(Mar. 8 to 22 at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium)

Fighting Spirit Award:
Aogiyama, Tosanoumi
Outstanding Performance Award: Kaio
Outstanding Technique Award: Chiyotaikai

Final day
The outcome of the tourney depended on Wakanohana. He was matched up with Kotonishiki. When the bout took off, Waka suddenly leaped to the side--a surprising move comparable to that of Mainoumi's technique. The ozeki immediately got the back of Kotonishiki's belt and pulled him down. And that way, Wakanohana secured the Emperor's Cup for the 4th time. Just for your information, Takanonami lost to Musoyama, and Musashimaru to Akebono. The other 2 ozeki, therefore, ended the tourney with a disappointing 8 wins 7 losses each. Akebono finished with 13 wins and 2 losses.

14th day
Kaio secured his sekiwake ranking with his 8th victory. He walked out Ganyu. Wakanohana, this time went against another ozeki, Musashimaru. Maru was the one pushing toward Waka in the beginning. Waka lost his balance, but got control of his body and instead tricked Maru out. So Waka is still the leader. Akebono gave thrusts after another, and the final thrust blew the big Takanonami off the ring. The yokozuna earned his 12th victory. It is to be seen if Waka will be able to add another win on the 15th day for the Emperor's Cup.

13th day
Salt shaker Mitoizumi happily marked his majority win by driving out Aogiyama. Ozeki Takanonami picked up Kyokushuzan and carried him lightly out the ring for his 8th win too. Musashimaru, however, lost to Tosanoumi. Tosa pulled back after banging into the ozeki with all his might. That put the Hawaiian born ozeki off, giving him his 5th loss. Next came the most important bout of the day. Leader Wakanohana huffed and puffed his nostrils while throwing the salt to purify the ring. You could tell he was increasing his adrenaline flow. But as soon as the bout took off, Akebono went for Waka's belt, and without hesitation, thrusted him off the ring. Wakanohana succumbed to his first lost this tourney. He still remains the top contender for the Emperor's Cup with Akebono just one win behind.

12th day
The 2 faltering ozeki, Musashimaru and Takanonami was matched up. Takanonami had been defeating the Hawaiian born in their past 8 bouts. This time, Maru overwhelmed Takanonami with thrusts to mark his majority win. Takanonami is down to 7-5. Mongolian, Kyokushuzan tried to move as quickly as he can to confuse Wakanohana, but his foot slipped out the ring. Akebono shoved Tochinowaka out the ring for his 10th victory. The fate of the spring tourney depends on the result of the bout between the undefeated Wakanohana and grand champion Akebono on the 13th day.

11th day
Two popular rikishi, Mainoumi and Terao unfortunately succumbed to their 8th loss each. It means, they will both be demoted the next tourney. Tosanoumi, who is in pretty good shape, could not overwhelm Wakanohana. Tosa lost to a push over, while the ozeki added another win to his perfect record. All champion class sekitori won their bouts.

10th day
Wakanohana improved his perfect record further by crushing down veteran Tochinowaka. Meanwhile, the other two ozeki performed hopeless bouts. Tosanoumi pushed out Takanonami like a bulldozer. Musashimaru was taken out easily by Kotonowaka. So both ozeki are down to 6 wins 4 losses. The sole yokozuna was careful to secure his 8th win by defeating Ganyu with the belt. As a result, Wakanohana is still followed by Akebono for the Emperor's Cup.

9th day
Gojoro lost to Asahiyutaka to an overarm throw. Akebono took out Tochinonada, becoming the only one with the second best record in this tourney. Wakanohana won again by driving out Musoyama.
Michiyo's Note: It is said that stablemaster and father Futagoyama finds the ozeki to be in perfect shape. As for questions regarding his other son Takanohana, he has denied reports on his usage of steroids. Gossip magazines have been accusing the yokozuna for taking them.

8th day
Wakanohana thrusted Kotoryu for another victory. The ozeki became the first one to mark a majority win. All other ozeki added another win to their record. As for Akebono, he performed a bout of a yokozuna by overpowering Shikishima for his 6th win. Akebono, along with Gojoro are the runners up with 2 losses each.

7th day
The great, big Akebono lost his balance to Musoyama's varied techniques several times. He even stood just within the rope of the ring to gain back his balance. In the end, he took down Musoyama for his 4th victory. At last, all ozeki and yokozuna won their bouts. This means Wakanohana was able to keep his lead.

6th day
Sekiwake Tochiazuma withdrew from the tourney. He hurt his right shoulder in a violent fight against Takatohriki the previous day. It was learned later that Tochiazuma had dislocated his it, and in addition had broken the shoulder blade. He may need 3 months to recover. Therefore, Kaio automatically was given a win. Ozeki Musashimaru lost again, and also his chance to become yokozuna. He was overpowered by Tochinonada and is now 3-3. Wakanohana remains to be the leader extending his win to 6 by fighting agressively against the tall Kotonowaka.

5th day
Here's bad new for Takanohana fans. The yokozuna decided to pull out from this tourney. He was diagnosed again with disorder of the organs. He immediately was hospitalized in Tokyo this day. It's the third time Takanohana is missing a grand sumo tournament. His older brother Wakanohana is a total opposite. The ozeki had another great bout, driving Chiyotaikai out of the ring. Since Minatofuji lost his bout to Kitakachidoki, Waka is the sole leader in the highest makuuchi division. Meanwhile, other ozeki wrestlers stumbled. Takanonami succumbed to his 3rd straight loss. Musashimaru was the one fiercely attacking, but Kaio moved slighly away and shoved the ozeki by the arm.

4th day
Wakanohana is looking good. He had an easy victory over Ganyu for his 4th win. Takanonami lost for the second time. He was defeated by Tochinonada. Now, something must be really wrong with Takanohana. His opponent Shikishima, who is of no comparison to the powerful yokozuna, got a firm hold of his belt and walked Taka out the ring. Shikishima's comment after the bout was, it was like a dream that he defeated the yokozuna. Wakanohana and Minatofuji are the only two with a perfect record so far.

3rd day
A terrible news shocked sumo fans. Former komusubi, Kenko, who was being hospitalized for an unknown fever since the 1997 Nagoya tourney died. He was only 30. Many of you may remember him as a sword bearer for Akebono during the yokozuna's ring entrance ceremony. Now, turning to the incredible bouts. Kaio, who defeated both yokozuna, faced Wakanohana. He was shoved out quickly and succumbed to his 1st loss while Waka has a clean record. Takanonami was actually the only champion class rikishi who was defeated. He was attacked at the throat by the up and coming Chiyotaikai. Takanohana marked his first win this tourney by throwing Tochinonada. Akebono was fortunate in that Kotonishiki went down suddenly on his knee.

2nd day
All ozeki won this time, but it was a bit different among the highest of high. The man who always outwardly shows great fighting spirit, Takatohriki, easily drove out Akebono. The yokozuna, who had to sit down by the ring after this defeat seemed awfully depressed. The other grand champion Takanohana grabbed Kaio's belt. Kaio, however did not allow the yokozuna to take further action. He swung Takanohana out the ring. Kaio recorded a remarkable victory over both yokozuna. It's the first time in the history of sumo that 2 ruling yokozuna loses the first 2 days of the grand tourney.

First Day
The Spring Tourney had a unpredictable start. To begin with, who would imagine a victory with the butt. Well, Mongolian, Kyokushuzan, stuck behind Aogiyama. Aogiyama moved backwards and shoved him out in that position. Future ozeki favorites Musoyama quickly defeated Ganyu, and Tochiazuma hurled Akinoshima on the ring. Current ozeki Wakanohana lost balance at first, but quickly recovered and threw Tochinonada behind him, out the ring. Another ozeki Takanonami walked out the heavy Shikishima. Last tourney's winner, Musashimaru pushed toward Kotonishiki in the beginning. Kotonishiki stopped the Hawaiian born from attacking further, and took him out by grapping Maru's arm. Yokozuna Takanohana looked heavier than ever. His opponent Chiyotaikai attacked non-stop and Takanohana left the ring, helplessly. The final bout was between Akebono and Kaio. The yokozuna thrusted at Kaio. Kaio grabbed Akebono with his right hand, threw him, and the gigantic man went tumbling down the ring. The spectators responded to the outcome of the bout by throwing their cushions toward the ring like flying discs.

Pre Tourney highlights
Musashimaru has the possibility of becoming yokozuna if he wins this tourney too. Takanohana is slowly but surely getting himself back into shape since he resumed sumo practice on Feb. 9. As of Mar. 3, he is fighting well, but still limiting bouts against other high rankers.

TV commercial for Wakanohana
It was announced on on Feb. 16 that ozeki Wakanohana will be the first active sumo wrestler to appear in a TV commercial since wrestlers were banned between 1985 to 1995. His sponsor is a pain killer. He tied a one year contract. The ad will be aired from April.

Akebono is set to marry
Akebono's stablemaster, Azumazeki, notified the Japan Sumo Association on Feb. 8 that the Hawaiian born yokozuna will marry. His wife to be is Japanese-American private tutor, Christiane Reiko Kalina. She is already expecting the couple's first child sometime around late May or early June. It is reported that they have been dating seriously since Akebono's break up with TV personality Yu Aihara in spring 1997. They have actually known eachother for a long time. That's even before Akebono was promoted to the high ranks in 1988. The wedding is scheduled in September.
Michiyo's Note: The Japanese press doesn't report this marriage favorably. It seems like lots of people are pessimistic about the future of Akebono as a stablemaster, because he took on an American wife, instead of somebody Japanese with an agreeable family background.

Former Konishiki will be on TV ads
Sanoyama, who wrestled under the name Konishiki, has signed with a communications equipment manufacturer, and will appear in its commercial in Japan and in the U.S.A from the end of February. The Japan Sumo Association has been prohibiting sumo wrestlers from appearing in TV commercials since 1985. However, in 1996, the association decided to loosen its rule to companies sponsoring the local sumo tours. The former Konishiki has, therefore, become the first of the pack.

Takanohana is released from hospital
Yokozuna Takanohana who missed the final days of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament due to high fever and other mysterious problems was released from the hospital on Feb. 1. The people who saw him say that the ugly growth on his face which were very clear during the tourney has become very small.
Michiyo's Note: Sumo fans are writing me asking for the latest on Takanohana's health. I'm rather surpised, because I found Takanohana to be quite unpopular. I'll keep my eyes on further reports on his health and make sure to take down notes.

New chairman chosen
Former ozeki Yutakayama, now Kazuo Toshitsukaze, won the post of chairmanship on Feb. 1. He was actually tied with former yokozuna Kitanoumi with 5 votes each. Kitanoumi decided to pull out from the competition. He instead was given the number 2 post. Former chairman Sakaigawa was demoted to chief of sumo's training center.
Michiyo's Note: The move is describe as a coup of Toshitsukaze and those who were anti-Sakaigawa. Let's see what kind of decision they can make to boost the popularity of , and also to run the sumo business efficiently.

An informal ceremony for Rikio
Former makuuchi rikishi, Rikio retired from sumo in Sept. 1997. It happened as a result of an ugly dispute with his stable master Naruto. Therefore, a formal retirement ceremony was not arranged for him. His sumo buddies decided to pitch in to hold one for him. Among them were Akebono. 130 people attended the ceremony. Former Konishiki was the honorable man to cut the final batch of top knot off Rikio's head.

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