Monday (day 2) is a national holiday in Japan, and team Tachiai is celebrating in the Kokugikan with box lunches, and a fair amount of sake. Some readers have wondered if I will be posting more about the food, and I will work to get on that before my week is done. But the main goal of this trip is the Tachiai photo safari, with Monday’s action, from prime floor space box seats, being the heart of the project.
While I expected some ring rust on day 1, what we got instead was full throttle, high intensity sumo from almost everyone in the top division. Will they keep up the intensity on day 2? Frankly, I can’t wait to find out.
What We Are Watching Day 2
Kiribayama vs Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka comes up from Juryo to balance the banzuke, and it’s a brawl of young future stars. Kotonowaka (formerly Kotokamatani) is someone who Josh has had his eye on for some time, and there is a good reason. He’s fast, he’s strong, and he battled his way into the salaried ranks in July and has not looked back. With a 10-5 finish in Kyushu, a winning record at Hatsu could see him join the top division for Osaka. Make room, old guard, more fresh talent is coming.
Tokushoryu vs Kaisei – Two of those aforementioned old guard square off in today’s second top division match, with Kaisei holding a decided 8-3 career advantage over Tokushoryu. Both men are quite enormous, and it will be a battle to see which one runs out of stamina first. Kaisei looked a bit cautious on day 1, perhaps still working through some injuries from training?
Azumaryu vs Tochiozan – Sure, lets pair up two more veterans and let them fight it out. Azumaryu took the Juryo yusho at Kyushu, and joined the crowd of former Makuuchi rikishi who have returned for New Year’s. Tochiozan had a huge cheering section for his day 1 match with Ikioi, and perhaps they will return today.
Ikioi vs Shimanoumi – Interestingly enough, a first time matchup! Ikioi is always going to be a crowd favorite against nearly anyone, and maybe doubly so against struggling Shimanoumi. Ikioi looked kind of stiff to me day 1. Maybe that’s an odd description, but he just seemed in a slower reaction mode than normal. I expect him to get in fighting shape today or tomorrow and start to dominate.
Kotoshogiku vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi’s high agility, high mobility sumo is going to cause problems for Kotoshogiku. Even though Terutsuyoshi lost their only prior matchup, I would give him the edge in this contest, as Kotoshogiku’s knees are only held together by sheer willpower now.
Kotoeko vs Chiyomaru – The small and nimble Kotoeko struggles with the enormity that is Chiyomaru. Although Kotoeko is amazingly strong, the lack of hand-holds or leverage points of any kind on Chiyomaru’s body makes him a logistical nightmare.
Chiyotairyu vs Tsurugisho – Like most people on planet earth, Tsurugisho struggles to cope with the nearly 400 pound wrecking ball that is Chiyotairyu at the tachiai. If Tsurugisho can keep his feet, he will have an opportunity to counter-attack. Good luck!
Kagayaki vs Ishiura – This has the potential for a great matchup. Ishiura has been increasingly using small-man sumo techniques with excellent results. He struggled with Chiyotairyu’s tachiai day 1, and lost his balance. He may find Kagayaki’s fundamentals-focused sumo a challenge, as Kagayaki tends to keep his hips low and his feet close to the clay when he moves. A real clash of styles here, and it has a lot of potential.
Takanosho vs Sadanoumi – These two are very evenly matched, and it should come down to who can get inside position at the tachiai. Sadanoumi has a speed advantage, and that may carry the match. Takanosho really kept his mind focused against Ryuden on day 1, and aptly ignored Ryuden’s antics to win.
Yutakayama vs Ryuden – During his climb up from the lower divisions, Yutakayama had a consistent formula for dispatching Ryuden. But in the last year, they have been very evenly matched. How much of that can be chalked up to limits on Yutakayama’s sumo governed by his injury? It’s hard to say, but day 1 Yutakayama showed remarkable flexibility and power against Sadanoumi, and am eager to see what he does with Ryuden today.
Shohozan vs Aoiyama – Two rikishi who enjoy bludgeoning their opponents into submission, oh goodie! Aoiyama needs to remain patient and not try to pull Shohozan, as this will just given him a chance to change gears and grab big Dan’s mawashi, which would effectively end the match.
Onosho vs Tochinoshin – In a normal basho, Tochinoshin would sky-crane the angry butterball tadpole that is Onosho and landfill him. But Tochinoshin is fighting more hurt than usual, and Onosho knows it. If Tochinoshin can land that left hand outside grip, we should see another big lift today.
Meisei vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji tends to try to stalemate his opponent’s offensive gambits, looking for a chance to attack. Meisei tends to get a hold of Takarafuji and unleash a throw. Takarafuji will need to hold the inside position from the tachiai, and not worry about waiting out Meisei today.
Enho vs Shodai – Shodai’s sumo seems to have excellent defenses against Enho’s pixie powers. I see Shodai as a large, somewhat pondering rikishi, who has excellent “second wave” combat skills. If he survives the tachiai, he will disrupt your sumo and put you away. But everyone wants to see Enho grab Shodai by the extremities and make him dance like a bunraku puppet.
Myogiryu vs Daieisho – Fresh from giving Hakuho a bit of a scare, Daieisho comes down the banzuke to try his sumo against Myogiryu. He holds a career 5-1 advantage, and is frankly fighting some of his best sumo right now.
Asanoyama vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi will work to keep the match mobile, using oshi-zumo to keep Asanoyama from pulling in a mawashi grip. If Asanoyama can land that right hand, he will probably own the match, so watch for Tamawashi to bash his face and shoulders at the tachiai to keep him back.
Okinoumi vs Takayasu – Takayasu does not look any better than 75% genki right now. Maybe it’s just ring rust, but I honestly think he’s not even close to recovered from that elbow injury that put him down to Ozekiwake to begin with. He’s up against journeyman sumo mechanic Okinoumi today, who has a 3-14 career record vs. Takayasu. Realistically this should be a Takayasu win, but it may instead be a barometer on how hurt he is.
Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – If Hokutofuji can land that nodowa, it’s going to be almost impossible for Takakeisho to do much of anything. I am certain Takakeisho knows this, and I can’t wait to see what kind of opening gambit he deploys to ensure Hokotofuji’s “handshake tachiai” plays no role in this match.
Mitakeumi vs Goeido – Both men fought well on day 1, and both lost. I am certain Mitakeumi will be looking for Goeido to pull within the first 5 seconds, and as long as his balance is set, he should be able to overcome that move.
Hakuho vs Endo – The rematch. This is a bout we highlighted last week before the schedule was announced, and we are eager to see if Endo is going to respond to the brutal upper-cut Hakuho delivered on Kyusho day 12. Hey, the NSK said that his opponents need to do better. Sounds like it’s your play, Endo.
Abi vs Kakuryu – I love that Kakuryu seems to have an auto-disruptor for Abi-zumo. I admit that even though Abi’s style is one-dimensional, how can you not cheer for a guy who is tall, goofy and seems to be having such a good time? If Gomer Pyle were ever a rikishi, I think he would turn out like Abi.