Natsu Day 1 Highlights

Photo shamelessly stolen from the Japan Sumo Association’s Twitter Feed

On Twitter today, sumo’s own Jason Harris referred to this as “ASMR basho”, and I think that sums it up quite nicely. The venue is devoid of the public, and there is not even tepid reaction to any of the sumo action taking place. We know from last March that it does in fact throw some of the rikishi off their game, and we may get more of that this tournament. The sumo association reiterated that they are in fact going to have fans in the Kokugikan on day 4, even though the state of emergency remains.

Sumo fans around the world may not recognize that this is a tiny sliver of a much larger public debate over the fate of the pending 2020/2021 Tokyo Olympic games. There is a portion of the Japanese public that insist that conducting the games is far too risky, and should be canceled. I will be interested to see if there are in fact fans in the stands on Wednesday.

But it seems we are going to be treated to an NHK “Boom Cam” as consolation. While it is a bit novel at first, it does provide some really unprecedented views of the matches. Kintamayama has labeled id “Ass Cam”, seems accurate.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Akua – Chiyomaru had first contact, bringing his hands up and reaching Akua’s shoulders before Akua could complete his tachiai. From there it was a typical “stand him up and slap him down” Chiyomaru match.

Kaisei defeats Ishiura – Ishiura showed some good sumo today, but there is simply too much of Kaisei for a man of Ishiura’s size to do much once Kaisei can set his feet for defense. Kaisei was able to get a deep right hand inside position, and nothing Ishiura tried could stop Kaisei’s forward motion.

Chiyotairyu defeats Daiamami – After a crummy 6-9 result for March, Chiyotairyu shows us some of his “Thunder Demon” sumo. Chiyotairyu had his hands up and attacking Daiamami’s shoulder and throat at the tachiai, which left Daiamami with no choice but retreat. 3 steps later, he was out.

Okinoumi defeats Akiseyama – Okinoumi at this rank is likely to dominate most of his matches, and he got the jump on Akiseyama at the tachiai. To my eye, Akiseyama looked a bit hesitant compared to normal – maybe some ring rust there? Akiseyama did manage to put up more than a token defense, but Okinoumi’s encyclopedic sumo skill had a ready response to secure the win.

Kotoeko defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma opened strong with a left hand inside position, but his hips were too high, and did not have the body position to compensate for the moment when Kotoeko clicked in. Chiyoshoma re-engaged, sending his right hand deep, and Kotoeko used that arm to set up a kotenage that won the match.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotonowaka – Terutsuyoshi made a quick hop to the right at the tachiai, leaving Kotonowaka badly off balance. Terutsuyoshi grabbed Kotonowaka’s left leg, and finished him. I have seen this same move applied with great effect in rodeos as well.

Tamawashi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki looked to struggle for any kind of offensive hand placement today. While he flipped his arms around looking for an opening, Tamawashi took the inside lane and worked to move Kagayaki upright and then back.

Endo defeats Shimanoumi – There was one brief moment when Endo was off balance and on one foot, but Shimanoumi could not react in time. Apart from that, it was 100% Endo, who finished by turning Shimanoumi around and giving him a hearty bum’s rush like was closing time at the hostess bar.

Takarafuji defeats Tsurugisho – Takarafuji gets his first win against Tsurugisho, and what was interesting to see what no “defend and extend” today. Takarafuji went in strong and immediately contained Tsurugisho, offense. It took me a bit by surprise, and maybe Tsurugisho too.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – In the early days of any basho, Ichinojo is probably in his best physical condition, and it seems that his mind is focused right now as well. He gets a left hand outside grip at the tachiai, and Tochinoshin really can’t find a route to give much offense in return. That big drive from Ichinojo to finish was powerful, and I can’t think of much that could stop it once the Boulder gets in motion.

Onosho defeats Hidenoumi – Traditional Onosho brand of sumo. He can output so much forward pressure that the only hope an opponent might have would be to turn him or get out of his way. But today Onosho wrapped up Hidenoumi early and kept him centered.

Hoshoryu defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu had a slight edge until he decided he would pull against Hoshoryu’s strong forward push. Hoshoryu’s balance was sound, and he had enough of a grip on Myogiryu to stay steady, and Myogiryu had no way to return to forward motion as Hoshoryu ran him around and then out.

Mitakeumi defeats Kiribayama – I really like how low Mitakeumi was in his tachiai, and how he integrated his opening combo into that one fluid attack. It put Kiribayama back in a hurry, but look at Kiribayama’s body position as he rallies. Classic sumo stance that Kiribayama absolutely nails. But in spite of Kiribayama’s ukiyo-e worthy pose, Mitakeumi was inside and fighting for hand placement. Once Mitakeumi’s left hand broke through, it was 2 steps to the edge as Mitakeumi starts Natsu with a win. Nice sumo from both.

Takanosho defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni got one (and only one) solid, good hit at the tachiai. Takanosho seemed to answer at about 2x Chiyonokuni’s power, and just bashed him around for a bit before tossing him across the bales. Chiyonokuni may still be hurt, and this may be a long basho for him.

Takayasu defeats Tobizaru – Takayasu was high at the tachiai, but Tobizaru could not capitalize on it, as Takayasu hit hard and moved Tobizaru back. Takayasu’s feet were all over the place, and seems to be operating in his wild, chaotic style once more. But he overpowered Tobizaru every way from go, and took his first win over the flying monkey.

Terunofuji defeats Meisei – I note wish some worry that Terunofuji also has a joint support brace on his left elbow underneath that wrap. Meisei gave it everything he could, but Terunofuji is quite comfortable using a double arm-lock grip to just brute his opponents around. He tossed Meisei with gusto from the dohyo to start the tournament with a kimedashi win. The boom-camera for this match really was a nice angle. Look at how quiet Terunofuji’s feet are compared to Takayasu, and how heavy each step is. You can see him gripping the clay with his toes too. Nice footage.

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – Brilliant tachiai from Hokutofuji, and it went exactly nowhere. Shodai was quite effective at stalemating everything Hokutofuji tried, and waiting him out. He did not need to wait long as Hokutofuji got too far forward and Shodai slammed him to the clay. 7 more to go for Shodai to clear kadoban.

Takakeisho defeats Wakatakakage – Wow, it’s been a few tournaments since I have seen Takakeisho this focused and dialed into his sumo. At the tachiai, Takakeisho unloaded a rapid 2 cycle combo and then one wave-action blast and Wakatakakage was airborne. Wow!

Asanoyama defeats Daieisho – Beautiful opening combo from Daieisho, that was his yusho form for the first 3 steps, but his shifted his force to finish Asanoyama, and the Ozeki was ready. He converted Daieisho’s motion to circle behind and thrust him out. Very nice switch to “plan b” from Asanoyama today.

6 thoughts on “Natsu Day 1 Highlights

  1. What a fantastic first day! Loved the ozekis showing today, and loved the way the Boulder fought!
    Fourteen days of great sumo ahead my dear friends. And we got a boom cam! And ringside audio with clear slaps, grunts, thuds and all. And Bruce said that the lady with the silk dress is back on Wednesday! Isn’t Life a treat! 😊

  2. Greetings to all the faithful Tachiai readership!
    So great to have sumo back again at last, even if it did take a little while to re-familiarise with the eerie lack of crowd sounds…

  3. I considered not watching this basho. Even more so after NHK’s preview show for the tournament made no mention of Hibikiryu’s injury/death. But here I am anyway. I just hope everyone stays healthy this time around – rikishi and fans both, once they let them back in.

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