Tokyo July Basho Day 1 Highlights

We’re back but socially distant. Preparing for this moment for months but now that it’s here, let’s take it all in. The ringside cushions are gone, the crowd are seated in the boxes, wearing masks. They were only let in a few hours ago, none saw the maezumo debut in person. We’re in Tokyo instead of Nagoya to avoid travel on what would have been a long journey west. Despite all the on-dohyo storylines…it’s the off-dohyo storyline that distracts our attention, even now. It’s not the same. But it’s here. We’re ready. The rikishi are ready. Let’s enjoy.

“It’s been a long time.”

Rakim

Shobushi Memorial Basho: Day 1

Terunofuji defeats Kotoyuki: The first bout of makuuchi was the first bout featuring The Great Wall of Sadogatake. Five straight ranks of wrestlers from the stable conveys certain advantages since they can’t face each other on the dohyo but have undoubtedly been able to train together. Meanwhile, the first of four former Ozeki. To the action: Terunofuji kept Kotoyuki in front. Despite Kotoyuki’s success in keeping Terunofuji off his belt, Terunofuji corralled Kotoyuki and with several strong shoves pushed the Penguin out. Oshidashi.

Kotoeko defeats Nishikigi: At the strong tachiai, Kotoeko quickly wrapped up Nishikigi and moving straight forward, forced Nishikigi out. The first victory for The Great Wall. Yorikiri.

Kotoshoho defeats Chiyomaru: Shinnyumaku Kotoshoho makes quick work of veteran Chiyomaru with a strong tachiai, driving Chiyomaru to the edge. Chiyomaru tries to shuffle along the tawara to his left but Kotoshoho gets the force out before falling. Yorikiri.

Kotoshogiku defeats Wakatakakage: One false start to knock the rust off. Breathing properly synchronized now, the tachiai. Firm. Solid. The veteran’s experience and bulk were too much for the youngster. This was textbook Kotoshogiku. As soon as he wrapped up his opponent, gaburi hip action kicked into gear and forced Wakatakakage out after a very brief tawara dance. Yorikiri.

Kotonowaka defeats Takayasu: The former Ozeki looked strong here. Takayasu forced the advantage with a strong nodowa and the two settled into a hidari-yotsu grapple. Takayasu’s started using his position and footwork to push Kotonowaka to the edge but the lack of full motion and power robbed him of the ability to put away his opponent. Conversely, at the tawara the rookie was able to use the leverage offered by the straw bales to swing the Ozeki to his right with a quick twist and throw. The fourth and final win of The Great Wall was its best. Sukuinage.

Sadanoumi defeats Shohozan: A strong tachiai from Shohozan, forcing Sadanoumi backwards. A quick feint to the side from Sadanoumi catches Shohozan by surprise, and turns him backwards. From here, Sadanoumi wrapped up Shohozan, who’s awkwardly sideways and trying to spin back, and forced him over the edge. Yorikiri.

Tochinoshin defeats Shimanoumi: The two tussle with Tochinoshin migi-yotsu to Shimanoumi’s hidari-yotsu. Tochinoshin secures a morozashi at the center of the ring. While it was not quite the sky-crane of old, Tochinoshin had his man where he wanted him and quickly worked him out, yorikiri.

Myogiryu defeats Kaisei. Kaisei had a strong tachiai and started forcing Myogiryu backwards, seeking that right-handed belt grip. However, Myogiryu fought to keep Kaisei from securing a strong grip. With no grip, Kaisei started backing up.  Myogiryu secured his own morozashi and swiftly turned the tables, walking Kaisei back and out. Yorikiri.

Tamawashi vs Ikioi: The satisfying thump from a strong tachiai but this was Tamawashi’s game from the start. Slaps and thrusts as the two opponents stay at arms-length. As Ikioi’s wailing thrusts are a bit more reckless, off-balance, and out of control Tamawashi slips to the side and Ikioi falls to the clay. Hikiotoshi.

Chiyotairyu defeats Ishiura: Chiyotairyu’s force and bulk makes quick work of the smaller Ishiura. The strong tachiai gets the emerald Lamborghini stuck in reverse. But who has time for these games? Chiyotairyu has places to go. A quick grab and pull forces Ishiura’s drivetrain to collapse entirely, landing face first in the clay. Hatakikomi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Tokushoryu: Aaaah…the satisfying shower of salt earns the applause of a restrained Kokugikan crowd. But a sidestep from the pixie and we’ve got our first makuuchi henka and Tokushoryu gets his first taste of soil and the crowd gets their half-time break. Kotenage.

Ryuden defeats Enho: A gold-mawashied Enho goes on the offensive, taking it to Ryuden with a quick skip into a belt grip. Ryuden turns the tables with a righthand grip of his own. He worked the smaller Enho to the edge, and then with a devastating lefthand blow, square to Enho’s chest the pixie lands flat on his back Yoritaoshi.

Hokutofuji defeats Abi: Hokutofuji’s fine sumo was not going to be unsettled by Abi’s leaps and pulls. Hokutofuji kept Abi in front of him as he worked him to the edge, Abi unleashed a desperate attempt to save himself. He landed squarely in the ring and a bit confused since neither of the men tumbled out. Abi then unleashed an advanced, leaping version of Hattorizakura’s diving roll. I guess Hokutofuji had a hand on there? Tsukiotoshi.

Kagayaki defeats Aoiyama: A great, even tachiai but Kagayaki worked in a few blows to force the mountain backwards  and Aoiyama tried for a last ditch shove Oshidashi.

Sanyaku

Daieisho defeats Kiribayama: Sanyaku already? Kiribayama put in a valiant effort in perhaps our first really great slap and thrust battle of the day. A wild haymaker from Daieisho that missed put Daiesho backwards. Kiribayama pounced but his attack had no effect. He was not able to finish off the larger Daieisho. Daieisho recovered and forced Kiribayama back and out of the ring. Oshidashi.

Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji: Head down, Mitakeumi bulldozed forward while Takarafuji’s shoves and trip attempts had zero impact. The focused, single-minded Mitakeumi continued to drive forward, looking very strong indeed. Yorikiri.

Shodai defeats Onosho: Perhaps Enho decided Onosho wears it better? Once Shodai got a left handed grip, he reflexively decided on a throw. He pivoted, sliding along the tawara as Onosho resisted, countering with his own righthanded grip and trip attempts. But Shodai would not be denied and finally finished off Onosho. Uwatenage.

Asanoyama defeats Takanosho: Takanosho got in some strong thrusts at the tachiai but the shin-Ozeki’s left hand quietly snaked around to grab the mawashi. Solid grip in place, like something out of a manga, Asanoyama suddenly launched Takanosho off the dohyo. How’d he do that with one arm? One hell of an Okuridashi.

Takakeisho defeats Yutakayama: Yutakayama swept his right forearm up into Takakeisho’s face at the tachiai, not allowing Takakeisho’s wave action its chance to kick into gear. Yutakayama’s own thrusts and slaps forced the Ozeki back. But this angered Takakeisho who pivoted and unleashed his own thrusts to force an over-eager Yutakayama out. Nursing his lip, the Ozeki eyed Yutakayama as the latter climbed back to the dohyo to concede his defeat. This slight will not be forgotten. Oshidashi

Endo defeats Kakuryu: KINBOSHI FOR KINBOY! Kakuryu met Endo square but deflected right, perhaps seeking one of Harumafuji’s death spins. The subtle change in direction forced Endo’s left leg to extend forward. Kakuryu swiftly attempted a trip but Endo’s Spidey-SenseTM had alerted him to the sotogake that was coming. He quickly shifted his own weight onto his right side and lifted his left leg. This meant Kakuryu’s kick met nothing but air and the Yokozuna fell on his butt. Wow. No purple rain and Andy sheds a tear for what this world has become. Koshikudake.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi: Okinoumi must have thought he won the lottery. A strong tachiai afforded him the Yokozuna’s belt! Now what to do with it? Attack! Drive forward. As his instinct kicked in, he drove forward as the Yokozuna had been unable to secure a firm grip of his own. But perhaps Okinoumi was a bit too enthusiastic. Hakuho pulled to his left, with his left wedged in Okinoumi’s armpit and brought his right arm firmly down on Okinoumi’s back forcing an unbalanced Okinoumi – still clutching at that precious mawashi – to tumble into the dirt. Katasukashi.

13 thoughts on “Tokyo July Basho Day 1 Highlights

  1. Impressive “all business” wins by Mitakeumi and Asanoyama. And Takakeisho looks good to keep his rank.No ring rust there.

  2. Lots of Teeter-Totter Rikishi today. I’m betting that will sort itself out as the basho continues.

    Terunofuji won, but he labored for it. He’s lucky that the last basho was cancelled and everyone isn’t in top form. If he does well in this basho, I suspect he’ll run into a lot of trouble in the next basho once everyone gets back up to speed. He could prove me wrong, though.

    I am not surprised by Terutsuyoshi’s henka. I’ve seen reports that he has knee issues. Ole!

    Shodai got absolutely outclassed at the tachiai, but dug his heels in to win with that throw. Good to see that determination from him!

    Interestingly, the most solid, grounded performance was Mitakeumi. No fuss, no hurry, low and straight forward.

    Geez, if Asanoyama continues his “Excuse me, Sir. The exit is this way” performance from today, then he’s going to be a handful for everyone else. Wow!

    I feel bad for Kakuryu, but it’s his own fault. Yokozuna are also susceptible to ring rust.

    Hakuho is another person who is lucky that the last basho was cancelled. He’ll win because of his agility while everyone else is getting up to speed. Most of Hakuho’s recent bouts can be described as, “He was losing, until…” and that will only work for so long. It will be interesting to see when Hakuho decides to hang it up now that the Olympics have been cancelled.

    • Yes, Hakuho basically got a free basho to rest, it really plays in his favour.
      Lets see how mitakeumi does this time around, even if he wins the first seven bouts you never know how he’ll do in the second week.

  3. Thanks, I couldn’t catch what Takakeisho was angry at. Glad he is off to a winning start to keep his Ozeki-hood.

    Glad to see Kotoshogiku doing well too!

    That metallic ashy-grey mawashi (didn’t look gold to me) on Enho is not as inspiring-looking a color as red. Rejoin Daieisho and Onosho in the red-mawashi-ho ranks, Enho!

    I hope Kakuryu’s wrist is okay. That is far from an ideal way to fall.

  4. Training aside, I would argue that the Koto quintet is actually at a disadvantage this basho. All I ranked M13-M17, and each would normally have 9 of their 15 opponents come from this part of the banzuke, but because of the same-stable exclusions, will only get 5, meaning that they will each face 4 extra higher-ranked opponents.

  5. Random thoughts on Day 1:

    Impressed with the Sadogatake youngsters Kotoshoho and Kotonowaka. For the latter, in particular, outlasting and outmuscling Takayasu was no mean feat.

    Takayasu aside, the former Ozeki looked good. Seems like the extra rest outweighed the ring rust, which I thought was true for most of the rikishi.

    Terutsuyoshi was channeling former stablemate Harumafuji with that henka-not-henka.

    Nice 6-1 start by the 7 highest-ranked rikishi; only Kakuryu’s self-own prevented a clean sweep by the san’yaku against the zone of death.

  6. I have nothing but love for Kotoyuki, but when Terunofuji won I emitted strange victorious barking noises, which alarmed my family.
    Then to see both Kotoshogiku and Tochi win (and in convincing fashion), I felt an unexpected small ‘c’ conservative ardour for the old ways and the old order and for wily old dogs teaching young ‘uns a lesson, etc.

    Kotonowaka’s win struck me as seriously classy –  given his solid left-hand grip, I was convinced that Takayasu was methodically working towards the win, but then from nowhere came that lightning sukuinage.

    If Endo really did see and anticipate the leg trip and intenionally dodge it, then that has to rank as one of the great examples of reactive, technical sumo and also as a pretty major humiliation for a yokozuna to try a sweep kick, hit nothing but air and fall on his ass/arse.

    Asanoyma and Takakeisho both looking fit and strong and serious. Exciting.

    DEAR GOD IT’S JUST SO GREAT TO BE WATCHING SUMO AGAIN!

    Many thanks or the great write-up Andy…

  7. For those of you who don’t follow Juryo, remember this name: Hakuyozan. This guy has some serious skill! Ichinojo also picked up a big win today, and he even used forward sumo too!

    I’ve seen a lot of talk about how Tochinoshin is back and looking good but I have to disagree. He really seemed to struggle with Shimanoumi, who’s proven to be a mid to low maegashira level rikishi, and I think if Tochi continues to try and brute force all his victories he is going to hasten his retirement. But maybe it’s just ring rust, we will see.

    There is definitely something eerie about seeing Enho in a dark grey shimekomi, like it’s some sort of alternate universe version of the pixie. The change didn’t do him much good against a highly motivated Ryuden who is fighting for his fallen brother.

    While I was very happy with most of my guys today, none of them impressed me as much as Kagayaki. It’s not every day you see Aoyama get railroaded out of the dohyo like that. I still maintain that this is going to be a big year for Kagayaki.

    I have to hear what Bruce thought of Shodai’s cartoon sumo today! That was something else!

    After four months inside his own head, Asanoyama’s first win as an Ozeki must have felt like such a relief! Can’t wait to see him clash with Endo tomorrow, a highlight match for sure.

  8. It was interesting to see which rikishi seemed to have lost or gained significant weight since March. Ikioi looked like he’d lost weight big time, but not in a good way.

  9. Takayasu and Abi both looked unwell to me. At even 50 percent, Takayasu should’ve easily handled his business. Instead, he lacked the final bit of effort to win, and lacked a spark of enthusiasm to my eyes. Abi was his usual day 1 mess, but he seemed even more frenetic than usual, losing his match via his over-exuberance at charging forward without being balanced first. Also sad to see Ishiura be defeated so easily after he’s worked to diversify his repertoire. And poor Kakuryu – that will be on his blooper reel for all time. Seeing Onosho, Yutakayama and Enho all lose makes me worry a bit about the next generation not being quite ready to step into the limelight just yet. Also makes me miss Tomokaze, who withdrew prior to the basho again to continue recuperating.

  10. Still not convinced Salt Bae’s weight shift should be considered a full henka, but enjoyed that match in any case. The Kakuryu withdrawal… the look on his face when the cameras caught him during the Hakuho bout was thunderous. I can only imagine how things went afterward.

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