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

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

ikioi-yutakayama
Ikioi grabbing Yutakayama’s oicho-mage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ichinojo-kaisei
Ichinojo, feeling refreshed after a long nap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yusho Arasoi

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

Juryo

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

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

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

 

 

Tobizaru pretty much sweeps the floor with him.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 8 – The Lower Divisions

Short one today, as I really have to get going with my packing…

kotoeko-terutsuyoshi
Kotoeko toppling Terutsuyoshi

Let’s start with Takanoiwa vs. Yago. This was a lovely, prolonged bout, starting with a bit of tsuppari and continuing as a mawashi fight, with experience talking at the end.

A point to note on the sidelines: Takayoshitoshi arrives late and out of breath. His bout was the one after the next, and he should have been there on time in case his side lost, to give the chikara-mizu.

Josh included a video of Enho vs. Wakatakakage in his Ones To Watch summary, but Enho’s bouts are so entertaining, so here is the One-And-Only version, from a slightly closer angle:

Enho definitely needs to get himself at least a Terutsuyoshi body, and will need to do so in Makushita at Natsu, unless a miracle occurs.

Terutsuyoshi himself, as well as all the rest of the Isegahama Juryo rikishi, lost his bout today, to Kotoeko, whom he usually beats.

Yet another entertaining bout. I think they should create a division for rikishi under 175cm. It will be a marvel to watch.

At Makushita, the torikumi masters once again matched up zensho winners to test their strength and cull the race. Midorifuji met Nakazono:

The slight Midorifuji was no match for the massive Nakazono, and is now 3-1.

At Jonidan, I thought I’ll give you a glimpse of the oldest active rikishi – Hanakaze – who is nearly 48 years old – almost as old as myself! Here he is matched with Chida, a 20-year-old whose parents are probably younger than Hanakaze.

Nice to see his expression as he manages to escape the tawara that first time.

Finally, here are two Jonokuchi bouts, courtesy of the… Hattorizakura Channel… Yes, it’s a thing. And it features some darn high quality videos.

First, you won’t get away without Hoshoryu. Here he is pitted against one of the touchstones. That is, a rikishi who is extremely heavy, and whom you need good thinking and execution to beat. Kenho weighs 238kg, or so says the video title.

Hoshoryu tries a bit of tsuppari, then turns the big boulder around, and shows him the way out.

And since we are on the Hattorizakura channel, here is Hattorizakura’s 100th loss, at 4K, for your pleasure:

Note to lower division fans: I’m going to skip tomorrow, as I need to get ready for my trip. On Tuesday I’ll probably do a combined Juryo/Makuuchi post. After that, I’m on my way to Japan, and I hope I’ll be able to post stuff I have seen live on Saturday.

 

Day 6 – The Lower Divisions

Once again, Kintamayama has been in a generous mood and provided us with a Day 6 Juryo digest. Head over there and watch the whole thing.

Now, quickly repeat this sentence five times in a row: Takayoshitoshi beats Terutsuyoshi by okuritaoshi. The winner gets a free Acme Tongue Straightener.

Terutsuyoshi tried to reverse the charges and perform an ipponzeoi, but this time it didn’t work – his toe eventually touched the soft earth around the tawara and the gunbai pointed to Takayoshitoshi.

Why “this time”? Because he did something very similar with Takayoshitoshi’s twin brother back in November.

Takanoiwa got to do the splits, courtesy of Tochihiryu, a guy coming up from Makushita to fill in the gaps. Ouch.

Akiseyama is back to being a blob in a mawashi. He starts by launching a convincing tsuppari on Takagenji, but an attempt to switch to the mawashi gives Takagenji the initiative, and Akiseyama somehow manages to waddle his way out of the mess, and keep his place on the leaderboard.

Enho said in an interview on NHK yesterday that he wants to be a rikishi who gives the spectators an interesting match to watch. And he is certainly doing that. Only… he is already 1-5, has the worst balance in the three bottom ranks, and looks well on his way to lose the “zeki” suffix from his name and his newly assigned tsukebito.

mitoryu-helps-enho-up
Mitoryu lends Enho a hand up

Amakaze grabs his first win of the basho. I like Amakaze, I wish he may get a kachi-koshi, but winning his first white star on the sixth day means this is somewhat unlikely.

Homarefuji sends Gagamaru out under his own inertia, and is the only sekitori from Isegahama to win a bout today. By which I’m spoiling the next bout, which is Kotoeko vs. Terunofuji who is back to haunting the dohyo rather than dominating it. Kotoeko gets inside and lifts Terunofuji up, and the ex-Ozeki sums it in his own words: “My worst executed loss so far. If I don’t move forward I’m toast”.

(Well, my free translation of his own words, that is. He never mentioned any actual toasts in the Japanese version on the Isegahama website).

Tsurugisho can open a school to teach henka technique. That was the hennest henka in Kawashiland. Excuse the Japlish.

Aminishiki continues to suffer. He tries a heroic throw at the edge but can’t keep himself in balance long enough.

Sadanoumi loses for the first time in this tournament, and now nobody has a lossless record in Juryo.

Finally, Azumaryu meets Takekaze, who seems to be the genkiest we have seen him in months. Unless he gets very tired by the second half, the bullfrog is leaping back to Makuuchi.

Makushita

Midorifuji continues his winning streak, this time facing Ichiki:

Midorifuji is yet another rikishi in the “angry pixie” class – 169cm including his chon-mage. Ichiki here is slightly taller and heavier, but the more explosive Midorifuji wins the day.

Toyonoshima faces Asahiryu, the Mongolian from Asahiyama beya, and pretty much overwhelms him:

That boy is already two years in Sumo. He should put on some more weight.

Sandanme

Let’s take a look at Hikarugenji – that’s the man I introduced in the Pearl of the Day a couple of days ago. He is Arawashi’s tsukebito, and like most tsukebito, seems to be a fixture at Sandanme:

Here he is facing Chiyodaigo, the 20-year-old from Kokonoe. Can’t say this was exactly a matta, but Chiyodaigo seems to be caught off-guard.

Jonidan

Yoshoyama faced Kotoharamoto. I don’t have an individual bout so again, here is the complete Jonidan recording, time stamped for Yoshoyama’s bout (25:36):

I’m still not loving his tachiai, but the guy has technique alright. By the way, as the wrestlers start doing their shikiri, the announcer and the guest are discussing Kotoharamoto’s good sumo body, when the guy turns and shows the camera his front side. The guest promptly says “Oh, he reminds me of Kagayaki”. Jee, I wonder why.

The announcer calls that an okuridashi, but the official kimarite is actually tottari. He first has that hand in an ottsuke, and then converts that into a tottai.

Jonokuchi

And finally, we can’t do without Hattorizakura and his continued Sisyphean sumo life:

Day 5 – Below the Curtain

Makuuchi, you may know, means “Inside the curtain”. This is a reference to days gone by, when the top level rikishi were curtained off from the mere mortals, named “makushita” (“below the curtain”). In those days, there was no separate “Juryo” division.

And so, let’s go below the curtain.

Juryo

Everybody’s favorite Uncle Sumo finally managed to pull his first win in this basho.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, yes, he-e-e-enka. But it’s really not clear what Aminishiki tried to do there other than confuse Azumaryu. Then followed a short oshi battle which Aminishiki, much to his relief, won.

Another Isegahama beya man who finally got a win after three consecutive losses was Homarefuji.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both rikishi were patient and did a bit of leaning and thinking, but I think Takagenji should have reacted to Homarefuji’s grip change. He didn’t, and the circling continued, and eventually he found himself thrown.

On the other hand, Terunofuji and Terutsuyoshi, who were the leaders for Isegahama the previous day, had a bit of a reversal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terunofuji opened well, but Takanosho managed to turn and put him between himself and the Tawara. Unfortunately, the ex-kaiju still has no staying power on the bales.

Terutsuyoshi had to face the mawashi-wearing-spud, Akiseyama. Actually, today Akiseyama looked a bit more like a sumo wrestler and less like a lucky blob:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He doesn’t allow Hefty Smurf to get anywhere near the front of his mawashi, and eventually catches the little devil and throws him out unceremoniously.

Enho, the Less-Hefty Smurf, had to face Takanoiwa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was quite a match! Enho stuck to the front of Takanoiwa’s mawashi like bad reputation, and wouldn’t let go. Kudos to Takanoiwa for pulling Enho back from the edge of the dohyo after the yori-kiri.

The Juryo yusho arasoi looks like this at the moment:

5-0: Sadanoumi.

4-1: Takekaze, Gagamaru, Takanosho, Mitoryu, Akiseyama

If Takekaze keeps that up, we’ll see him back in Makuuchi by Natsu.

Makushita

Wakatakakage and Hakuyozan were both 2-0 before their bout today.

 

 

 

 

Hakuyozan denies Wakatakakage any access to his mawashi with a barrage of tsuppari. I think Wakatakakage was just a bit too slow today.

For those who were wondering how Chiyootori looks following his injury:

 

 

Well, there is a slight limp there at the end, but generally, despite losing this particular match, he seems to be in a reasonable state to do sumo. Whether he’ll be able to get his sekitori status back is another question. Rumor has it that he has been set as Chiyotairyu’s tsukebito, by the way. Former komusubi, I must remind you.

I’m skipping Sandanme, as I don’t have any quality video to share, noting only that finally Terunohana got his first win.

Down at Jonidan, Torakio continues his decisive race back to the next level. Yusho potential here.

By the way, Torakio may be the star of his heya, but the little smurf, Oshozan, is doing nicely this basho at Jonidan, despite being a rather self-effacing guy (based on his Twitter account, that is).

Finally, the great rivalry developing down at Jonokuchi: Naya, the grandson, vs. Hoshoryu, the nephew.

This is a bad angle for it, so you may want to watch the same bout at Miselet‘s channel, where the entire Jonokuchi broadcast is available. Naya has Hoshoryu in a firm grip and there is really no way for the lighter Mongolian to get away from that grip. I can well imagine these two in three years, throwing a spanner into each other’s Ozeki runs.

Day 4 – Juryo and Below

Not all divisions covered this time.

enho-terutsuyoshi
Terutsuyoshi picks on someone his own size

In the battle of the muscular pixies, the more muscular and experienced pixie, that is, Terutsuyoshi, had the day.

Enho has given Terutsuyoshi all kinds of trouble there, but eventually, the Isegahama man just grabbed his head and didn’t let go. Basically, trying for a hineri on a small opponent is not the greatest idea. Kotenage, and Enho will need to look for his second win someplace else.

In the match that followed that one, Akiseyama, the spud in the mawashi, gave Takanoiwa his second loss. Takanoiwa got a mawashi grip on him, but Akiseyama took advantage of an overcommitment and sent him to the floor in a tsukiotoshi.

Fans of the Flying Monkey, Tobizaru, will enjoy seeing him in his snowy Mawashi vs. Daiseido:

This was an energetic dance all over the dohyo, ending in a hikiotoshi by Tobizaru.

And of course I won’t leave Juryo without an update on the Ghost of Terunofuji, who suddenly looks a lot less ghostly:

Not quite kaiju as yet, but that was a convincing uwatenage, and the former Ozeki has three wins in a row and is probably safe from having to bid farewall to Shunba. On the Isegahama web site, he says he should avoid complacency, and first and foremost, go for a kachi-koshi. Well, now it seems like a realistic goal.

In Makushita, let’s take a look at Midorifuji in his bout vs. Ayanoumi. This developed into quite a lengthy battle, looking most of the time more like Mongolian Wrestling than plain sumo.

No monoii there at the end, and stamina king Midorifuji has the day.

Down at Jonidan, Torakio made another appearance:

That arm and shoulder clearly still bother him, but he uses them nonetheless. And his sumo style is improving.

At Jonokuchi, Hoshoryu made a second appearance as well. Again, I couldn’t find an individual video, so here is a time-stamped video of the complete Jonokuchi set of matches:

The rival is heavy Unzendake. Hoshoryu goes on the attack and manages to get that bulk to the tawara with a lot of gaburi yori. Unzendake does not rely on his weight alone to save him and tries to repel the Mongolian and even starts a throw, but Hoshoryu claims the throw for his own and makes sure he doesn’t touch ground first. That boy doesn’t look like it’s his first sumo tournament.

In an hour or so day 5 starts, and Jonokuchi has the interesting match between Naya and Hoshoryu. It will be Naya’s first real challenge, although he did beat Hoshoryu in the past.

And of course, the Hattorizakura loss-du-jour:

Day 3 – Juryo and below

As well as the exciting matches at the top of the Banzuke, we also had some interesting action below Makuuchi. Let’s start with Juryo, and this time I don’t need to embed a lot of videos, because Kintamayama has been extra generous and made a full Juryo summary of day 3. Head over there to watch it.

enho-after-takayoshitoshi
Enho, preparing to hand his first chikara-mizu in Juryo

Enho, Hakuho’s Mini-Me, finally got his first win today, against the other shin-Juryo, Takayoshitoshi. “I am relieved. I have been watching videos of my best past sumo yesterday”, he said afterwards. Tomorrow, alas, he faces my main man, Terutsuyoshi, in a bout I want neither to lose. Can’t we all just be friends?

Speaking of Terutsuyoshi, he brought Takanoiwa’s race back to Makuuchi to a stop today, defeating him by a spirited yori-kiri. Of course, this was a piquant bout, as far as the press was concerned, between a member of Isegahama beya (specifically, they all called him “Harumafuji’s ototo-deshi”) and Takanoiwa. Terutsuyoshi responded to that with “On the dohyo, it’s man against man. If you start bringing other people’s affairs on the dohyo, you wouldn’t be able to do sumo”.

Of course, if you are looking for schadenfreude, you can always follow Asashoryu’s twitter account. He was laughing in Japanese again today. But of course, it was because of a funny video. Not Takanoiwa at all.

Yago continues to struggle. Tomorrow he goes against Takayoshitoshi. Both are 0-3 at the moment, so at least one of them will get his first shiro-boshi tomorrow. I prefer Yago, of course.

And Terunofuji got a second win in a row, vs. the hapless Amakaze. There were reports in the morning that the former Ozeki was in an improved mood following his first win – he came to morning practice, practiced with Midorifuji, and was all smiles. His good mood continued after this win, as he wrote on the Isegahama site: “Winning after a long dry spell yesterday made me remember the trick to winning! LOL”. So the former kaiju is in a good mood, but if you look at the bout, it was still far from the real Terunofuji. He got a mawashi grip quickly enough, but couldn’t do anything decisive with it.

teru-amakaze

Eventually he lost his grip and Amakaze tried to make that into a sloppy tottari, and Terunofuji simply used his bulk for a couple of side bumps to make sure Amakaze fell first. At this point, he really can’t afford any futile attempts at good technique with muscles he doesn’t have. If he drops down to Makushita, he’s going to lose not just his salary and private apartment, but also Shunba.

Let’s go down a step and visit Makushita. The bout between Kizenryu and Ichiyamamoto became the talk of the day today.

chiyonoumi-kizenryu
Chiyonoumi wiping dirt off the injured Kizenryu

Here is the video:

The bout starts as usual, takes quite a while with nice Sumo on both sides, but it ends up with both rikishi diving head down and Kizenryu’s face meeting hard clay. Problem is, it’s really hard to tell who hit the ground first. A monoii is called, but Kizenryu is having a hard time getting up and off the dohyo. The first shimpan up (I believe it’s Shikihide oyakata) checks on him, and then the yobidashi.

With the help of the yobidashi he finally gets up, descends and awaits the referees decision. At this point all he has on his mind is probably going back to the shitakubeya and taking care of his bleeding face. But he is stunned (even further) when the shimpan call a torinaoshi.

By this time he has three yobidashi trying to wipe him off, and then Chiyonoumi, who is sitting down awaiting his own turn, gets up, fixes the stunned Kizenryu’s mawashi knot, proceeds to wipe the dirt off him, and then watches over him as he goes to the steps, in case he stumbles.

Ichiyamamoto adds matta to injury, but eventually Kizenryu manages to win by uwatenage. Dragging himself away from the dohyo, his face bleeding again, he doesn’t forget to turn around and bow. Wow.

(And yes, that’s a Maiko making her way to her seat right there at the end).

Kudos to Kizenryu for a heroic performance, and Chiyonoumi earned himself a new fan. What a mensch!

Chiyonoumi himself won his bout after that vs. Asabenkei:

Sotogake. And as one of the spectators mentioned, he looked like Chiyonokuni there for a moment.

Down at Sandanme, if anybody is interested to see what the new yumi-tori man’s sumo is like, here is Kasugaryu vs. Nakashima:

Kasugaryu is 0-2 so far. Perhaps it’s the bow ceremony that gets to him, because he certainly seems to have good technique.

And further down at Jonidan, while we are looking at bow twirlers’ sumo, Satonofuji went against Chura today:

Ah, yes. I think even an alien would recognize that this man is from Aminishiki’s stable.

Finally, at the very bottom, in Jonidan: remember I made a bit of fun of Urutora (Kanji aside, that seems to be the Japanese rendition of “Ultra”, and I think it’s intentional) and his huge gap from Naia? Well, he may be a poppy seed, but he is no Hattorizakura. Here he is against Azumayama:

I wonder what’s the story of this “Ultra” rikishi. He seems to spend a lot of his time kyujo and even banzuke-gai.

His rival from yesterday, the famous Naia, also competed today. This time his rival was Watatani.

Still no challenge whatsoever. Naya enjoys his new privilege (using nodowa – you’re not allowed to do that in amateur/youth sumo). We’re probably watching the Jonokuchi yusho winner here. Just sayin’.

 

Haru Day 2 – beyond Makuuchi

It was an interesting sumo day at the EDION arena. Bruce has already given you the highlights of Makuuchi. But there is much action to see in the other divisions.

terunofuji-gagamaru

Former Ozeki Terunofuji has broken a 6-month draught, winning his bout vs. Gagamaru by Uwatenage.

Yesterday Terunofuji said that while his knee problems are mostly gone, he has to contend with the diabetes at the moment. He was told that it will take him six months to get his body back in shape, and he is hoping, by working out as much as possible, to shorten that period. He was certainly happy about that long awaited white star, though you can’t see that in the video.

Our favorite Uncle Sumo is not doing as well, though. Yesterday Takekaze has given him a Hatakikomi from his own book. Today, despite much support from the Osaka crowd, he just couldn’t stand his ground vs. Kyokutaisei. He hinted on the Isegahama web site that his injury is not quite healed as yet.

Another crowd favorite who is not doing very well is our muscular pixie, Enho. I believe it’s mostly nerves rather than body size, though. The other shin-Juryo, Takayoshitoshi, has also lost both his bouts so far, and he is most certainly not vertically challenged.

I… wish he didn’t go for the henka. It’s unlike him. His tactic has always been to drive forward. Of course, variety would help. Instead of always going for a mae-mitsu he could try the same barrage of tsuppari Wakaichiro used yesterday. Anyway, don’t pull. Hakuho told him that he looked “lost”.

Not far away from him on the banzuke, is the returning victim of the Harumafuji affair, Takanoiwa. And he looks like he hasn’t been a day away from the dohyo:

Trying to get a mawashi grip, keeping his body low. Shimanoumi finds himself below the dohyo. Takanoiwa is now 2-0. Seriously, somebody should give Hakuho the address of the hospital where Takanoiwa was hospitalized all this time because it seems that their treatment program includes lower body exercise of top quality.

And here is a bout in which I wanted neither rikishi to lose, really, but I wish it was Terutsuyoshi who won at the end.

Note Terutsuyoshi’s coming back up the dohyo. The crowd appreciated that – as well as his usual generous salt throw.

Further down we go. Toyonoshima is still trying to overcome his injuries and return to Sekitori status. He promised the late Tokitenku that he’ll be back. But it is getting more and more difficult as time goes by:

His rival is Rendaiyama. You can see Toyonoshima’s experience – but like Aminishiki, he just can’t withstand strong attacks from younger rivals.

In Sandanme, I’m sorry to report that Shunba lost to Kaonishiki by oshi-dashi, as did Terunohana (kimedashi, to Daishokaku).

Down at Jonidan, after his stablemates appeared on day 1 with mixed results (Oshozan won, Sumidagawa and Honma lost), Torakio opened his Haru basho today. Something in his expression tells me that he finally knows where he has landed, and I’m not sure he likes it too much.

It’s no fun having a heavy supporter on your arm this early in your career. But nevertheless, he uses that very arm to throw Nakao and win by uwatenage.

One of the “ones to watch” – Yoshoyama – also made his first appearance today. His torikumi ended in a couple of seconds. There seems to be an improvement there, but I still see a Shodai-like tachiai there.

No individual video, so here is the time-marked video of the whole set of Jonidan torikumi:

(If the time mark doesn’t work for you, shift to 19m10s manually).

Finally, down at Jonokuchi, both the famous grandson and the famous nephew made their first public appearances (at least, the first on-banzuke). Let’s start with Naya, Taiho’s grandson. He was facing Urutora:

Quite a bit of difference in mass there… Shikihide oyakata certainly doesn’t believe in force-feeding his deshi. Not a real match for the huge Naya who swats him away as if he were a fly.

Hoshoryu – Asashoryu’s nephew – faced Nakanishi, the new Sakaigawa man. This was a totally different match altogether:

Ahhhh…. that’s real sumo. Before the basho, Takanosho decided to practice with Hoshoryu. Hoshoryu is a Jonokuchi newcomer. Takanosho a sekitori. And Takanosho found himself on his back. And seeing today’s bout, we know why. I don’t know if he’ll be a Yokozuna like his uncle, but that boy is certainly not going to be doing laundry and cleaning toilets for long.

Isn’t sumo great?

Video credits: One and Only, Miselet.

 

Update on Harumafuji Scandal: YDC, NSK special meetings and report.

Today has been a day full of news. The YDC held its special deliberation. The NSK board followed with its own, and as it turned out, Takanoiwa appeared from his genie’s lamp and testified to the crisis management committee.

rijikai

Background

 

Here is how things stood yesterday:

  • Harumafuji has handed in his resignation. He is no longer an employee of the NSK, but they do have to settle issues such as retirement money, retirement ceremony, etc.
  • Hakuho, and to a lesser degree Kakuryu, have been criticised for not stopping the violence in a timely fashion or preventing it from the start. Hakuho has also been criticised for his on and off-dohyo behavior in general. There was the matter of his matta protest, his yusho interview and “banzai”, and his style of sumo of late, frequently using harite and kachiage.
  • Takanohana has been waging a war against the NSK:
    • When he found out about the event, he did not report it to the NSK, only to the police.
    • He then refused to cooperate with the NSK’s crisis committee’s investigation, and allowed Takanoiwa to be interviewed only by the police. At first he said he will cooperate once the police investigation was over. Then once the prosecutor hands in a decision.
    • He also failed to produce a medical certificate for Takanoiwa’s absence from the fuyu Jungyo. The medical certificate for the basho was also questionable, as it seemed to have expired by the time the basho started.

Disciplinary measures as well as preventive measures were expected.

Takanoiwa makes an appearance

After the NSK crisis committee has already announced that they have “given up on interviewing Takanoiwa by the 20th” and that they will be handing in their report without his side being represented, and the NSK was hinting that they will be considering his punishment for the unsanctioned absence, Takanohana finally relented and released his deshi to speak to the committee on the night between the 19th and the 20th.

Here is Takanoiwa’s side of the story, as retold by the crisis committee representative in the press conference following today’s board meeting:

  • He only operated his smartphone after Hakuho’s lecture was over, and Hakuho and Harumafuji started talking about other things. He does not believe he did anything insulting or anything that justifies receiving an injury.
  • He felt demeaned by receiving a one-sided beating in front of other rikishi and the staff of his alma mater.
  • He only apologized to Harumafuji the next day because those same staff members advised him to do so. He himself did not feel it was merited.
  • Nevertheless, he says that he had no wish to see Harumafuji retire.
  • When asked why he lied to Takanohana at first and told him that he received his injury by falling down the stairs, he said that he didn’t want to cause an uproar, and that it was unmanly to tattle.

Further, Kagamiyama oyakata commented on Takanoiwa’s current state. Apparently, he is currently hospitalized, suffering from after-effects of the attack.

The YDC convenes, makes recommendations and deflects criticism

The YDC convened and discussed Yokozuna past and present:

  • Although Harumafuji already retired, they discussed the case as a precedent and decided that any such case in the future would merit an intai recommendation.
  • They recommended a severe reprimand to Hakuho and Kakuryu, for making light of their responsibility as Yokozuna to serve as examples, and to prevent any form of violence.
  • They also expressed a unanimous opinion that Takanohana’s behavior is unacceptable for an executive in any organization.
  • They also received many complaints about Hakuho’s “violent” style of fight these days, such as kachiage using a heavily bandaged elbow, or strong harite “for more than 10 bouts out of 15”. Adding that it was “not Yokozuna sumo, ugly, something we do not want to watch”.
  • When asked about their responsibility for the promotion of two Yokozuna who have retired due to scandal the head of the YDC responded that they have neither the ability nor the authority to conduct their own research into the candidates’ characters and have to ask the NSK members about that. Also, that they act on the request of the NSK.

The board convenes

Following the YDC’s meeting and recommendation, the board of the NSK also convened and made some decisions.

hakkaku
Hakkaku. Gave up three months’ salary.
  • For not having prevented the violence, being the most eminent NSK member present, Hakuho will be deducted his entire salary for the coming January, and half of his salary for February. This is estimated at ¥4,230,000.
  • Also for not having prevented the violence, Kakuryu will be deducted his entire salary for the coming January. This is estimated at ¥2,820,000.
  • There is a retirement sum awarded to retiring Oyakata, Yokozuna and Ozeki. Harumafuji will have some amount deducted from this retirement money, though the exact deduction has not been decided yet.
  • The head of the board, Hakkaku, decided to give up his own salary for the rest of his current stint. This means three months, until the next board elections. The sum is estimated at ¥1,448,000.
  • Isegahama oyakata has taken responsibility for the actions of his deshi, and handed in his own resignation from the board. He will therefore be demoted to yakuin-taigu-iin (executive member) instead of riji (director). (Note that he can be re-elected). Hakkaku added that Isegahama oyakata wished to resign already when Harumafuji resigned, but that he, as head of the board, asked him to postpone it until the investigation was over.
  • The board accepted the recommendation of the YDC to set a recommendation of retirement as the standard for any case of violence by rikishi at the top of the banzuke. They used the term “joi”, so this doesn’t apply only to Yokozuna.
  • The missing piece is Takanohana. The discussion of his part has been postponed to another meeting to be held on the 28th, together with the meeting of the board of trustees. “We will make a decision based on the explanation we will receive from Takanohana”, said Hakkaku.

Takanoiwa’s future

Kagamiyama oyakata said that in the board meeting, the board affirmed that they consider Takanoiwa as a victim of violence who should be protected by the NSK as a whole. He added that being kyujo from Kyushu puts Takanoiwa in Juryo on the next banzuke. However, should he need to continue his kyujo into Hatsu as well, considering the circumstances, allowances will be made as to his banzuke position.

takanoiwa
Takanoiwa. Will get to keep his silk mawashi.

Specifically, provided that he supplies the appropriate medical certificate this time, the NSK will not allow his banzuke position for Haru to drop below Juryo.

Preventive measures

All of the above are disciplinary measures. How is such an occurrence to be prevented in the future? Here are some of the suggestions brought up by the crisis committee as well as the board meeting:

  • Declare a “Day of violence prevention”, to make sure that this scandal is not soon forgotten as the Tokitsukaze scandal has been.
  • Create a code of conduct that will be taught and referred to in all pertinent cases.
  • The NSK board will form a violence prevention committee that will include independent experts, to hand in recommendation (one source says) by the 28th as well.

The story of October 25th, retold

In a comment to my previous post about the interim report, I said that I expect the story of what happened on the fateful day in Tottori to change again only once – on December 20th, when the final report is handed.

remote-control
Karaoke remote-control. May be used to zap away your career.

Truth be told, it did not change very drastically, but there are some interesting details surfacing. I’ll put parts that were not in the previous post in bold.

  • Dinner party. Present: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Takanoiwa, Ishiura, Ishiura’s father and other members of the Tottori Johoku high school, 13 people in total.
  • During the dinner party, which took about 3 hours, Hakuho took issue with something a friend of his told him that Takanoiwa said in September. Takanoiwa denied. Harumafuji defended him and Hakuho let the matter go. This whole exchange was in Mongolian, and the Japanese present did not know its contents.
  • The after party included most of those participating in the dinner party, at a lounge recommended by the high school staff. Beer was served in glasses, not in bottles. Hakuho lectured to Takanoiwa and Terunofuji about their daily conduct and that they should be thankful to their high school teachers. He also reproached Kakuryu for letting him do all the lecturing.
  • Takanoiwa, thinking that Hakuho has finished his lecture, started to play with his phone. Harumafuji saw that, got annoyed, and asked “Why are you playing with your phone when the dai-yokozuna is talking to you?”. This was apparently also in Mongolian. Takanoiwa first denied he was playing with it, then said “I got a LINE message”. Harumafuji asked “Is that important? Who is it from?”. Eventually Takanoiwa said “It’s from my girlfriend”.
  • Harumafuji hit him once, on the face.
  • Takanoiwa said “sorry”, but Harumafuji thought he was giving him a defiant stare. So he hit him on the head and face several times with his bare hands, asking “Why are you behaving like that? I was protecting you earlier! Are you trying to be smart with Yokozuna?“.
  • He picked up a bottle of Champagne and made as if he would beat Takanoiwa with it, but it slipped and fell without harming anybody.
  • Hakuho, watching Harumafuji, said aloud “Don’t use any objects”. As soon as Harumafuji started using the remote control, he stepped in to stop the beating and took Harumafuji outside the room.
  • Apparently it was several minutes from the beginning of the beating and its end, and over 10 but less than 20 slaps/punches delivered.
  • Harumafuji then returned to the room and demanded that Takanoiwa apologize, hitting him once or twice again with his bare hands. Takanoiwa said “I deeply apologize, I’ll be careful from now on”, so Harumafuji stopped.
  • Harumafuji also reprimanded kakuryu: “You are not guiding them properly”. Then he addressed Terunofuji: “You have no spirit when you do keiko. If you want to ask something, just talk to me!”. Terunofuji changed his sitting position to seiza and answered “We can’t say what we think. There is a wall between us”. Harumafuji retorted “You are the ones who created that wall!”, and proceeded to slap Terunofuji (lightly) once or twice. Terunofuji’s reply: “Thank you”.
  • Takanoiwa’s scalp was lacerated and bled. He also suffered an injury to his wrist.
  • When they left the lounge, Takanoiwa asked Ishiura “What did Harumafuji hit me with?”. Ishiura replied “I think with a beer bottle and remote control”. However, Ishiura did not see that with his own eyes.
  • Takanoiwa had his wound taken care of  the next day in a local infirmary, and initially told Takanohana that he fell down the stairs being drunk.

(Compiled from Nikkan Sports and Nikkei).

 

Summary of the Meeting of the Board of Directors of the NSK, Nov. 30

Yesterday, Nov. 30, the NSK Board of Directors held its regular meeting. In addition to run-of-the-mill stuff like the creation of a new heya, much of the discussion was around matters related to the Harumafuji scandal.

press-conference-nov-30

The board of directors finally succeeded in securing Takanohana’s cooperation with the crisis committee’s investigation. Takanohana claimed that cooperating with them will interfere with the police investigation. The board contacted the Tottori police by phone, and were told that the matter is left to their discretion. Eventually Takanohana agreed to cooperate once the police investigation is complete. The police is expected to hand its report to the prosecutor in mid-December. So the crisis committee expects to interview Takanoiwa and prepare a final report by December 20th. At that time, irregular meetings of both the YDC and the NSK board will be held, and further decisions will be made.

The decisions are not expected to relate to Harumafuji himself, as he is no longer an employee of the NSK.

Hakuho and his stablemaster, Miyagino oyakata, were called in to the meeting, and reprimanded severely for Hakuho’s conduct – the “matta” protest, the contents of his yusho speech, and the “banzai”.

Another decision was related to a publication in Shukkan Shincho (a weekly magazine) which claimed that Mongolian rikishi were exchanging Yaocho among themselves. The NSK will file a complaint against the magazine.

It was decided that since Takanohana is deeply involved in the current issue, he will sit out the Winter Jungyo, and Kasugano oyakata will take his place.

The crisis committee presented an interim report. They still need to interview Takanoiwa, but having interviewed everybody else involved, they believe the content is pretty much established. Following the board meeting, a press conference was held and the details of the interim report were presented.

Details of the assault

  • On October 25th, a dinner party was held by associates of the Tottori Johoku High School, to support their graduates. The dinner party included Hakhuo, Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Takanoiwa, Ishiura, and people from Tottory Johoku high. This was not a Mongolian-only meeting nor was it intended as such.
  • In the dinner party itself, Hakuho took issue with Takanoiwa regarding rude behavior he exhibited in September at some restaurant in Tokyo. In this instance, Harumafuji defended Takanoiwa and the matter was dropped.
  • Harumafuji usually had a soft spot for Takanoiwa, who has lost both his parents, because he himself lost his father. He would give him advice, buy him meals etc.
  • The after-party, which took place in another venue – a private room in a lounge bar – included most of the participants in the dinner party.
  • At the after-party, Hakuho started lecturing to Terunofuji and Takanoiwa that they should be dutifully thankful to their high school for their ability to do sumo.
  • Takanoiwa began fiddling with his smartphone. Harumafuji berated him for doing that in the middle of Hakuho’s speech. Takanoiwa answered “It’s mail from my girlfriend” with a wry smile. This angered Harumafuji, and he slapped Takanoiwa on his face once.
  • Takanoiwa returned a defiant stare and did not apologize. At this point Harumafuji proceeded to slap him about 10 times, and added a few hits to the head with the karaoke remote control, demanding the apology.
  • Harumafuji picked up a bottle of champagne and raised it above his head, but it slipped and fell. He did not hit Takanoiwa with a bottle,  did not attempt to throw any other object at him, and did not straddle him at any point.
  • Hakuho stepped in, and the beating stopped.
  • Harumafuji drank sake on that occasion, but was not heavily drunk, and has full memory of the entire affair. There is no evidence of bad drunken behavior on his part on previous occasions.
  • The result of the beating was an injury which required the use of a skin stapler.
  • According to the hospital that issued the medical certificate, it is doubtful that there was a skull fracture or a leakage of cranial fluid. [Note: this could also be translated as “there was a suspicion of fracture/leakage”. Choose your version.]
  • The medical certificate included a rest period of two weeks which was supposed to be from October 26th through November 8th, and he was released on November 9th after the hospital was satisfied with his state of health.

This summary is based on several news outlets, primarily:

Don’t Pin The Blame On Alcohol

On the third day of the Kyushu basho, when the news hit us that Harumafuji had beaten up Takanoiwa, I – like many sumo fans around the world – was shocked to the core.

harumafuji-press-conference

There are not many rikishi at the top of the sport whose perceived character is so far away from “violent drunkard” as Harumafuji’s was. This man was known for helping old ladies with their baggage, for being nice to children, for making himself available to fans. He was known for his habit of embracing his opponents after a yori-kiri, to prevent them from injuring themselves falling off the dohyo, and for being generous with his advice to young wrestlers as well as tough opponents. And he was also known for his responsibility to his rank, as demonstrated when he persisted in the Aki basho despite injuries and serial losses, because he was the sole Yokozuna in attendance.

How does one reconcile this image with that of a violent rampage in a bar? Many of us assumed that it was the alcohol. It’s not unheard of for people with good self-control to become violent under the influence. In one of my comments, I compared Harumafuji to Hercules: Hercules, who was a strong but gentle person, was struck by madness and killed his wife and kids. When the madness left him, he had to face what his own hands had wrought.

This was a fine picture to paint, but it left us with the puzzle of why the Yokozuna did nothing once the hangover was gone. Where was that famous sense of responsibility? How could he proceed in doing Yokozuna dohyo-iri while he knew that he committed an act of violence that was no less severe than the one that caused Asashoryu to retire? Was Harumafuji really such a cynical hypocrite?

Bruce suggested that the Yokozuna offered to resign but was denied until the NSK could think of the best solution. This, too, didn’t feel right to me. The worst time for any scandal to break is in the middle of a basho. If he had reported it at the end of the Jungyo, I would have expected the NSK to handle matters at least partially before the basho, and to at least instruct him to go kyujo and make himself scarce from the beginning to the end of the basho.

Another puzzling aspect was that it seems his answers to the police questioning were detailed and coherent. To me that seemed beyond the capability of a brain soaked in so much alcohol as to cause a man to entirely forget his values.

Earlier today, the Yokozuna and his visibly weeping stablemaster held a press conference, which shed some light on some of these questions.

When asked about the reason for the violence, Harumafuji said: “I feel that it is the duty of a sempai and a Yokozuna to correct low-ranking rikishi’s manners and conduct. In scolding him, I injured him, and this brought mayhem and trouble for everybody involved.”

When asked why he then continued in his daily life as if nothing has happened, he replied “I didn’t know that this would get to the papers. Takanoiwa came later to apologize. I told him to be thankful he has a big brother to guide him, and told him to take care and work hard, and we parted with a handshake. I didn’t think the matter would go any further than that.”

Both Isegahama and Harumafuji stressed that this was not caused by drunkenness. Isegahama said that he has never seen or heard rumor of Harumafuji being violent when drinking. Harumafuji repeated the same: “I have never hurt anybody or acted violently when I drank, and I have never been told that I act badly when drunk.”

Later the same day, Demon Kakka was asked to comment to the press about the Harumafuji resignation.

demon-kakka

Demon Kakka (formerly Demon Kogure) is this flamboyant rocker, who is known for always being in character, and for being a huge sumo fan. He is a popular sumo commentator. Some of you may have seen him in various sumo TV shows, including the “Sunday Sports” program in which he interviewed Harumafuji after the yusho he won in the last Aki basho.

Kakka gave the press the straight dope:  After saying that in his personal opinion, he would have preferred Harumafuji not to retire, he then continued: “In the sumo world the tradition of ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ is still entrenched. Harumafuji must be thinking: ‘Why am I being singled out about something everybody is doing’? The fact that this tradition is considered obvious in the sumo world makes the current problem a structural issue. Times have changed. The Yokozuna’s retirement is not going to solve the problem. The sumo world needs to think up ways to bring up its rikishi other than the current merciless system”.

Kakka has a point there. Take the case of Kasugano oyakata, who disciplined Tochinoshin and two other wrestlers by beating them with golf club in October 2011, for repeated violations of the dress and curfew code. After matters became public (because of an anonymous tip to the police), he admitted to “going to far”, apologized, got severely reprimanded by the NSK… And Tochinoshin and the two others apologized and were disciplined (in a more humane manner). He now serves as the head of the NSK public relations department.

Why should Harumafuji have thought that he would end up any differently? The picture now becomes much clearer. He didn’t actually think he did something as bad as Asashoryu. Asashoryu attacked a man who was not related to the sumo world. This is something that Harumafuji would never do. But Harumafuji thought that he was “doing it for Takanoiwa’s own good”. It’s not violence if it’s education, and it’s not education without violence, as Kakka said. And apparently Takanoiwa also accepted those terms. The Yokozuna did not think he did something a Yokozuna shouldn’t do until the matter hit the papers. Even after that, he was quoted as saying that “the one thing that he didn’t want to do was to retire”, continued to practice every day, and even announced that he will be kyujo for the jungyo. These are the acts of someone who believes he has at least some hope of keeping his rope and his hairdo.

It was not until the YDC made its “dealt with with utmost severity” statement that the Yokozuna realized that his act is not going to be treated like the Kasugano case, and had to offer his resignation hurriedly before the deliberations of the Banzuke committee.


Details of the press conference: NHK (Japanese)

Demon Kakka interview: Sponichi

 

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 2 – Slip Slidin’ Away

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Aki Day 12 Highlights

Goeido-Pissed

The Makuuchi yusho race changed subtly today, in that tournament leader Goeido lost his match to Shohozan, but the nearest competitor, Chiyotairyu, lost as well. But now there is an enormous group of rikishi at 8 wins that are two behind the leader. This has opened the tiniest of chances that something wild could happen in the final three days of this basho. The odds of that are still remote. There are 10 rikishi, including Yokozuna Harumafuji and Sekiwake Yoshikaze, who are 8-4 as of today. Goeido will face Harumafuji on the final day, and the outcome of that bout is not predictable.

Several rikishi secured their kachi-koshi today, including Endo, Arawashi, Daieisho, Onosho, Kotoshogiku and Yokozuna Harumafuji. Hokutofuji and Yutakayama both reached 8 losses, locking in a make-koshi and demotion of some sort for November’s Kyushu basho. In the case of Yutakayama, his second trip to Makuuchi did not pan out, and he will likely return to Juryo to try again.

In Juryo, there are 4 rikishi with 8 wins as of the end of day 12, and an additional 8 rikishi one win off the pace at 7. As has been the case in the past few tournaments, the Juryo squad seems to be very evenly balanced, and most of the scores cluster closely around the 7-8 / 8-7 median. Many fans are delighted that Aminishiki aka “Uncle Sumo”, is one of the co-leaders for the yusho. Ranked at Juryo 2, he has a very good shot of being on the promotion train for Makuuchi.

Highlight Matches

Endo defeats Sadanoumi – Watching this match, it’s clear that Endo is still a bit tender on the ankle that has been repaired. He picks up his kachi-koshi and has another couple of months to get more strength in that ankle. Sadanoumi really has not been able to generate much offense, and we can attribute that to the injury that had him kyujo for the first week.

Yutakayama defeated by Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru owned this match the entire way, and is fighting well for a mid-level Maegashira. Yutakayama is make-koshi and headed down to Juryo after his second attempt to land in Makuuchi seems to have failed.

Okinoumi defeats Takanoiwa – Out of the tachiai, Takanoiwa landed but could not hold a shallow left hand grip. Okinoumi, who seems to be feeling well enough to put some effort into his sumo, took control and delivered the win via tsukiotoshi.

Arawashi defeats Asanoyama – This was a great match, and both rikishi put a huge effort into their sumo today, and this battle raged on for a good amount of time. Probably one of the better matches today.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – A close ending to their first attempt resulted in a monoii, and a rematch. The rematch resulted in Nishikigi being stunned for a few seconds after a tsuppari knocked him to the clay. It makes me wonder if someone checks these guys afterwards to see if they have a concussion that needs to be addressed.

Kaisei defeats Takarafuji – I really must compliment Kaisei for a vast improvement to his sumo this year. I think the weight loss has helped him quite a bit, and he took care of Takarafuji today.

Onosho defeats Chiyonokuni – When Chiyonokuni is in good health, he really delivers some exciting sumo. The match was quick, but intense, with Onosho taking command straight at the tachiai and driving Chiyonokuni back. Onosho now kachi-koshi and will be back in the joi for November.

Aoiyama defeats Kagayaki – The man-mountain Aoiyama is getting into his groove finally, and really delivers a massive pounding to Kagayaki, who desperately needs to regroup.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Blink and you will miss it! Kotoshogiku deftly tossed Chiyotairyu like he was taking out the trash. Kotoshogiku kachi-koshi with this win, and it will be quite awesome to see if he can re-ascend to San’yaku for November.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – Mitakeumi has been dangerously close to a make-koshi trajectory, but today’s win over Shodai helps his cause quite a bit. If both Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze end up with winning records, we will see another banzuke with significant contention for the San’yaku slots.

Yoshikaze defeats Takakeisho – Great to see Yoshikaze overcome Takakeisho’s “Wave Action Tsuppari” attack. With Yoshikaze now safely in winning record territory, we know at least one Sekiwake will be staying put for Kyushu. Takakeisho needs to mix things up a bit, as his single dominant attack form will be decoded, and the countermeasure to it adopted by all.

Shohozan defeats Goeido – This would have been a massive shift in the yusho race if it had not been that every chaser lost as well. Goeido remains two ahead of everyone. They had a tough time getting started, with “Big Guns” Shohozan jumping the tachiai twice. The Ozeki’s two attempt at pulling Shohozan down left him off balance, and Shohozan exploited that mistake in a blink of an eye. Great effort by both today.

Harumafuji defeats Tamawashi – Straightforward bout, but it’s clear that Harumafuji is in pain with every step. With this win Harumafuji is kachi-koshi, and can make a strong case for keeping the scissors in the drawer.

More Thoughts On Day 11

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Good Sumo, Leaderboard Unchanged

There was a lot of great sumo action during day 11, and in the and of the day the basho is still waiting for Kisenosato to choke. Most sumo fans (myself included) hope and pray every time he steps in the ring that this time, he will stand fast and carry the day. But history teaches not to hold much hope until about 20 minutes after day 15 is done.

Incredibly enough, Ichinojo is still part of the pack in second place – tied with Hakuho. To underscore the bizzaro nature of Hatsu this year, we are now up to starting day 12, and the yusho race is still pretty much wide open. His opponent day 11 was the battered Osunaarashi, who had Ichinojo hand him his losing record and demotion today. Ichinojo is fighting pretty well now, after a somewhat lethargic start. If he can continue this intensity through a few more tournaments, he will be a real force.

Likewise Sokokurai, also tied for second place with Hakuho, delivered a fantastic bout against Takakeisho, who if fighting better than his 4-7 record would indicate. This is the big big news coming out of Hatsu – there seems to be a real power and skill surge in the lower and middle ranks of Makuuchi, and it is in sharp contrast to the weakness that is plaguing the Ozeki and Yokozuna ranks.

Another example, that blistering battle between Hokutofuji and Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu really needs to bring some new tactics to his sumo. It seemed the only thing he wants to try is pulling and slapping down his opponents. Hokutofuji, on the other hand, was damn impressive. He showed outstanding balance and ring sense under Chiyotairyu’s attack. Hokutofuji took his time and waited for an opening, then attacked. Both of these rikishi are college competitors, but Hokutofuji has been outstanding this basho.

But there was more, Takanoiwa (also tied with Hakuho for 2nd place) won a raging battle with Chiyoshoma. They bout covered the dohyo, with both men trying to throw each other repeatedly. Fantastic sumo from both.

Mitakeumi fever is gripping the Kokugikan, each day there seems to be a larger phalanx of Mitakeumi fans, all of them cheering their hearts out for him. Today Takekaze threw all of his tricks into the bout, and Mitakeumi did not fall for any of the side step or slap down attempts. Mitakeumi just kept pushing the attack, and moving forward. Mitakeumi earned his kachi-koshi today, so it’s time to see how many wins he can rack up.

Takayasu also hit kachi-koshi today in his win over Shodai, which was quite a one sided match. It’s now time to see if he can get to 10 or 11 wins and start another Ozeki campaign.

But the big match was Kisenosato vs Endo. I know most fans thought the Dump Truck got into trouble, and maybe he did. But I watch that match in awe of that win. Endo had the moves and mechanics to beat him, but when it came time for Endo to close the deal he could not. There was just too much Kisenosato to move. At time Kisenosato shows almost perfect defensive form, and it’s a thing of beauty. It’s kind of amazing to watch him lower his center of gravity to make himself immobile and yet remain highly combative. Props to Endo for having the mechanics, but not the leverage to move Kise.

Hatsu Leader Board

LeaderKisenosato
Hunt Group – Hakuho, Takanoiwa, Sokokurai, Ichinojo
Chasers – Goeido, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji

4 Matches Remain

Hatsu Day 4 Preview

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Shohozan Can End Kisenosato’s Boredom

Sumo fans are now clear on some of the questions and stories unfolding during the New Years tournament. Harumafuji is clearly having ankle and foot problems, and has a fraction of his normal power. His second straight loss, to Shohozan, was stunning. Harumafuji was easily pushed around and once again forced to the edge of the dohyo, where he could find no way to maneuver. In his healthy state, he would have taken the radical forward position of Shohozan and used it to launch him towards the spectators. I am hoping that he decides to bow out and seek immediate treatment for his chronic problems Day 4 he faces a winless Arawashi, which had better be an easy mark.

Hakuho is back, or at least back enough to be interesting and dominant. His match against Mitakeumi was classic Hakuho, where Hakuho improvised in the blink of an eye and left Mitakeumi baffled, off balance and lost. Day 4 he faces a winless Tochinoshin, which should prove no challenge.

Shodai is good, but green. If he can stay healthy he is probably going to be a solid Maegashira, or possibly Ozeki. His youth and inexperience are fairly easy to exploit by the veterans, and he leaves many avenues for attack wide open. It may be a few years of work before he matures into his better form. Day 4 he faces Kotoshogiku, who is a shadow of the Ozeki who won Hatsu last year.

Mitakeumi is where we all hope Shodai will be in 2 years. He has transformed from a pure push and slap rikishi into a healthy blend with mawashi technique, which is improving quickly. Day 4 he fights the highly reactive Yokozuna Kakuryu, which will be highly instructive. Mitakeumi has shown some impressive reactions himself mid bout.

Notable Matches

Osunaarashi vs Sadanoumi – Both of these sumotori come into this with 3-0, and both of them are quite capable men who are slumming at the bottom end of the banzuke this tournament. Osunaarashi is clearly hurting a bit more each day, but the only way he is giving up is on a stretcher. Osunaarashi comes in with a strong career 3-1 advantage over Sadanoumi.

Kagayaki vs Ishiura – Ishiura is facing a rather embarrassing start to Hatsu. At this point I think he has probably been humbled, and I would like to see him re-assemble his sumo and win a few. But his sumo seems vague and frantic right now, and everyone knows you can slap him down. Ishiura has won all 4 of his prior matches with Kagayaki.

Takanoiwa vs Chiyonokuni – After having a string of mediocre to poor tournaments, Chiyonokuni seems to have finally adapted to his bulkier form. Takanoiwa has been doing very well, with a 3-0 record to date. Chiyonokuni will likely go for another thrust down (tsukiotoshi) in this pusher battle. Chiyonokuni has a career record of 6-3 over Takanoiwa.

Yoshikaze vs Endo – Battle of fan favorites today. Yoshikaze has added a nice blend of yotsu-zumō to his normal regimen of oshi-zumō. As a result it’s harder to guess what he is going to bring to any given bout. With Endo almost exclusively pushing, I would not be surprised to see Yoshikaze repeat his day 3 attack plan. It’s 4-4 between Yoshikaze and the younger rikishi, Endo

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Takayasu skillfully dismantled a struggling Goeido on day 3. This is more of the form that had been present through much of 2016. Strong with the endurance to wait for his opponent to make a mistake, and the speed of mind and body to make them suffer. Tamawashi positively dismantled Shodai on day 3, and is looking strong. Their series is tied at 5-5.

Kisenosato vs Shohozan – Kisenosato has been bored. You can see his boredom clearly on day 2, where his match was clearly disappointing. The man looks like he is working out how to paint his house and for a moment remembered to Tamawashi aside. Shohozan has been bringing a lot of muscle and fierce energy to his bouts thus far. I am hoping that finally, Kisenosato has something to look forward to. Kisenosato has a career 9-2 advantage over Shohozan.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – With Harumafuji hurt, Kakuryu is a clear contender for the yusho this early on. Today he will instruct Mitakeumi on assumptions. Mitakeumi will assume Kakuryu’s battle plan, and likely be mistaken. Or we could see a mighty zabuton snowstorm once again. Clear advantage to Kakuryu.
Note: Second match for Wakaichiro in the early hours of Wednesday in Tokyo. Again, if we can get video we will post it here.