Kokugikan Sellout Continues
The popularity of sumo is on the upswing both in its home country of Japan and indeed world wide. For a good period of time I considered attending several days of Hatsu myself, but the entire venue quickly sold out. This happens at a great time for the sport, as there is a fantastic crop of young, eager rikishi who are present in the upper divisions to test and train with some of the greatest men ever to wear a mawashi.
Day one was a really solid opening day, but there were very few upsets, and as Andy quipped, things turned out pretty much as expected. I note that Ishiura is still working hard to get a consistent attack plan together for these mid and upper level Maegashira, but I have a lot of faith that under Hakuho’s tutelage he will get winning recipe.
Chiyootori vs Osunaarashi – Osunaarashi pulled a fantastic utchari twisting throw at the edge of the ring on day 1 to win over Chiyoo. In his second bout against the Chiyoo twins, he faces to much larger Chiyootori, who is a far more even match at 3-5 in favor of Chiyootori. Strong chance of a Chiyootori henka or early pulling attack.
Sokokurai vs Ishiura – Ishiura’s day 1 bout was nothing special, and he was pretty easily contained. Early basho bouts, and Hatsu specifically see a lot of cob webs being cleared as the rikishi get back into their sumo. This will only be the second meeting between these two, with Sokokurai winning the last match by getting behind Ishiura and pushing him out. (okuridashi)
Kotoyuki vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze is prone to have streaks of amazing sumo performance. The last example was Nagoya 2016, and it was a joy to watch. With his strong opening day disposal of Chiyoshoma, Yoshikaze fans globally are hoping that his new mawashi has brought renewed vigor. Yoshikaze has a slight edge over Kotoyuki. These two really love to let the slaps fly, so I expect Yoshikaze to get the expected battle damage to his face in today.
Endo vs Ikioi – Two crowd favorites face off in a match where you wish they both could win. Endo looked to have a flat tire on day one, hopefully his cobwebs are gone now and he is ready to bring his sumo. Sadly Ikioi tends to dominate their matches, with a 6-1 advantage.
Arawashi vs Shodai – On day one, Shodai got the Tsukiji treatment from Hakuho. It’s time to see if that rattled his confidence as he faces Maegashira 2 Arawashi on day 2. The have only met once before, with Arawashi prevailing with am underarm throw on day 15 of Kyushu.
Terunofuji vs Takayasu – It kind of hurts to watch Terunofuji. He has, in the past, been one of the most feared men in sumo. Now he struggles just to get off the line. Takayasu, if he still wants a shot at Ozeki, needs to help Terunofuji vacate a slot for him. Takayasu has been struggling, and he needs to really step up before he has too many losses for a shot at Kachi-koshi and a return to contention for Ozeki. His record with Terunofuji is an even 6-6, and I am hoping we see some great yotsu-zumō.
Kakuryu vs Shohozan – It went largely unnoticed, but Shohozan looked very good day 1 against Terunofuji, doing just as much to win the match as Terunofuji did to lose it. Now he faces a very strong Yokozuna Kakuryu, who is clearly fired up and ready to defend the Emperor’s cup. Their prior 10 matches have all gone to Kakuryu. Shohozan’s chance comes if he can wrap up the Yokozuna and fight the match via the belt.
Mitakeumi vs Harumafuji – Mitakeumi handled Goeido very cleanly on day 1. Now it’s time to face the frenzied attack of Yokozuna Harumafuji. I would expect The Horse to deploy his famous nodowa today, as is his custom against Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi’s one chance before he lands the death grip is likely a henka.
NOTE – Monday is the day of Wakaichiro’s first bout. He will face Tatsunofuji in the second match of the day, at a fairly early hour of the morning. Eternal gratitude to any soul that can put video of this on YouTube.