Welcome to the end of act 1! The team at Tachiai tend to divide the 15 days of a basho up into three 5 day “acts”, each that have their own purpose and goals. Act 1 – we get rid of the ring rust, and find out who is hot, and who is not. In the “hot” category we have: Daieisho, Midorifuji, Takayasu, Nishikifuji, and Hokuseiho, all of which start the day with 4-0 records.
As great as this group is, I think we have two strong candidates for “match of the day”. The starter, where the colossus Hokuseiho takes on the behemoth from Juryo, Ichinojo. Note to the NHK cameramen – may need to zoom out a notch for this fight. The second one is Shodai and Daieisho. Yes, you read me saying Shodai had the potential to be in the highlight match of the day. He’s once again in the form that got him to Ozeki, and he’s been employing some of his best sumo strategy each day since shonichi. I hope he can keep it up!
What We Are Watching Day 5
Hokuseiho vs Ichinojo – It was bound to happen at some point, two of the largest men in sumo are going to face off. Both of them are tall, broad and huge. Both of them come into today with unbeaten 4-0 records, and one of them is going to have their first loss. Honestly, I give a slight edge to Hokuseiho in this one.
Mitoryu vs Bushozan – Both of these rikishi are having a terrible start to their first tournament. Between the two of them they have one win and seven losses. But 0-4 Mitoryu has a slight 4-2 career edge over 1-3 Bushozan, so this might be the day he picks up his first win.
Kinbozan vs Tsurugisho – In contrast to Bushozan, Kinbozan continues to excel in his first tournament in the top division. He will try for a third time to score his first win against Tsurugisho, who last faced him during Hatsu 2023 when Kinbozan visited the top division on day 14. Both are 3-1.
Chiyoshoma vs Kotoeko – This has the makings of an exciting fight. Both are coming into today 3-1, and both are high agility fighters with no reservations about introducing a lot of variation into their sumo. Kotoeko has a solid 11-7 career lead over Chiyoshoma, who might just decide today is a great day to employ a henka.
Daishoho vs Oho – Oho (1-3) picked up his first win on day 4. I want to know if he was just in the right place at the right time, or if he really has broken through his ring rust and is finally ready to fight with skill and power. He’s against 3-1 Daishoho, who picked up his first loss on day 4 against Chiyoshoma, so I would expect him to want to rebound with a win. They share a 3-4 career record.
Takarafuji vs Takanosho – On paper this match looks like a clear advantage for 3-1 Takanosho. In reality it looks like another tough day of 1-3 Takarafuji, who is not even close to his normal level of performance, and seems to be soldering on in spite of whatever performance limiting injuries he continues to endure. It does not help that Takanosho holds an 8-2 career advantage, either.
Azumaryu vs Kagayaki – Still looking for his first win, 0-4 Azumaryu is going to likely be unhappy with his draw of 1-3 Kagayaki on day 5. He has only managed to beat Kagayaki 3 times in 13 attempts. In fact, Azumaryu has not won against Kagayaki since (checks notes) 2016. Woof.
Nishikifuji vs Hiradoumi – Nishikifuji continues to look strong and confident at 4-0, and he’s going to have a good chance of winning his day 5 match as well against 2-2 Hiradoumi. I don’t fault Hiradoumi’s score on this one, he looked solid in his day 4 win against Azumaryu, but the fact that out of 5 tries, he has only beaten Nishikifuji once.
Aoiyama vs Myogiryu – Much as I love some “Big Dan” sumo, it’s clear he has lower body problems this March, and all you need to do to win is get him moving backward a bit, and he’s toast. Both are 2-2 at the start of today, and share an impressive 27 match career record split 14-13.
Ura vs Takayasu – I think this match has a narrow chance at becoming a pivotal encounter in the March tournament. Mostly because Takayasu has shown himself eager to use his overly energetic tachiai style, that leaves him off balance and with arms and legs loose and unmanaged. This is perfect for Ura’s tug and pull style of attack, and may result in 4-0 Takayasu picking up his first loss of the basho. Or he may just connect full power against 3-1 Ura’s face and lay him out flat. Can’t wait to see which way this goes.
Hokutofuji vs Ichiyamamoto – The good news from this match? One of these poor guys is going to pick up their first win of the basho. Both are 0-4, and I am pretty certain that Hokutofuji is injured to boot. I can’t say the same for Ichiyamamoto, but it may likewise be correct. This is their first ever match.
Sadanoumi vs Midorifuji – After having a very rough basho in January, the Isegahama crew is really strong right now, and should finish the first act of this basho with solid winning records, well on their way to kachi-koshi. In this match we have 4-0 Midorifuji getting a chance to expand his 3-1 career lead against 1-3 Sadanoumi, who seems to have lost a fair amount of the edge that got him to this rank to begin with.
Kotoshoho vs Endo – As someone who has been enthusiastic about Kotoshoho’s sumo, its a really disappointment to see hims struggling with a 0-4 record going into day 5. He’s never lost against 3-1 Endo, but right now Endo looks healthy, and his sumo is crisp. I would expect this to be another tough day for Kotoshoho.
Abi vs Meisei – Abi has to be pleased with his day 4 win over Takakeisho. That was classic Abi-zumo, and it pretty much deflated Takakeisho’s hopes of earning the rope before Nagoya. He has an even 5-4 career record against 1-3 Meisei, but am not sure Meisei is going to be able to muster the power to take out Abi today. Out of their three matches in 2022, Abi won two.
Daieisho vs Shodai – Believed it or not, this could well be the match of the day. You have a surprisingly potent Shodai at 3-1 going up against unbeaten thrusting doom bringer Daieisho, and it’s going to be a fantastic clash of styles. We should see Daieisho put maximum power forward, and if we are lucky we may get a dash of Shodai’s “Cartoon sumo” to break Daieisho’s attack. Daieisho holds a 15-8 career advantage.
Tobizaru vs Kotonowaka – Another solid match, both men are 3-1, and they share a 4-4 career record. I like Tobizaru’s chances here today, as long as he does not repeat his day 4 mistake and allow Kotonowaka to get a hold of his mawashi. If he can stay mobile, he should win.
Wakamotoharu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi has only a single win, in spite of fighting well this March. I chalk it up to him being in the “tough” part of a Maegashira 1 schedule, where he faces all of the named ranks. He will need to hit early and are against 2-2 Wakamotoharu, to make sure he does not let Wakamotoharu secure a belt grip, and dictate the form of the match. Like the prior bout, if Tamawashi can stay mobile, I like his chances of scoring his second win today.
Wakatakakage vs Mitakeumi – Both of these guys are injured, and not fighting an anything close to their actual potential. So it will come down to who is less wrecked, and in my book that’s 0-4 Wakatakakge. True, if he can grapple 1-3 Mitakeumi and get moving forward, he should be able to finish him. But given Wakatakakage’s injury, even that might be too much to expect.
Kiribayama vs Onosho – Maegashira 4 Onosho comes to call in the san’yaku, and I think he’s got a bucket full of big sumo to share. He has an even record of 4-4 against Kiribayama, and I do enjoy their fights, With both men at 3-1, the winner will be on a clear path to kachi-koshi before the end of the second act.
Nishikigi vs Hoshoryu – I do not expect Nishikigi to suddenly change his fortunes from his dismal 0-4 start and pick up a win today against 2-2 Hoshoryu. Nishikigi has never won a match against Hoshoryu, and that should not change today.
Ryuden vs Takakeisho – I am looking for 2-2 Takakeisho to bounce back after his day 4 loss to Abi with a win today against a struggling 1-3 Ryuden. Out of their five career matches, four have gone to Takakeisho. But their last encounter was day 12 of Osaka 2020, at the “Silent Basho”