With the first matches of Aki only hours away, it’s time to take a look at the first day’s fights, as we start Act 1. At Tachiai, we tend to think of a basho as three distinct 5 day periods, we call them “acts”. Each has their own purpose, and goals. For act 1, its to remove any ring rust, see who is hot and who is not. Previews for day 1 are always a bit of a strange beast. No one has actually fought anyone in a couple of months, and we generally have no clue who is coming in hurt.
Oh sure there are the practice matches, many of which have had footage end up on YouTube, much to the delight of us sumo fans. But hopefully most know that being good in practice is not an accurate way to forecast who is going to deliver the goods in the honbasho. As pointed out in my preview post, we should all keep an eye on the Ozeki corps. With 2 of the 3 kadoban this month, it may come down to a brutal zero sum game in the final 5 days. The Ozeki have the “easy” part of their schedule now, but it will all come down to injuries.
What We Are Watching Day 1
Kagayaki (0-0) vs Daishoho (0-0) – Oh lord, what’s that smell? Oh sorry, I had forgotten they let Kagayaki and his pungent sumo back in the top division. I was a big fan of this guy’s strict focus on fundamentals a couple of years back, but somehow, through injuries of whatever, he’s not able to hold form. He has a 5-2 career record against Daishoho, so maybe experience and an aggressive funk from rotting sumo technique can deliver an opening day win.
Tsurugisho (0-0) vs Chiyoshoma (0-0) – A great big man / little man match. Not that I would call a 137 kg Chiyoshoma “little” in human terms. But compared to the the battling patron saint of omurice, Tsurugisho, he’s a bit slight. They have a fairly even record, and I think it will come down to if Tsurugisho has gotten past whatever injury had him impotent during Nagoya.
Atamifuji (0-0) vs Kotoshoho (0-0) – Atamifuji makes an adorable return to the top division, and he’s up against Kotoshoho, who had a jun-yusho in January, and then three consecutive make-koshi results that included a stretch of kyojo in May. Kotoshoho can deliver the powerhouse sumo, if he’s healthy. If not, he’s going to be Atamifuji’s chew toy for day 1. This is their first ever match.
Myogiryu (0-0) vs Aoiyama (0-0) – After Aoiyama started Nagoya 2-6, I honestly thought this might be the exit ramp for him. At 37, his body is probably about ready to tell him it’s had enough of the daily thumping and bashing that sumo life expects of its athletes. But then he went on a 7 bout winning streak and saved his spot in the top division. So who knows when “Big Dan” is going to fade out? The guy is a beast, it seems. He has a 15-14 career record against Myogiryu.
Nishikifuji (0-0) vs Sadanoumi (0-0) – The past year has seen Sadanoumi make a brief visit to the joi-jin, and fight the top men in the sport for a couple of basho. But I would guess that based on his 4 consecutive make-koshi scores starting in January, that some injury had taken whatever power and energy he was using at the time, and now is is back to his career normal in the M13-M10 range. He has a 4-3 career record against Nishikifuji.
Takarafuji (0-0) vs Hokuseiho (0-0) – What does Miyagino’s giant have an 0-2 record against Takarafuji? Even the sharpest of sumo pundits in Japan are not sure. It could be that Hokuseiho is simply too tall to be effective against him. Or it could be that Takarafuji’s “brand of sumo” relies on making sure his opponent has every attack blunted, or shut down. I am hoping that Hokuseiho won’t fall into the Ichinojo trap – relying on his enormity as his primary weapon.
Mitakeumi (0-0) vs Endo (0-0) – If you had gone through a small time warp from a couple of years ago to now, you might be baffled to see these two veterans fighting it out in mid-Maegashira. But here they are. I am certain that whatever injury knocked Mitakeumi out of his Ozeki rank is still plaguing him to this day. He has turned in a make-koshi in 7 of the last 8 tournaments, and is showing no sign of rebounding in any way. He does hold a 12-8 record against Endo.
Midorifuji (0-0) vs Kinbozan (0-0) – Another potential kanban rikishi who seems to have gotten banged up, Midorifuji has had 2 consecutive make-koshi tournaments, the prior one being 4-11 from M3E. He’s further down the banzuke now at Maegashira 9, but if he’s still hurt, it may not make too much of a difference. Tough times at Isegahama, it seems. Midorifuji won their only prior match, on day 14 of Natsu.
Kotoeko (0-0) vs Hiradoumi (0-0) – Hiradoumi, of whatever reason, seems to have Kotoeko’s sumo down cold. In 5 attempts, Kotoeko has not been able to beat him, even once. That’s once per basho, every basho in the past year, except Nagoya.
Takayasu (0-0) vs Oho (0-0) – Ah Takayasu. I have been a big backer of your sumo, and hoped you would not follow your senpai’s path, but it may have been fate. At the end of last year you scored back to back jun-yusho, and people started to once more have hope in your future. But too many injuries that never really healed, and you have been in and out of competition since Hatsu. I hope you are in fighting form, because we would love to see you dominate Oho today.
Onosho (0-0) vs Ryuden (0-0) – Both of these guys are “streaky”, and no that does not mean they untie their mawashi and bolt into the zabutan zone for some fan service. They tend to have winning or losing streaks in a given tournament. Once they get cold, they stay cold. Onosho has not had a strong showing since Hatsu, where he went 10-5. Ryuden bounced back from a perilous M15E rank in July with a excellent 10-5 record, to find himself at M6W for Aki. They have an even 5-5 career record.
Gonoyama (0-0) vs Shonannoumi (0-0) – I love the advice that Miyagino oyakata gave Shin-Goeido, “you move too much”. Efficiency of motion is one of the hallmarks of the greats, if you watch any Yokozuna fight, they seldom waste motion of any body part unless it contributes directly to the match. The same is true in most sports. After at 10-5 score from his debut on the top division of M13E, Gonoyama is about to face an entirely new class of rikishi for September. Frankly I can’t wait to see how it goes (hint, likely not well). He has. 3-2 career record against Shonannoumi.
Takanosho (0-0) vs Ura (0-0) – It makes me happy to see Takanosho climbing back up the banzuke. He suffered some significant injury at Nagoya 2022, and has been struggling since. With a simple 8-7 kachi-koshi in July, he finds himself the beneficiary of some banzuke luck, and is now at Maegashira 4. He and Ura share a 3-2 career record.
Nishikigi (0-0) vs Tamawashi (0-0) – Nishikigi is ranked at Komusubi. Wow, it took you a long time sir, but well done. He has only won twice against Tamawashi in 9 attempts, so unless “The Baker” is rusty or hurt, I look for Nishikigi’s battle-hug sumo to be ineffective today.
Kotonowaka (0-0) vs Shodai (0-0) – Sometimes the September tournament earns the name “Wacky Aki”, and for good cause. It’s the basho where Goeido had a 15-0 zensho yusho, beating the likes of Kisenosato, Kakuryu and Harumafuji. In short, anything can happen. What gets my vote for “Wacky” this time? Shodai on a hot streak, maybe even a double digit score at the end. That would amuse the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, indeed. Call up Acme, we are going to need 15 days of cartoon sumo.
Asanoyama (0-0) vs Wakamotoharu (0-0) – In my book, Asanoyama did pretty well at M4 to end with 8-7, given he was out for 4 days kyujo. He managed to post to M2 this time, giving him a chance to throw spanners in the plans of both kadoban Ozeki, probably in week 1. He beat Wakamotoharu in their only prior match, day 15 of the Nagoya tournament this year.
Daieisho (0-0) vs Meisei (0-0) – Oh man, what is Meisei doing up here? Maybe he can hang in there, but more likely he won’t. Against the likes of Daieisho, he is little more than practice ballast should Daieisho come in healthy and ready to fight. I am looking for some big power forward from Daieisho, and probably a win for the Sekiwake.
Abi (0-0) vs Hoshoryu (0-0) – Shin-Ozeki Hoshoryu should dispatch Abi today without too much drama. Abi’s double arm attack style is not as potent as it once was, and Abi seems less mobile and less agile than he was when Abi-zumo was a thing. I think it might be the extra kilos he’s lumped on. Hoshoryu leads the career series 7-2
Hokutofuji (0-0) vs Takakeisho (0-0) – Now it’s really getting interesting. Takakeisho put up a reasonably good show in pre-basho practices, but as mentioned earlier, those don’t count for squat. Takakeisho can easily blast Hokutofuji’s upper body out, but his lower body is one tough defensive item. With a 14-10 career record, it tends to come down to Takakeisho being able to stay mobile, and away from Hokutofuji’s nodowa.
Kirishima (0-0) vs Tobizaru (0-0) – The second of our kadoban Ozeki is in the final match of the day. He has only won 7 out of 17 matches with Tobizaru, and has struggled with Tobizaru’s “kitchen sink” combos. If Kirishima can set up a throw, the match is likely his.