Hatsu Day 4 Highlights

It looks like it was hair-pull Wednesday. None of it seemed like a deliberate tactic, but it took at least one clear win from a rikishi on a no-loss streak. There are an impressive number of rank-and-file rikishi who are still 4-0, and sadly two Ozeki who are in real trouble with injuries, and might want to consider kyujo and immediate medical attention.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Aminishiki – A couple of false starts, Chiyonokuni was worried about an Aminishiki henka, and who would not be? Aminishiki took the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni was able to overwhelm uncle sumo’s offense.

Yutakayama defeats Daiamami – Yutakayama picks up his third win, in this evenly balanced oshi/tsuki match. Yutakayama was consistently in better position, and kept Daiamami moving to his tune. My favorite part comes when Daiamami has a solid nodowa, and Yutakayama applies a vigorous slap to his attacker’s face.

Kotoyuki defeats Chiyoshoma – Kotoyuki got into his favorite mode of sumo, and after trading a short series of thrusts, he had Chiyoshoma off balance, and spinning toward the East side.

Yago defeats Kagayaki – Excellent fundamentals as usual from Kagayaki, and he controlled the early part of the match, moving Yago backward, keeping Yago higher and reacting to his sumo. Yago worked to bring Kagayaki to his chest, and when he got Kagayaki wrapped up, he went to work. Although Kagayaki struggled, Yago kept his opponent centered and marched him out. More evidence that Yago is probably going to be a big deal in the next few years.

Abi defeats Endo – It was a cloud of flailing arms immediately from the tachiai, and Abi put himself at risk by attempting an early pull down. Respect to Endo for doing a better job than most at repelling the Abi-zumo attack, but Abi continued to apply pressure, and Endo landed in a heap.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – A solid, protracted mawashi battle. Asanoyama was in control for a good portion of the match, but failed to pick up his first win. It looked like Asanoyama got tired, and Ryuden exploited his opponents exhaustion. Good sumo from both.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – Kaisei seems to have his sumo at full power for the first time in a while, and he remains undefeated. Daieisho gave it everything he had, but there is just too much Kaisei to toss around.

Onosho defeats Aoiyama – This match was all Aoiyama, and Onosho could not overcome the Man-Mountain’s superior reach, and was bodily thrown to the clay. But a Monoii was called, and it was determined that Aoiyama had contact with Onosho’s hair during the throw, and was disqualified.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – I hate to say it, but it’s painful to watch Yoshikaze right now. He seems completely out of energy and drive, and he presents little offense in any of his matches. Injury? We don’t get to know.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – Shohozan scores his first win by shutting down Kotoshogiku’s hug-n-chug attack, and getting to Kotoshogiku’s side.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – A critical tadpole battle, this match did much to shape the second act, and it’s a fair question to wonder if Takakeisho needs to work out a mechanism to defend against this kind of attack. Mitakeumi was able to shut down the “wave-action” by never letting Takakeisho get enough distance to effective push against him. At close range, Mitakeumi’s bulk and grip carried the match. Excellent strategy from Mitakeumi, and he moves to 4-0. I can point to Takakeisho’s early attempt at a pull-down as the fatal flaw that allowed Mitakeumi to close the gap and back Takakeisho to the bales as the moment he lost the match.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Ozeki Tochinoshin needs to just go kyujo, and work to get his injury treated. He is going to be kadoban either way, and he may as well save himself from any potential damage that might arise.

Ichinojo defeats Goeido – A wide range of thoughts about this, firstly a lot of credit to Ichinojo for outstanding, aggressive sumo two days in a row. He looked like a real champion, and I can’t get enough of this when he is fighting well. Goeido gave it everything he had, and we saw some fantastic attempts to overcome Ichinojo’s size and mass advantage. But with Goeido pressed tightly to his chest, Ichinojo expertly wore him down, and then tossed him aside like a spent ice cream bucket. Fantastic sumo from both, but Goeido likewise needs to own up to his injury and seek treatment before it becomes permanent.

Takayasu defeats Tochiozan – Influenza patient Takayasu blasts through his fever to drop Tochiozan. As the scion of Tagonoura now, I expect Takayasu to further harden his already grim determination to win every time he mounts the dohyo. On a related note, it seems the flu is ripping through Japan right now, and there may be several more rikishi who end up sick before this tournament is complete.

Kakuryu defeats Myogiryu – It was not pretty, but it was a much needed win.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji lost this match because Hakuho used anything he could think of to delay the moment he touched out. It was a masterful act of agility and poise, but it was really a toss up who was the dead body in this match. Although Hakuho won, this is a great barometer of just how far Hokutofuji’s sumo has come. The boss remains undefeated.

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 10 (Dec 11)

🌐 Location: Fukiagecho, Hioki, Kagoshima
😛 Goofometer: ◾️◽️◽️◽️◽️

We now move to the Kagoshima prefecture, which boasts several rikishi of fame. There are the Kinoshita brothers, Chiyomaru and Chiyootori, Meisei and Daiamami. There is even a rikishi who is from Hioki city itself, though admittedly, a less well-known one:

Kiseoka of Kise beya, local boy

Early morning, and in the handshake corner, we finally get to see Yoshikaze in his mawashi rather than yukata:

Rash or no rash? Maybe the aftermath of rash?

Inside, as usual, the Kokonoe rikishi are diligently working out around the dohyo. Kokonoe oyakata assures us that Chiyosakae is, in fact, serious:

As you know, the rikishi don’t have commercial weights available during the Jungyo, so they lift each other. Chiyomaru starts by lifting up Chiyonoumi, a reasonable 140kg weight. But then Chiyonoumi starts lifting Chiyomaru:

Now, that’s a 140kg rikishi lifting 191kg… 😨

By the way, notice those zabuton (sitting cushions) laid down on the floor? Take a look at one close-up:

The organizers of the event commissioned the design for these cushions from Kototsurugi. And Kototsurugi did a wonderful job – the light reflecting off Hakuho’s eyes! The shadow of the oicho-mage on the reflective, oiled hair! It’s a wonderful memento to take home with you… only… sitting on a Yokozuna’s face?

Some fans did sit on these zabuton. Not Hakuho fans, I guess. Others preferred sitting on zabuton they brought with them and holding the gift ones in their hands (“I hugged it and watched sumo!” said one of the spectators). The next day, when Asashoryu saw this he tweeted his indignation in two separate outraged tweets and even tried to get a reaction from Hakuho. Hakuho is not an idiot, of course, and didn’t react. At least not in public. He just kept on doing his thing:

I’m betting he got to sign a lot of those cushions at the end of the day.

His little pixie uchi-deshi also did his thing. That is, turned on the kawaii production to max:

Standing up, cute. Crouching down, also cute:

Tochinoshin was doing his shiko below the dohyo:

And Juryo rikishi were practicing on the dohyo:

I’m not sure when Chiyomaru had time to interview for the local news:

Maybe during the Makuuchi practice?

I guess he is getting himself used to being in Juryo.

Here is Tochinoshin vs. Takakeisho:

Tochinoshin doesn’t like to lose.

In the afternoon part of the event, Daiamami took the opportunity to get a photo with the sumo club of his alma mater, the Kagoshima Commercial Senior High School:

Enho was taking a stroll through the concession stand, where some fan sneaked in some unspecified unlicensed cheeky merchandise that managed to make Enho gasp, laugh, and apparently, feign anger:

Hey, calm down, pixie! Don’t beat up the customers!

No, I really have no idea what the fake merchandise was. The tweets I read that in had that part intentionally redacted. All we are left with is a pixie who is cute even when he tries to look fierce. And of course, Tomokaze who gets his share of pixie skin.

You can catch some glimpses of bouts in this video. Yes, it’s a video of a TV set showing a news segment. What you see are the local stars:

Also, enjoy Abi’s shiko:

And here is an expression you’ll never, ever see on the Yokozuna’s face when he gets ready to throw his salt in honbasho. Jungyo exclusive face here:

The day ends with Kasugaryu twirling his bow:

And this post ends with a double header in the pin-up corner:

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 9 (Dec 10)

Wear your sunglasses and prepare your insulin shots – we have a lot of kawaii today!

Shodai, Shodai, Shodai, Ryuko

🌐 Location: Uto, Kumamoto
😛 Goofometer: ◾️◾️◾️◽️◽️

We complete our journey through Kumamoto in Uto, home to two active rikishi. One is Ryuko, a Makushita wrestler who did well this basho and will be in the race for sekitori status in the next basho:

Narutaki, Asakura, Ryuko

Um, Narutaki. What are you doing? I thought we were done with this stuff last jungyo. Anyway, you’re drawing attention away from the local boy!

So, in yesterday’s post’s comments, I was asked whether these tsukebito actually get any practice. Well, yes they do:

Midorifuji tsupparis, Daieisho and Akiseyama look on

The practice session is more or less the same as that of the sekitori, only held earlier. It consists mostly of moshi-ai sessions, punctuated by quick butsukari for the participants. At the later stages, that butsukari is offered by sekitori:

Not that Enho is much of a pushing challenge. In Midorifuji’s case, it seems he got his butsukari from Tamawashi. At least, the mud on his back says he got rolled.

That’s a bit more of a challenge, and apparently Tamawashi makes sure that he didn’t hurt the micro-rikishi.

While the low-ranking wrestlers have their time on the dohyo, the sekitori are either outside in the corridors doing handshakes, or finding themselves quiet spots for some exercise. Meisei, who is out doing handshake, is so cold, he starts laughing uncontrollably:

Ishiura is all like “Who put me next to Crazy here”?

Which may be the reason why later Meisei had to settle for an isolated spot between a stroller and some derelict equipment:

Don’t worry, he didn’t stay alone for long:

A bit earlier, near the dohyo, just as yesterday, the Kokonoe guys do their morning workouts in front of their oyakata. This includes not just the sekitori but also Chiyosakae, who does this:

This seems to embarrass Kokonoe oyakata, whose voice you can hear in the background “take it seriously, will you?”. He also assures us in the tweet that Chiyosakae actually does take it seriously.

Around that same time, Akiseyama arrives at the dohyo and greets Kasugano, the Jungyo master.

I have a feeling Kasugano wishes he didn’t.

In some corner of the venue, Toyonoshima works out with a piece of rubber, assisted by his loyal Miyazaki:

The Juryo men start their own practice on the dohyo. Here is some butsukari between Chiyonoumi and Hakuyozan:

Jokoryu gets to have Ikioi’s chest:

And Enho… well, Enho is everywhere and practices with everybody. That is, anybody who can possibly find an excuse to lay his hands on the pixie:

Even the Yokozuna smiles when his little uchi-deshi greets him with a respectful ladle of water:

You’d think that Enho is the star of the show rather than Shodai. But actually, Shodai got a lot of attention. Some keiko with Asanoyama:

And some with Tochinoshin:

To which Tochinoshin also adds a hearty Kawaigari:

Whoa, I thought military-grade guns were forbidden in Japan!

Practice part over, everybody gets cleaned, have their oicho-mage started, and have lunch. There are food stalls outside, and… it’s the perfect oportunity to grab Enho and ask him for a pic:

Hey, is that a way to start a conversation with a sekitori? Is there a single rikishi in the whole sumo world who doesn’t think the Japanese National Sport is actually “grab the pixie”?

As practice mawashi dry in the sun…

Remember, these things are never washed…

Inside the venue it still seems pretty cold. Take a look at Terutsuyoshi, all bundled into his… is that a kimono or a Mongolian Deel?

Sure looks like a Deel to me, but Terutsuyoshi is not Mongolian.

Nishikigi, on the other hand, gets warm by pestering his tsukebito:

In the entrance, however, Shodai was being photographed with his grandmother:

The Japanese press love Shodai’s grandmother, because of her name. Shodai is one of the wrestlers, like Takayasu, Endo and Yago, who wrestle under their own name. His grandmother’s name is 正代正代 – yes, twice the same pair of kanji, two completely different readings: Masayo Shodai.

It’s time for the Juryo dohyo-iri, and Enho is turning up the kawaii level:

That can’t be a rikishi. It’s a china doll for sure!

Gokushindo is doing the same thing on the East side:

Those two are supposed to face each other this day. And they both exude kawaii like two idol group members on a save-the-cute-bunnies campaign. Enho signals to Gokushindo across the dohyo as they wait their turn:

When Gokushindo gets up on the dohyo, Chiyonoumi gives him the good old salted ladle routine:

Which you can’t blame him for doing, when that’s the reaction he gets. Then the two kings of cute battle in the cutest sumo bout you have ever seen:

I did warn you to prepare the insulin in advance, didn’t I? And those two kept it up even after the bout was over!

Hey! Isn’t sumo fun?

Well, Toyonoshima and Tomokaze were a little more serious about it:

But then came the Makuuchi dohyo-iri and of course, the usual suspects were goofing around. Abi had an arm-wrestling contest with Chiyotairyu:

And Nishikigi was still looking for somebody to bother, and found Shodai:

Shodai: “Come on, my grandma is here!”.

Looks like a little bit of cute rubbed off even on Takarafuji and Asanoyama:

But if you want to see a little actual sumo, here is this short video:

Shodai was paired, unsurprisingly, with Endo, who must be rather frustrated at having to constantly lose to local boys. Utchari, no less!

And how about that tsuridashi Hakuho did on Takayasu? It’s very encouraging to see him do that. Remember, Jungyo bouts are not something anybody is advised to put money on. There are lots of “gentlemen’s agreements” there, and at the very least, nobody is going to risk injury to win. But still, you can draw some conclusions about wrestlers’ health, and if Hakuho can do something like picking Takayasu up, it means his legs are up to the extra load.

By the way, Yoshikaze was back on the torikumi this day for the first time since the Jungyo began – while Yutakayama dropped off it.

With the sun setting, everybody’s Akeni was packed and wrapped and loaded onto the truck (the side-loading Japanese trucks are very clever):

The Akeni and their wraps carry the names of the sekitori. I always amuse myself by trying to identify as many names as possible. Try to learn the kanji for the wrestlers names!

During this visit to Uto, the Yokozuna paid a visit to the grave of Shiranui Nageimon, the 8th Yokozuna, performing his Shiranui dohyo-iri in front of the grave:

Shiranui Nageimon was actually the master of the 11th Yokozuna Shiranui Kotsuemon to whom that dohyo-iri style is (mistakenly) attributed.

And with this, we wrap up the day, tying it all up with Tobizaru:

That lovely Tobizaru really needs to be credited, so here is the Tweet from which he was taken:

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 5 (Dec 6)

🌐 Location: Beppu, Oita
😛 Goofometer: ◽️◽️◽️◽️◽️

We have only a short report today, and less goofy than the usual. But those who are new here are going to learn about kawaigari. Learning is a good thing, isn’t it?

So, let’s start in the morning. The first activity of the day is handshakes with the fans. Yoshikaze participates.

But notice that he does it in a yukata, which is rather unusual. Most of the rikishi do the handshakes in their practice mawashi. This tells us that not only is Yoshikaze off the torikumi, he is also not doing any keiko. One has to wonder what ails him, or rather, what is it that ails him enough not to do keiko, but still not enough to excuse himself from part or all of the Jungyo.

On the sidelines, we have Okinoumi doing some push-ups:

I think he is not quite up to par by military standards.

Next we have some moshi-ai bouts. First, Takakeisho vs. Daieisho, followed by Takakeisho vs. Onosho:

I wonder who it was who got tossed off the dohyo.

Next we have Abi vs. Onosho, followed by Abi vs. Ichinojo.

A direct push doesn’t work against the boulder, so Abi goes for a (somewhat crude) death spin.

Next up, Takayasu vs. Endo, then Takayasu vs. Tochiozan:

Tochinoshin with Ichinojo:

Oof, Ichinojo’s legs don’t look very pretty.

And neither does his sumo. 😩

Finally, the Yokozuna gets on the dohyo. This is significant, as up till now he didn’t do any on-dohyo activity. Well, technically he did some stretches and shiko at the corner of the dohyo, but that’s not something he really needs a dohyo for.

The Yokozuna – all of them – tend to scale their activity up through the Jungyo. There are different degrees of intensity. Doing basics is ground level. Then you have butsukari geiko (where you are the dominant), which is slightly higher (you have to use your feet and you get smashed in the chest). Then there is doing your own butsukari, and doing bouts with low and high ranking rikishi.

The Yokozuna is not yet on the torikumi list – the Musubi is between the two participating Ozeki – but he did start giving butsukari today. The pushing partner was Takakeisho.

Butsukari is a drill in which one side – usually higher-ranked – offers his chest, and the other side has to push him, again and again, all the way to the edge of the dohyo. If you succeed, you do a squat, and continue until the high-ranker decides you’ve had enough. If you fail, the dominant throws you on the floor, or he may choose to get you to walk around in what I call a “monkey walk” – it’s not exactly the same as suri-ashi, and the dominant usually has his hand on your neck to bend you down.

That’s the basics. But then there is kawaigari. Now, you wouldn’t know it from the NSK video above, but this was actually a kawaigari session.

A kawaigari session is butsukari with extra testosterone. On the dominant’s part, that is. It’s a show of dominance, and a serious challenge for the submissive. You get shouted at. And kicked. And your hair may be pulled, or your ass slapped. And all you can do is go “yes, sir”, “yes, sir”, and keep up. At some point you get exhausted. But you have to get up and keep going. You are not supposed to waste the time of the high-ranking rikishi who is giving you his precious attention.

This is a well known ritual in the sumo world. And watching it is not easy for newcomers. Though the original version is worse – it includes spits and hard beating with a bamboo stick. I’m told this still goes on today – though not in public. The public version is not really hazardous to one’s health.

Hakuho loves kawaigari. Having been a Yokozuna so long, nobody can give him one. But he can sure give it to others, they can’t refuse, and it’s considered an honor – while it makes it very clear who’s boss, which is exactly how the Yokozuna likes it. And so, you won a Yusho, young man? Get some “TLC” (that’s what “kawaigari” means) from the Yokozuna. Here is the extended version:

Hakuho is an excellent performer. He makes sure all of the spectators get a good view – standing at different edges of the dohyo each time. He gets more laughs than the shokkiri team – but also signals to the audience when to applaud the exhausted Komusubi. He kicks and growls – and makes sure that Takakeisho’s mawashi knot doesn’t come undone.

But this performance caused quite a stir with one faction of sumo fans – the so-called “Takanohana cultists” (not all Takanohana fans belong to this category). They – or rather, some of them, because I don’t believe anybody who has been a sumo fan for any serious length of time would be – were outraged by Hakuho’s “hideous” treatment of Takakeisho. “That man does not deserve to be a Yokozuna!”. “Why did the NSK censor all the kicking and hair pulling?”. “I really hope Takakeisho makes it through this Jungyo uninjured”. “Hakuho makes sure no young talent can rise in the sumo world”. Some even searched the Internet and found evidence that Harumafuji used to do the same! Those awful Mongolians!

That, my friends, is called “cherry picking”. Because the practice is quite widespread, and no, it’s not restricted to awful Mongolians. Here we have some kawaigari Goeido gave Hokutofuji in 2016.

I think Goeido has never been in Mongolia. Here is one Takayasu gave a youngster from his heya a few years back in a public training:

OK. Lesson over. Now, unlike those cultists, you’ll know a kawaigari when you see one.

I do not have much from the latter part of the day. I do have these two serious, stern-faced sekitori doing their dohyo-iri:

Who are we kidding? You think Abi can stay serious for more than two seconds?

Hey, concentrate on the dohyo-iri, Daddy-Long-Legs.

To wrap up, here is a pixie:

Enho is giving butsukari to one of the low-rankers. Thing is, Hakuho is on the dohyo, and seems to be saying something to his wee uchi-deshi, which gives Enho an expression which is completely incompatible with butsukari or sekitori dominance in general. 🤗

Kyushu Day 7 – Recap

1:59 bout vs. Takayasu, Ryuden

The first week of this tipsy basho is coming to a close, and the basho signals to us that it still has enough bottles of saké to develop a good delirium tremens, and that any advance bets and dares are at our own risk (how was your rump steak, Bruce?)

Daishoho does today’s duty as the Juryo fill-in, facing Meisei. He envelopes Meisei right off the Tachiai, and none of Meisei’s wriggles are to any avail. Yorikiri, and Daishoho picks a nice envelope in his first Makuuchi bout.

Chiyomaru and Takanosho are both 1-5 coming into this match. Takanosho is aggressive and pushes Chiyomaru to the edge. Chiyomaru tries to sidestep, but Takanosho maintains his balance and keeps up the pressure, leading him to the other edge. So Chiyomaru tries it again. This time it works. Hatakikomi, Chiyomaru grabs his second win. I believe both of them are heading down to Juryo by the end of this basho, but I’m not staking any body-part steaks on that.

Arawashi‘s bout with Onosho might as well has been a fusen. Onosho rises, and pushes unresisting Arawashi straight off. Watching Arawashi this basho is really painful.

Endo attempts a harizashi (slap-and-slip) on Chiyoshoma, but never gets to the sashi (slipping his hand inside) part. Chiyoshoma advances, retreats, advances again and seems in control, but Endo pulls and wins this one by hatakikomi.

Okinoumi and Daiamami are “kenka-yotsu” – meaning one of them prefers migi-yotsu (right hand inside), and the other hidari-yotsu (left hand inside). And indeed most of this bout is spent attempting to get their favorite grip and denying the other his. Daiamami maintains a strong grip on Okinoumi’s belt, but it’s just an “ichimai” – hold on one layer – and it’s Okinoumi who manages to wrap Daiamami up and yori-kiri him.

Chiyonokuni‘s match with Daishomaru starts with a strong kachiage – but it’s actually a matta. On top of that, that kachiage causes Daishomaru’s nose to bleed. He needs to take a break and returns to the dohyo with a wad of tissue up his nostril – not exactly a beautiful sight. The match restarts. This time Chiyonokuni is a bit more hesitant in his tachiai, and Daishomaru exploits that and yori-kiris the Kokonoe man.

Both Aoiyama and Sadanoumi look better than one would expect this basho, and start this match 4-2. Sadanoumi takes the initiative and has his right hand inside, but Aoiyama locks it, prevents him from achieving a proper yotsu position, and adds a bubious nodowa (you’re not supposed to do that with your fingers folded, though one can’t call that an actual punch), sending Sadanoumi for a dive. Oshitaoshi.

Yutakayama does not look very good this basho. However, he starts this match with a kachiage to Kotoshogiku‘s throat. Follows that with two powerful nodowa, and when Kotoshogiku applies all his strength to the ground to withstand those, steps aside and lets the former Ozeki’s strong legs to all the work. Yutakayama gets his second win by tsukiotoshi.

Daieisho, who somehow found himself in the chaser group without us even noticing him, is not impressed with Abi‘s well-known opener. He withstands a couple of shoves, goes under them and does some shoving of his own. Daieisho is now 6-1.

In the battle of the single-kanji wrestlers, Ikioi lands a shallow grip, but Kagayaki frees himself and starts a pushing attack that puts Ikioi in reverse gear and out of the ring. This is Kagayaki’s first win against Ikioi.

Something really is up with Takanoiwa this basho. It’s as if he is afraid of contact. Takarafuji manages to land a brief hold on him. Takanoiwa retreats, frees himself from that grab, but instead of making any attack of his own, keeps retreating and Takarafuji really doesn’t need to do much to win. Both end this match 2-5, and I’m sure Takarafuji was scratching his head asking himself how exactly he won that, as he was going back to Isagahama beya’s lodgings.

Shohozan starts his bout with Asanoyama with a mighty morotezuki… only he does it without having actually touched his hands to the ground – and soon-to-be-promoted Konosuke will have none of that. In the second tachiai, he touches very slightly, and repeats the morotezuki, following it by a brief morozashi. Asanoyama is very active, releasing himself from that grip first on one side and then the other, and then getting his own hold. From then on it’s Asanoyama all the (short) way.

Tamawashi starts his typical oshi bout with Nishikigi, but Nishikigi defends well, and starts his own attack. He really should have attempted to lock a hold on Tamawashi, though, because Tamawashi has years of experience and as he nears the edge quickly reverses the fortunes. It wasn’t far from another Nishikigi upset, though.

Hokutofuji is not letting Tochiozan‘s 5-1 record distract him. A shove. A nodowa. Another aggressive shove. Tochiozan ends up losing for the second day in a row, his magic gone.

This bout is exactly the reason why Kaisei decided to enter the basho while still injured. Despite Myogiryu‘s tenacity, the huge Brazilian envelopes him and doesn’t really leave him much room for maneuver. Kaisei wins, and if he picks enough such wins, the next banzuke may see him drop to a position that’s easier to defend on the one hand, and safe from demotion on the other.

Tachiai. Chiyotairyu slams into Ichinojo. Goes for the throat. But that only manages to wake Ferdinand up, and you can see Ichinojo getting warmer and his thrusts getting fiercer. Chiyotairyu’s own thrusts seem to leave no impression – other than the loud “Slam!” sounds reverberating through the Fukuoka International Sports Center. The last slam sees Chiyotairyu at the corner beyond the bales, and I can only hope that this has woken up Ichinojo enough to show us some of his better sumo in the next few days.

Mitakeumi starts a powerful shoving match with lossless Takakeisho right out of the tachiai, and it’s boom-forward-boom-forward. Takakeisho deftly sidesteps at the edge, but Mitakeumi was not born yesterday. He turns around with an “Oh yeah?” expression on his face. Takakeisho probably regrets having stepped so far away at this point, because if he was closer he could have pushed Mitakeumi from behind. Instead, the Sekiwake lunges at him, and an exchange of thrusts begins, at the end of which Mitakeumi grabs Takakeisho’s neck and pulls him down.

Takakeisho slowly rises, while fiddling with his chon-mage, hinting at the shimpan that his hair was pulled. I am not sure they noticed that, because only after the rikishi make their bows does the head shimpan, Onomatsu, signal a monoii. Perhaps he got a call from the video room. The shimpan confer, and Onomatsu oyakata goes back to his seat and gives a confused summary. “The hand, the mawashi, the hand, the whachamacallit, the hand didn’t grab the mawashi, the gyoji’s decision stayed”. I wonder how much the shimpan drink before starting their day below the dohyo.

So Takakeisho is no longer lossless, and the way is open for the single-loss Takayasu to claim the yusho – assuming you don’t think that Daieisho is a legitimate candidate. But the day is not over yet.

Next we move to our first Ozeki match. Tochinoshin faces Yoshikaze. Now, Yoshikaze’s tactic today somewhat reminded me of Enho’s opening gambit. Of course Yoshikaze is not Enho’s size, but relative to Tochinoshin, it’s not that far off, and the agility is certainly there. He scrambles for a maemitsu grip, while denying the Ozeki access to his own mawashi. Eventually, though, he gives up that tactic, and slides up that left arm, which was seeking the maemitsu grip, under the ozeki’s arm. A beautiful sukuinage ensues. Nice touch there, forcing Tochinoshin’s head further down making him lose his footing. Tochinoshin, a pretty solid yusho candidate before the basho, finds himself needing to get enough wins to avoid kadoban instead.

OK, so now that Takayasu knows Takakeisho lost, he knows he is in the spearhead of the yusho race. All he needs to do is beat 1-5 Ryuden. But Ryuden is not impressed by the Ozeki’s kachiage, and manages – momentarily, to get his favorite morozashi. Takayasu quickly releases himself on one side, and Ryuden is left with a hand inside with no grip on the left, and an outside grip on the right. Ryuden tries again and again to achieve the grip with his left, but the Ozeki denies him with a right ottsuke. Ryuden tries an attack. But he simply doesn’t have the muscle power against the Ozeki’s 180kg. The stalemate continues.

Then Takayasu frees himself on his right side and uses the left inside grip he has on Ryuden to try and turn the Maegashira away and out. Ryuden is not easily thrown off, though. He manages to get a maemitsu grip. But his combined grip is problematic – you want to get at least one hand on the back side of the mawashi. With both hands in front he can’t create leverage, though he tries again and again.

But as the stalemate continues, Takayasu’s lower back problems are starting to assert themselves. Yet another attempt by Ryuden, and the Ozeki finds himself out of ring – and out of the leader group, again. Ryuden, barely able to breath, gets a hefty batch of envelopes, and his first win against an Ozeki! What a match!

The musubi-no-ichiban is anticlimactic by comparison. Shodai manages to briefly get a good hold on Goeido, and his previous success makes him impatient. He tries to drag Goeido to the edge. Goeido is not obliging. Shodai soon finds himself in the typical Goeido embrace, and down below the dohyo.


What a day this has been. Here is the leaderboard after Cray 7. That is, Day 7:

6-1

  • K1E Takakeisho
  • M9W Daieisho
  • M13E Onosho

5-2

  • O1W Takayasu
  • M2E Tochiozan
  • M5E Chiyotairyu
  • M7E Abi
  • M12E Aoiyama

Hey, Abi, grab that Yusho! (わら)