It’s already been a pretty exciting and surprising tournament, despite this only being Day 3 of the Haru Basho. And even though more than a few of the big names have already suffered a loss, this still is pretty much ANYBODY’S tournament to win.
All four yokozuna won yesterday, and all of them looked pretty solid doing it (though Harumafuji gave us a scare at the edge of the tawara [straw bales that make up the ring]). Ozeki Terunofuji looks as strong and confident as he’s been in fourteen months, and sekiwake Takayasu seems like he’s serious about making a run at a promotion to ozeki (which requires him to get 33 wins over the course of three consecutive tournaments). And sekiwake Kotoshogiku (man, it still feels strange saying that) “only” needs 8 more wins to get his ozeki rank reinstated.
On the other hand, there are a few rikishi who have started slow and really NEED to get themselves in gear before they dig too deep a hole for themselves to recover from. Both M1, both M2, and one of the M3 rikishi—Takekaze, Ikioi, Sokokurai, Takanoiwa, and Shohozan—are winless after two days . . . and they all will be facing the sanyaku rikishi during Week 1. If they don’t manage to pull out an upset victory over the next few days, they’ll face the unpleasant prospect of having to win ALL of their Week 2 matches just to eke out kachi-koshi [majority of wins].
No one has really stood out among the middle- and lower-ranked Maegashira rikishi, though fans are lavishing special attention on newly promoted M12 Ura, as well as their other special favorites, M11 Ishiura, and M5 Endo. But as always, there are always a few really interesting matches in the mix of the lower- and mid-ranked matches, where make-koshi [majority of losses] could mean demotion out of the upper division entirely.
Let’s look at today’s feature matches.
M10 Tochinoshin (0–2) vs. M12 Sadanoumi (0–2)—Tochinoshin is one of my favorite rikishi, but he began this tournament with a badly hurting right leg. I predict he won’t make it all the way through the basho. It’s worth watching today’s match because he at looks at least a little like his healthy self. (3:10)
Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (2–0) vs. sekiwake Takayasu (2–0)—It’s odd for such an impactful match-up to happen this early in the tournament, but this is going to be an odd basho all around. Both of these sekiwake are unbeaten so far, and both are aiming for an ozeki promotion (though, admittedly, in very different ways) so they both need to get double-digit wins . . . meaning every match matters, particularly early on. It’s possible that the result of this bout will determine WHICH of them gets his wish. (8:05)
M3 Shohozan (0–2) vs, ozeki Terunofuji (2–0)—Unexpectedly, almost inexplicably, Terunofuji suddenly is looking like his old self—powerful, confident, and strong. The wraps around his knees and arms speak to the troubles he’s had over the past year or so, but on Days 1 and 2 they seem more to draw attention to how healthy he is now. For now, though, I think it’s worth watching Terunofuji’s matches just in case this turns out to be only a temporary revival. (8:45)
M2 Takanoiwa (0–2) vs. yokozuna Kisenosato (2–0)—The shin-yokozuna [newly promoted yokozuna] has started the Haru Basho the way he finished the Hatsu Basho in January—calm and dominant. If he keeps this up, he’s going to be very tough to beat, even for the other yokozuna. (11:40)
Yokozuna Harumafuji (1–1) vs. M2 Sokokurai (0–2)—What’s up with Harumafuji? He lost on Day 1 and came a bad foot placement away from losing again on Day 2. This doesn’t seem to be the result of his chronic arm problem . . . it’s like he’s lost his timing and his ring sense. He keeps overextending himself and putting himself into disadvantageous positions despite the fact that he is physically dominating his opponents. If Harumafuji doesn’t get this figured out and corrected quickly, he may be in for a VERY disappointing Haru Basho! (12:25)