Day 4 – Five Men In The Lead


aminishiki-the-magician
Hatakikomus Magnificus!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flawless Leader group:

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

What a basho!

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

 

Day 3 – Katasukashi Galore


Elephant Crosses Dohyo
What Yokozuna Incident?

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

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

Now take a look at Yutakayama vs. Tokushoryu:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Some more lower-ranks action:

Osunaarashi – Takagenji:

For followers of Shunba:

Win for Shunba of Isegahama Beya. #sumo #fukuoka #九州場所 #相撲 #kyushubasho #kyushu #福岡

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Day 2 – Slip Slidin’ Away


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

 

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


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

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The boss, under pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

shunba
Obamaumi rising after Shunba’s Tsukiotoshi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Ura Gets The Chair
No more of this, please.

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