Day 1 was a complete mess, more so than they usually are for a few reasons that come to mind. As has been cited and oft repeated, the tempo of the jungyo is really taking its toll. Rikishi lack the time to properly train, properly focus and properly prepare for a basho under the current schedule. This seems to increase the prevalence of injuries, and on day 1 we saw a lot of sloppy sumo in the upper division. Secondly, I think that you have people like Kisenosato, who have not really competed in sumo for many months, coming in rusty but giving it their all.
I would note how triumphant Aminishiki’s first day back in the top division was. Not only did he score a convincing win with an elegant and smooth uwatenage over Kotoyuki, for most fans in the west, this is the first time they have seen him interviewed. Aminishiki is so personable and sincere, it’s easy to imagine a future day where “Uncle Sumo” is masterfully handling press and PR for the Kyokai. For a man who has struggled and endured much, this must have been a sweet reward.
What We Are Watching Day 2
Nishikigi vs. Ishiura – Nishikigi refuses to give up, even when he’s not at his best. But one rikishi who seems to have his number is Ishiura. There have been reports that Ishiura injured his neck in training, and we will get to see how much he is impacted, if at all. Ishiura fans all hope that he’s only visiting Juryo, and will come roaring back to the top division soon.
Aminishiki vs. Kagayaki – Both men won their day 1 matches with power and poise, and now we get to see a hit-or-miss youngster face off against Uncle Sumo. This is actually the first time these two have ever met, but my early favorite is Aminishiki, due to my suspicion that Kagayaki will be a bit awestruck that he gets to fight Aminishiki.
Asanoyama vs. Ikioi – These two are practically the same guy, save that Ikioi is struggling to keep up now, and Asanoyama is ascendant. Day 1 Ikioi was sloppy and vague, and his fans are hoping that he can pull it together today. No matter how this bout goes, Asanoyama is going to look like he is having a great time.
Endo vs. Kaisei – I tend to liken Endo to a skilled hunter. He seems patient, and is always working to find a momentary weakness to facilities his strike. Kaisei is greatly improved, but is still lumbering around the dohyo a bit too much. Career totals give a slight edge to Endo, but I would love to see Kaisei pull this one out with some solid sumo.
Chiyoshoma vs. Shodai – Chiyoshoma displayed some excellent, well conceived offense day 1, while Shodai seems to be lost and directionless after some fantastic performance earlier in the year. Many of his fans were convinced he was on a trajectory similar to Mitakeumi, but then Shodai fell apart. He continues with his miserable tachiai, which I think is the root of his problem.
Daishomaru vs. Tochinoshin – Daishomaru has never won against Tochinoshin, but the big Georgain may be too banged up to present his normal wall of brute strength and limitless endurance to an opponent. We do hope that Tochinoshin can get in touch with his sumo, one could easily liken a genki Tochinoshin to fighting one of the stone monoliths on Easter Island.
Takarafuji vs. Ichinojo – This could be a solid match today, as Ichinojo seems to be in touch with his sumo. Takarafuji dropped his day one match, but if he comes up ready on day 2, his careful methodical sumo could give Ichinojo a real challenge. But let’s get serious – I have stated that being enormous is not a valid sumo strategy, but if your sumo is running hot, being enormous can make you unstoppable. Slight edge to Takarafuji, even though Ichinojo leads their career series 8-2, due to the fact that Takarafuji has no neck to grab.
Mitakeumi vs. Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is still destined for great things, even if he needs to consolidate his sumo a bit over the next few tournaments. Today’s match against Mitakeumi is likely a milestone on that road. Mitakeumi does not seem to be 100% at the moment, and loss to Hokutofuji would be a huge confidence booster coming on the back of Hokutofuji’s defeat of Terunofuji.
Terunofuji vs. Shohozan – This will be yet another painful to watch match. Terunofuji has no way to put power to ground, so his normal style to overpower his opponents is not going to happen. Shohozan’s highly mobile style is likely to cause a lot of trouble for Terunofuji, and I just hope he comes out of this without further injuring his bum knee. These two are tied 3-3 over their career.
Chiyotairyu vs. Yoshikaze – I am sure Yoshikaze is disappointed in his day 1 results. But as we all know, the Berserker tends to have cold tournament starts, catch fire and end by taking everyone’s lunch money. The super-sized Chiyotairyu is going to be a tough customer, but Yoshikaze will still try to see how high the burly man from Kokonoe will bounce.
Goeido vs. Kotoshogiku – Oh my, this will either be a dud or a barn burner. My advice to Kotoshogiku – henka hard, but sell it. Goeido is clearly working his 100% attack mode (which we love), so a henka would be a perfect opening gambit. Double bonus points to Goeido if he can get low on Kotoshogiku and run him off before the Bulldozer can even get started.
Tochiozan vs. Takayasu – Tochiozan has a habit of confounding and defeating Takayasu, he holds a career lead of 19-6 over the kadoban Ozeki. Takayasu can’t afford to drop any matches, so lets hope he can contain Tochiozan’s explosive offense.
Harumafuji vs. Takakeisho – Do you think Harumafuji is frustrated by his day 1 performance? Well, time to take it out on Onosho’s boon companion Takakeisho. The problem is Takakeisho won’t be intimidated, and can (and has) beaten Harumafuji in the past. Advice to the horse – bring out the nodowa and make him march around the dohyo a bit first, please.
Kisenosato vs. Onosho – Are you worried about Kisenosato? I know I am. Tamawashi really was in control of most of that day 1 match, and Kisenosato fans did not want to see that. The Yokozuna seems to have trouble transmitting his will through his feet and moving forward. Onosho, on the other hand, has no problems doing this, and may in fact pick up on Tamawashi’s attack by getting the less mobile Kisenosato to try and run him down. This is their first match.
Tamawashi vs. Hakuho – Tamawashi showed outstanding mobility and tactics in his day 1 match against Kisenosato, but today he draws “The Boss”. I will look for Hakuho to grab him early and possibly we will get to see Tamawashi get one of Hakuho’s “Flying Lessons” (where he gets his opponent off the dohyo and sideways headed for the clay).