Hatsu Day 1 Highlights

Kisenosato Hatsu 2019
Photo from the Japan Sumo Association’s twitter feed

What a way to start a basho! Day 1 action was fierce and at times surprising. As a reminder to our readers, I tend to see a basho as a set of 3 acts, each 5 days long. Each act has its own feel and its own goals. Act 1 is all about knocking the ring rust off of the competitors, and finding out who is hot and who is not. It’s also usually the period where we will see if any Yokozuna are going to take an “out” by going kyujo.

The big news coming out of day 1 has to be that all 3 Ozeki went down to defeat. For Takayasu, it’s not a huge surprise, as he came into Hatsu with a case of the flu and a substantial fever that he should probably keep to himself. For Tochinoshin, it was clear he had hurt a thigh muscle, but was going to gamberize. Goeido, however, simply got beaten. By Nishikigi. Let that sink in. The guy who was doing everything he could last year to cling to the bottom edge of the Makuuchi banzuke took an Ozeki scalp in what looked to be a fair and straight-up fight. I have been pulling for the guy for a while now, but it’s amazing to see how far his sumo has come.

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Daishomaru – Welcome to the top division! Terutsuyoshi is only visiting, but it was his first win in the big leagues, and it came with a few envelopes of kensho as well. We will be seeing quite a bit more of Terutsuyoshi soon, I would think.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – Tsuki? Oshi? Yotsu? Hitaki? These two threw everything including the kitchen sink into this match. It was rough, it was chaotic, but Chiyonokuni prevailed. He needs to get a kachi-koshi secured and escape the banzuke danger zone he finds himself in for Hatsu.

Yutakayama defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki starts strong, but in his normal pattern, as soon as Yutakayama mounts his response, Kotoyuki starts moving backward in a fairly reckless fashion. Not amazing sumo, but Yutakayama held on through Kotoyuki’s opening gambit and took the match.

Yago defeats Meisei – In Yago’s first top division ranked bout, he shows us why he’s going to be a mainstay of the future. Unlike most of the newer rikishi, he grabs Meisei’s mawashi and proceeds to go chest to chest. Meisei looks ready for the fight, and starts with a stronger, inside position. But give Yago that right hand outside and he gets to work. With his greater mass and exceptionally stable stance, Yago overpowers Meisei for a straightforward yoritaoshi.

Ikioi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki leaves Ikioi bloody in this loss, with the die-hard warrior bleeding from his nose and face following the match. Ikioi looks to have gotten the jump on Kagayaki at the tachiai, and wasted no time in raising up Kagayaki. Both of these rikishi are better than their lower Maegashira rank, so I see this tournament as a “recovery” period for them.

Sadanoumi defeats Abi – It would seem that Sadanoumi has Abi-zumo cracked, and Abi could not produce much in the way of offensive pressure against Sadanoumi, who propelled Abi around the dohyo like a squeaky shopping cart headed back to the store. Come on Abi, unleash some new sumo. We know you can win!

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Firstly, congratulations to Takarafuji, who welcomed a new baby to his family in the past few weeks. Takarafuji gave Endo a good fight (and the crowd was happy), but Endo had superior position rom the start, and never let Takarafuji do much more than react to his sumo.

Kaisei defeats Asanoyama – Kaisei came to the dohyo in a mood to be strong and heavy today. When he uses his heavy sumo, there are few men in the world who can move him. A quick battle-hug to Asanoyama, and a drive forward for a win. The tachiai had a nice satisfying “whack!” to it as well.

Onosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Even Chiyotairyu’s somewhat legendary cannonball tachiai did not seem to impact Onosho much. Onosho stayed focused, and drove forward. With his opening blast expended against a prepared opponent, Chiyotairyu seemed to have little resistance to offer.

Aoiyama defeats Yoshikaze – Aoiyama looked on form today, and was able to focus his amazing strength against a fading Yoshikaze. Much as I love the old berserker, he is fading each passing tournament. Aoiyama kept the pressure coming, landing alternating thrusts against Yoshikaze’s upper body, keeping him high and off balance.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – We anticipated that this would be a brawl, and it began to look like a running battle until Shohozan lost his balance and went skidding to the clay. Good action from two rikishi who love to duke it out.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – No cartoon sumo today. Takakeisho in what I think is a new steel-gray mawashi gets the inside advantage at the tachiai, and Shodai never recovers. Shodai is high from the start, and Takakeisho sets up the wave-action attack with great effect. Shodai attempted to return in kind, but his footing was poor and it threw him off balance. Takakeisho advances, and wins.

Hokutofuji defeats Tochinoshin – Handshake tachiai? – Check! Nodowa to keep Tochinoshin from starting any moves against the mawashi? – Check! Tochinoshin was packed, boxed and shipped in a manner of seconds. The Ozeki could not switch to offense at any point and was left trying to react to Hokutofuji’s sumo.

Nishikigi defeats Goeido – I have watched this maybe a dozen times, and it simply does not get old. I have no idea where this version of Nishikigi came from, but this sumo is unquestionably simple, sound and potent. This is not Goeido making some kind of mistake while trying to be slippery, he delivers his expected “speed” tachiai, but Nishikigi absorbs it, and breaks the Ozkei’s grip. Goeido continues to have superior body position as they go chest to chest, but Nishikigi seems to be intent on stalemating Goeido, which he somehow manages to do. Locked up in the center of the dohyo, Nishikigi has a deep right hand grip, but is a bit too high. The match ends as Nishikigi overpowers, then throws, Goeido! What a match!

Ichinojo defeats Takayasu – Two items of note – Takayasu is clearly ill, and Ichinojo’s sumo machine was switched to “attack” mode today, and it’s great to see him fight with vigor. Takayasu managed to back Ichinojo to the bales, but then the counterattack started, and there was no stopping that. Ichinojo was in great form, and I hope we can see more of that. [Ichinojo turned the tide with surprisingly nimble later movement. -lksumo]

Kakuryu defeats Tochiozan – When Big K is on his sumo, it’s amazing to watch. I tend to call his style “reactive”, and today is a perfect example. Tochiozan tries a hit-and-shift at the tachiai, but Kakuryu maintains contact with his right hand, and lets that right hand guide him to a now high and unweighted Tochiozan. The trap sprung, the Yokozuna powers into his response and drives Tochiozan back and out.

Hakuho defeats Myogiryu – Hakuho wanted to beat him twice, as Myogiryu hit the clay and bounced up, with Hakuho looking to continue the match. The boss seems to be hungry for sumo action after 4 months in dry-dock. Watch out.

Mitakeumi defeats Kisenosato – Kisenosato was high, his sumo was sloppy, and he really could do very little against Mitakeumi who seemed poised and in control the entire match. Might be time to sharpen the scissors. Josh, my toilet paper stash is ready.

26 thoughts on “Hatsu Day 1 Highlights

  1. Great opening write-up Bruce! A few additional thoughts. I don’t get the Ryuden hype. He was easily handled by Daieisho. Kotoshogiku looked solid in defeating Okinoumi and seems to have carried over his good form from Kyushu. I’m worried about Tochinoshin after that loss. And I’m finally getting ready to admit Nishikigi’s recent improvement is no fluke. I know Takayasu is sick, but if this version of Ichinojo shows up consistently, he’ll regain his sanyaku status easily. This was the “future Ozeki” Ichinojo. And Kisenosato seems healthy but not up to more than maegashira-level sumo, which does not bode well.

    • I have watched that Ichinojo match a few times now, and watch his face – the warrior comes out as soon as his heel touches the tawara. Yes, if this Ichinojo can be an every day thing, he’s “Future Ozeki” indeed.

      • I think if he makes the connection that he will see that kensho on a regular basis, he could take it to that level.

    • Thanks for the compliment, lksumo – I have now watched that match several more times, and I enjoyed going frame-by frame, and Ichinojo’s body mechanics when he counter-attacks are (as you pointed out) surprisingly good. And that good form lasts all the way to when he brings Takayasu to the edge. I love seeing great sumo, no matter who delivers. But it’s a treat when a rikishi who has been struggling, as Ichinojo has, can un-cork something like this against an Ozeki.

  2. Total agreement with Leonid. Great write up! The Hakuho/Myogiryu bout was a bit of a let down. Myogiryu still has ring rust to knock off while Hakuho looks out for blood. John Gunning was as stunned by Nishikigi, as I was. For two years I’ve been thinking he’s a solid lower third Maegashira. Now he owns Goeido? The NHK has a poll on “who will be a new star in 2019”. I voted for Onosho when I logged on to watch the live coverage…but if I’d waited to the end, I would want to write in Nishikigi. Sadly, write-ins are not accepted.


    • Kise has been in desperate straits for months, honestly. His tachiai is terrible. As Herouth says, “Get your butt DOWN!”. Mitakeumi showed today that the way to beat Kise is to get lower than him. Once that’s done, the bout is officially over and moving him over the tawara is a formality. Kise had one basho where no one knew what his strategy would be. But, now that everyone does, the rest of the rikishi know what to expect and how to counter it.

      • It seemed like in training Kise realized he couldn’t rely on his left-hand grip anymore, and was winning with oshi-zumo. But in the basho he reverted to what he knows, and that’s not going to get him many victories.

        • There was a moment in the bout during which Mitakeumi was leaning pretty far forward and Kisenosato had his left hand on Mita’s back, well positioned to shove Mita down and out. But, with no pectoral muscle, there was no strength available for the downward thrust. I’m now convinced we’ll be seeing him retire within the next few days.

    • It’s certainly no shame, even for a Yokozuna, to lose to Mitakeumi, if he is focussed (which he was today), but the way it happened didn’t look promising at all. I really see no way he beats Ichinojo tomorrow, unless he manages some miraculous hatakikomi/tsukiotoshi/etc. at the edge. There is just no power.

      • Right. If he shows up ULS (“Usual Lumbering Self” – I’m so stealing that from SumoSoul), even a paraplegic Yokozuna can defeat him. If the kaiju version shows up, nobody is safe.

  3. some exciting stuff for day 1 and also for me in Juryo (Kyokutaisei and Kyokushuho). Yoshikaze was up against a massive size differential so whilst disappointed for him i kind of expected Aoiyama to dispatch, that said extremely well done to Hokutofuji and Nishikigi… but for me, i have this voice on repeat in my mind, chanting 2 octaves lower than usual…. Y A G O Y A G O Y A G O

  4. Terutsuyoshi once again does big sumo in a small body. Straight forward yori-kiri, no nonsense.

    Takarafuji’s legs just don’t respond to his brain any more. He said he was “one step short” (and the commentators agreed). I suspect the current Isegahama heya-gashira may find himself walking behind Terutsuyoshi in heya functions in the not-so-far future. Of course, he says he aims to get back to san-yaku for the sake of his newborn child, but if wishes were fishes…

    Nishikigi deserves every credit. However, one has to keep in mind that Goeido had a torn arm muscle last basho, which was the reason for him going kyujo, and has not had any surgery to repair it. The tear is probably partial, but it’s bound to affect his sumo. I don’t predict great results from the Osaka man in 2019.

    The commentators were calling Tochiozan’s move “henka”, and that’s what it was. The “hit” was very symbolic. Kakuryu had an exasperated look as he watched Tochiozan getting up below the dohyo.

    I have to say I’m awed by Hakuho. He is definitely leaner. But the weigh-in showed he actually gained weight, which I interpret as him having gained muscle at the expense of fat. I think probably in the legs. A few months ago his legs looked bony, and his shiko looked geriatric. That surgery must have allowed him to train his legs much more vigorously than he could before (I suspect that bone fragment was floating in there for quite a while before he revealed that X-ray and took his kyujo). As a result his dohyo-iri shiko brings his foot level with his head.

    But I’m not just being a dance critic. Those renewed leg muscles seem to have re-invigorated his tachiai. He was all over Myogiryu before the komusubi knew what hit him. No need for a harizashi or any dirty tricks. Just sprang off like this was 2009 rather than 2019.

    And oy, Kisenosato, Kisenosato.

  5. I have missed Bruce commentary immensely.

    My thoughts on Day One:

    Yago was very impressive. His stability and control guiding Meisei towards the tawara was encouraging indeed.
    Takakeisho and Onosho look very good from Day One.
    Nishikigi’s rise is truly remarkable. He does not at all look out of place at the top of the Maegashira ranks. He is helped by the fact he has good control and defence, before he turns to one of his favoured offensive kimarite. I hope he can continue to entertain us with this good sumo.
    Hakuho looking very hungry and genki for a zensho yusho.
    Kisenosato will surely not last beyond this week. Will he?

    • Did the announcer say something about Yago getting a cash prize? Do rikishi get a bonus for their first win in the top ranks?

  6. Looks to me like Tamawashi decided to take a page from Takakeisho’s book and meet forward momentum with slip-and-shove. He’s not quite as polished with it as Takakeisho is — took him about three tries.

  7. Overall interesting start. Two Yokozuna seem to be fairly well in shape if not super genki, all Ozeki are probably fighting to prevent kadoban (not looked good, but Takayasu might recover from that flu). Takakeisho wasn’t challenged, Ichinojo looks locked in … My two votes for breakthrough year on the NHK website, Onosho and Hokutofuji) had a very promising start. Nishikigi continues to surprise and Kaisei looks genki again, which could make him a yusho contender or at least solid double digit winner from his position down the banzuke. Yutakyama started with a win (albeit a bit shaky) even further down the banzuke, could he finally return to form?
    So far an interesting opening for the basho.

  8. “like a squeaky shopping cart headed back to the store.” savage…and lol.

    So glad the basho is here.
    Day 1 and so much possibility. There’s a whole different feeling to the contest having Yokozuna present.

  9. I was twitching during Grand Sumo Live on NHK World because they were using November’s banzuke ranks for the on-screen visuals.

    Also: Yago…that picture…does not do you justice.

    Kise…. T_T


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