As this basho continues, I am sure that myself and the rest of the sumo fans will become accustomed to the unique environment that is the “Silent Basho” of Osaka 2020. I think maybe one of the biggest changes was the Yumitori-Shiki, or the bow twirling ceremony at the end of the day’s matches. Typically when this happens, half of the crowd is rushing to exit and catch a train, and the rest of watching with rapt attention. There are shouts that accompany the ritual, and they are, at least to me, integral to the ceremony. But as the NHK Grand Sumo Live stream showed, it happened in dead silence.
In sumo action, it was an interesting and pleasant surprise to see Shodai focused and dare I say effective. I know I have been hard on the man from Uto-shi, but I stand ready to cheer him on the moment he turns the corner, and unleashes the potential that many (myself included) knew he always had. So this actually happen (and it may be happening this March), I would give huge credit to Yokozuna Kakuryu. Kakuryu has shown himself to be a very capable mentor and instructor, and if he can impart a variation of his reactive sumo onto Shodai, I think everyone would enjoy the results. Here’s to hoping that Shodai in on an upward path.
What We Are Watching Day 2
Meisei vs Kotonowaka – This first time match will give Meisei a chance to bounce back from his fairly weak opening day match against Shimanoumi. But Kotonowaka brings advantages in size, weight and strength, along with a suspicion that he will enjoy the typical first basho in the top division hot-streak.
Daiamami vs Shimanoumi – These two seem to have a match about once a year, so if its March, its time for them to fight. I would not call out either as having a clear advantage, other than to say that Shimanoumi seems to have come into Osaka ready to compete.
Tsurugisho vs Azumaryu – Tsurugisho has a 11-4 career advantage over Azumaryu. Simply put he has a solid formula for winning. To my eye, it comes down to Tsurugisho’s superior speed and normally low, wide stance.
Chiyomaru vs Nishikigi – This match will feature Nishikigi attempting to take Chiyomaru to his chest, and Chiyomaru in tsuppari mode. With an 8-2 career advantage, Nishikigi usually can grab a piece of that giant green mawashi and get into offense mode.
Kotoshogiku vs Kaisei – Kotoshogiku holds an 11-2 career record over Kaisei. I think Kaisei is susceptable to Kotoshogiku’s chest to chest attack strategies, but it will come down to how stable Kotoshogiku’s damaged knees are.
Aoiyama vs Ikioi – Another match of the grizzled veterans, we get Big Dan Aoiyama looking to stay mobile and stay hitting while Ikioi will work better close in where he can grab a piece of rubbery white flesh and move the man-mountain about. Not for the faint of heart.
Sadanoumi vs Ishiura – Ishiura tends to bring his evasive sumo form to his matches with Sadanoumi, and Sadanoumi does tend to fall for it most times. This has left Ishiura with a 7-3 career advantage, and a strong favorite in today’s fight.
Terutsuyoshi vs Tochiozan – Both rikishi lost their day 1 matches, and both want to put something into the win column. We did not get to see any high-efficiency sumo from Tochiozan, and really no pixie magic from Terutsuyoshi. Let’s hope that day 2 brings them back to form.
Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – Although Tochinoshin holds an 8-2 career advantage, those numbers were racked up when the former-Ozeki’s body was in fighting form. I suspect this match will take a much different form, as Tochinoshin’s undercarriage may not even provide enough support to allow him to resist Chiyotairyu’s opening attack.
Shohozan vs Takanosho – Shohozan does tend to get “fired up” in his sumo, and I wonder if whatever face / head wound he picked up day 1 might have him eager to go out and resolve some of his frustrations against Takanosho. Shohozan will try to stay mobile, and keep hitting. Takanosho will try to close in and thrust his way to a win.
Kiribayama vs Tamawashi – Another first-time match, but I think there will be more Tamawashi “power thrust” on day 2. Kiribayama is smaller, lighter and may get a rough run from his Mongolian countryman who will out-class him in almost every factor.
Myogiryu vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s normal policy of “Defend and Extend” does not work very well against the improvisational combo-attack style of Myogiryu, who puts a lot of effort into disrupting his opponent’s balance. This shows in his 13-6 career lead over Takarafuji.
Kagayaki vs Onosho – I am keen to see these two square off. They have 5 wins each over their career, and it’s going to be a great clash of relentless fundamentals (Kagayaki) vs explosive speed and brutal forward power (Onosho).
Enho vs Ryuden – Enho took their only prior match, and after getting shut down and put away without his supper on day 1, Enho needs to bounce back. Ryuden (aka Shin-Ikioi) has been very much hit or miss over the past 6 months, but he looked much more calm and focused day 1 than I have seen him in some time. Let’s hope that is a start of a trend.
Abi vs Mitakeumi – A lot of fans want Abi to bounce back and return to the san’yaku. His wild, frantic sumo may have become predictable, and that will force him to adapt. Mitakeumi holds a 5-2 career advantage, and I am interested to see if Mitakeumi is over his various injuries that have hobbled his sumo this winter.
Yutakayama vs Endo – Endo suffered a critical body position / balance mistake day 1 against Yokozuna Hakuho, and I think he will be primed to take down Yutakayama on day 2. The two have a 3-3 career record, but Endo will probably look to get that left hand shallow grip at the tachiai. If he can land it, he should control the match.
Asanoyama vs Tokushoryu – I am really glad that Tokushoryu seems to be such an easy going, good natured person, as I think he is going to be eating a lot of Osaka clay this March. But be aware, Tokushoryu won their only prior match at Aki 2017.
Takayasu vs Shodai – This is the sort of match where we typically see Shodai’s cartoon sumo come out in full force. It will be all about defending against Takayasu’s lethal left. If he can repeat Takakeisho’s shut down of the former Ozeki’s primary weapon, he may start 2-0.
Takakeisho vs Okinoumi – Not taking anything away from Okinoumi, who is a consummate professional, and always does his best, but he is 6-1 against the lone surviving Ozeki. In fact the only time that he has beaten Takakeisho was day 2 of Natsu 2018 when Takakeisho was just a wee tadpole at Maegashira 10.
Hakuho vs Daieisho – My suspicions about his left foot aside, Hakuho seems to be brutally dialed into his sumo. So I am going to look for Daieisho to lose in the first 10 seconds.
Hokutofuji vs Kakuryu – A great match to end the day. Hokutofuji struggled to get his sumo on rhythm on day 1, and that is just the kind of malfunction that Kakuryu really enjoys. If Hokutofuji is not tack-sharp, we may see him on the receiving end of thrust down or throw.