Tochinoshin Kyujo

NHK Sports is reporting that Tochinoshin will not compete on Day 7. Shodai will get the fusen win. Obviously, we will try the best we can to get information on the severity, and whether he will return this tournament. We’ll remember Endo returned after going kyujo last tournament and did not win any bouts after a 3 day break. As Ozeki, Tochinoshin now has a serious advantage. If it turns out this is a serious injury, he could stand to go kadoban and plan to come back in September. If it is even more serious, he could stand to go back down to ozekiwake in November, win 10 and come retain his Ozeki rank to start the year. But, this being sumo, he’ll likely be back by Monday.

We now have no Yokozuna and two Ozeki. As things stand, we’re looking at Goeido/Takayasu showdown on the final day. Woo. This basho is melting…melting…

The_Wizard_of_Oz_Margaret_Hamilton_Judy_Garland_1939

Update: Tochinoshin’s medical certificate is for “Damage to the collateral ligament of the MTP joint of the great toe. Requires about 1 month of rest and may require further treatment”. (Source: Nikkan Sports – Herouth)

Tanabata Wishes

This post originates in quote-retweets I made of the relevant NSK tweets. Josh suggested I collate them into a post. So for the benefit of those who don’t follow my Twitter account, here is the collation:

tanabata

Tanabata is an ancient Japanese festival, celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month. Nowadays, it’s mostly celebrated on July 7th.

The main Tanabata custom is to write one’s wishes on a small piece of paper called “tanzaku”, hang the wishes from a bamboo – sometimes with other decorations – and then float the bamboo, wishes and all down a river or burn it around midnight or the next day.

This year Tanabata falls on Saturday, July 7th – the day before the Nagoya basho.

A couple of days ago, a rikishi-kai took place. “Rikishi-kai” is both the name of the meeting of sekitori taking place before each basho, and the body of sekitori itself. As a worker’s association, it’s pretty useless. But they have a fun meeting before each basho, sometimes raising money for charity, and sometimes just giving fans an opportunity to meet their idols and get photos.

Given the date Tanabata falls on, it’s no wonder that sekitori attending the rikishi-kai were handed tanzaku, and asked to write their wishes on them. Their wishes will be hung at the Dolphins Arena (the location of the basho) during Tanabata. Here is what they came up with:

Sokokurai: “I wish my injury to heal”. Ouch.

Yago (in an Oguruma yukata): “Promotion to Makuuchi”.

Seiro: “To aim for the top!!”. So, you wish to aim for the top or you wish to get to the top?

Hidenoumi: “Establish myself at Makuuchi”. No moro yo-yo for Mr. Magenta Mawashi, please.

Daishoho (in a Kakuryu yukata): “Promotion to Makuuchi”. Well, if a cute duck-face can get you there…

Takanosho: “Promotion to Makuuchi”. I hate to tell you this, but the gods can only arrange for a small number of promotions each basho. 😁

Takagenji and Shohozan kept their wishes a secret (they are showing the side with their names):

Daiamami (in a Fuji TV yukata? wow): “I want brand new kneecaps”. Ouch.

Up to Makuuchi, Hokutofuji wishes to advance to san-yaku:

Ishiura: “I want to make another child”. Heh, give your wife a little rest, will you? She just had a baby. Or is this just code for “I want to get some”?

Asanoyama (in the ever-popular Chiyoshoma yukata): “Double digit wins”

Nishikigi-mama: “Health above all”. Nishikigi for chairman of the board! Who’s with me?

Kyokutaisei (in a Hakuho yukata): “Have savings!!”. Let me guess, the guy is recently married. 😆

Chiyotairyu: “I need money”. Somebody please give the Kokonoe koen-kai a call. Help a poor rikishi, will ya?

Endo: “Get through the group stage”. Bruce claims this is about the Tachiai Sumo World Cup. I have a hunch he was talking about Team Japan in the FIFA World Cup. And he got his wish, though I wish those last 10 minutes would be erased from history.

(Yeah, yeah, derailed here).

Abi worrying what he should wish for. Yes, that’s his worried face.

Chiyonokuni (in the new designer Kokonoe yukata) wants to advance to sanyaku:

Shodai: “I want a watch”. I’m sure he’s not addressing the gods… You want Japanese make or Swiss make? I’ll bet many of his sashi-ire (gifts to rikishi… or prisoners…) in the coming weeks are going to be ticking.

Mitakeumi: “I want to become handsome”. Well, he is using the word “ikemen” which is a manly man kind of handsome. There has been an argument about this on Twitter, in which some of the ladies claim that he already has his wish, whereas I claim that despite his obvious sumo prowess and good nature, he looks like a carp in a mawashi.

Tochinoshin: “I want the yusho”. Well, duh!

Hakuho: “Win #1000”. He is referring to number of wins in Makuuchi – he wants to pass 1000. He won’t make it this basho, though, as he is still 17 or so short, and I’m sure he doesn’t want the gods to extend the basho to 17 days.

Finally, we end with the leader of the banzuke, the surprisingly genki yokozuna Kakuryu: “I wish not to be injured”. I’ll add my voice to that, Amen. Chuckle for coming up with a wish that requires no kanji (“kega” is written in hiragana or katakana more frequently than in kanji).

“I’m glad there’s such a great community around sumo” – A Conversation With Jason Harris (Part 2)

Jason Harris: Yokozuna
Photo courtesy of Jason Harris

In the second and final part of our interview, we’re happy to present more takes from the very popular Jason Harris of Jason’s All Sumo Channel. Here, he shares more opinions on what he’s looking forward to in sumo, some fantasy matchups that he would create on the dohyo, and the role of YouTube videos in the English speaking world where content can be hard to come by.

If you missed Part 1 of our interview, click here to check it out. As in part 1, the interview has been edited for clarity and length. We’ve embedded Jason’s “Welcome” video for the upcoming basho as well, so make sure to tune in to learn more about how Tachiai has partnered with him for his upcoming contest this month.

Tachiai: In all of your time watching sumo matches over the years, is there one particular matchup (either because it was something a lot of people related to on the channel, or just because it’s something that you’ve enjoyed) between two rikishi that you could just watch again and again?

Jason Harris: Oh boy! There are so many. I went back through some of old playlists recently, because I wanted to see how it started, and I watched a match here and there. I loved it when people came not out of nowhere – because sometimes they were Ozeki – but when they just won that one tournament. People like Kotooshu and Baruto, or even the wild basho that ended up with Kyokutenho winning – those were very fun [to watch]. Of course, in 2008 & 2009, the showdowns between Asashoryu and Hakuho were always fun to look forward to on Senshuraku.

Videos that stick with me the most probably have to be Harumafuji matches, like when he did the back to back 15-0 [tournaments]. Even when he won recently [in September], I was so happy for him. What happened to him was a terrible way to go out, but he seems to be OK with it. He’s going to have his hair-cutting ceremony this year and I think he’s going to stay in Japan and try and stay connected with sumo.

One of the things I like, that I wish I could show more, is when I get to watch on the weekend for my own enjoyment: They do a pretty good job on NHK of having guests go over sumo history. Every now and then, they’ll show an old Chiyonofuji match, or one of the big Americans like Akebono. I really have zero knowledge of sumo pre-2004: I came into a complete void, I’d never seen the sport before. So, when I get to see older matches from the 80s and 90s and even before that are in black and white, I love watching all that old stuff, it’s great. The amazing thing about watching Hakuho [now] is that I have watched Hakuho from Day 1, attaining Yokozuna and being the “GOAT” that he is. Every record that he’s broken, they go back and show you, “Taiho (or someone) did this and Hakuho beat that record.”

I’m not one of these baseball fans that knows all of these players on the roster going back to the 30s, or one of these football fans that’s been rooting for the team since I was 5 years old. Sumo came to me when I was 36, but it is a huge part of my life. It’s amazing to me that it takes place so often and at such a high level. I can’t think of any sport aside from maybe tennis, where you have tournaments every other month! It’s not easy winning a yusho in professional makuuchi sumo, and they really do go all out every other month.

I wish more people in Japan would watch it, because I go to work sometimes, and I’ll be high on the previous day’s tournament, and I just wanna be like: “Man! Did you see Kisenosato? His arm was falling off! And he won that match (laughs)!” And it’s just crickets. The kids aren’t home from school yet [when sumo is on] and the adults are blasé about it. There’s one old guy at work now who talks to me about sumo. I love to wear my sumo shirts around town – people love that a foreigner is so invested in it.

Tachiai: I’ve had similar experiences. I want to go back to something you said about watching matches in the 2000s up through now. This is a Marvel vs DC kind of question: let’s bring two universes together. If you could pit any current rikishi against a former rikishi from when you started watching to create an ultimate fantasy matchup, what might that be?

JH: The obvious one has gotta be Chiyonofuji against Hakuho. That’s the Muhammad Ali vs X, or Michael Jordan vs X… the matchup for the ages. When you look at Chiyonofuji, he’s just so muscular! He doesn’t look fat to me! My gosh, I can imagine how formidable an opponent he must have been, and to see him fight Hakuho!

I loved how Harumafuji was so quick and so good with technique, and I think that was the one thing that allowed him to have any yusho wins during the Hakuho reign. It would [also] be great to see somebody like Ichinojo who’s now tipping the scales at 225kg against somebody like Akebono or other huge guys from the past. It would be great to see some Americans make it back up to the top division, and have that fun pride. We talk a lot about foreigners in sumo, and now we’ve got a guy from Texas, that Tachiai promotes a lot, Wakaichiro.

Fantasy matches are fun to think about. Hakuho vs. Chiyonofuji though, that’s gotta be the one, right there.

Tachiai: I’ve got a question coming up now from Andy, who runs the site.

JH: Yo, Andy!

Tachiai: Andy is curious as to your thoughts on Araibira, who used to put the whole NHK feed on Youtube before he got shut down and moved over to Vimeo. Firstly, have you ever been worried about how close you might be cutting it in terms of the amount of content you put on Youtube, and how the authorities might feel about that? How do you, as a person who’s in that space, react to seeing someone else having to move off Youtube and onto another platform?

JH: Araibira was a nice dude. I talked to him a few times back when he was popular. He had some feed – not proper NHK. The thing that I think got him in trouble is that he was so quick, and he would put up the matches literally minutes after they were live, and he just would take the footage and post it. And that’s kind of direct competition [with NHK] in a way. He wasn’t adding commentary or anything, and I don’t think he wasn’t using an English feed, it was all in Japanese. So he got in trouble and taken down. I don’t know if he’s still over on Vimeo. If he is, then good luck to him.

I could never match the speed of Kintamayama, who does a really good job with his editing. I feel like I just offer a slightly different product, and you’re not going to get the whole day [of matches]. I don’t live in fear of the channel being shut down, but I know that at any point it could happen. I would just have to be sad, and be like: “oh well.” And then move on.

It is completely not my content, which is why I’ve never put any ad on any content, I’ve not monetised [my videos], I’m not a partner on YouTube. It’s just a portal for me to share what I love about sumo with other people… and I’ve been attacked for it. There was a guy who wrote a whole article in The Japan Times about two years ago, calling me bad names and saying “why is this allowed?” And I thought, “well, that’s it, they’re going to shut me down.” But they didn’t, and I heard from other people that guy is kind of a crank anyway! [editors note: the writer in question was not current Japan Times sumo writer and friend of the site, John Gunning]

Every now and then, especially when I first started, NHK would flag this video or that video, and then I’d say “oh, damn!” People would ask “where’s so and so… where’s the Kaio vs. Asashoryu match, the final match of the day?” And I’d just have to say, “yeah, it got snagged.” When people first watched my channel, they just got used to that. But it really hasn’t happened since 2011, since they changed the broadcast.

I think NHK are trying their own thing at streaming services and apps and it hasn’t quite come all together yet, and they’re really leaving me alone. And I’m very thankful about that. Because I think as much as I do it, and I’m in English (and I don’t want to toot my own horn but I’m kind of the most high profile person posting in English), there’s probably tons of people posting and reposting NHK sumo in Japanese. I don’t type in kanji for the names of the wrestlers and see all of those videos. So I’m sure that happens a lot and I’m just not aware of it. If you’re going to ask me to justify what I do, I feel like I’m spreading the sport around to people who wouldn’t normally get to see it.

Tachiai: That touches on the second part of Andy’s question too, which is that in an era where only so many fans around the world can make it to Kokugikan or one of the other venues around Japan, it’d be interesting to get your take on what role videos like yours and other online content can play in the spread of sumo as a sport. Specifically for people who can’t get there: maybe they’re in Japan and it’s too far away, or they’re in other countries and are never going to make it there. What roles do these videos play in creating more fans? 

JH: Absolutely. If I lost my job tomorrow, and I had to move back to California, I would want my channel: somebody who does what I do, so that I could keep watching sumo in America. Now, I would be lucky, because the US has a large Asian-American population, so there’s a cable channel you can get called TV Japan, and it’s $25 a month, and you can watch sumo on it. But sumo is on at midnight or whatever it is in America because of the time difference.

NHK World, I gotta admit, is doing a good job. They’re stepping up, they’re putting out these [daily] summary videos. They’re fairly accessible, they’re free, and they get reposted on YouTube a lot! They’re not comprehensive, they don’t show every match of every day, they drop 1 or 2, but it’s a good way to get into the sport too.

I just hope there’s still something my channel can offer that’s not redundant. If people say “I can go to NHK World, why come to your channel?” Hopefully people find interesting things, and the fact that I’m reacting to it live most of the time is a little bit of a different flavor. A lot of people surprisingly don’t just want to see the tachiai and the outcome. They want to see the ritual. They want to see the salt throwing, and the stare down, and the replay, and all of those things that I provide.

And it’s definitely a big space! It’s a big huge thing, YouTube. I know for a fact that people in Mongolia, and people in Georgia, and Canada, and all the places that I get a lot of hits from, their source for sumo is YouTube. Maybe they don’t have that [premium] cable channel in their country. I’m sure now in Georgia, they probably do have somebody watching [and posting updates]. I know they’re going to be watching Tochinoshin closely this tournament, but who knows if they still cover sumo in Estonia now that Baruto’s gone.

So many people send me messages and say “I used to be stationed in Okinawa as a soldier,” or “I used to live in Japan where I was a teacher,” or “I was a student,” and they are reigniting their nostalgia and feelings for sumo by seeing some of my videos and starting to follow the new guys. And that’s great. That makes me feel great and I’m just glad that there’s such a great community around. Tachiai, and my channel, and people on Twitter, and what John Gunning is doing: everybody is talking about it in English, which is an important part to spread its popularity.

Tachiai: I agree. I certainly feel it because a lot of the content that I personally write for Tachiai is covering stuff that happens outside the top divisions: things that happen in the lower divisions, and how guys making their debuts are doing, and things like that. And it’s hard enough for us to see the content from the top divisions in America. There’s just absolutely NO WAY that without the folks who are there at Kokugikan at 10am shooting video from the Jonidan division and posting it on YouTube, that it would be possible. It just wouldn’t.

So finally, our last question… what are you looking forward to in sumo over the course of the next year or so?

JH: It’s hard. Talking to sumo fans, Japanese sumo fans have their own point of view because they are Japanese and they want a Japanese champion… and then they got Kisenosato and then they didn’t, know what I mean?

Tachiai: Yeah. 

JH: He became Yokozuna, and then unfortunately, bad things happened and he just couldn’t keep it up. I think – and it’s funny, because I get called out for this a lot, people [think I don’t like him] – that Hakuho is the greatest of all time. Absolutely. We are in a special era to be able to watch him on a daily basis.

Tachiai: He’s trying to make it until the Olympics.

JH: He’s talked a lot about that. Sure. But we don’t want diminishing returns, he should go out on top.

Tachiai: Well, he is trying to get 1,000 wins in makuuchi. That’s the next thing. He’s 28 wins short.

JH: I hope he gets that! You know, I feel like he should get a little more respect from some of the other fans. It’s hard when you’re that consistently good and you’re always winning, people do then cheer for the underdog because they just want somebody different.

But that’s not a reflection of how good he is and how much he deserves, because if somebody could have stepped up to him, then certainly I think he would have been happy to have had a good rival. Not that Harumafuji wasn’t a good rival, or Kisenosato, but they were not and are not him. And when Asashoryu left as unceremoniously as he did, we really lost that good rivalry.

So, my hope for the next couple years is that we do see some of these new guys: the Enhos, the Abis, the Mitakeumis, these guys come up, and a new crop take over the san’yaku. And some new blood, and some new really strong rivalries that will really keep us entertained for the next 4 or 5 years. Harumafuji’s retired, and there’s talk that Kisenosato might retire this year. There was talk about Kakuryu, but that’s gone, he’s back pretty strong. I don’t think Hakuho is going to retire, but I don’t think he’s going to dominate like he did in the past. It’s the middle of 2018, so he’s got to stay wrestling for 2 more years to get to the Olympics? He could do it! He’s not that old.

Tachiai: He’s 33.

JH: Yeah, so you look around at some of the other guys [over the years] who were able to hang on. Kaio was able to hang on because he had that Ozeki “safety net.” Aminishiki has stuck around, he is going to be 40 soon. But to be a Yokozuna like Hakuho, and have everybody gunning for you, it’ll be interesting [how long he can keep going].

I’m excited about the next couple years of sumo. I think we’re going to have some great tournaments, and in each basho some story emerges that you weren’t really prepared for – along with the standard narrative: “Hakuho’s going to dominate.” What’s going to upset that apple cart may be more interesting.

I’m looking forward to it. I plan to live in Japan at least until 2021. At that point I’ll be turning 50, and then I have to think about what I want to do from there. I hope the channel stays around, and stays popular, and sumo is still a lot of fun for everyone for the next 3 or 4 years at least!

Thanks again to Jason for taking the time to chat with us. You can find his channel on YouTube by clicking here, and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

Georgian Wine Review (Part 1)

 

Georgian Sparkling Wine

Yes, it’s been a while since Tochinoshin won his yusho but I finally have an opportunity to write about Georgian wine. You see, here in Montgomery County, MD, we have weird alcohol laws. Our town was actually dry for a long time after prohibition and even now there are strict laws that limit the sale of alcohol. My wife was in DC the other day and picked up a Georgian sparkling wine and a Georgian red wine.

Dinner

 

I’m no oenophile so I’m not going to talk about fancy tasting notes. I did pick up a bit of a yeast-like smell that I often smell with sparkling wine and champagne. My wife is a certified wine expert in Japan and her only issue with it was that the bubbles were not quite as active as she likes, particularly the next day. I must say, it was not flat and seemed pretty active to me. But today it is noticeably less “bubbly” than other second-day sparkling wines I’ve had. Anyway, I liked it. It tastes good and only cost $11 for the bottle.

She also bought a red wine so I’ll post about that in the next few days after we drink it. But tonight we had gorgonzola pasta with our bubbly.

Jungyo Newsreel – Days 15 and 16

Day 15

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

🌐 Location: Takasaki, Gunma prefecture

Kiddie sumo – Abi purifies a scalp:

abi-purifies-boys-head

Trust Abi to be more childish than his child rival.

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

yutakayama-the-tachimochi

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

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

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

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

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

Day 16

 

three-yokozuna-backs
Unryu, Shiranui, Unryu

🌐 Location: Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo

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

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

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

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

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

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

enho-wedgie

Especially from this guy:

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

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

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

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

This time I have several bouts to show you.

A few seconds of Enho vs. Akiseyama:

I guess all that practice pays.

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

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

And here is the full Hakuho vs. Kakuryu bout.

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

Jungyo Newsreel – Catching up at Kanagawa

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

So what happened during that interval?

Little girls can no longer participate in kiddie sumo

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

Hakuho’s father passed away

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

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

hakuho-funeral

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

hakuho-funeral-son

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

Kisenosato joins the Jungyo

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

kisenosato-tsuna-shime

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

Terunofuji and Aminishiki absent

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

Birthdays

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

ichinojo-25

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


So let’s now proceed to the daily coverage.

Day 13

🌐 Location: Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture

Here is Chiyomaru’s version of kiddie sumo:

Ahaha… poor kids.

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

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

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

kakuryu-vs-endo

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

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

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

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

Day 14

🌐 Location: Fujisawa, Kanagawa prefecture

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

fierce-robbers

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

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

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

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

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

Kisenosato vs. Kaisei:

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

Kisenosato wins today’s yusho.

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!

A Weekend of Hana-Zumo

There is no Jungyo in February. Hence no Jungyo coverage. But luckily, the world of sumo takes pity on sumo-starved fans, and spices this cold month with exhibition events, called “hana-zumo”.

These events generally take place in the Kokugikan in Tokyo, meaning they are much easier on the wrestlers than Jungyo events – no traveling, practicing in their own heya, eating the chanko they are accustomed to, and so on.

This weekend included two back-to-back hana-zumo events. On Saturady, as Bruce already mentioned, there was the NHK charity event, which has been held for 51 years now. The most startling news item from this event has been this:

chiyotairyu
Elvis has left the building

This, my friends, is Chiyotairyu. Sans sideburns. Rumor has it that Ichinojo heard that Chiyotairyu had mutton chops, and just ate them.

I don’t know how I’ll recognize him from now on.

There was sumo jinku:

And kiddie sumo:

kiddie-sumo
Sumo in Neverland

And of course, there were bouts. Here is the Makushita “yusho” bout (Makushita was in elimination form). Enho…

…may eat a lot of similar crow up in Juryo. I hope he (or Hakuho, his master) finds a solution for this soon.

And between the bouts, it’s not hana-zumo  (or Jungyo) if you don’t get this scene:

hakuho-and-yobidashi.jpg

What you see here is Hakuho waiting his turn in the kore-yori-san-yaku. That’s when the participants in the last three bouts go on the dohyo and perform synchronized shiko.

In honbasho, this happens only on senshuraku. And in any case, there’s no fooling around in honbasho. But in Hana-zumo and Jungyo, there’s a kore-yori-san-yaku every day. And Hakuho always finds himself a comfortable yobidashi to lean on. Sometimes the bored Yokozuna goes a bit too far:

The sumo events of the day ended with the superb Satonofuji. Can’t get enough of him:

Sunday, and switching channels to Fuji TV. And here, some familiar faces stripped down and wore their old mawashi:

old-boys

Thought you’ll never get to see this again?

Damn, Kotooshu!

Kyokutenho – Tomozuna oyakata – also has nothing to be ashamed of. Asasekiryu (Nishikijima oyakata) fresh out of his chon-mage:

Kitataiki (Onogawa oyakata) is still wearing his chon-mage. Wakakoyu (Shiranui oyakata) nearly got him there:

There was also kiddie sumo. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these kiddies do not look Japanese.

You may notice two differences from kiddie sumo in Jungyo:

  • The Ozeki participate. This is very rare in Jungyo. And both of them together is even rarer.
  • In Jungyo the kiddie sumo is part of keiko. Hana zumo doesn’t include keiko, and the wrestlers do their kiddie sumo in their shime-komi (silk mawashi) and oicho-mage.

In this event, both Juryo and Makuuchi were in elimination format. The championship bout:

Tochinoshin didn’t get that yusho by a bracket fluke. He had to get there through Hakuho:

He got the cup from his stablemaster (Kasugano oyakata):

And from Fuji TV… a cardboard cow?

More bouts:

Hakuho vs. Endo:

Takayasu vs. Tamawashi:

The complete set of Tochinoshin bouts plus interview and cup ceremony:

Juryo tournament:

A Little About Georgia

Welcome to Georgia, shusshin (birthplace) of Tochinoshin, Gagamaru, and wine. Yes, that bacchanalian beverage, perfected in the hills of France, was domesticated in the Caucasus. Georgian wines are a favorite among my Russian and Eastern European friends. I believe that is why it is such a prize for Vladimir Putin (as well as the resorts Crimea). The Russian Olympic venue at Sochi was a stone’s throw from Georgia. A quick visit to the website for the National Tourism Administration shows several pictures of cultural treasures and amazing vistas.

Mtskheta, Georgia

Tochinoshin is from Mtskheta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site was put on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2009 but removed from that list in 2016, noting work done and the commitment by the State Party to the preservation of the site. This month, a UNESCO monitoring mission is headed to Mtskheta to “assess current conditins at the property.” Tachiai will report on findings.

[wpgmza id=”1″]

I must admit, the description from the tourism company, VisitGeorgia.GE is enticing: “Situated at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers, Mtskheta has been a site of human settlement since at least the second millennium BC. The town is named after Mtskhetos, son of Kartlos – the legendary progenitor of the Georgian people. Already a town of some significance in pagan times, it gained importance as the site of the first Christian church in Georgia. Today it is no longer the capital of the country, but it is still the spiritual capital and home to two of Georgia’s greatest churches – Svetitskhoveli and Jvari.

While I was growing up, Georgia was a part of the Soviet Union. When the Communist block dissolved, Georgia declared independence. However, that independence has been fraught with conflict as Russian loyalists, primarily in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, continue to try to break away with Russian help. The breakout of heavy fighting and war in 2008 has yielded to an uneasy peace as Western war correspondents have embedded themselves in other Russian proxy battles from Crimea to Syria. It’s difficult to get a sense of the status quo in Tblisi. The most recent article I could find was this from Politico: “Vladimir Putin’s mysterious moving border.”

Day 14 – Yusho, packed and delivered

We have ourselves a yusho winner. The first from Georgia. The first Maegashira to win the title since Kyokutenho in in Natsu 2012. The first Kasugano yusho winner in 46 years (Tochiazuma Tomoyori, Hatsu 1972 – also Maegashira at the time). No wonder the Kasugano support club wanted to see a fish and to see it now:

tochinoshin-with-fish
I lifted Mitakeumi, I almost lifted Ichinojo. What’s this puny fish to me?

Down at Jonokuchi, I’m glad to inform you that Yoshoyama managed to scrape his kachi-koshi today, facing the hapless Osumifuji.

Now I hope someone at Tokitsukaze – preferably not Shodai – will use the time until Haru to teach the kid how to do a tachiai properly. Osumifuji joins the droves of make-koshi rikishi from Isegahama.

yoshoyama
Yoshoyama. Now you’ll be able to pick him up in a lineup.

37 year old Hokutogo from Hakkaku beya says goodbye to the sumo world after 22 years. Never made it higher than Makushita 54.

His heya mates brought him flowers to the hana-michi.

In Makushita, Wakamotoharu lost his final bout and is make-koshi. No video at this time.

Up in Juryo, Meisei goes against Takagenji:

Takagenji still doesn’t have kachi-koshi. Both he and Meisei will need a win tomorrow. Takagenji will face the strong Hidenoumi who wants the Yusho.

On to the top division we go:

Sokokurai and Daiamami engage in a lengthy hidari-yotsu, with Sokokurai burying his head in Daiamami’s chest. Eventually Sokokurai tries a throw, but it doesn’t quite work and Daiamami uses it to yori-kiri him.

Kotoyuki and Daieisho go on a tsuppari battle, that ends up with Kotoyuki spread across the dohyo. Hikiotoshi. Kotoyuki’s last chance of a kachi-koshi is tomorrow.

Yutakayama pushes Daishomaru mightily to the edge. Daishomaru tries a side step. Yutakayama slams to the ground – but Daishomaru is also out. Gunbai says Yutakayama, a monoii is called – but Daishomaru’s foot was out first, and it is indeed Yutakayama’s win – and kachi-koshi.

Aminishiki tries to be as genki as he can and bumps into Nishikigi. Gives a harite and tries to get a mawashi grip. This doesn’t quite work, and Nishikigi drives him to the edge. Then hovers around with a worried face to see that he didn’t damage the old man. On the Isegahama web site, Aminishiki writes “Tomorrow is the last match, so I want to win”. Somehow it sounds to me that he means that it’s the ultimate last match. He may not want to go down to Juryo again.

And… Ishiura does a henka against Chiyomaru. Ishiura kachi-koshi. So we’ll see more of his henka in Haru. Sigh.

Ryuden takes on Kaisei and gets in a quick morozashi. Kaisei has the weight advantage and good mobility on his side, and he shifts and turns and gets one of Ryuden’s hands out. Then tries to pull an uwatenage, but he ends up on the floor first, and it’s declared Ryuden’s shitatenage. Ryuden hits the double digits on his debut – which is impressive because he was never a double digits man.

Chiyoshoma gets a fast hold on Asanoyama and they go on a raging battle, but Chiyoshoma loses his hold, and once Asanoyama has his grip, he pushes the Mongolian out with a defiant head nod. Chiyoshoma make-koshi, Asanoyama kachi-koshi again. It’s funny to hear people in the crowd cheering for him using his real name (Ishibashi).

The Ghost of Terunofuji vs. Ikioi. Move along. Nothing to see here. It’s a yoritaoshi despite Ikioi both hurting and trying to be gentle. Terunofuji says that he wants to win at least tomorrow’s bout. Fat chance.

Takekaze comes in strong at the tachiai and gets his left hand inside… but that’s about all he can manage. Okinoumi brushes him out as if he was a fly.

Kagayaki starts an oshi battle vs. Endo, but after a couple of clashes, falls pray to slippiotoshi, Endo swiftly moving aside to let him “split the dohyo” as the Japanese expression goes.

The camera has been following Tochinoshin through the previous two bouts. A few obligatory shots of Shohozan as well, but he is not the story here. When those two finally get at it, you can cut the tension with a knife. Shohozan starts a tsuppari barrage which Tochinoshin can only fend off. This goes on for some time, then Shohozan tries to sidestep. This nearly gets Tochinoshin, and the spectators let out a big “whoa”. But he quickly turns around, and when he does, he also gets a good grip on Shohozan, and from there it’s a couple of yori followed by a yori-kiri. The man from Georgia gets his first yusho. The crowd bursts into applause. It’s party time… but there are still bouts to go.

Yoshikaze and Chiyotairyu are apparently graduates of the same university. So they are sempai and kohai. But Chiyotairyu doesn’t give Yoshikaze any precedence, and quickly pulls at him for a hatakikomi. Yoshikaze looked for a moment like he was going for an outstanding performance prize, but that moment passed several bouts ago.

In yet another battle of opposite ends, Abi draws former Ozeki Kotoshogiku in a battle of the up-and-coming vs. the down-and-going. However, Kotoshogiku is not going anywhere without a fight. Abi tries to pull Kotoshogiku down quickly, but Kotoshogiku not falling for that. Abi then sticks his head in Kotoshogiku’s chest and grabs at his armpits. But a yori battle will favor the Chrisanthemum. Abi’s pelvis is about the height of Kotoshogiku’s chest, so Kotoshogiku refrains from pumping his hips, but he does know how to push, and yori-kiris Abi right out. In Yiddish we call this “rebe-gelt” – “tuition”, what you pay when you learn a lesson.

Chiyonokuni doesn’t give Hokutofuji even two seconds before slapping him down. Hatakikomi, and the Kokonoe man slowly reduces the damage of his make-koshi, while Hokutofuji is 4-10 and will drop way down the banzuke at Haru.

Now, I hate it when the torikumi guys pit two guys I like against each other, but oh well, I can always be happy for the winner. This time Takarafuji was trying to get his kachi-koshi from Ichinojo. And Ichinojo is not in the business of letting his rivals win this basho. If they want to, they have to work for it. Ichinojo unbelievably tries for a nodowa on his left and momentarily allows Takarafuji to get his hand in on his right. Nodowa? The boulder quickly realizes his mistake, abandons the nonexistent throat, and changes his grip on the right. Now it’s migi-yotsu, which favors Ichinojo. But there is no extended leaning battle this time, as Ichinojo grabs Takarafuji’s mawashi tightly and throws him outside for a shitatedashinage, no ifs, ands and buts.

Today it was the old Shodai vs. the old Takakeisho. Shodai stands up at the tachiai. Doesn’t get anything done. Takakeisho bumps him a couple of time. No kachi-koshi for Shodai as yet.

In the match of the Eagles, Arawashi with his bad knees gets a better tachiai. I would even call this one a matta. But Tamawashi regroups and goes into a tsuppari attack. Arawashi sidesteps, and Tamawashi flies over the edge. Arawashi still has a chance for a kachi-koshi tomorrow.

Goeido avoids kadoban and gets Mitakeumi all the way to the tawara in a blink of an eye. Correct bootup today, apparently.

Musubi no ichiban. Takayasu  drives hard and gets Kakuryu to the edge. But Kakuryu is looking better today, circles and regroups. Tries to get a grip on Takayasu, but Takayasu turns him around. The Yokozuna quickly turns right back and lunges at Takayasu. And then…. he… pulls… again…. Oshidashi, yet another loss for the Yokozuna. And Takayasu has the jun-yusho (though theoretically he can lose tomorrow and Ryuden or Kakuryu win).

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day14

So the yusho goes to Tochinoshin. Both the Georgian prime minister and president tweet their congratulations.

Tochinoshin's family in Georgia
Tochinoshin’s family watching his bout back in Georgia

The jun-yusho, with high probability, goes to Takayasu. My assumption is that he will do his best to win tomorrow, to make it a decent 12-3 jun-yusho, which may allow him to lay claim to a rope should he win the yusho in Haru. One of my twitter followers says that not having been in the yusho picture, this wouldn’t count for Takayasu, but I think that if he does happen to win Haru, given that he has the all-important Japanese birth certificate, the NSK and the YDC may avoid nitpicking.

What’s left tomorrow is to see if the Yokozuna can pull at least the win from Goeido. To see who gets the various sansho (Abi still has a shot, Ryuden certainly has, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ichinojo gets one). And then we will get to see Tochinoshin lifting cup after cup, and being driven around in the NSK’s spiffy new Mercedes-Benz.

 

Day 13 – It’s Georgia. Not the US state, the country.

The Makuuchi Chamipionship is all but determined, as Tochinoshin goes from chasing to being chased. But before we make ourselves familiar with the Caucasus and the Georgian cuisine, rich in walnuts and cheeses, we already have a champion today – in the Makushita division.

wakatakakage
Your shikona is Wakatakakage. Now repeat that 10 times at high speed.

The schedulers matched Wakatakakage (Ms #17) with the other yusho contender, Tochiseiryu (Ms #47). Both came into the bout with 6-0.

Tochiseiryu’s pre-bout looks similar to Tochiozan’s, doesn’t it? Anyway, W.T.K. dispatches of him easily, as the difference in rank would suggest, and wins a zensho-yusho. I believe his position is just below the Juryo promotion line, though, and in any case the upper Makushita have many kachi-koshi wrestlers waiting for one of the (probably 7) open Juryo positions.

One of those on line for those 7 positions is Prince Enho, who today had a battle for the kachi-koshi with Shonannoumi. Both coming into this match 3-3.

Ah… Enho… I guess with Hakuho’s royal feet being kyujo, Enho has to settle for taking lessons from Ishiura. Which is not something I’d recommend. What’s with the henka? Was that really necessary?

OK, I’ll try my hand at a bit of demotion-promotion speculation. Here is a summary of the situation of the bottom of Juryo:

#14E Akua Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#14W Kizenryu Make-koshi, only three wins so far.
#12E Yamaguchi Make-koshi, only two wins so far.
#12W Tochihiryu Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#11E Ura Full kyujo due to surgery.
#9W Toyohibiki Full kyujo due to injury.
#8W Osunaarashi 1 win. Kyujo due to scandal. Drop from Juryo certain, may face retirement.

The others in between are either kachi-koshi or minimal make-koshi. So these are seven potential slots, though I suppose Tochihiryu may still be saved.

The situation at the top of Makushita is:

#1E Yago kachi-koshi
#1W Terutsuyoshi kachi-koshi
#2W Shimanoumi kachi-koshi
#3W Tobizaru kachi-koshi
#4W Akiseyama kachi-koshi
#6E Enho kachi-koshi
#7E Takayoshitoshi kachi-koshi

So Takayoshitoshi is on the bubble, it seems, but he still has one bout to go, and if he wins it, he’ll have a better kachi-koshi than Enho and may pass him in on the promotion line.

Down in Sandanme, unfortunately, Torakio suffered an injury. I will not post his bout from yesterday as I don’t like to share videos of people rolling around in pain. He could not return to the dohyo for his bout after his loss, and he is now on the kyujo list. He will be make-koshi. Too bad to have an injury at such an early stage of his career, let’s hope it’s not as bad as it looked – shoulder and arm issue).

I’m not going to give you the Hattorizakura video this time – because the kid is back to his old way, walking backward just being looked at, which is a real shame. Anyway, he has now completed is usual set of 7 losses, and will have to wait until Haru to show us some progress again.

Tomorrow Yoshoyama-Osumifuji, both 3-3, vying for the kachi-koshi.

Up in Juryo, Kyokutaisei has ensured his kachi-koshi, and being Juryo #1, has ensured his promotion to Makuuchi. The papers make much of the fact that he is from Hokkaido, but I’m making much of the fact that he is from Tomozuna beya (Kaisei’s heya), and will therefore help the Isegahama ichimon a little bit in the coming power rankings. 🙂

kyokutaisei-kachi-koshi
Kyokutaisei vs. Takagenji

Mitoryu has also ensured his kachi-koshi and will continue wearing his kesho-mawashi for a second tournament.

If you’re interested in the Juryo bouts, there’s this channel where the owner seems to upload each of the lower division’s complete bouts a few hours after each day ends.

So… we go up to Makuuchi, and what do we see?

Sokokurai trying hard to stay at Makuuchi. Today he faced Yutakayama who is still looking for a kachi-koshi. He can’t get a mawashi hold on Yutakayama, but eventually sidesteps and gets a hikiotoshi.

Today Ishiura decided to go for plain, forward-moving sumo. Maybe because Daishomaru is not much taller than he is. And what do you know, it worked! He grabs Daishomaru’s mawashi with his left hand and shows him the way out, yori-kiri.

Kotoyuki gets an easy one against Daiamami. They call this a tsukitaoshi, but I’d say it was a tsukite (which is a hiwaza).

The ghost of Terunofuji meets Takekaze and gives the old man a little more padding against the Juryo drop. Terunofuji unable to do a proper tachiai, let alone keep from being pushed.

A… Asanoyama… where are you? Who is that scarecrow who mounts the dohyo in your place in the second week? Chiyomaru needed exactly half a second to pull Asanoyama to the ground. Is Asanoyama sitting too close to the Isegahama guys in the shitakubeya or what?

Shohozan makes short work of Daieisho, who seems to have lost his will to do sumo once he secured his kachi-koshi. Shohozan gets in a couple of harite, then wraps Daieisho’s body and flips him for a sukuinage.

Abi really looks like he is enjoying his work, even during the actual bout. He got Kaisei, who has a huge weight advantage on him. He starts as usual with a “morotezuki”, which means he thrusts with both hands. Then he sidesteps and nearly gets Kaisei off-balance. Kaisei stays on his feet but it’s enough for Abi to grab at his mawashi, turn him around and send him out by okuri-dashi. What weight advantage? The youngster is 9-4, and may actually get one of those sansho prizes he talked about.

Chiyonokuni seems to have improved once he got his make-koshi. He starts with his tsuppari attack before Nishikigi completes his tachiai, and then pulls for a tsukiotoshi.

Chiyoshoma gets in for a fine tachiai, but Kagayaki gets a grip on his belt, and they start dancing around the dohyo. Although Chiyoshoma manages to escape from that grip, that wild dance ends with him putting a foot outside the dohyo. Kagayaki secures his first kachi-koshi since Natsu.

The shimpan gave poor old Aminishiki a real scare. This match was nervous for both him and Ikioi (which one is more injured?), with two mattas to begin with. And then he threw a flying henka and somehow managed to get Ikioi down  before he ran out of dohyo. Not his usual precision, though. Anyway, Konosuke called it Aminishiki’s. The shimpan called a monoii. And as Kintamayama will tell you, a monoii on Konosuke’s shift is an exercise in futility. Finally the shimpan agree that Konosuke is right, and the head shimpan tries to explain the decision. But he seems to be in his cups – mutters and forgets what he wanted to say. He goes as far as saying that it was a “gunbai sashi-chigae” – which it certainly was not, before the crowd’s murmur wakes him up and he corrects himself and lets Aminishiki get his kensho. Poor Uncle.

Ryuden gets a better start than Takarafuji, but Takarafuji manages to get his left hand inside, which is his favorite grip. Ryuden circles and squirms and gets rid of that hand, while himself maintaining a hold on Takarafuji’s mawashi. A battle of grips ensues. Takarafuji gets Ryuden’s hand off his mawashi, but Ryuden still has a hold on his body. Ryuden tries to make a throw. Loses the mawashi grip he momentarily regained. Takarafuji manages to lock both Ryuden’s arm in front of his chest. But at this point Takarafuji runs out of stamina and eventually Ryuden yori-kiri’s him. I hope Takarafuji hasn’t contracted that Isegahama flu. Ryuden is an excellent wrestler, and I believe we’ll see him in sanyaku at some point. And yes, he has 9 wins, like Abi, and may also become a sansho winner.

Endo starts by pulling and sending a couple of slaps in Kotoshogiku‘s direction. Grabs at Kotoshogiku’s hand, then converts that into a right-hand-inside mawashi grip with Kotoshogiku between him and the tawara. Kotoshogiku dances and gains some ground. Grabs at Endo’s right hand and tries for a kotenage. Endo manages to retain his footing. Kotoshogiku still has his right hand, but he has his left on Kotoshogiku’s torso. He then pushes against the right hand – the one Kotoshogiku is still latched onto – for a yori-kiri. Excellent match, and Endo gets a kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo and Tochinoshin… what is a yusho-related bout doing here, so early in the day? Well, Ichinojo and Tochinoshin grab at each other’s mawashi right off the tachiai. It’s a migi-yotsu and both of them have firm mawashi grips on both sides. So who’s going to be stronger? For a moment it looks undecided, but Ichinojo loses his left hand grip, and Tochinoshin goes for the kill. Ichinojo sticks to the tawara – good boy! But Tochinoshin applies some sideways force and gets Ichinojo out. Titanic.

ichinojo-tochinoshin
Note to self: don’t try tsuri-dashi again on this guy

Hokutofuji comes in strong at Yoshikaze. The man in the green mawashi seems not to have completely recovered from yesterday’s Force-choke. Hokutofuji finally gets to show the sumo he became famous for. Oshidashi.

Chiyotairyu overwhelms Takakeisho who once again finds himself flying off the dohyo (and into Arawashi’s lap). Oshitaoshi.

Shodai once again comes straight off the tachiai into a morozashi. But Tamawashi gets himself released and answers with an expert tsuppari attack that sends Shodai outside, looking for his kachi-koshi elsewhere.

Arawashi, still suffering the effects of a Takakeisho bomb landing on him, has to suffer yet again as the Takayasu locomotive slams into him. Boom! Seismographs around Tokyo register a level 3 tremor while the Eagle flies into Goeido’s arms. Sitting on the East side of the dohyo today has been a serious health risk. Takayasu gets double digits for the first time since his Ozeki run.

Goeido gets a grip on Okinoumi‘s body and pushes forward, though it looks half-hearted. Gets his 7th win. Will try to get his kachi-koshi vs. Mitakeumi tomorrow.

And now, the musubi-no-ichiban. It’s a bit of an anti-climax as we already know that Tochinoshin maintained his lead. But let’s see…

Mitakeumi just lifts the Yokozuna’s upper part with his left hand and pushes forward. Kakuryu finds himself backpaddling again. And out again. And… the yusho flies away, probably never to return.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day13

The Yokozuna has his Yokozuna kachi-koshi, that’s true. But this crumble at money time is bound to raise murmurs among the YDC this Monday. One of the guys on Twitter wrote something along the lines of: “In the first few days, all my friends were saying Kakuryu stands up to pressure much better than Harumafuji. I had to nod. But now we can see the real difference, because Harumafuji’s nerves held up much better once the yusho was on the table”.

The Yokozuna still has a couple of days to improve his score. But the chances that Tochinoshin will drop two consecutive bouts are very slim. And who knows if it’s the Yokozuna who’ll be doing the playoff with him if that happens.

Yusho Arasoi:

Leader (12-1): M3 Tochinoshin

Chasers (10-3):

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Ozeki Takayasu

Tomorrow those two face each other, and oh boy, Takayasu looks much better at the moment.

So, start learning about Georgia, because it sure looks like the Emperor’s Cup is going there right now.

 

Day 11 – The Eagles Are Coming

the-eagles-are-coming
Tamawashi and Arawashi changing the plot

For those who are not familiar their shikona, Arawashi (荒鷲) is “Wild Eagle”, and Tamawashi (玉鷲) is “Bejewelled Eagle”. We’ll see what they wrought as we go along. But as usual, I’d like to start with some off-Makuuchi battles.

My previous posts have been dotted with bouts by Prince Enho and Terutsuyoshi My Main Man. And today you get two for the price of one, as these two faced each other in a battle for the kachi-koshi, both coming in 3-2.

And both get to pick on someone their own size for a change, in a match of homunculi.

This is sort of anticlimactic, I know. But it’s Terutsuyoshi’s first kakenage, and also a kachi-koshi and a likely re-promotion to Juryo. I’m afraid Enho’s chances look rather slim at the moment, with many higher-ranking Makushita having a kachi-koshi.

Another battle at the top of Makushita was between Ms#1 Yago, the former sekitori, and “One to watch” Ms #17 Wakatakakage, both of whom came into this match 5-0.

Nice reversal! The Arashio man is now 6-0, vying for the Makushita yusho with #47 Tochiseiryu. Yago will still likely be re-promoted to Juryo.

Up we go to Makuuchi.

In the first bout, we have Aoimama… er… Aoiyama on a visit from Juryo. Aoiyama actually looks strong, and Nishikigi can’t find an entry point, and out he goes.

Ryuden shows his strong sumo. Catches Daieisho in a morozashi after a booming tachiai, and stops his yusho hunt… or does he?

Asanoyama chooses not to go into a yotsu battle with Sokokurai (may well be a wise decision. The veteran is very experienced). Some tsuppari and Sokokurai out by oshi-dashi. Sokokurai needs to win out to get a kachi-koshi.

Kotoyuki opens with a henka – not the last one of the day – against the resurging Kagayaki. Then tries to grab Kagayaki’s belt. Pushes, pushes, but Kagayaki manages to grab his arm for a kotonage. Kotoyuki’s first loss to Kagayaki – and he hurts his knee on his fall, unable to go to the shitakubeya unassisted. Kintamayama informs us that he ended up in that wheelchair and was taken to a hospital. 🙁

Aminishiki didn’t hurt any limb today. But he just isn’t able to do his sumo. Daiamami, like Chiyoshoma yesterday, was very gentle about showing him out. Sigh. I have a feeling that the Ajigawa kabu is going to go back into active duty following this basho.

Ishiura deploys the second henka of the day, against the Ghost of Terunofuji. At least that meant that there was no further injury to any former kaiju knees. Terunofuji remarks that he has not gained back his dohyo sense. Perhaps the only good news I heard is that he lost those 10kg he recently gained. Good start there. It did look like he regained some neck.

terunofuji-ishiura
“Once I dropped out of Ozeki, it’s all the same to me how many ranks down I go”

The KaiseiYutakayama looked like a cartoon battle. You know the type: small man strikes large man with a barrage of blows without having any effect. Then big man returns with two mighty blows of his own, and small man ends up with little birds circling around his head. Well, Yutakayama stays on his feet as he is pushed out, but you catch the drift. Note how Kaisei always attempts to land a hand up to the rivals he pushes out.

Abi barely manages to land two harite on Tochiozan before the Kasugano man goes out. Abi looks dissatisfied. Tochiozan probably afraid for his injured shoulder. Abi one win away from kachi-koshi.

Chiyonokuni once again starts a bout with his energetic tsuppari. But Takekaze somehow manages to pivot and have Chiyonokuni between himself and the tawara. He then applies a strong nodowa and forces Chiyonokuni out. Welcome back, old man. Chiyonokuni now make-koshi.

Daishomaru in another little henka against Chiyoshoma. Hikiotoshi. Chiyoshoma not happy.

Ikioi tries to look genkier than he is vs. Shohozan, who seems to have an upper arm issue. The two go on a rapid slugfest, but eventually Shohozan locks Ikioi’s arms and leads him outside.

Chiyomaru is Kokonoe’s only ray of light this basho. Apparently nobody is shouting “Chiyomaru-tan” in the Kokugikan these days. Endo has what looks like a lower and better tachiai, but Chiyonokuni soon sidesteps and hands him a hatakikomi.

Now, one of the highlight bouts of the day begins. Tochinoshin wants to keep his single loss. Takarafuji wants to prevent the Georgian from closing in on him. These two are kenka-yotsu, meaning that Takarafuji prefers a hidari-yotsu (left-hand-inside), while Tochinoshin prefers a migi-yotsu (right-hand-inside). And they fend off each other’s sashi (slipping a hand inside) attempts. Tochinoshin succeeds in landing his grip for a second but Takarafuji draws back and tries again. Near the tawara, Takarafuji manages to get his sashi, but Tochinoshin is pressing his head down very powerfully at this point and eventually Takarafuji’s elbow touches down before Tochinoshin is forced out. The gyoji points to Tochinoshin. A monoii is called, and takes a really long time. But it’s Tochinoshin’s tsukiotoshi. Excellent match. Tochinoshin stays glued to the top.

takarafuji-tochinoshin

Kotoshogiku puts a stop to Chiyotairyu‘s winning streak. Doesn’t get a mawashi grip, but he does have the Kokonoe man in a strong high grip and then does the Kotoshogiku Lambada all the way to the edge.

Ichinojo seems to have a little problem with oshi wrestlers. This time he takes up Hokutofuji. But it really isn’t Hokutofuji’s basho. Yes, his knee is in wraps but he doesn’t seem to have a mobility problem. Ichinojo tries to find a grip as usual. Hokutofuji fends and defends. Tries to push at Ichinojo’s armpits to get him up and away, but this doesn’t work so well with the heavy Ichinojo, Hokutofuji slide a little back to try a stronger leaning angle – but Ichinojo just uses that to smack Hokutofuji to the floor. Hokutofuji on all fours again. The announcer calls it “Large Scale Sumo”.

The bout between Yoshikaze and Takakeisho turns out to be one of the more entertaining oshi battles. A rapid exchange of tsuppari, both bobbing their heads up and down, up and down as they engage and disengage. Yoshikaze tries a push, but he is already too stretched and Takakeisho easily fends him off. As they regroup, Takakeisho grabs hold of Yoshikaze’s arm and forces him to the edge where he adds a decisive nodowa. And Takakeisho ends up with a banged lip again.

Shodai somehow manages to surprise his rival again and again with his somehow amended tachiai. He gets below Mitakeumi. Not quite enough for his favorite morozashi, but enough to cause the sekiwake to draw back. Shodai then follows up and gets Mitakeumi out by oshidashi. Those double digits and ozeki run seem further and further away from Mitakeumi.

Takayasu wins almost effortlessly against Okinoumi. Hands the Shimane-man his make-koshi while gaining his own kachi-koshi. No kadoban to see here, move along.

And here lands out first Eagle, Arawashi, with his bandaged legs and a less-than-brilliant 5-5 balance, to face the other Ozeki, Goeido. Tachiai, Arawashi quickly gets a hold on Goeido’s mawashi with his left hand. Goeido retreats in a half circle, working hard to remove Arawashi’s hand from his mawashi and eventually holds on to Arawashi’s arm and gets his left arm inside, but at this point Arawashi changes direction, and that left arm becomes a liability. Arawashi holds on to it for a kotenage. Ozeki down, and hovering on the edge of kadoban again.

But if you thought that Eagle was surprising, just wait for the musubi-no-ichiban.

Kakuryu once again comes low off  the tachiai, but doesn’t find the quick mawashi grip he is hoping for. Tamawashi is an oshi man, and as the Yokozuna goes into a tsuppari exchange with him, he watches the Yokozuna’s feet. Kakuryu tries a pull down and draws back a little, and that’s all the Bejewelled Eagle needs. He pounces and the surprised Yokozuna lands his first kuro-boshi. Although Tamawashi is sanyaku, zabutons are flying in the kokugikan.

tamawashi-happy
Happy Eagle flying down the hana-michi

And suddenly, in a Tolkienesque plot-twist, what looked like a sure-bet yusho for the Yokozuna no longer looks anywhere near that. Remember he still has to work two Ozekis and a sekiwake, while Tochinoshin is only going to face Maegashira until the end of the basho. The yusho suddenly looks a lot closer to Georgia than it is to Mongolia.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day11

The Yokozuna can not afford even a single loss from now on if he wants that Yusho.

Yusho Arasoi

10-1:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • M3 Tochinoshin

8-3:

  • Ozeki Takayasu
  • M13 Daieisho

 

 

Day 10 – Sanyaku crumbling

As two thirds of the basho are behind us, things start to boil up… or crash down. Let’s start at the bottom. Enho gets matched with Wakamotoharu, who certainly doesn’t want to lose, in a bout that produces one of the most beautiful sumo photos I’ve seen in a while:

enho-wakamotoharu

Here is the One And Only version:

And here is the TV version (C/O Kimihiro Suzuki):

Wakamotoharu looks pretty frustrated at being the receiving end of this shitatehineri. Enho gets his third win and gets closer to a kachi-koshi. One And Only seems to expect him to be in Juryo next basho, but the top of Makushita is very, very hot at the moment.

And hey, Enho didn’t dive head first off the dohyo this time!

Another Tachiai favorite has returned to the dohyo today. This one after a flu-related short kyujo. Please welcome Shunba!

Shunba looks so genki he nearly bounces up the dohyo. Keep up the good work!

However, not all of my favorite fare as well. Torakio continues his downfall:

He seems to have hurt his elbow, and now something about his shoulder as well? Hmmm… not good.

 

So, let’s climb up to Makuuchi.

The first bout features a visitor from Juryo, Azumaryu, facing Ryuden. The two take their time synchronizing their breath for the tachiai. When it finally starts, although Azumaryu gets the inside grip, Ryuden gets an outside one on the same side, and pushes him out without much resistance.

Abi (who has the curious habit of arranging his butt strap right on camera when he goes to the salt corner) starts off as usual vs Yutakayama, with some fierce tsuppari. But Yutakayama somehow picks on Abi’s bandaged arm, and this seems to throw Peter Pan off course completely, and he finds himself down from the dohyo in short order.

yutakayama-abi

Takekaze finally manages to land a W, vs. Ishiura, with a quick push down – no henka. Hatakikomi.

takekaze-ishiura
Sumo, Ishiura, not artistic gymnastics

Sokokurai starts with a harite and an ottsuke vs. Nishikigi. He manages to secure a right-hand outside grip, while Nishikigi secures his own left hand on Sokokurai’s mawashi.  Nishikigi can’t get an outside grip on Sokokurai’s mawashi, and in the grip battle that ensues, eventually it’s Sokokurai who manages to hold both sides of Nishikigi’s mawashi, when suddenly Nishikigi turns the tables on him and gets him out by yori-kiri. Very nice match.

Kagayaki and Daiamami start their match, both pushing as hard as they can. Eventually, Daiamami throws Kagayaki to the ground, but a monoii is called: Daiamami had a foot out. You can see that Kagayaki noticed that immediately. Of course he said nothing and waited for the shimpan, who came to the right conclusion, and gave him the oshidashi.

Asanoyama seems dazed and confused. Daishomaru pushes him out almost with no resistance. Mental issues?

Daieisho starts with some strong nodowa at Tochiozan, but suddenly his arm gets stuck at an awkward angle. However, he quickly recovers from that error, and pushes Tochiozan outside before he can make anything of it. Daieisho now kachi-koshi.

Aminishiki looks well enough as he ascends the dohyo and performs his Shiko. Chiyoshoma opens with a harizashi (slap-and-grab), and Uncle looks in pain. I don’t believe it’s just the harite. He said that his “knee got in” at the Tachiai and he couldn’t put any power into it. As soon as Chiyoshoma has that grip he gently leads Aminishiki to the edge. Yori-kiri. Aminishiki is determined to continue until all four wheels drop off.

chiyoshoma-aminishiki

Chiyonokuni finally manages to scrape another win against Kotoyuki. His barrage of tsuppari quickly gets the larger man out. He really should be more than 3-7 at this point.

Kaisei has a huge weight advantage over Takarafuji. Takarafuji manages to secure his favorite grip, but Kaisei uses the Ichinojo tactic and just leans onto him. In an effort to get out of the stalemate, Takarafuji loses the grip and has to start over. He gets his hidari-yotsu again, this time without an underhand grip on Kaisei’s mawashi. But no matter, he uses that left hand inside to grab Kaisei’s arm for a sukuinage. Takarafuji is on a roll, and needs just one more win for a kachi-koshi.

Ikioi faces Chiyomaru, who pushes and then pulls and finishes the bout in the blink of an eye. According to the NHK announcer, Ikioi’s problem is not just his ankle injury, but also “lower back issues”, which I take to mean that his bulging disc is giving him trouble again. It’s really hard to do sumo with a bulging disc. Ikioi make-koshi.

Shohozan starts his bout with Endo with all guns blazing, and tries to catch Endo’s arm. Endo manages to break loose. Then there’s a barrage of tsuppari, which Endo somehow defends against and stays alive. Then Shohozan tries capturing an arm again, dragging Endo to the rim, but here Endo reverses the charges and leaves Shohozan outside for a yori-kiri.

It seems strange to see the match between Tochinoshin and Kotoshogiku this early in the day, given the level of Tochinoshin’s game lately. I have to remind myself that both are maegashira. Most sane rikishi would not want to get into a belt battle with Kotoshogiku. But we are talking about the Incredible Hulk here, and his strategy continues as usual: get one huge arm inside, one huge arm outside, get the belt, and drive. Kotoshogiku’s gaburi is no match to the Georgian Hulk.

Hokutofuji will want to forget this basho. In the final battle of the rank-and-filers, he faces Chiyotairyu, only a couple of days ago the welcome mat of the entire Makuuchi. One kachiage and a few tsuppari later, the gentleman from Hakkaku beya finds himself out by tsuki-dashi, and with a make-koshi.

Now we go up to the san-yaku matches, where rank-and-filers are wrecking havoc.

Ichinojo faces more of a problem with Takakeisho than he did with Onosho. Takakeisho has his attack-and-retreat style which prevents the boulder from getting a mawashi grip or any other kind of grip. So Ichinojo finds himself in an unfamiliar oshi territory, and for a while looks like he is trying to swat an annoying mosquito. As he tries to pull Takakeisho down, Takakeisho advances and nearly gets the mountain off balance, but Ichinojo is very careful about his center of (ultra) gravity this tournament. They go on, and Takakeisho tries a sidestep to usher the boulder out, but the side that he stepped to still includes Ichinojo’s arm. And that arm just takes Takakeisho along for the trip before its owner starts the journey himself. The result of all this mess is the Takanohana man lying in a heap at the bottom of the dohyo, only one loss away from a make-koshi.

The next bout is supposed to be Onosho-Yoshikaze. But the Komusubi is kyujo, and won’t be a komusubi next time. In fact, other than Mitakeumi, who will probably stay Sekiwake once again, it appears that there will be a purge in the lower sanyaku, and this time there will be a lot less of a logjam for the available slots. Two more wins for our boulder and he is Komusubi for sure. Though maybe for him they should change it from “komusubi” (小結 – small knot) to “omusubi” (大結 – big knot), or even “kyomusubi” (巨結 – “giant knot”). 🙂

Moving right along, Arawashi got to meet Mitakeumi who was trying to maintain his position in the hunt group. Arawashi seems to want to get Mitakeumi’s mawashi on the left side, but at the second attempt, his right arm is already folding around Mitakeumi’s left, for an arm-bar throw – tottari. Mitakeumi finds himself face down at the dohyo’s corner.

arawashi-mitakeumi

Shodai bounces back from the loss that frustrated him so much yesterday. Straight from the tachiai he gets a morozashi on Goeido and drives forward. He does lose one of those arms as Goeido tries to create some kind of a throw, but gets a good mawashi hold and forces the Ozeki out.

Takayasu, the other Ozeki, stares hard at Tamawashi as they get ready for the tachiai. Takayasu’s kachiage happens to hit Tamawashi’s face. A hard tsuppari exchange ensues, and eventually Takayasu pushes the sekiwake out of the ring. Tamawashi one loss away from a make-koshi.

And in the musubi-no-ichiban, Kakuryu starts of with the low tachiai he has been sporting of late, and gaining many compliments for. No grip at first, but drives Okinoumi back. Then gets his hand on Okinoumi’s mawashi with his right hand, and that’s about the end of Okinoumi. Kakuryu just swings him out, as one of the comments said on one of the previous days, “with a mighty hand and outstretched arm”.

The Yokozuna finally secures his “Yokozuna kachi koshi”. Now he’ll be facing some harder opponents. Or are they? The sanyaku seems to be a mess. Nobody with a kachi-koshi yet, some nearing make-koshi.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

Yusho Arasoi

  • 10-0: Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • 9-1: M3 Tochinoshin
  • 8-2: M13 Daieisho

Day 9 – Ichinojo goes bowling, Tochinoshin dangling bait.

As usual, I shall start somewhat below Makuuchi.

For those who are not aware of it yet, Osunaarashi is kyujo as of today (day 9), due to a suspicion of rear-ending a car while driving without a valid license. This was bad enough to make the NHK World news yesterday.

But we are here to talk about sumo, not yet another scandal, so let’s start with my main man Terutsuyoshi, who made a visit to Juryo today to face Kizenryu.

The video doesn’t contain the explanation of the monoii, but if I understand the announcers correctly, the question was who initiated the throw. If it was Terutsuyoshi, then clearly Kizenryu touched first. But if it was Kizenryu, then Terutsuyoshi was shinitai.

The monoii ended with a torinaoshi. And the second bout didn’t look very different from the first, but this time it was pretty clear cut:

Too bad for my man from Isegahama, but win or lose – he entertains.

OK, let’s go on with the matches of the day in Makuuchi.

Abi starts with his usual tsuppari attack, which doesn’t seem to effective against Asanoyama, so Abi gives a strong pull and Asanoyama finds himself on the ground.

abi-with-kensho
Hey, look what I found tied to my sagari!

Ishiura starts off his bout with his hand straight on Daieisho‘s mawashi knot, and deftly undoes it. Wardrobe malfunction. The gyoji stops them, corrects, restarts the bout, and Ishiura, with one hand on the knot and one on the front, flips Daieisho into a shitatehineri. But wait, I have a sense of Deja vu:

That’s Kyushu 2017. Ishiura vs. Ryuden – both in Juryo at the time. Ishiura must have been one of those teenagers who practice undoing a bra with one hand.

Nishikigi really does nothing in the tachiai, and lets Takekaze slam into him. Doesn’t get any kind of a grip, and Takekaze pulls at him for a katasukashi – but doing that he flies outside, and the gunbai goes to Nishikigi. No monoii. I think both the gyoji and the shimpan took this to be Nishikigi’s attack. Takekaze now make-koshi.

Sokokurai  gets into a classic yotsu bout with Ryuden. Tries a shitatenage, Ryuden keeps on his feet. Tries the same on the other side of the ring. Still no results. Sokokurai puts some more force into it and manages a yoritaoshi – rolling together with his rival. Kintamayama says he hurt his back, let’s hope it’s fine by tomorrow. No need for more injuries.

Daiamami beats Chiyomaru in a slow motion oshi battle. Boom. Boom. Boom. Yawn.

Kagayaki, on the other hand, is very sharp and fast. He doesn’t let Shohozan get anywhere near his belt, and instead slaps him all the way out. Kagayaki back to the form he has shown in the first couple of days.

As long as Chiyonokuni can keep the bout on the tsuki-oshi side, he seems fine. But eventually Yutakayama decides he has had enough harite for one day, grabs the Kokonoe man and throws him out. Yoritaoshi. Chiyonokuni one loss away from a make-koshi.

Chiyoshoma‘s bout with Kotoyuki was over in the blink of an eye. No wiles, no throws, and Kotoyuki just pushing the slender Mongolian out.

Ikioi finally manages to attack and win – a couple of strong pushes and then a desparate lunge, and Daishomaru is out. But Ikioi seems to have caused himself further injury.

Takarafuji wins very decisively. Tochiozan gets a morozashi on him, but he applies his mighty arms in a “hasami” – basically a pincer hold – and doesn’t let Tochiozan do anything with that morozashi. Oshidashi for the only Isegahama man who seems to be in working order nowadays.

Kaisei first grabs a hold of Endo‘s arm. Endo manages to shake him off, but Kaisei maintains his balance and responds with another attack. This time Endo is driven to the edge. Desparately tries a leg trip, doesn’t work. Yorikiri for the Brasilian (who is not too enthusiastic about the snow currently enveloping Tokyo: “I loved it when I saw my first snow, but…”)

Chiyotairyu gets his second win in a row, and very quickly, too. Okinoumi touches down before you blink.

In the battle of the veterans, Kotoshogiku gets a pretty firm hold of Yoshikaze‘s left arm. They then fight over the hold on the other side. Kotoshogiku tries again and again to get his left hand inside. Yoshikaze catches on to his wrist. Eventually Kotoshogiku gets that sashi (hand inside) and finishes Yoshikaze off with a couple of gaburi. Classic Kotoshogiku.

Onosho tries, for some unfathomable reason, to grab at Ichinojo‘s belt. Probably realizes that a tsuppari attack against the boulder’s midriff is going to give him no results. But Ichinojo doesn’t really care what Onosho plans. That arm that went to his belly? He sticks his own hand to the armpit and rolls Onosho out like a bowling ball in a red mawashi. What can I say? “Ichinojo is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh Onosho to lie down below the dohyo” [Book of Mountainous Mongolians, Chapter 6, verse 3]

Hokutofuji and Takakeisho go on what is half way an oshi battle, and half way keeping each other at arm’s length. Again, typical tadpole sumo. Amazingly, both manage to stay on their feet and neither ends up in doggy position. Takakeisho manages to get Hokutofuji moving a bit to the right as he gets to the tawara, and uses that to get the man off balance and out of the ring.

And now, to the battle of the chasers. Both 7-1 coming into this bout, Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi both want to stay in the yusho race. They start off with Mitakeumi trying to prevent the Georgian from getting at his mawashi, but Tochinoshin gets the left hand outside pretty quickly. Now it’s a fight on the right hand. Mitakeumi gets his own right hand on Tochinoshin’s mawashi. But Tochinoshin does the same, gets a secure grip on both side. And at this point he just picks up Mitakeumi for a new world record in wedgies. Upsie-daisy… not out yet? Upsie-daisy… now you’re out.

tochinoshin-mitakeumi

The kimari-te is tsuri-dashi, “dangle-and-out”. I’m still waiting for the fish to bite. Tochinoshin the second man in Makuuchi to make a kachi-koshi, but I’m sure he’s not settling for that any more than Kakuryu is.

By the way, it’s not Mitakeumi’s first tsuri-wedgie. This used to be a Terunofuji specialty. Maybe Tochinoshin could have a talk with Terunofuji and explain about knees, healing and regaining strength.

So basically, Mitakeumi is out of the yusho race unless Kakuryu drops a couple of bouts (and Mitakeumi doesn’t).

Compared to that bout, the two Ozeki bouts that followed were meh.

Takayasu dispatches Shodai in an eye blink with a tsukiotoshi. Shodai looks pretty frustrated.

Goeido all over Tamawashi in his usual 2.0 steamroller style.

Finally, in the musubi-no-ichiban, Kakuryu continues to dominate. Gets his left hand on Arawashi‘s mawashi, and while still seeking the right hand grip, pushes him to the tawara. Plain and simple yori-kiri, still unbeaten.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

Yusho Arasoi

Leader: Yokozuna Kakuryu

Chaser: M3 Tochinoshin

Hopefuls:

  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M13 Daieisho

Tomorrow Aminishiki is back on the dohyo. He says that his condition is “Good enough to be able to wrestle”. He is already make-koshi, and desparately needs wins to cushion his fall from reaching all the way to Juryo.

 

Day 8 – What an exciting “nakabi”!

The 8th day of a basho is called “nakabi” – 中日 – “middle day”. This exciting basho produced a no-less exciting nakabi, from bottom to top!

One nakabi tradition is the presentation of shin-deshi – new wrestlers who passed their maezumo this basho. So, leading the group is the young Naya, wearing his grandfather, Taiho’s, kesho-mawashi. Third, in the yellow kesho-mawashi, is Hoshoryu. No, he’s not wearing his uncle’s kesho-mawashi. That’s actually Akua’s spiffy new kesho-mawashi.

I believe this is the last we’ll see of these two for a while. Now they have to work hard to make promise reality.

Once again, I give you Hattorizakura. No, he still hasn’t managed to win, but the boy is showing real tenacity of late, and I’m sure that win is going to come:

This bout was nearly 2 minutes long!

Now, how long do you think Enho can hold on without breathing? His bout today was certainly an attempt to answer that question:

Talk about David and Goliath… By the way, that yobidashi who calls their names in the beginning sure has an impressive voice.

And what is happening with Torakio? Does he have the flu or what? His bout today was… somewhat disappointing:

Ouch.

Up we go to Makuuchi.

Abi decided to start the Makuuchi bouts with a flying henka. Attempts to pull Daiamami down, but it doesn’t work, so he works in some of his usual tsuki-oshi. Daiamami ends out flying outside for a tsuki-dashi. If you’re so strong, Abi, why do you have to henka?

Takekaze continues to slip slidin’ away. Yutakayama is lucky that the veteran is in such dire straits. He can’t seem to find his footing anymore. Too bad.

Sokokurai, on the other hand, finally shows some of the effects of experience. Keeps Ishiura‘s head away from his body. Ishiura tries to grab him by the arm. Doesn’t work. Holds Ishiura at arm’s length by his shoulders, but Ishiura manages to land his head in for his specialty torpedo… only Sokokurai grabs his mawashi from above, squats, and Ishiura finds himself on his knees.

Asanoyama manages to get a quick grip at Kagayaki. With Asanoyama being the yotsu man and Kagayaki the tsuki-oshi man, you’d think this favors Asanoyama. But Kagayaki is the one who lands a convincing uwatenage and Asanoyama finds himself on all fours and says bye-bye to the yusho race.

Now that we know that Daiamami pulls at his nose in his prebout, let’s introduce you to Ryuden‘s pre-bout routine: ragdoll on springs. He shakes and bounces. Kotoyuki starts this bout with an oshi attack, but bouncy-ball Ryuden bounces back from the tawara, gets a grip on Kotoyuki and yori-kiris him.

Daishomaru  makes short work of Nishikigi in the battle of the bottle-green mawashis, simply overpowering the Isenoumi man.

And in the bout of the wine-red mawashis, Daieisho puts an end to Chiyomaru‘s little series of wins. Comes at the eternally-round Kokonoe man from below and pushes him right out despite his tsuppari.

Takarafuji fights Shohozan for a grip – it’s really fascinating to see the battle of arms down there below their chests. The Isegahama heya-gashira (highest ranking deshi in a heya… yes… he is…) lands first a right-hand-outside, then his favorite left-hand-inside. From this point it’s all Takarafuji, in a battle of two very muscular men. We keep laughing at Takarafuji for having no neck, but the man certainly has shoulders and arms. Takarafuji: “I’m glad I broke out of my consecutive loss habit”.

Kaisei gets a firm grip on Ikioi‘s mawashi. Ikioi tries for a morozashi, but fails to get one before being pushed out. Apparently he has an ankle injury, which may serve as an explanation for his really bad form this basho.

Chiyonokuni tries every trick in the book against Okinoumi. First tsuppari, nodowa, then grabs on to Okinoumi’s arm. Tries a trip. Then finally he pulls at Okinoumi’s neck for a hatakikomi. The shimpan call a monoii, questioning whether Chiyonokuni may have pulled on Okinoumi’s mage. It looked like it from one angle – but no, the replay is very clear. Konosuke is right as usual, and Chiyonokuni got his white star fair and square.

Tochiozan doesn’t wait much time before landing Endo on the floor. Endo’s sumo is not stable.

Now, the next match was between Chiyoshoma and Arawashi. I have to say, though some pictures make them look very similar, I don’t really see why people will be confused between them. Anyway, Chiyoshoma on his fast attack, going for a hari-zashi (slap-and-grab) again,  then helps Arawashi out with his knee. Yori-kiri.

Tochinoshin got Yoshikaze today. Yoshikaze wisely not letting the Incredible Hulk anywhere near his Mawashi. So Tochinoshin just runs a tsuppari attack, which turns out to be effective and Yoshikaze finds himself out. Tochinoshin keeps himself in the chaser group.

tochinoshin-yoshikaze

Tochinoshin: “I just couldn’t grab the mawashi. So with my heart thumping I went for the tsuppari.”

Next we had two tadpoles meeting – Hokutofuji and Onosho. This was a push-me-pull-you bout which ended with Hokutofuji on his knees. Personally, I don’t like that sumo. Red mawashi comes on top. Hokutofuji not having the best basho of his life.

Mitakeumi, with 7-0, got intimate with the Mongolian boulder, Ichinojo, who quite quickly got a left hand outside. Mitakeumi works hard to deny Ichinojo the right hand inside on his mawashi, and tries to be patient. But patience doesn’t necessarily pay when you have 215kg leaning on you. Ichinojo can sleep riding a horse. He can also sleep leaning. Eventually Ichinojo wakes up, decides Mitakeumi is not so warm and fluffy that he should stay there much longer, and pushes the sekiwake to the edge. Mitakeumi drops to the chaser group.

mitakeumi-ichinojo

Tamawashi finally looks a little more like a sekiwake, pushing Kotoshogiku quickly away. I suspect the coconut clash there at the beginning might have had something to do with it. Tamawashi has had his skull rattled rather a lot this basho, I hope this doesn’t have long lasting effects.

Goeido goes into a nirami-ai (staredown) with Chiyotairyu right when they are supposed to be matching their breaths. This backfires, and Chiyotairyu gets his first on-dohyo win in this basho, giving the Ozeki the same de-ashi (forward-moving sumo) he usually gives his opponents when he boots up in the proper mode.

Takayasu is matched with another tadpole – Takakeisho – and decides to do some tadpole sumo. Push, pull, and now it’s Takakeisho on all fours. Did I mention that I don’t like this sumo? Anyway, the big bear wins. Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, he opened up with a hari-zashi (slap-and-grab). Do you want to be a yokozuna, Takayasu?

Finally, the musubi-no-ichiban. Could the new Shodai dent the invincible Kakuryu’s dragon scales? The tachiai looks pretty convincing, and Shodai begins to advance, but by his second step Kakuryu has a secure overarm grip on his mawashi, and just pulls. Pulls so hard, in fact, that Shodai finds himself flat on his face, and Kakuryu is checking to see if his elbow is still connected.

kakuryu-shodai

Michinoku oyakata, who served as Abema TV’s commentator for today, is asked about Kakuryu’s performance following his kyujo issues and all. He says “His sumo is much better than it was before he went kyujo”. Kakuryu hasn’t had a 8-0 opening since he won his last yusho in Kyushu 2016.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

Our kakuryumeter remains the same, full to the top. The papers make much of the fact that Kakuryu secured his kachi-koshi, but we all know that this is not a Yokozuna kachi-koshi just yet, and Kakuryu himself says “I don’t care about that, there are 7 days to go”.

Yusho arasoi

8-0: Yokozuna Kakuryu.

7-1:

  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M13 Daieisho

But tomorrow this chaser list will be down to no more than two, with Mitakeumi facing Tochinoshin.