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SUMO: 2017 Kyusho Basho (Day 13)

It’s Day 13 of the Kyushu Basho, and it seems like there’s more news about what’s going on OFF the dohyo than about the matches themselves. That said, let’s make ourselves keep the tournament itself front and center, at least for the moment. 

Yokozuna Hakuho’s win over sekiwake Mitakeumi keeps him alone atop the leaderboard with an 11–1 record. The two rikishi immediately trailing him with matching 10–2 records are M3 Hokutofuji and M13 Okinoumi. Hakuho looked unaffected by his Day 11 loss, getting right back to business and dominating Mitakeumi in a match that lasted less than five seconds.

And just to add to the complication in scheduling the final weekend, ozeki Takayasu is going kyujo [absent due to injury] after reinjuring his right thigh in his loss to M3 Hokutofuji yesterday. Takayasu was kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] at the start of the tournament, but managed to get his eighth win on Day 10, so he’ll squeak by with a final record of 8–5–2 kachi-koshi [majority of wins].

Even worse (from my Grinchy position) is that Takayasu was scheduled to fight ozeki Goeido today . . . which means that Goeido will get his all-important eighth win via a walk-over freeby and secure his kachi-koshi despite having been fighting like a limp ragdoll for the past three days. Given his current performance, and the way he completely imploded at the end of September’s tournament, I really WANTED him to have to EARN his majority of wins. Such is not to be, though.

Outside the dohyo, there has been no further blowback other than the reprimand Hakuho received from the Sumo Association’s Judging Department. And given that Hakuho has publicly said that he was in the wrong and that his behavior was “inexcusable,” that’s probably the last we’ll hear of it. 

Two other yokozuna seem to be in less favorable light with the Kyokai [Sumo Association]. Rumors are swirling that after the completion of the Kyushu Basho, the sumo elders will announce that both Kisenosato and Kakuryu are on notice that if they do not return to the ring in January AND compete in all fifteen days of the tournament, they will be asked to retire. Of course, if they DO compete and rack up more than five losses apiece, they’ll likely ALSO be asked to retire. So basically, if the rumors are correct, they’re being told to “get healthy, or get out.”

In 2017 Kakuryu has participated in only thirty-five of the total ninety matches in this year’s basho, including missing the final two tournaments completely. Kisenosato won the first two tournaments of the year, but has participated in only twenty-seven of the total sixty matches after that and missed one entire tournament.

Meanwhile, in the Harumafuji scandal, things have gotten really strange. Bear in mind that the Sumo Association will not speak publicly about this investigation until after the end of the Kyushu Basho, so all of these details come from leaks and outside investigation. 

Apparently, the yokozuna did NOT hit Takanoiwa with a beer bottle—it was just his fists and a glass ashtray. This really doesn’t make things any better for him, but it makes things more complicated for Takanoiwa’s oyakata, Takanohana, who it is said has been caught hiding facts or telling outright  lies to the investigators on multiple occasions. After this was discovered, the head of Sumo Association asked Takanohana to cooperate fully with the Crisis Management Committee, to which the oyakata replied, “I respectfully decline,” and then walked out of the meeting. 

According to one source, after the fight Takanoiwa “was scared of his oyakata,” and tried to keep the incident secret but, “the tokoyama [sumo hair dresser] was having a hard time doing his hair, and his head and ear hurt badly.” Takanoiwa eventually went to the hospital, and Takanohana Oyakata made his first (now know to be inaccurate) report to the Kyokai.

Making things even stranger, ex-yokozuna Asashoryu seems to have stepped into the picture, who himself was forced to retire in 2010 after a scandal caused by him brawling at a Tokyo nightclub. Asashoryu is now a Special Envoy to the President of Mongolia, and based on his advice it is said that the president wants to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss the situation (since all the rikishi involved are Mongolian). With sumo only in recent years regaining widespread popularity nationally, the last thing the Kyokai wants is to be caught in the middle of an international incident. 

But that’s all based on rumors. 

Meanwhile, here are the facts (or at least my opinions) about the best of today’s matches.

M14 Kotoyuki (7–5) vs. M7 Shodai (6–6)—Kotoyuki is still trying to get his kachi-koshi, but he’s run into the problem that people know HOW to beat him. The question each day is whether or not that opponent can pull it off. (3:40)
M13 Okinoumi (10–2) vs. M6 Tochnoshin (7–5)—I love matches like this. Two big rikishi who like to do power sumo, each with something on the line. Tochinoshin is still looking for his kachi-koshi, and Okinoumi is trying to stay in the yusho race. (5:30)
M3 Shohozan (3–9) vs. komusubi Onosho (5–7)—Onosho continues to stave off make-koshi. Today, he’s going against street-fighting Shohozan whom he has never before beaten. (9:30)
Komusubi Kotoshogiku (3–9) vs. M4 Chiyomokuni (4–8)—This is another one of those matches where neither rikishi has anything on the line other than pride, and they prove how much that means in the sumo world. They’re both having pretty rotten tournaments, but they’ve still got some really good sumo in them. (10:35)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7–5) vs. M4 Ichinojo (8–4)—Mitakeumi looked a little stupefied in his match against Hakuho yesterday. He still needs one more win to get kachi-koshi. On the other hand, Ichinojo put more effort into yesterday’s win over Goeido than he has all his previous matches combined, and he secured his kachi-koshi. I don’t know what that means exactly, but it should lead to a fun bout. (12:00)
M3 Hokutofuji (10–2) vs. sekiwake Yoshikaze (6–6)—Hokutofuji is one win behind the leader and must keep winning to stay that way (and hope that Hakuho slips up a second time). Meanwhile, giant-killer Yoshikaze still needs two more wins to get his kachi-koshi. (13:00)
M5 Takarafuji (7–5) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (11–1)—Hakuho needs to keep winning to stay in the lead for the yusho, Takarafuji needs one more win for his kachi-koshi . . . but none of that prepares you for what happens in this bout. It’s flat out one of the coolest matches I’ve ever seen. (14:10)

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