Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho remained on track for a record-extending 36th career title with a routine victory over second-ranked maegashira Aoiyama at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Thursday.
Hakuho, aiming for a first win in three tournaments, wasted little time in getting hold of Aoiyama (0-5) and floored the Bulgarian bruiser with a textbook uwatenage overarm throw to stay unbeaten at 5-0 alongside ozeki Kotoshogiku and rank-and-filer Takayasu.
Hakuho stayed one win ahead of yokozuna rival Harumafuji and two ahead of Kakuryu.
Seeking to claim back-to-back championships after winning the Kyushu meet in November, Harumafuji recovered from an early scare to put Brazilian-born No. 3 maegashira Kaisei (2-3) down with a shitatenage underarm throw.
Kakuryu, however, crashed to a second defeat when he was put on all fours by komusubi Ikioi (2-3), who won his first bout in eight meetings between the two.
Kotoshogiku, who pulled out toward the end of the Kyushu basho with a shin injury, soaked up an early attack from Tochinoshin (2-3) and turned the Georgian komusubi around before bellying him over the ridge.
In other matches at the top, Kisenosato (3-2) shoved out top-ranked Shohozan (1-4) to return to winning ways, but he was the only other ozeki to emerge unscathed as Terunofuji and Goeido were both sentenced to upset defeats.
Mongolian giant Terunofuji dropped to 3-2 and looked to be in some discomfort after being forced out by fourth-ranked Kyokushuho (2-3).
Tochiozan (2-3) blasted out Aminishiki (2-3) and 33-year-old sekiwake debutant Yoshikaze completed a winning day for sumo’s third-highest rank by sending Goeido (3-2) hopping over the straw bales with an ashitori leg pick technique to improve to 3-2.
“I attacked from start to finish and think I did okay,” said Yoshikaze. “I was a bit tense on the first day but I have tried to wrestle my own way regardless (of my position) on the banzuke (rankings).
“I have been getting better since the second day and my aim is just to give everything I have. I hope I can keep doing well and keep coming back to the (post-match) interview room.”
In the lower ranks, No. 8 maegashira Takayasu preserved his unbeaten start by flooring ninth-ranked Georgian grappler Gagamaru (2-3) with a well-worked overarm throw, but Okinoumi’s winning run came to end when he was adjudged to have stepped out of the ring just before seventh-ranked Toyonoshima (4-1) crashed to the dirt.
Meanwhile, No. 10 maegashira Chiyootori, who pulled out on the second day after hurting his left knee in an opening day defeat to Mitakeumi, will rejoin the tournament from Friday and will face 11th-ranked Endo.