This was a fine start to one sweaty basho, as you can see by the number of folks who are fanning themselves in the stands. Having spent a few summers in Japan, I can tell you that the heat can surprise most westerners, and when you see Japanese people breaking out the fans, it’s indeed not just hot, but swampy too!
This oppressive heat affects sumo, as the tsuriyane (roof above the dohyo) is loaded with high intensity lamps that add at least 5°C on the dohyo, and the high humidity makes the clay slick, leading to a larger number of traction problems during matches. This normally shows up in the second week after hundreds of bouts smooth down the surface, and is a source of not just losses, but injury.
We did learn on day 1 that both Hakuho and Kakuryu seem to be starting in fighting shape, and that none of the 3 competing Ozeki are going to phone it in, though as expected there was an ample amount of ring rust to negotiate. On to the matches!
Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki loves to crowd surf, and I suspect he could be happy to be a front man for a heavy metal sumo band. True to form, Kotoyuki does nothing to slow his speedy exit at the northeast corner of the dohyo and is half way down the hanamichi before he stops. Expect him to visit the fans daily.
Kaisei defeats Yago – Yago offered to go chest to chest, and Kaisei took his offer, but it did not evolve as Yago had planned thanks to Kaisei’s superior reach. You can visibly see Yago’s frustration as that giant hairy Brazilian breaks Yago’s grip and shuts down any chance of offense.
Enho defeats Toyonoshima – Watching this tachiai made me wince, as Enho is heavily bandaged and you just have to wonder what kind of hell is going on in his body. Enho’s “pop” tachiai finds it’s mark as he lands his left hand before Toyonoshima can finish his tachiai, and nets Enho superior grip and body position. Toyonoshima’s one true attack was an attempt to crush Enho to the clay, which failed and left him in an even more unworkable position. Good work by Enho to protect his right shoulder and win the match.
Chiyomaru defeats Sadanoumi – Textbook Chiyomaru sumo today. He uses his ponderous bulk to force his opponent to generate massive forward pressure to counter Chiyomaru’s attack. As soon as Chiyomaru is sure his opponent is pushing as hard as he can, he shifts and sends Sadanoumi to the clay.
Kagayaki defeats Tochiozan – I can note two times that Tochiozan had this won, but failed to finish Kagayaki. I have to compliment Kagayaki for staying in the fight and continuing to battle even when he was on the brink of a loss. Tochiozan shows the most rust for day 1.
Takagenji defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi could not get his preferred arm bar hold set up, and Takagenji worked his way out of trouble and took the initiative. Nishikigi opened strong but went soft once Takagenji broke his grip. Work on the rust, Nishikigi.
Kotoeko defeats Daishoho – Kotoeko used a pivot in the tachiai to load up some rotational momentum in the opening moments of the match. This kept Daishoho from getting into an offensive stance, and allowed Kotoeko to dictate how the bout would proceed. The belly bump finish was a nice touch, too.
Shohozan defeats Okinoumi – Shohozan showed some great versatility today in going chest to chest with Okinoumi and taking the match. Though it was not really a mawashi battle, it was a fascinating example of close-range, hand to hand oshi. It was kind of sloppy and improvisational, but it worked.
Tomokaze defeats Onosho – It still looks like Onosho is favoring that right knee, and it affects his stance, balance and movement. Tomokaze took a big gamble by pulling, but today it payed off. Onosho has always been worthless when off balance, and it is doubly true post knee surgery.
Myogiryu defeats Shimanoumi – Really severe ring rust on Shimanoumi to start this basho. I am sure he had a battle plan when he stepped on the dohyo, but it seems to have vanished as soon as he made contact with Myogiryu.
Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji could not maintain his footing against the cannonball tachiai and goes down to a wave of tsuppari.
Kotoshogiku defeats Ichinojo – Sad news Ichinojo fans—the big Mongolian put up a fight at first but went soft after a rather feeble attempt to set up a pull. One of the big questions going into Nagoya was how genki Ichinojo might be. Maybe it’s just day 1 fumbles, but I would guess we may have a continuation of the problem he was suffering earlier in the year.
Daieisho defeats Meisei – Meisei attacked well out of the tachiai, but Daieisho set the tone and pace of this match. Although his attempt to pull Meisei down failed, it left Meisei horribly unbalanced and gave Daieisho the opening to bring Meisei to the clay.
Shodai defeats Tamawashi – As noted in the preview, when Shodai gets in trouble against an oshi-style opponent, he tends to improvise and do whatever comes into that giant onion head of his. And today it worked brilliantly as he read Tamawashi’s loss of traction, leading to Shodai putting pressure on Tamawashi’s shoulder for a thrust down. [The winning move was reminiscent of Takakeisho. -lksumo]
Aoiyama defeats Mitakeumi – Aoiyama had to expend very little effort to convert Mitakeumi’s perilous forward balance into a trip to the clay. Fairly weak sumo from Mitakeumi to start the basho; lets hope he can get it together.
Endo defeats Tochinoshin – As noted in the preview, Endo likely pre-visualized this match extensively, and after reviewing tons of footage decided he was going mae-mitsu at the tachiai. True to form, Tochinoshin wants to go left and outside, and leaves his middle wide open. Endo’s right hand found its mark, and the Ozeki could not escape. Great sumo from Endo.
Takayasu defeats Hokutofuji – This was a surprisingly good match for the first day of a basho. If you want to see one incredibly strong fellow slam into another, and come up with nothing – this is your bout. Whatever physical problems may be plaguing Takayasu, he was a wall of stone today. At one point you can see both of them generate huge forward pressure against each other, a contest of strength, and Takayasu blew Hokutofuji back. I love looking at how low Takayasu was able to keep his hips. That’s better form from him than I have seen in a while.
Asanoyama defeats Goeido – Some of you might expect me to fault Goeido and make some reference to him running buggy software today. But frankly Goeido looked on form, but Asanoyama seems to have just picked up right where he left off in May. Goeido had the early advantage and made a solid attempt at a throw, but Asanoyama was able to shut it down. Goeido broke contact and reestablshied his attack, but was too close to the tawara, and a solid shoulder blast from Asanoyama sent the Ozeki out.
Hakuho defeats Abi – I was very excited to see Abi land the nodowa at the tachiai and force Hakuho to react by dropping back. But in moving forward, Abi’s stance got too long, and he was unable to center his weigh over his feet (poor defense). Then, much to my delight, Abi put his right hand to Hakuho’s belt. But the Boss was done fooling around, and gave Abi a face full of Nagoya clay.
Kakuryu defeats Ryuden – To my eye, Kakuryu looked to have himself in better control than Hakuho, and the Yokozuna made fast work of Ryuden. Hopefully Kakuryu can keep good form, and stay unhurt for this basho. I would love to see him contend for the cup.