Day 1 in Tokyo started at a good intensity, and simply went up from there. There was some decent sumo, some good sumo, and some sumo that made the crowd roar. To the lovely Australians who were sitting with me up in Stadium B, it was great to introduce you to sumo. You were a fun group. To buysumotickets.com, who got my seats, and are the place to check if you are going to watch sumo live in Japan, thank you!
As always, it’s a wonder to watch sumo on television, but it’s just another experience first hand in Japan. With NHK or Abema (for those lucky enough to be able to watch it), you can see more detail. But you see what the camera wants to show you. In person, the colors are real, the details and emotions register at full force, and the combat is shockingly real. It’s an experience that sumo fans should aspire to, even if they are from modest means.
Where to start with today… Yes, the beginning.
Tokushoryu defeats Chiyoshoma – No henka from Chiyoshoma today, just straight ahead sumo. So Tokushoryu uses his bigger body to overpower Chiyoshoma. Note Tokushoryu’s tachiai—he was ready to deflect a Chiyoshoma henka. Great work today in reading the match by Tokushoryu.
Kiribayama defeats Kaisei – Kaisei dominated this match, but Kiribayama’s startling and excellent footwork at the tawara pulled out the victory. It looked like sorcery in person, and watching it later on video still strained credibility.
Tochiozan defeats Ikioi – Ikioi got inside early and advanced strongly. But Tochiozan was able to deflect his advance, and in a surprisingly causal way simply brushed him aside and toward the clay. This came down to balance, and Tochiozan was in form today.
Azumaryu defeats Shimanoumi – Azumaryu got a shallow frontal grip at the tachiai, and never gave Shimanoumi a chance to recover.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoeko – A real smoker of a match, these two compact powerhouses threw the kitchen sink at each other, and still needed more. Terutsuyoshi appeared to dictate the terms of the match, but Kotoeko vigorously repelled every offensive gambit. Kotoeko’s balance and stability were surprising, and effective. But Terutsuyoshi kept chipping away, and pushed Kotoeko to the bales, where a last minute pull by Kotoeko failed, and Terutsuyoshi took the match.
Chiyomaru defeats Kotoshogiku – As noted in the preview, Chiyomaru presents very few places to grab any kind of hold, and thus Kotoshogiku could offer little in the way of true offense. To his credit, he focused everything he could against Chiyomaru’s chest, but his attacks could find no purchase.
Kagayaki defeats Tsurugisho – Mr Fundamentals showed none of his expected and typical ring rust today. Kagayaki kept his hips low, and kept his weight over the arches of his feet. Great defensive sumo to start, and he seized the chance when Tsurugisho gave him a opening.
Chiyotairyu defeats Ishiura – Ishiura could not withstand that “overload” tachiai, and attempted to break contact. But as he moved away, he stumbled and lost his balance. A quick step out and the win went to Chiyotairyu. Great opening tsuppari combo from Chiyotairyu today.
Yutakayama defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi got inside at the tachiai, and landed a deep right hand grip. Robbed of his desired oshi-battle, Yutakayama returned the mawashi grip and dropped his hips with gusto, bucking forward and catching Sadanoumi a bit by surprise. Was that gaburi-yori I saw? I think it was. Nice win for Yutakayama outside of his normal sumo style book.
Takanosho defeats Ryuden – Annoying, hokey fake matta again from Ryuden to throw off his opponent’s timing. But Takanosho was completely unfazed. Multiple times, Ryuden reached for a mawashi grip and came up empty. Takanosho kept his mind on his attack plan, and shut Ryuden down. Solid sumo from Takanosho.
Aoiyama defeats Onosho – It’s a common problem; Onosho’s balance was too far forward, and Big Dan Aoiyama knew exactly what to do. He focused his blows on Onosho’s face, and Onosho was unable to remain upright for long.
Shohozan defeats Tochinoshin – Sadly Tochinoshin is still hurt; at least that is what the consensus seemed to be in Tokyo as he shifted to the side at the tachiai, leaving Shohozan to circle around and bring the fight to the former Ozeki. Tochinoshin seemed to lack any offensive plan, and succumbed to Shohozan’s attacks.
Enho defeats Takarafuji – The crowd went berserk before the match even started, and the fireworks of this match pushed the energy higher still. To his credit, Takarafuji was able to execute what I think his plan was—stalemate Enho and then attack on his own terms. In the past, this would have been quite effective, but Enho continues to evolve, and responded with skill and strength to Takarafuji’s attack. Enho somehow managed to load a throw from a seriously poor body position, and made it work. Amazing.
Shodai defeats Meisei – Typical weak tachiai from Shodai, but his stablity allowed him to absorb Meisei’s opening advance, and his patience got him the inside arm position. Then Shodai advanaced strongly, and drove Meisei down. If someone can get this guy a potent tachiai, he’s a monster.
Okinoumi defeats Abi – Okinoumi once again shows he can shut down Abi-zumo. Abi opens strong with his long-armed attack, and seems to be in control. But Okinoumi gave ground sparingly, and Abi lost traction and received a face full of Tokyo clay. To my eye, it was a bit of a surprise loss.
Tamawashi defeats Takayasu – I know in the prediction podcast I called for Takayasu to get his 10, but he did not look strong today against “Arm Breaker” Tamawashi. Tamawashi proved effective at raising the Ozekiwake and moving him back. Once Tamawashi puts you in motion, the match is likely his.
Asanoyama defeats Mitakeumi – Wow, another amazing fight. Mitakeumi almost blew this match early with a pull down attempt that Asanoyama was ready to exploit. But Asanoyama only gained a bit of ground, and Mitakeumi set his defense. The two go chest to chest, but Mitakeumi wasted precious seconds trying to figure out his gip. By then, Asanoyama has assumed one of his classic sumo poses, and we all know it’s a fast trip to woodblock print land for Mitakeumi. Fortunately the Edo Tokyo museum is next door, and the Hokusai museum is down the road.
Hokutofuji defeats Goeido – Hokutofuji is known for slapping himself around before a match, but he took it to loud extremes today. We knew both were going to try for an overwhelming opening move, but Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai found it’s mark on Goeido’s throat, and the Maegashira had control of the match. With Goeido focused on escape, Hokutofuji disrupted his balance and swung the Ozeki to the clay.
Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu still has not found a way to overcome Takakeisho’s sumo (now 9-0), though he got in a few solid shoves.
Endo defeats Kakuryu – After an even tachiai, Kakuryu went into reactive mode, working to blunt and deflect everything Endo used to attack. But Kakuryu resorted to a pull, and I was surprised when the gumbai went to Endo. From the stadium it looked like Endo stepped out first. The monoii upheld the gumbai, and the crowd cheered. On replay (which I saw hours later) it was clear that Kakuryu’s foot was out long before Endo touched down.
Hakuho defeats Daieisho – Daieisho came painfully close to making it 2 wins in a row over the dai-Yokozuna. Hakuho started with his obligatory face-slap, but found himself being pushed back by Daieisho’s advance. But The Boss was not going to let Daieisho repeat, landed a right hand outside grip, and put the upstart Komusubi over the bales.