For the 6th consecutive Hatsu basho, we have a first time yusho winner take the cup. I am not sure what it is about Hatsu, but it’s a glorious thing. I recall that it was Hatsu 2016, and the Kyushu Bulldozer, Kotoshogiku, broke the Mongolian yusho streak, taking home the Emperor’s cup, lifting the fish, and drinking far too much sake. Since then we have had some great January yusho, including Kisenosato’s the following year, which gave him the green light to ascend to sumo’s highest rank of Yokozuna. Then it was Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, Tokushoryu and now Daieisho.
We sumo fans have now had a string of basho with no real Yokozuna participation. While I do miss the presence of a Yokozuna in the tournament, I think I am enjoying watching the next generation sort itself out. I still think the skill and capability difference between the bottom of Juryo and the top of Makuuchi is not what it should be, and the top division lacks a pack of dominant rikishi. But I also think that in time sumo will return to that mode.
I note with some sadness that Ikioi took his first ever kyujo just prior to day 15 of what could be his final tournament. It seems there was some injury to his hand, and he withdrew from competition. That’s 1090 matches, and not sitting one of them out until today. He would mount the dohyo with any manner of injuries and fight on. It was his hallmark. But given the reality of the situation, I don’t blame him. I expect an intai announcement from him before March, as a make-koshi will likely relegate him to Makushita. He has a kabu secured, and a future as a sumo elder, so I think he may have realized that it was time to move on. My thanks for many wonderful matches over the years, and I look forward to him joining the Yoshikaze / Goeido / Aminishiki BS club on YouTube. Frankly, I do want to know which brand of curry he prefers.
Hidenoumi defeats Akua – Juryo visitor Hidenoumi hands Akua his 10th loss. With the so many rikishi in forced kyujo in Juryo, figuring out the promotion / demotion candidates is going to be complex. I will feel most fortunate if lksumo makes an attempt later. But I would guess Akua will be a candidate to return to the lower sekitori ranks. That fall as he exited the dohyo looked like it left him in pain. I am sure Akua is glad Hatsu is complete.
Myogiryu defeats Yutakayama – The lone Darwin match saw Yutakayama extend his losing streak to 4 and finalize his make-koshi. Myogiryu took control of the match after a brief struggle immediately following the tachiai. Myogiryu finished Hatsu with an 8-7 kachi-koshi.
Daishomaru defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu’s pull attempt falls apart in spectacular fashion, handing Juryo visitor Daishomaru his 11th win for January. What are they putting in the chanko at Oitekaze heya?
Midorifuji defeats Tobizaru – One last katasukashi for the road! Tobizaru’s story of Hatsu seems to be “in all things, a half measure short”. The guy put a lot of energy and work into every day, but could only muster 6 wins out of 15. Midorifuji finishes in glorious style, hooking that right hand underneath Tobizaru’s arm and swinging him down. He finishes 9-6 and takes home the technique prize.
Kagayaki defeats Akiseyama – The first match ended with both rikishi exiting the dohyo together, and the replays showed all manner of complexities, from dead bodies to arms touching early. The Shimpan threw in the towel and called for a rematch, which was Kagayaki from start to finish. Sadly, Akiseyama misses out on a special prize due to his final day loss. Kagayaki finishes 6=9.
Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – Aoiyama’s V-Twin has been idling rough for the whole basho, but it was enough to power out a struggling Ryuden, who could offer little resistance to Aoiyama’s forward attack. That’s a 4-11 finish for Ryuden, and a 6-9 for Aoiyama.
Endo defeats Kotonowaka – Another special prize missed as Kotonowaka drops his final match to Endo. Endo had both hands inside early, and was able to grapple Kotonowaka’s chest, lifting and driving forward for a quick and clean win. Endo finishes January 7-8.
Tamawashi defeats Kotoeko – The grizzled veteran Tamawashi finds a the last of his energy for Hatsu and overwhelms Kotoeko. Kotoeko had a strong opening move, but got turned to the side and ejected by a strong Tamawashi shove. Both end Hatsu 6-9.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Tochinoshin – Terutsuyoshi’s one good arm proves to be more potent than Tochinoshin’s one good leg. The former Ozeki drops to 4-11. Terutsuyoshi really kept himself compact, and his hips low, robbing Tochinoshin of any chance to set up offense and use his size and strength superiority to attempt a lift and shift against Terutsuyoshi. Terutsuyoshi finishes hatsu 7-8.
Onosho defeats Hoshoryu – Onosho’s initial attack completely overpowers Hoshoryu, as Onosho is able to get his hands inside, then ramps up the drive from his legs. Hoshoryu realizes quickly that he’s in trouble at attempts a throw at the edge, but Onosho has him bracketed, brings his left foot to the clay, and the throw collapses from Onosho’s forward pressure. Both end Hatsu 9-6.
Kotoshoho defeats Sadanoumi – Kotoshoho gets his 2nd win of the tournament on the final day, as Sadanoumi accidentally steps out in the process of hurling the hapless Kotoshoho over the bales. Both rikishi are deeply make-koshi, with Sadanoumi finishing 5-10. I dearly hope that Kotoshoho can regroup, fix whatever plagued him and return to good form in March.
Shimanoumi defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s defend and extend strategy came up short today, with Shimanoumi staying strong, focused and able to wait along with Takarafuji, focusing on shutting down Takarafuji’s left hand. Watching it a 3rd time, it’s quite brilliant how Shimanoumi control’s Takarafuji’s upper body, conceding that Takarafuji’s defense (and by extension, lower body) will be superior, he makes sure Takarfuji cannot generate any offense, and waits for his chance. Twice we see Shimanoumi make a play to take control, and both times Takarafuji recovers and they stalemate again. The third opening came when Takarafuji moved to change his grip, and Shimanoumi lifted and advanced to win. Subtle yet fantastic sumo from these two today. They both end the tournament with 9-6 kachi-koshi.
Daieisho defeats Okinoumi – Same formula today, Daieisho got his hands inside at the tachiai, and ripped a lightning fast combo straight to center-mass. Okinoumi could barely even attempt any kind of response and quickly found himself on the dohyo’s exit ramp. This is the kind of sumo that Takakeisho used to execute every day, and I am glad to see Daieisho pick u his 13th win, and the yusho with a solid example of top quality oshi-zumo mechanics.
Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo went on the attack at the tachiai, but he let Hokotufuji get his hands inside. Ichinojo found himself with superior position, but unable to really convert it into a win. Rather than wait for his situation to improve, he pressed the attack, and found his fortunes reverse, as Hokutofuji swung around, places a big left hand on Ichinojo’s chest and pushed. Exquisitely timed, it caught Ichinojo standing almost upright, and out he went. Hokutofuji complete’s his efforts to secure “The Most Powerful Make-Koshi In All Of Sumo” for like the 30th time, finishing 7-8.
Mitakeumi defeats Kiribayama – Mitakeumi took his first match from Kiribayama, and it was a complete tadpole job from start to finish. I think Kiribayama had one good attack, right at the tachiai, when he had a right hand on Mitakeumi’s shoulder. But this opened up his chest, and Mitakeumi was inside and driving hard for the win. Mitakeumi finishes Hatsu with 9-6.
Takanosho defeats Takayasu – I thought Takanosho’s chances of success went down when he allowed Takayasu to go chest to chest. But Takanosho stayed calm, stayed in the match and decided to challenge Takakeisho to a yotsu-zumo stamina battle. Things devolved after a good long grapple into a slap-down battle, with Takayasu trying first, failing, Takanosho responding and finding Takayasu off balance. Both finish Hatsu 9-6.
Terunofuji defeats Meisei – I am really enjoying Terunofuji’s sumo now. Meisei threw a lot of oblique torque into this match, looking to put stress on Terunofuji’s knees and generating an advantage. But I have to assume that Terunofuji somehow trains for this, as you can see him shift his hips back to be over the arches of his feet, and stays planted. Of course all of this tossing about by Meisei robs him of any real frontal power, and Terunofuji is free to move forward. Then Meisei decided to try a leg trip, in doing so he put all of his weight on his left foot, and that was the end of Meisei’s sumo for Hatsu. Terunofuji improves to 11-4, and picks up a special prize. Stay healthy, kaiju, I am looking forward to your Ozeki bid finals in March.
Asanoyama defeats Shodai – Not sure this match was definitive, as the tate-gyoji picked the wrong direction to shuffle, and ended up tangled up in the Asanoyama-Shodai scrum. This effectively cut off any “move at the edge” for Shodai, as there was someone in the way. Both end Hatsu with 11-4, respectable Ozeki kachi-koshi. Both have room to improve, and I expect 2021 will be a good year for the next level of sumo technique for both.
With that, dear readers, Tachiai’s coverage of Hatsu 2021’s action concludes. Thank you for sharing the basho with us, and visiting our humble sumo fan blog. Team Tachiai does it all for the love of the sport, and we are grateful that you decided to share some of your time with us.