Awarded a 100 percent vote for Outstanding Technique before his bout, Kotonishiki reconfirmed his superb skill by forcing Minatofuji to topple down the ring. Kaio succeeded in winning his 5th straight bout. He took out Kyokushuzan for a majority win. Now, it was up to Musashimaru for a tourney victory. He went against maegashira number 5 ranking Aogiyama. Maru gave booming thrusts and clinched the Emperor's Cup for the 3rd time. In the final bout, Akebono defeated ozeki Takanonami. They both finished the tourney with 10 wins and 5 losses.
Michiyo's Note: The way Akebono walked away from the ring, limping and coughing was troubling. Now, the award ceremony was a little different. Politician turned former TV star Kensaku Morita represented Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in presenting the trophy. He aggressively shook Musashimaru's hand. Traditionally, the tourney winner only bows to the award presenters. So the crowd was roaring with laughter. A representative of the President of Mongolian followed suit and also shook the ozeki's hand.
The popular Terao takes off powerfully and forces Hamanoshima out. The 34-year old clinched his majority win. It has been awhile, because the last time he's earned his 8th win was in Nagoya last year. Musoyama successfully earned a victory against Tamakasuga. Tochiazuma did too, by defeating ozeki Wakanohana. Musashimaru's victory today would have given him the Emperor's Cup, however, Takanonami got a firm hold of Musashimaru's belt and forced him out. Musashimaru is down to 3 losses but is still the top contender. Those with 4 losses are Takanonami, Tochiazuma and Musoyama.
Takanohana decided to pull out due to high fever and disorder of one of his organs. It's the first time he leaves in the midst of a tourney. So his opponent, Musoyama was automatically given a win. The final bout was a match between the Hawaiian born wrestlers, Musashimaru and Akebono. Their enormous bodies clashed against eachother. Maru pulled the yokozuna's body closer towards his, and then thrusted him out for his 11th win against 2 losses. Akebono faced his 5th loss. While Musashimaru keeps his lead, he is followed by the 9 wins 4 losses group consisting of Takanonami, Wakanohana, Musoyama, Tochiazuma and veteran wrestler Tochinowaka.
Musashimaru had no trouble defeating Asahiyutaka to remain the sole leader with only 2 losses. The other top rankers were in turmoil. Musoyama attacked Takanonami non-stop. The ozeki was unable to do anything about it and was taken out. The grand champion is not the invincible Takanohana we've come to know him as. He was pushed out by Aogiyama. It's the yokozuna's 3rd straight loss. The other yokozuna, Akebono fought against Taka's brother Wakanohana. When Akebono was just an inch from pushing Waka out, the ozeki reversed their positions, and both went tumbling down the ring to where the judges were seated. The judges discussed the bout and decided on a retake. Akebono, however, couldn't get back on his feet for awhile to redo the fight. He held his head in pain. Despite his tipsy condition, he had to do it again. He fell to an underarm throw. As a result of the days bouts, tied for second place are a whooping number of rikishi. The 10 include Akebono, Takanohana, Wakanohana and Takanonami. They each have 4 losses
A rare technique called sabaori was witnessed in the bout between Kitkachidoki and Akinoshu. What happened was, Akinoshu fell on his knee. It was not what you call a dramatic skill. The last time it was used was in 1987. Much more thrilling bouts were scheduled in the final 30 minutes of the day. The 2 ozeki, Musashimaru and Wakanohana clashed against eachother. They attempted moves with the belt. Then finally, Waka slipped his leg inside Maru's and tripped him. The bout lasted a minute and 47 seconds. Maru's 2nd loss did not affect his standing though. That's because Takanohana lost again. He tried to shove out the young Tochiazuma a couple of times, but proved uneffective.The yokozuna was the one to walk out in the end, looking hopeless. So the standings after the day's bouts are as follows--Musashimaru leading with 2 losses, Takanohana, Akebono, and Takanonami follow with 3 losses each.
Michiyo's Note: I am not a big Takanohana fan, but his appearance worries me. He is usually a very beautiful yokozuna. However, on this day, his face was puffy and eye sockets sinking in. He had a number of big zits too. I heard he was not feeling well from the previous day.
Minatofuji, who is maegashira number 6, has never defeated Takanohana in their past 6 bouts. This time, it was different. Minatofuji grabbed the yokozuna's 2 hands and pulled him forward. Takanohana faced his 2nd defeat this tourney. In an earlier bout, Musashimaru shoved Kyokushuzan out very confidently. The ozeki is the sole leader with 9 wins and 1 loss followed by Takanohana.
Musashimaru is still in good shape. He defeated Tosanoumi with ease. However, the other 2 ozeki had bad bouts. Takanonami could not resist the thrusts Aogiyama gave and lost quickly. Having lost already 3 bouts, Takanonami had lost all possibility of being promoted to yokozuna or grand champion. Wakanohana and Kotonishiki had a very active bout. While Kotonishiki continously attack, Wakanohana sought for the key moments to defeat him. In the end though Waka could no longer keep a firm position within the ring. He is now 5-4, and Takanonami 6-3. Takanohana threw Oginishiki on the ring to keep the lead with Musashimaru.
The emperor and empress looked on along with the sell out crowd. Kyokushuzan fought energetically again. He was at a disadvantage against Aogiyama in the beginning. But he fled from the edge of the ring, grapped Aogiyama's leg and tripped him. He is with 4 wins 4 losses. The rikishi tied for the lead, Tochiazuma and Musashimaru were matched. It was an easy win for the Hawaiian born. Now, Maru and Takanohana are the only ones in the leading pack.
It's been 6 days since the Kokugikan attracted a full turnout. The 2 up and coming wrestlers who beat Akebono this tourney clashed against eachother. They are Tochiazuma and Tochinonada. Tochiazuma pushed the later out and improved his record to 6-1. Kyokushuzan faced Takanonami this time. He was about to be forced out. He didn't give up though. The ozeki then made a mistake by turning his back toward the Mongolian, and was pushed out. Takanonami is down to 5-2. Akebono was very careful not to take his eyes off Tosanonami during the bout. The yokozuna was able to win this time, by slamming Tosa down on his face. The leaders are Takanohana, Musashimaru and Tochiazuma.
It was another day with upsets. It appeared as if Wakanohana was able to succeed to make it through the battle against Kyokushuzan by making subtle turns along the edge of the ring. So when Kyokushuzan was pushed out, the general public, along with the Mongolian wrestler himself were almost fooled. But the refree didn't miss the fact that Waka's big toe touched the outside of the ring before Kyokushuzan was out. The ozeki, with this defeat, is down to 3-3. Akebono had no control of his bout. The little Tochiazuma got the big yokozuna off balance and pushed him out. Akebono is 3-3 while Tochiazuma ties with Takanonami, Musashimaru, and Takanohana with 1 loss.
The crazy weather in Tokyo mixed with snow and hail was reflected in the top bouts in sumo. To start with, both ozeki who had not lost a bout so far, were defeated. Takanonami was thrown out of the ring by Kotonowaka. Musashimaru was about to drive Kotonishiki out. However, Kotonishiki, who was on the verge of the ring suddenly pulled out his arms to shove Maru out the ring. Yokozuna Akebono was thrown down on the ring by Tochiazuma. Now, the 2 ozeki with one loss are tied with Takanohana who easily defeated Kyokushuzan.
New makuuchi wrestler Kyokutenho succumbed to his first loss. He easily landed on the ring thrusted by Asanowaka. He was not in good shape in the morning that he missed practice. Ozeki Wakanohana tried various techniques on Kotonowaka. Waka tried an overarm throw, changed his grip of the belt, and even was about to swing Kotonowaka backwards. His final resort was a push out. Musashimaru and Takanonami was able to continue on with perfect records, while both yokozuna were also able to win.
Michiyo's Note: A gyoji or refree was place in an embarrassing situation during the juryo bout between Daihisho and Tomonohana. The rear part of his outfit ripped. He couldn't announce the winner of the bout in such a condition and left the ring. The refree standing by took his place to make the call.
34 year-old Terao, who is ranked maegashira number 13, won his first bout taking Kitakachidoki out the ring. Kyokutenho earned his 3rd straight win defeating Yamato. Kotonishiki leapt high as the bout took off. He jumped so lightly that one of his legs reached above Musoyama's head. Kotonishiki put Musoyama off in that one for his first victory this tourney. Ozeki Wakanohana clashed against Kaio. Wakanohana almost pushed Kaio out in a couple of moves, but Kaio withstood. In the end, Kaio successfully takes the ozeki out. Kaio has defeated both Hanada brothers. The other ozeki and both yokozuna won their bouts.
Amazing techniques were displayed. Kitakachidoki literally hurled Chiyotaikai out the ring. Chiyotaikai landed hard on his back right on the straw and then dropped to the ground. He was able to walk away on his own 2 feet. Kyokushuzan squat down to grab Minatofuji's leg and got him down. The highest rankers were fortuately in good shape, winning their bouts with ease.
Newly promoted Mongolian Kyokutenho overthrew Asanosho for his first victory in the makuuchi division. However, Kyokushuzan was overthrown by Kotonowaka. Meanwhile, upsets were witnessed in the top rankings. Ozeki Wakanohana, who was unable to attend all practices before the tourney because of a hip pain was ousted from the ring by Tamakasuga. Musashimaru and Takanonami successfully defeated their opponents, Oginishiki and Kotonishiki respectively. Akebono is back after missing the entire tourney in Kyushu. He clashed against Asahiyutaka. The yokozuna tried to reach for his opponents belt. He kept on leaning forward for it, and Asahiyutaka took advantage of that move by pulling away. Akebono tumbled out the ring. Ranked komusubi this tourney, Kaio powerfully toppled Takanohana with only one grip on the the yokozuna's belt. The spectators reacted wildly to the yokozuna's defeat, throwing cushions toward the ring. It's the first time in 16 years all yokozuna had lost on the first day of a grand tourney.
Michiyo's Note: The former Konishiki, who retired last tournament can been found attending the New Year's tourney. He's wearing a navy jacket with the logo of the Japan Sumo Association on his chest, and working as a guard. He's starting from the very bottom his new career as Sanoyama. I heard that he was actually the one who needed to be guarded, because the fans would swarm around him for photos and hand shakes.
Pre Tourney highlights
The rankings for the New Year's tourney was announced on Dec. 25. Another Mongolian, Kyokutenho is promoted to the makuuchi division. He follows fellow countryman Kyokushuzan who entered the highest division in the autumn of 1996. Ozeki Takanonami has a chance for promotion to yokozuna this tourney. However, a worrisome report was released on Dec. 26 that he may have a heart problem. It seems not to be a serious matter though. Hawaiian born Yamato who is ranked Maegashira number 14 has made it official on Jan. 5, that he will marry a 39 year-old Japanese woman who specializes in Hawaiian dancing. They are scheduled to hold a wedding after the Spring tourney in May.
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