Baruto-Kobo. First, a bout from the Juuryo division, Baruto withdrew from the previous basho and part of B1 too because of a terrible knee injury, so he finds himself back in Juuryo now. While watching this, I was looking at his bandaged knee. I don't know, he seems to be a bit cautious still. See what you think.
Miyabiyama takes advantage of Roho's indecision.
Miyabiyama-Roho. This was quite a little drama. First, there is a bad tachiai, and there is a routine "mata" called by the gyoji. Then Miyabiyama jumps early again, and makes contact with Roho, who does not resist and is pushed back, audibly protesting "mata!" Afterwards, Roho lumbers about like a bear, protesting to everyone. Was he justified? Well, the photo shows how Roho was actually reaching for the belt while he was rising. It looks to me like the gyoji was justified in letting it go. In the locker room, Roho is still protesting. As far as I am concerned Roho is acting like a steroid-crazed baby.
Ama meets Kakizoe.
Ama-Kakizoe. It is such a pleasure to see Ama at sekiwake that I had to show his first bout. I did predict he would win 12 matches this basho. I admit that is probably over optimistic. But maybe by less than you would think.
Kotooshu plays games with Homasho's shikiri timing.
Kotooshu-Homasho. Kotooshu is definitely learning all the strategies. Watch him aggravate the nerves of this poor young man in order to acquire an advantage.
Hakuho faces Kotoshogiku.
Hakuho-Kotoshogiku. So, will Hakuho lose his first bout again on day 1? Everyone held their breath.
Asashoryu wins against Toyonoshima, whom Asashoryuu needlessly injured during pre-basho practice.
Asashoryu-Toyonoshima. Toyonoshima has given Asashoryuu a bit of trouble in the past. So in typical Asashoryuu fashion, A. hunted out T. in training on April 30 before the basho, and roughed him up a bit. Now, in sumo lore this is regarded as a "favor" the yokozuna does for the lower ranked wrestler, to give him added experience. But A. leans especially hard on wrestlers who have the bad judgement to actually defeat him. This sadly lends a slender bit of credence to some of the bribes-for-bouts rumors. Sort of, "Play along with me or I'll break your legs."
Well, in this case the practice session ended with Toyonoshima being taken to the hospital with both ankle and knee injuries. Worse yet, the injuries happened when Toyonoshima was already down, and Asashoryuu dealt him a blow after the fall, as he has sometimes been seen to do. Doctors told T. he would need more than two weeks to recover. But T. decided to enter the basho after a fairly successful training session on May 3, and after consulting with his oyakata Tokitsukaze. Not entering would have caused him to descend in rank a long way, losing his komusubi rank. That would have been heartbreaking.
Asashoryuu's behavior is restrained today. Even gallant. I'm sure he feels a bit guilty for ruining the new komusubi's first basho at the rank. Is it possible that he doesn't realize how brutal he is? Isn't that a symptom of steroid abuse? The Sumo Kyokai has no facilities for steroid testing nor have they mentioned any such plans.
That being the case, one would have to be delusional to think that steroid abuse is not present to a greater or lesser extent in sumo. In my opinion that may be the bigger scandal, not bribery. But the alternate explanation also rings true - that Asashoryuu is simply a cruel thug. With fabulous sumo skills.
Dohyo Iri Day 2.
Dohyo Iri Day 2. I thought there might be some people who had never seen a whole Dohyo-Iri, the "Entering the Dohyo" ceremony, so day 2 being relatively quiet, here it is. First, the gyoji calls the wrestlers from the East side. They mount the dohyo while their names are called. Then, the West side follows. Following them is the yokozuna, who performs a ritual to sanctify the dohyo in preparation for the day's contests. This video is over 80Mb.
Roho uses unsportsmanlike conduct against Takamisakari.
Roho-Takamisakari. Roho is sometimes nicknamed "Bluto" after the dullwitted brute in the Popeye films, and today he is in character again. Takamisakari actually puts out a fine performance here and does his best. But after being forced out, Bluto gives T. a gratuitous shove without the slightest provocation. The picture shows him actually pushing down on his opponents head. The slow motion video shows how execrable and inexcusable it is.
Afterwards, he did offer an explanation as a half apology, implying that his vision was perhaps obscured for a moment. His oyakata had to apologize. This is the guy who was told in mid-2006 to get himself under control or he would be out of sumo altogether. At that time, he really did turn over a new leaf and even started doing better sumo too. I think he needs to be suspended at least. Of course, Asashoryuu should likewise, for his many unsportsmanlike moves. Sumo will lose respect as a noble tradition if it tolerates this kind of behavior.
The Futenho-Kasuganishiki bout is stopped by the gyoji.
Futenho-Kasuganishiki. This is one of the most unusual matches I've seen. Unbeaten Futenho is on a roll, but Kasuganishiki's ultra-stable stance resists F's throw attempts. But the real story is the tachiai, wham! They apparently crashed their faces together, and within seconds there is blood everywhere. Then to everyone's surprise the gyoji stopped the match. Why? There seem to be two issues - K's mawashi was coming untied, and someone, I'm not sure who, was bleeding profusely. The gyoji has the yobidashi wipe away blood while he reties the mawashi.
Watching this I have 3 questions - (1) what was the initial reason the gyoji stopped the fight, the mawashi or the blood? (2) Did the chief judge give the order or was the gyoji acting on his own volition? (3) Just whose blood was it, anyway? The match resumes. I count at least 9 throw attempts in this match, all unsuccessful. Futenho needs to find how to apply more leverage when he throws.
Hakuho uses his new tsuppari/harite style well against Homasho.
Hakuho-Homasho. Hakuho had a crystal clear plan for Homasho. Harite-slapdown-lunge-slapdown-lunge-pushup. The slow motion replay shows how efficient his plan is, and how not for a fraction of a second is he undecided on the next step.
Homasho on the other hand is so busy defending he cannot make the slightest move. Hakuho shows here his own style of non-mawashi sumo, not a rhythmic sequence like Chiyotaikai (easily defeated if the rhythm can be anticipated) or a step-and-thrust-step-and-thrust style of Miyabiyama, but a mix which is his own.
Day 6 Feature.
Makuuchi Iron Men Feature. On day 6 after Juuryo they showed this feature on "The Iron Men of Sumo" in honor of the anniversary of the 6-basho system. They chose Terao, Kotonowaka, Takamiyama, and Akinoshima to highlight, being the top 4 Makuuchi contenders in terms of number of matches fought. There is a 1 second pause near the end of this clip due to a glitch in satellite reception - the avi file itself is not at fault.
Futenho puts on a good show against Roho.
Futenho-Roho. With his win here, Futenho shows some of the best sumo in his career, as he determinedly works Roho to the edge and out. Not only that, with Dejima's earlier win, this sets a never-before equalled record, in that two hiramaku (ordinary numbered rank) men have both a 7 win record on day 7.
Kitazakura pushes out Yoshikaze from the rear - using his own rear. No proper name for this "new technique" exists, but they eventually call it a "ushiromotare."
Kitazakura-Yoshikaze. I enjoy watching Kitazakura. Even though he is in Juuryo, he has the mindset of a yokozuna combined with the flamboyance of a performer. His enthusiasm is enjoyed by the audience ("We are like samurai, doing battle for the people" quoting him loosely) even if his gigantic salt throws are perhaps a bit much. At any rate, this encounter led to the declaration of one of the new rarely seen kimarite, "ushiromotare". Even that didn't fit perfectly. They had no time for a playback because the dohyo-iri was about to start.
Kaio manages to push out Homasho, barely.
Kaio-Homasho. We have to give a lot of credit to Homasho on this one. He very nearly humbled Kaio totally. As it is, this will probably be the match which is the last one in which Kaio shows his usual power. From here on this basho, I expect him to be unable to keep up with younger, more fit opponents.
Kaio cannot manage the slightest defense against Ama.
Ama-Kaio. So, here is where I was able to see if Kaio was "worn out" as I predicted Saturday. Kaio just squats there letting Ama leap up to two false starts. It looks like gamesmanship on the part of Kaio, but his performance when the tachiai finally happens seems to imply that this is more due to exhaustion than plan. He requires all his energy just to stay upright, there is none left for aggression. Ama has his work handed to him on a plate. The formerly great ozeki is forced out without even being able to mount an offense.
Kotooshu puts all his strength into a Uwatenage (uetenage) and Tokitenkuu flips over.
Kotooshu-Tokitenkuu. Finally, Kotooshu gets over his bad habits and henka-like impulses, and digs in to do Kotooshu-style sumo - namely, handling a shorter opponent by pulling them in and getting the deep outside grip, then either doing some kind of thrust-down, or twist-down, or nage. It looks good when it happens, as it did today. The crowd appreciates it too.
Homasho suffers Chiyotaikai's pounding patiently, waiting for his opening.
Homasho-Chiyotaikai. Wow, I think someone is giving this young fighter some good advice, and even more importantly, he is following that advice! Watching Chiyotaikai through his career, it is easy to see how predictable he is. The rikishi who can hold his own for 10 seconds or so against the rhythmic pounding will suddenly be presented with an opportunity to move forward, because C will give up and start trying a pull-down. That little smile on C's face means, "I guess you figured me out that time."
Ama executes a perfectly planned henka against Kotooshu.
Ama-Kotooshu. So, how can a small man win against a tall man? Henka! Now it is true that Ama has foresworn henkas in the past. But against Kotooshu, it is ok because K uses henka against lower ranked men. But aside from that, just look at this henka in slow motion. It is the loveliest execution of a henka you could imagine.
Aminishiki grasps Asashoryuu's thigh while Asashoryuu thrusts downward.
Aminishiki-Asashoryuu. Hiro Morita noted the previous day, "Asashoryuu had better watch out..." referring to how Aminishiki can be extremely dangerous when he is on a roll, and here it is. A fair amount of discussion ensued in the mailing list, because the slow motion replays show Aminishiki's arm down before Asashoryuu touches down. The rationale of "shinitai" - the "dead body" - may have played a part.
This poorly-defined criterion tries to justify giving a win to an attacker who touches down first inside the dohyo if the defender has already passed outside the dohyo but is still falling, especially in a case like this when the defender is falling backwards. There is a general feeling among some sumo fans that if you study such judgments enough you will figure out the exact way the rule is formed. There is also a faction which thinks most such calls are simply errors. A few try to explain such calls as evidence of corruption or bias. My feeling is that there is a rule being applied, but the judges themselves would have trouble stating it in a way which makes sense.
Perhaps that is because it is a bad rule, and is arbitrarily applied. Either way, Asashoryuu has one loss, and the way seems clear for Hakuhou to get his promotion to yokozuna. As usual, the air fills with zabuton (seat cushions) in honor of the ginboshi ("gold star" win, a permanent distinguishment and pay boost given to any hiramaku [makuuchi rikishi with a numbered rank] rikishi who manages to defeat a yokozuna). Over the public address system you hear the announcer vainly asking that zabuton not be thrown. While walking down the hanamichi (the "flower path", the aisle to the dohyo) Asashoryuu angrily kicks one of the zabuton. Scary man. Later, words are spoken about his "un-yokozuna-like" behavior. As usual, he does not bow to the man who defeats him.
The gyoji collapses from the pain of his injury.
Ohtsukasa-Kasuganishiki. Poor Ohtsukasa has 10 losses in a row. With all our attention on those with the longest winning streaks, it is easy to forget those on the other side of the coin. Finally, in this match he wins one. But even here, the great event becomes background to a rarity - the injury of a gyoji. The gyoji was forced down the side of the dohyo and apparently hurt his ankle or foot. Watch as he calls on the next waiting gyoji to take over for him, then is assisted out by a yobidashi. Update: The next day the gyoji turned in a kyujo (withdrawal due to injury) notice. He stated that he had torn thigh muscle or ligaments.
Toyonoshima reaches for Tamanoshima's leg.
Toyonoshima-Tamanoshima. Toyonoshima has been fighting while injured - an injury received at the hands of the yokozuna. () These two island kittens [Toyo & Tama could pass for typical cat names in Japanese, "noshima" = "of the islands"] meet here each with a 3-8 record.
It is not very complimentary for Tama, but for Toyo it is admirable considering his condition. He further impresses me here with this fine bout against Tama. The gyoji points his gumbai ("war-fan") to Toyo's side, but the decision goes to a mono-ii (judges conference). Afterwards the judges declare "Gumbai-dori" ("The war-fan pointed correctly.") so Toyo gets the win. You can see the pain on his face but he bears up.
Chiyotaikai applies a powerful neck thrust against Asashoryuu.
Asashoryuu lands in the 3rd row.
Chiyotaikai-Asashoryuu. How long has it been since Chiyotaikai defeated Asashoryuu? Hasn't it been a few years? Today the Untouchable Yokozuna gets touched. OK, we all have to admit that when Chiyotaikai is truly inspired and at his peak, he is almost unstoppable. We have talked about his own yokozuna chances (probably nil now, but...) so Asashoryuu had a tough but doable match, but here he comes up short.
Watch and you see why. Every time A reached for C's belt, C was precisely on target with a formidable stiff arm to the neck. C is not always this precise, but today he was. One miss and A would have had his belt, and he probably knew it. But each successful thrust to the neck forced A backwards, and the net result of the series of perfectly placed thrusts was A on the edge of the dohyo. One heartstopping moment later, A is falling backward into the 3rd row with a totally bewildered expression. Well, this probably does it. With Hakuho unbeaten still, and Asashoryuu back with the 2-loss contenders alongside Chiyotaikai, Kotomitsuki, and I think Futenho, Hakuho is almost certain to get both his yuusho and his yokozuna belt.
Murray Johnson (I think) says what we are all thinking: "Oh how the mighty have fallen…" The audience is all smiles. To his credit, this time Asashoryuu does execute a small bow to his opponent.
Baruto has a large enough lead to guarantee him the Juuryo Yuusho.
Lower Division Yuusho Interviews. Results in Juuryo, Jonokuchi, and Makushita are already decided on day 13, and here are their congratulatory interviews. Baruto has only a single loss in Juuryo, and his win means he will probably be in the top division next basho. Miki Koyama translates.
Kaio first tries to lift Asashoryuu, but cannot.
Kaio-Asashoryuu. Kaio already had his kachi-koshi (enough wins to guarantee he will end the tournament with more wins than losses) so he was perhaps not fully motivated. Asashoryuu had two losses, and he must have been forced to admit to himself that he was not going to win this tournament. Perhaps both these wrestlers were dispirited in one way or another. The match, somehow, is not as exciting as an Asashoryuu loss usually is. Kaio uses his weight well here to tire his opponent while never letting Asashoryuu get a good belt grip. In the mailing list it is suggested that Asashoryuu is injured but has not spoken up about it yet. If so, his bravery in facing Kaio injured is to be admired, because even in his waning years Kaio is still one of the strongest rikishi in sumo.
Hakuho lifts Chiyotaikai.
Hakuho-Chiyotaikai. This is the key bout - if Hakuho defeats Chiyotaikai, he secures the yuusho. C's massive attack against Asashoryu on Day 12 leads us to expect a devastating onslaught, but after a couple of spot-on thrusts, C begins faltering. Instead of the left-right-left-right pattern, C is using a left-right-both kind of style which doesn't really work. After one missed thrust H closes in and C is pulled upright. Now it gets strange. Instead of a straightforward push-out, which H can easily do now, H resorts to lifting C straight up in the air - in the dead center of the dohyo! Why? Is Hakuho disoriented, or just so overcharged he has gone into berserker mode?
When H finally sets C down, C is obviously surprised that he is still at the middle of the dohyo, standing straight upright. C is there facing H with an arm's length between them. Does C resume his thrusting attack? No! Instead he goes back into Hakuho intending to grapple with him. How can we explain this? A mental lapse on the part of Chiyotaikai? Hakuho's very strange victory looks like a "dominant performance" but one wonders how it came about. For both wrestlers to have lapses like this struck me as weird at first. Then I remembered Asashoryuu's yuusho match which led to his 19th win, against Chiyotaikai, and Asashoryuu performed the same lift. Perhaps this move was more directed against Asashoryuu than Chiyotaikai, in a strange way.
With this win, Hakuho wins his third yuusho, his second in a row, and exceeds the yokozuna promotion requirement stated by the Yokozuna Deliberation Council of "13 wins, and a Yuusho or Yuusho equivalent". Hakuho now is virtually guaranteed promotion to sumo's highest rank, becoming the 69th yokozuna of Japanese Grand Sumo. Congratulations to the new yokozuna.
Hakuho frees his right arm and strikes Asashoryuu's right thigh.
Hakuho-Asashoryuu. The match is almost anti-climactic, Hakuho already having secured both the title and the promotion. But this match was originally intended to be the penultimate one of the tournament, with perhaps both rikishi meeting on the final day, unbeaten, to determine the winner. However, this match did not disappoint. In one of the most hard fought, suspenseful sumo matches I've ever seen, Asashoryuu and Hakuho both fight a battle worthy of inclusion in everyone's top ten list of matches of the decade. The two men nearly exhaust each other attempting straight contests of strength. Asashoryuu's speed is slightly off today, so that he is about matched to Hakuho in that respect as well.
Strategy, reflexes and luck step in. H loosens up his right arm, possibly expecting A to begin a twist-left attack for which H was planning some kind of countermove. When it doesn't happen, H then steps forward with his left leg, and uses his free arm to hit A's right thigh, performing the kimarite Uchimuso. A is forced to twist to his right, and H leans into the twist, pulling A forward for the win. The official kimarite ends up being uwatedashinage, for some reason.
This completes my page of videos and pictures of 2007 basho 3 days 1 - 15. It's been fun, and I hope you have enjoyed reading my sometimes-eccentric commentary. Do feel free to leave comments using the feedback form below, and I will include your feedback in the mail column on the left side of the page. See you, I hope, next basho. Barbara Murasakihana
Please leave Comments About This Page You will find a reply form at the bottom to add your comments on each page.
First of all, many many thanks for posting these. I do not have access to NHK here in Seattle, without a satellite (so far as I can tell). Anyway, I'm still a Sumo novice, but the thing I found interesting in the Futenho-Kasuganishiki match was that it did not appear that Kasuganishiki touched both hands to the ground before Futenho bolted toward him. I THOUGHT the rule was that the bout started when both had their hands on the ground simultaneously. Anyway, again, thank you for providing this glimpse! MM from Western USA on May 16, 2007 at 16:57:07
Barbara's reply: That is the rule, but it is mostly enforced in lower divisions. In makuuchi, it seems that if both rikishis rise and go for it, the gyoji will usually let it pass, if it seems that the rising is simultaneous. For a particularly extreme example, see the video for Roho and Miyabiyama on Day 1. Enforcement of this rule may be influenced by Sumo Federation leadership, and may change in the future as leadership changes. --- Barbara
Thank you for the photos and the commentary. From: Charlotte, located in Western Europe, on May 24, 2007.
Barbara, Thank you so much for this new site. It's fabulous! And thanks, also, for the video of the dohyo-iri. It is one of my favorite aspects of Basho and it was great to see it in its entirety.
Thank you for all you do! From CM, Location: Eastern USA, on Monday, May 21, 2007
I gave up my satellite connection (too expensive and packaged with a lot of Chinese channels that show nothing but rubbish) - and your site is now my sole source of sumo gratification - the official sumo association website live streaming is unwatchable - do you know where I can see all the bouts each day online at decent size and resolution? Your site is wonderful but obviously hard for you to post all the bouts for the last 2 hours of each day. From Nigel H, Location: Australia or New Zealand, on Sunday, May 27, 2007.
Thank you so much for your site - excellent choice of videos
and very interesting comments - very much appreciated!
I can catch some of the action as it happens on the live feed
from each basho but the quality's pretty bad!
Domo arigatou gozaimashita!
(on a technical note - I use mac and the vids don't play well in
safari or firefox (the sound distorts) but work ok in IE - I usually
ctrl/click and "download linked file" anyway and they work fine
- just thought I'd mention it in case anybody else has problems)
From RC, Edinburgh, Scotland,UK, location Unspecified, date Friday, June 8, 2007 at 09:01:53
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