Sumo’s three Mongolian yokozuna had convincing wins on Sunday as the 15-day New Year Grand Sumo Tournament got under way before Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
Kakuryu, who won his third career title in the most recent November tourney, was never troubled against Tochinoshin, latching onto a left overarm belt hold before sending the Georgian komusubi sprawling with a pulling throw for his 20th win in their career 21 meetings.
Fit-again Hakuho, looking to add to his record 37 championships, would have expected a tougher challenge from Shodai, but the new sekiwake was too passive on the tachiai. Hakuho’s charge easily stood Shodai up and as he teetered, the yokozuna pulled him forward to defeat.
Harumafuji showed incisiveness in dispatching Takayasu, quickly moving to the right after wrapping both his arms around the komusubi’s left arm and swivelling before lunging in low in a one-sided bout.
Ozeki Kisenosato, who had the most wins last year but has yet to win a grand tournament championship and stumbled when a yokozuna promotion was his for the taking, started the year well. He eased to a left underarm belt hold against top-ranked maegashira Takarafuji and grappled him out.
Kotoshogiku won his maiden championship here a year ago but will be demoted from ozeki should he post a losing record this month. He also made a decent start to the tourney, keeping up with Mongolian No. 2 maegashira Arawashi’s movements to steer him out in their first career meeting.
Two other ozeki were dealt early blows, however, with No. 1 maegashira Mitakeumi claiming his first win over ozeki Goeido in their third career bout.
No. 2 maegahira Shohozan took the scalp of ozeki Terunofuji, charging low and sticking in both his arms to destabilize the injury-hit Mongolian before securing a force-out win.
New sekiwake Tamawashi, who reached sumo’s third-highest rank at the age of 32, had a positive start after he landed a powerful push to the throat of No. 3 maegashira Okinoumi before shoving him out.
Egyptian Osunaarashi earned his first makuuchi-division win since May with a slick last-ditch reversal. With his heels up against the straw, the No. 16 maegashira lifted up makuuchi debutant No. 15 Chiyoo before pivoting and depositing his opponent outside the ring.
Takakeisho made his makuuchi debut at No. 12 maegashira after winning the second-tier juryo division in November, but also got off to a losing start as he fell to No. 11 Nishikigi.