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SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 9)

It’s Day 9 of the Kyushu Basho, the start of Week 2, and yokozuna Hakuho sits alone atop the leaderboard with a perfect 8–0 record. That makes him the first to reach kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and in fine form for what lies ahead. Directly behind him with 7–1 records are a trio of rank-and-file rikishi—M4 Ichinojo, M5 Arawashi, and M12 Okinoumi.

Some interesting tidbits have leaked from the investigation into the Harumafujo/Takanoiwa incident. Apparently, the fracas was a continuation of some argument that had begun several days earlier on the jungyo [exhibition tour], where Takanoiwa was giving lip to Hakuho about needing to retire saying that “it’s our generation’s turn now.” At the bar on the evening of the incident, Takanoiwa apparently continued to show disrespect to Hakuho, and THAT’S what sent Harumafuji into a rage.

This is intriguing because it sheds some light on the fact that prior to the start of the tournament, Hakuho publicly said that he was aiming for a zensho-yusho [perfect record championship] and anything else would be a disappointment. Making that kind of brash statement is not something Hakuho or any of the yokozuna generally do—humility being one of the marks of a great champion, and something the Kyokai [Sumo Association] is pretty strict about. But in this case, it strikes me that this might be Hakuho’s way of thumbing his nose at the idea that his time has past. Basically saying to Takanoiwa and any other disgruntled mid-career rikishi, “If you want my spot, come and take it. All you have to do is beat ME!” (A statement that seems even stronger given that in the last few days Hakuho has faced several of the top young contenders and beaten them all quite handily.)

Another tidbit involves Takanohana Oyakata, the stablemaster for Taknoiwa’s heya AND the sumo elder in charge of the jungyo. Apparently, the Kyokai is going to reprimand him for not being mindful enough about the health of rikishi on the tour (he having taken a week to send Takanoiwa to the hospital for treatment, and even longer to report the incident to the committee at large). Rumor is that Takanohana will be removed from his jungyo responsibilities and placed on some other, less prestigious assignment.

Meanwhile, back in the tournament itself, here are today’s top matches.

J9 Terutsuyoshi (2–6) vs. J14 Takagenji (5–3)—A match from the middle of the Juryo division that is notable because of the rare kimarite [winning tchnique] that is employed. (0:10)
M12 Okinoumi (7–1) vs. M14 Kotoyuki (3–5)—Okinoumi is looking good this basho, and Kotoyuki is looking like he wants a quick trip back down to Juryo. But there’s something about encroaching make-koshi [majority of losses] that gives a rikishi incentive to find a way to win. Kotoyuki better find that starting today. And if he does, Okinoumi needs to add determination to his list of newly rediscovered skills. (1:55)
M10 Kaisei (5–3) vs. M7 Shodai (3–5)—This match doesn’t have anything to do with the yusho hunt, but it does have some hard-fought sumo. (5:45)
M7 Daishomaru (2–6) vs. M4 Ichinojo (7–1)—I pick on Ichinojo a lot because he never brings anything other than his size into the ring. But yesterday he beat yokozuna Kisenosato, so maybe he is getting ready to put in some effort and fight for his chance at the yusho. Maybe. (7:35)
M5 Arawashi (7–1) vs. M2 Tochiozan (0–8)—Tochiozan is still winless. In fact, he got is make-koshi as fast as it can be gotten. One of two things is likely to happen now, either he’ll curl up inside himself and be lucky to pull out even a single victory this tournament, or he’ll suddenly get a fire in his belly and fight to salvage whatever he can to minimize the distance he’ll drop down the banzuke [ranking sheet]. Arawashi, on the other hand, is on a roll. Other than his Day 4 loss to Ichinojo, he’s been perfect. For his sake, I hope he stays focused today, rather than counting this win as a foregone conclusion. (8:55)
M1 Takakeisho (6–2) vs. komusubi Onosho (2–6)—I feel bad for Onosho. After getting 10–5 records in his first three tournaments in Makuuchi, it’s now clear that he will do no better than nine wins in this one . . . and he’s going to have to fight hard to get that. Fortunately for him, the toughest part of his schedule is now behind him. If his spirit remains strong, and he fights the way he did in Week 1, he’’s likely to steamroll most of his Week 2 opponents. Of course, today he faces a legitimate challenger in Takakeisho. That makes this a good measure of the komusubi’s mettle. (11:00)
M4 Chiyonokuni (1–7) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (8–0)—Hakuho seems like a man on a mission this basho. This is the stretch in any tournament, though, where he has to guard against overconfidence and just go out and get it done. Of course, with thirty-nine yusho already won, he’s very much aware of that. (15:20)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (4–4) vs. M5 Takarafuji (3–5)—I’m honestly surprised that Kisenosato is still fighting. After his loss to Ichinojo yesterday, and giving up his third kinboshi [gold star award for a Maegashira rikishi beating a yokozuna], I figured he’d go kyujo [absent due to injury] if only to save some face. Clearly, though, he still has something that he’s fighting for.But if he loses again, he pretty much HAS TO go kyujo or it will start the Kyokai debating about whether or not he’s got what it takes to be a long-term yokozuna. (16:05)


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