Here we go! The first and second day of matches are now on the Nihon Sumo Kyokai (Japan Sumo Association) web page, and they are not easing into this tournament, no indeed.
Highlights of the first day (Sunday September 11th)
Takayasu v Taknoiwa – I may be alone in thinking this is pure genius, but Taknoiwa nearly won Nagoya at Maegashira 11, so what do we do with people like that? Why we promote him to Maegashira 3, and then put him against a giant hulking Sekiwake who excels at testing crumple zones on Ozeki. My prediction – “ouch”
Amakaze v Chiyoshoma – Also known as Gamera v Danger Mouse. In a rematch from Juryo, why not put the amazing, kaiju scale Amakaze against one of his smaller, but no less potent Juryo rivals, see what happens. Either Chiyoshoma ends up crushed by the kaiju, or Amakaze takes a header into the ringside cushions, sending bento and yakitori flying to the upper deck.
Gagamaru v Homarefuji – A pair of pushme-pullyous go at it, with Gagamaru’s planetary scale tipping the scales in his favor. Slight, but non-zero chance that Homarefuji slips during the match and falls into Gagamaru’s immense gravity well, ending up in a stable and inescapable orbit until the fall equinox on the 22nd. Sumo rules are unclear if this would require Homarefuji to be declared kyujo, or if both rikishi would share a single win/loss record.
Shodai v Kotoshogiku – An early indication if Kotoshogiku is going to be able to overcome his kadoban status an hold on to Ozeki. Both of these guys are large and tend to favor the mawashi (廻し) / belt fighting approach. My prediction – “sweaty struggle for ranking”
Yoshikaze v Terunofuji – I am going to assume that the Sumo Association wants to see if Yoshikaze is ready to resume San’yaku duties come November. So let’s give him an Ozeki warm up. Terunofuji was able to get a winning record in Nagoya to overcome his kadoban and retain his Ozeki rank, but did not really look dominant. One has to wonder if his broken collar bone is still bothering him. My request is that neither of these guys gets hurt, as this clash is likely to be intense.
Kisenosato v Okinoumi – While it’s not the last match of the day, everyone is going to be focused on this. Kisenosato can’t afford losses if he wants to triumph in his push to make Yokozuna while Hakuho is on the bench. All of Japan is riveted on this guy and this tournament. Okinoumi is no slouch. My prediction – Kise by yorikiri about 30 seconds in.
Tochiozan v Kakuryu – Proving once again that Komusubi is the toughest rank in sumo (I assume it means “favorite punching bag” in ancient Ainu), ascendant Tochiozan gets Kakuryu on the Yokozuna’s first bout after a recuperation break. If Kakuryu is ready, this may not last past the Tachiai.
Harumafuji v Kaisei – Plan of the day if you are Komusubi? Struggle. Here Harumafuji (the horse) will be holding a quick lecture at how to eject a burly Brazilian from a clay platform.
Special Juryo Match
I call it out here, because those of us hapless North Americans who only get NHK highlights are likely to miss it. One of the most desired bouts in Juryo comes on day one. Ura v Osunaarashi. It’s the Jackie Chan of sumo vs the Egyptian powerhouse who was massively demoted for recovering from injuries and missing Nagoya. This could in fact be one of the best matches of the day. You know I will be watching Jason’s all sumo channel on YouTube for this one.