Just when you think that this basho can’t get any crazier, Shikimori Inosuke tells us all to hold his beer.
I’m talking, of course, of what happened in the musubi-no-ichiban on day 8.
This starts out as an exciting match, with Wakamotoharu showing that his win over an Ozeki was not a fluke. The match gets complicated, and two minutes pass. Wakamotoharu gets the Yokozuna pretty close to the edge, shuffles for a position, while the Yokozuna also improves his own hold with a deep left hand grip.
Then Wakamotoharu goes on the attack and the Yokozuna is out! A zabuton flies in. The audience goes “oh!”. But… wait… the gyoji doesn’t point the gunbai. There’s a commotion. A monoii? What is going on?
Here is what is going on.
At exactly 2:54 in the video above, Wakamotoharu’s back knot gives in and gets untied. Shikimori Inosuke, who is standing far away on the other side of the dohyo, notices this, and runs in to call a mawashi matta. He shouts “matta, matta”, and attempts to tap both rikishi’s backs. Terunofuji complies and relaxes his hold, at which point Wakamotoharu, who was already starting an attack, completes it and the Yokozuna is out.
To understand what a mawashi-matta is, you can refer to my older article about gyoji calls (scroll down a bit). If the back knot is untied, the whole mawashi can get unraveled, at which point the front part may also loosen enough to show the rikishi’s family jewels – and that’s a “shameful disqualification”, and definitely not considered a good thing to watch on prime time TV.
So a gyoji has to stop the match, re-tie the knot, and start it from the position where it was stopped. It was unfortunate, though, that Wakamotoharu did not stop when the gyoji called it.
The shimpan discussion was not your usual monoii discussion, therefore, but a discussion about a rare if not unprecedented situation. A mawashi matta itself is not a problem, but continuing to move after that is, and there was also the issue of the Yokozuna going out.
The rules say that after the time limit (when the rikishi throw their last salt and enter the ring), exiting it is a loss. There was a famous case in a 1968 match between Katsuhikari and Asaarashi, in which Asaarashi picked a bit of trash that somehow got into the dohyo, and left the ring to throw it away. The shimpan stopped the match and a foul was called (loss by hansoku). So you are not supposed to leave the dohyo. But clearly the Yokozuna should not be punished for complying with the gyoji’s instruction, nor should Wakamotoharu be rewarded for not complying.
The shimpan had a consultation, and decided to proceed as if he never left the dohyo. That is, from the point of the mawashi-matta. The problem was getting the two rikishi back into their positions. So more than a mawashi-matta, this resembled a mizu-iri situation (see the same article!). But this turned out to be a bit difficult.
You see this sort of situation in Snooker sometimes. A foul and a miss is called, and the opponent requests a reset. The referee then consults with an overlay of the video and the table, and adjusts the balls until they are back to their original position.
But this is sumo, and what followed was a farcical adjustment of positions, arms and feet, with the spectators having a commotion in the background. You can see it in the video above from 4:24, when Shikimori Inosuke calls Sadogatake up to adjust the rikishi, as he is the only one with a video link. Only, of course, he can’t see the video, just hear instructions from the Fujishima oyakata, who was at the video room, and serve as a proxy.
I really hope the NSK will learn from this situation and equip the shimpan-cho with a tablet through which he’ll be able to see the overlay (or other video situations) with his own eyes rather than go through the “tell him to tell them that I was told that…” hoops.
Going back to the point of the call, though, there is argument that Inosuke’s call came at a bad timing. Sadogatake oyakata, in an interview, said the consultation was mainly to establish that it really was a mawashi-matta situation, but he wasn’t very clear about whether it was made at an appropriate time. Usually a mawashi-matta is only called when the rikishi are at an impasse. However, some shifting and shuffling do not prevent a mawashi-matta from being called. Inosuke clearly believed this was an impasse, as he stopped calling “nokotta” shortly before the incident.
His positioning can also be questioned, as if he stood closer to the pair, he’d probably have been able to react more quickly.
Another point for argument is whether it would have been better to call a yarinaoshi (redo, not a torinaoshi (rematch), which is the call made when two rikishi lose a match at the exact same time). Bear in mind there was also the question of time, because this was past 6 O’Clock Japan time and a yarinaoshi would have required the whole shikiri process again. It’s also debatable whether or not it would be fairer.
Kudos to Wakamotoharu for giving the yokozuna an excellent fight. Next time, though, make sure your mawashi is tied properly. Also, a nod to Shodai who fixed the knot for him though it’s clearly not his duty.