Harumafuji got off to a winning start as the only yokozuna standing at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament with a convincing win against komusubi Tochiozan on Sunday.
With grand champions Hakuho — the winner of the summer tourney in July — Kisenosato and Kakuryu all missing from this basho due to injuries, Harumafuji has been singlehandedly left to uphold the reputation of sumo’s highest rank.
While 14 days remain at the meet at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Harumafuji at least started well Sunday by dismissing Tochiozan in the day’s final bout.
Harumafuji put the overhand grip on the belt with his left from the tachiai, before sending Tochiozan tumbling on the sandy surface for his 26th victory in 34 career meetings over the Kasugano stable wrestler.
Harumafuji had admitted to being anxious on his way into the arena.
“I’m a little nervous,” he said. “It’s my first time to be in a situation like this. But I’ll try to block all that out and focus on doing the things I’m supposed to be doing.
“I feel bad for the fans with the yokozuna sitting out. I just have to compete the way I know how to compete.”
On Monday, Harumafuji will face No. 1 maegashira Tochinoshin, against whom the Mongolian is 22-6.
Tochinoshin on Sunday was felled at the hands of ozeki Takayasu, who managed to save face for his rank after Terunofuji and Goeido lost.
Terunofuji was tripped up by second-ranked Hokutofuji, while Goeido was beaten by former ozeki Kotoshogiku.
The two sekiwake in the field, Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze, both lost to third-ranked maegashira wrestlers Onosho and Chiyotairyu, respectively.
Hakuho needs three weeks of treatment for inflammation in his left knee and Kisenosato will have to refrain from strenuous physical activities for a month, according to medical certificates released Sunday by the Japan Sumo Association.
Kakuryu, meanwhile, will require three weeks of rehabilitation for his right foot injury.
Hakuho, 32, has been diagnosed with conditions including tendonitis in his quadriceps and is expected to undergo about three weeks of rehab with medication.
The 31-year-old Kisenosato, who missed parts of the previous two tourneys, is still struggling with the left upper arm and chest muscle injuries he sustained at the spring meet in March, according to the documents.
Kakuryu, 32, who has competed over the entire duration of a tournament only once so far this year — in March — is working on healing a chipped right ankle with ligament damage.
Bulgarian No. 2 maegashira Aoiyama, 31, who notched 13 wins at the previous tourney in July, is likely to need about a month of treatment for bone contusion in his left knee.