Yokozuna Kisenosato’s bid for a third consecutive championship title took an early blow with a shock defeat to komusubi Yoshikaze on Sunday, the opening day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.
Kakuryu also suffered an upset, but the other two yokozuna — Hakuho and Harumafuji — emerged unscathed to make winning starts at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Kisenosato was declared fit to fight at the 15-day tourney in Tokyo on Thursday after recovering from injuries to his left upper arm and chest muscles suffered late in the previous meet in March.
But he was second best in the day’s final bout, Yoshikaze standing firm at the charge and getting into position to finish the yokozuna off with a right-handed shove.
“I guess I did well,” said Yoshikaze. “There were no special feelings (about opening against a yokozuna).
“I was able to focus at the tachi-ai (charge). It’s a great feeling whoever you beat (in your first bout). I think it was a good performance.”
Kisenosato sat out the regional spring tourney in April and also skipped practice in front of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, a powerful advisory body to the Japan Sumo Association, on May 3 before resuming training a few days later.
The Tagonoura stable star, who fought through injury on the last two days of the spring event, was hailed for his grit after he became the first newly promoted yokozuna to win a championship in 22 years.
Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho, who missed most of the March tournament due to toe and thigh injuries, never looked in any danger in his bout against Chiyonokuni, the 37-time Emperor’s Cup winner surging forward and forcing the No. 1 maegashira to step over the ridge.
In the next bout, Harumafuji also won convincingly. The Mongolian got sekiwake Kotoshogiku into a bear hug and shunted him out of the ring before Kakuryu unraveled after a strong start and was bundled out of the ring by komusubi Mitakeumi.
In other bouts in the upper ranks of the makuuchi division, Goeido kicked off the meet with a win, the ozeki taking second-ranked maegashira Okinoumi down with a pulling underarm throw.
But Terunofuji, who lost to Kisenosato in a championship playoff at the March meet, missed the chance to complete a triumphant double for sumo’s second rank, the towering Mongolian ozeki getting forced out by top-ranked maegashira Endo.