First impressions

Haru day one is in the books. It’s only one day of a fifteen-day tournament, but what did we learn?


Kakuryu looked much better than we might have expected from the injury reports. He was in complete control from the start against Chiyotairyu, getting a mawashi grip with his injured right hand and quickly driving the Komusubi out. The right hand looked far from useless. The sole participating Yokozuna should get a stiffer test tomorrow against…

Endo, who calmly used Takayasu’s sloppy forward movement against him, getting a nifty rear pushout win against the Ozeki at the tawara. Takayasu was a popular yusho pick before the basho; the odds against that just went up. Is this the tournament Endo finally breaks through in the joi?

Tamawashi faced Goeido. One of the men looked like an Ozeki, but it wasn’t the hometown favorite who actually holds that rank. Goeido went for a quick mawashi grip, but Tamawashi broke it and shoved the Ozeki off the dohyo with ease.

Both Sekiwake looked good. Mitakeumi tossed down Arawashi like a rag doll. Tochinoshin looked like the rikishi who won the yusho at Hatsu, overpowering the veteran Takarafuji in a mawashi battle. There was no obvious sign of the leg injury he had suffered in training recently.

Also not missing a beat was Ichinojo. He allowed Kotoshogiku to establish his trademark bumpity-bump attack, calmly regrouped at the tawara, and yorikiried the former Ozeki. The Komusubi looks determined to remain in sanyaku and keep pushing for a higher rank.

Shohozan scored an impressive win over Takakeisho, first craftily preempting the wave-action tsuppari attack by grabbing the mawashi, and then finishing things off with a nifty throw. Shodai, despite his usual terrible tachiai, overpowered Chiyomaru. Kaisei looked strong against Hokutofuji, who seems not to have overcome his recent struggles.

Both of the recent makuuchi newcomers, who I thought had been overpromoted for this basho, did not look the least bit overmatched today against veteran opponents. Abi won the pushing battle against Yoshikaze, using his long arms to great effect, while Ryuden got the better of the mawashi battle against Okinoumi.

We should learn more tomorrow, with some key matches coming up, in addition to the above-mentioned Kakuryu-Endo bout. Some key questions:

Can Goeido bounce back against Arawashi, whom he’s defeated twice in three bouts?

Can Mitakeumi maintain his momentum against Takarafuji?

Who will prevail in the other two upper-rank bouts that look surprisingly pivotal for only the second day of the basho? Takayasu, who can’t afford a second loss, takes on Ichinojo, who looks dominant. And Tamawashi vs. Tochinoshin is a candidate for match of the day. These two have faced each other 20 times, with the big Georgian holding a 14-6 edge.


14 thoughts on “First impressions

  1. I was impressed by Ichinojo twice in that bout. First, being able to stop after Kotoshogiku’s henka. He was facing thin air there, but used Kotoshogiku’s grip as a pivot and his leg as a stop. It’s not easy to stop that much mass!

    The second time was what John and Murray also commented upon: he didn’t give up when he felt the bales under his heels. He stuck to it, circled around and had Kotoshogiku where he wanted.

    Just before the basho, Hakuho was asked who is the rikishi to watch in this Basho, and he said “Ichinojo. Within the limitations of his weight, his agility moving sideways has improved a lot.”

    Another impressive one was Ryuden. That was the tightest morozashi I have seen in a while. His palms were right next to each other. Okinoumi must have felt he was trying to escape from a bear trap. I think both newcomers know they are playing with big boys now and whatever attack they choose, they do it with zen-shin-zen-rei, as Harumafuji used to say (Well, he used to say zen-shen-zen-rrrrrrei, but you know).

    Mitakeumi also looked mightily determined. I think he is aware of everybody dimissing him as a hopeless case of bare-minimum-kachi-koshi, and wants to prove he is not.

    • Totally agree with Ichinojo. This was a huge surprise. Exactly what you said, he recovered from the henka and didn’t give up at the edge. He used to do that disappointingly often. As Murray mentioned, the back pain may finally be gone.

      My other surprise was Abi. I had thought Yoshikaze would blow through these young bucks but Abi blew him off the dohyo. Totally unexpected for me.

      • Yes, I included Abi in my statement above about the newcomers going all out on their attacks. It was Ryuden’s Morozashi and Abi’s rapid tsuppari. He wouldn’t let Yoshikaze get a blow or a grip inside edgewise. That’s where the age difference shows. Yoshikaze has more experience, but Abi is quicker.

        • It also helps that lanky Abi can land a thrust on his opponent right out of the tachia without taking a step!

  2. Just a question. I don’t think anyone has addressed this before. If so, my apologies for the repetition. When a wrestler is injured and not participating, does he still come to the venue? If so, does he get special seats? Is he allowed in the locker room to help coach a stablemate? Is he treated differently from the average fan? Or is he told not to make an appearance during the tournament? Are there rules about this stuff? Thanks in advance

    • I don’t have an authoritative answer, of course, but based on past cases, kyujo rikishi are supposed to be invisible. They stay in their heya’s dormitories (when the basho is away from Tokyo. In Tokyo I suppose sekitori with their own homes go to their own homes). They are not supposed to interact with the public, except via their stablemasters or or other elders in their heya, and that rarely (as in the case of the information about Ura’s surgery and recovery).

      Hakuho has been tweeting about once every two days in the lead-up to the basho. Once he announced his kyujo, his Twitter account has gone silent.

      Also, there are no such things as special seats for rikishi. The rikishi association asked for that (actually, Hakuho asked for that) and the Kyokai answered with a very decisive “hell no”. The tickets for basho are mostly sold about 30 minutes after they are put up for sale (except perhaps the Fukuoka tickets).

      Also, remember how Hakuho’s stablemaster told him that if he can’t perform in NSK functions, he is not allowed to go to private functions, and that included Ishiura’s and Kakuryu’s wedding receptions! Hakuho was forced to announce he will participate in a couple of exhibition events around the same time to get permission to attend the weddings (I called it Wedding-Gate at the time). So again, they are just supposed to lay low, take care of their injury, and do keiko at their stable if the injury allows it.

      • Thank you for the swift reply. I guess I’m not surprised by any part of your response. In American sports, you always see players on the disabled list or on injured reserve in the dugout, on the sidelines or on the bench during games. They are very visible and, depending on the player, seem to enjoy interacting with the fans, signing autographs, cheering for their teammates. Different culture produces a vastly different outlook on such matters. Thanks again.

          • That rumour about Kisenosato going kyujo for a year – I think it is the result of a misreading of the title “横綱 稀勢の里 6場所連続休場へ”, which can be read “Yokozuna Kisenosato heads for six consecutive kyujo”, but actually means “Yokozuna Kisenosato is facing his sixth consecutive kyujo”. All the news sites quote his medical certificate as covering 4 weeks.

        • They are pretty strict about it: if you are too injured to compete you are supposed to be putting everything into your recovery. A few years ago the yokozuna Asashoryu submitted a sick note and then went back to Mongolia to play in a charity soccer match. He got a two basho ban for that caper.

          • Something like that would be frowned upon in any workplace, though. “Don’t go to weddings while you’re kyujo” is a lot sillier.

  3. NHK last night did not show Abi..I really did not like the commentary by Gunning and Murray,I could not enjoy my Sumo.I hope they are going to have somebody else commenting!

    • Sam, Didn’t want to be the first one to complain about this but I completely agree. Murray is much more interesting and informative when he does the highlights by himself. Gunning added nothing as far as I was concerned except making bad predictions. It was neat seeing live sumo for the first time but, overall, I was absolutely annoyed by the commentary. I still want the highlight show extended to 45 minutes or an hour, but I’m fine seeing the bouts several hours after they all over.

      • I gave you both thumbs up, because you shouldn’t be given thumbs down for an honest opinion that happens to not be in line with any current circle jerk. I do however disagree with you both, I enjoyed it immensely.