juryo or retires.

Leaders (6-0): Kakuryu, Hakuho, Takayasu, Hokutofuji. (5-1): Kisenosato, Goeido, Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Ryuden, Yoshikaze.

yokozunameter-2018-aki-day-6

Aki Day 4 Recap – Casualties and Bloodshed

aoiyama-hokutofuji
Aoiyama pushed by Hokutofuji – yet another casualty

Day 4 is the day where the injuries start to make appearances in the top division. While yesterday we had to bid goodby to Seiro from Juryo, today Kyokutaisei announced his kyujo, and Aoiyama may be the next one in line.

The bouts of the day start at the very bottom with Ishiura facing Chiyoshoma. Chiyoshoma lands a firm morotezuki on both of Ishiura’s shoulders, to keep the Miyagino man from trying to get to the front of his mawashi. He follows this with a quick pull for a hatakikomi. But Chiyoshoma being Chiyoshoma, he just can’t keep his hands to himself and as Ishiura starts to rise, adds a hearty slap to the little man’s back that nearly sends him off the dohyo. Because what’s the best way to celebrate an easy win if not a good dame-oshi?

Kotoyuki decided to wear his light-cyan mawashi again, saying that the purple one, which served him when his girth was greater, is now too long and doesn’t fit well. Apparently, with a mawashi that fits, winning is easier. Apparently, it helps when you are faced with Chiyomaru, who is looking out of sorts so far this basho. Kotoyuki finishes him off with a few thrusts. Oshidashi.

I don’t know what the cause of Yoshikaze‘s ugly rash is, but it appears to be a +2 Blessed Rash of Victory, because the berserker keeps winning this basho. His rival today is Takanoiwa, who looked good in the first two days of the basho, and is now 2:2. Takanoiwa is not bad off the tachiai, but Yoshikaze just starts his engine and steamrolls him out of the dohyo, making sure the Mongolian is out before rolling head over heels himself.

Nishikigi looks very good this basho. He overcomes Takanosho‘s nodowa, lifts his opponent and starts a convincing tsuppari that brings his opponent to the rim. However, Takanosho manages to grab his arm and pull him down, giving him his first loss, by tsukiotoshi.

At this point Ryuden gets his freebie in the bout he was supposed to have with Kyokutaisei.

Okinoumi seems to be in control of the bout with Daieisho from the tachiai. Kachiage, then some tsuppari, then he encircles Daieisho and walks him over to the rim. But in doing so, he shifts too much of his own weight to one leg, and Daieisho uses that to twist him and reverse the outcome, winning by makiotoshi.

Hokutofuji slams into Aoiyama at the tachiai with that iron right hand of his. It seems the Bulgarian had his breath knocked out of him –  he doesn’t even try to start his own tsuppari, just stumbles backwards and falls off the dohyo with little assistance from the astonished Hokutofuji. While falling, he somehow hurts his ankle and finds it hard to rise back. The kachinanori – calling of the winner’s name and awarding of kensho if any – takes place without waiting for him to come up the dohyo and bow first. He goes to the shitaku-beya on his own feet, and later leaves the Kokugikan entering the awaiting car on his own feet – but he refuses to answer questions from the press, who report he looks in pain. Keep your eyes on the kyujo lists tomorrow.

Daishomaru drives his head into Sadanoumi‘s chest. Sadanoumi is not impressed, and moves forward. Daishomaru tries to circle around, but somehow steps outside before Sadanoumi gets off balance and falls forward. Sadanoumi wins, not a quality bout.

But the next bout, between Kotoshogiku and Shohozan, is certainly worth viewing several times over. Shohozan leads with his head into the former Ozeki’s chest at the tachiai, and gains a morozashi. Kotoshogiku quickly performs a makikae (switch from overhand to underhand) and operates his pelvic pistons. Shohozan turns and twists, but Kotoshogiku does not let go, and continues the chugging. Eventually Shohozan uses those artillery-grade guns to pull the pump off his feet – uwatedashinage. Good entertainment.

Takarafuji looks a bit hesitant off the tachiai. Perhaps he thought it was a matta. Tochiozan takes advantage of this, takes control of the match and drives the Isegahama man out, securing his first win this basho. Not a good day for that heya, by the way. All three of its sekitori lost.

Myogiryu gets Onosho in a lengthy nodowa, which he then converts into a pull for a hikiotoshi. This is Onosho’s third loss, and he is doing a lot worse than most of us would have thought. Also, it doesn’t look related to his injury. His game is just not as sharp as we would have expected, especially given his pre-basho practice sessions.

Asanoyama has Kagayaki chest to ample chest very quickly. One would think, with Kagayaki being the oshi-man and Asanoyama a yotsu-man, that this would give the advantage to the Takasago rikishi. But Kagayaki is not fazed, moves quickly this way and that, and eventually gets Asanoyama off-balance and down with a kotenage. As the NHK announcers noted, this leaves only two Maegashira with a clean slate: Hokutofuji and Yoshikaze.

Yesterday, I was afraid Shodai will get back into his old tachiai habit. He did his “good boy” stance, with his weight on his fists, and was awarded with a win. But to my relief, today again he started his tachiai on his feet rather than on his fists. Abi started up with his usual morotezuki. Landed a few thrusts – or were they nodowa? – at Shodai, who knew the drill: wait for an opening, grab a long arm, then get into your own game. In Shodai’s case, his own game is a morozashi and a yori-kiri. NHK showed footage of Shikoroyama oyakata in his Terao days, in which he engaged in a beautiful yotsu bout with his sworn rival. Why doesn’t he teach Abi some of that, then?

Endo keeps Chiyonokuni at bay, tries once or twice to get a grip, but when that doesn’t work, simply pushes him out with an oshidashi. Not a spectacular bout, but at least Endo secures his first win.

Now comes what was supposed to be a big bout – two Sekiwake facing each other in the first week. But Ichinojo is like a box of chocolates (in more ways than one). He tries to do something at the tachiai, but from there he just goes backwards and backwards, and over the bales. Mitakeumi fans will put that down to the might of the future Ozeki. I just think Ichinojo woke up today with his lower back acting up.

Put up Tamawashi against Tochinoshin, and you know that trouble is brewing. Tamawashi denies Tochinoshin the belt. A wild exchange ensues, and eventually Tochinoshin tries for a pull down, at which point it’s not clear whether Tamawashi’s elbow or Tochinoshin’s heel touched first. A monoii is called. Somehow through all this Tochinoshin bruises his eye and starts bleeding profusely. By the time the shimpan conference is over, it seems that the bleeding has stopped (it wouldn’t do to bleed on the dohyo). The shimpan call for a torinaoshi.

The torinaoshi starts with a heavy slam, after which Tamawashi is the one leading the attack. But Tochinoshin takes advantage of his uncontrolled forward motion and finishes with a tsukiotoshi. Tamawashi still doesn’t have a win this basho. Tochinoshin’s eye starts bleeding again, and doesn’t stop as he steps down and waits to give the chikara-mizu. I hope all his facial bones are in one piece.

Takayasu wrecking-balls into Takakeisho at the tachiai, then holds the bowling-ball’s face in his hand for a couple of seconds, debating in his head whether to rip it off or just rattle him to death. Eventually he decides that murder will not be acceptable, and just dumps him. Takakeisho once again finds himself doing less than dignified splits on the dohyo. Easy one for the grizzly bear.

Goeido and Ikioi starts off with a mighty clash of craniums (ouch). Ikioi starts a tsuppari and Goeido retreats, then pulls sideways. Ikioi falls like a stone. Hikiotoshi for the Ozeki.

Kisenosato and Kaisei enter into a heavy yotsu battle. Neither seems able to get a full mawashi grip, though. They each hold one side, and do whatever they can to deny the other. Kaisei is the first to get a firm grip on both sides, but Kisenosato uses his experience to shake that hand off again. Kisenosato then achieves his own double handed grip, and starts pushing the Brazilian to the edge. He has to summon every ounce of stamina to push the heavy man out, but eventually he does so, and stays perfect – though, like Tochinoshin, bleeding. Kaisei, as he heads down the hanamichi, does this:

kaisei-after-kisenosato

“At least I am extending my record” he later responds to the press mentioning the fact that this is the 35th loss he has vs. a Yokozuna (0 wins).

Hakuho starts for the third day in a row without any tricks or shticks. No harite in sight, just goes straight in for a grip. Only, he can’t get that grip on the bulky Chiyotairyu. He gets inside, but it’s a hidari-yotsu (left hand inside), and he is a migi-yotsu man. For a few moments he tries for the mawashi with his left hand, the right hand hanging in the air above Chiyotairyu’s arm. Then he gives up, slips out, catching the mawashi with his empty right hand, then executing an uwatenage. There is always a plan B. And a plan C.

Kakuryu and Yutakayama clash heads (oof, again), and the Yokozuna doesn’t give Yutakayama much time before he grabs his mawashi with his right hand, pulls aside and spins him around, then pushes him outside the dohyo. Nothing that Yutakayama tries to do makes any difference.