Kakuryu kicked off the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament on a winning note Sunday, collecting an opening-day victory in front of a sellout crowd at the first basho of Japan’s new imperial era.
Kakuryu, carrying the burden as the sole yokozuna at Ryogoku Kokugikan following Hakuho’s withdrawal, looked more than convincing against Mitakeumi in the final bout of the first tournament of the Reiwa Era, which began May 1.
The 33-year-old Mongolian drew roaring cheers from the full house after driving the komusubi straight from the ring in typical yokozuna fashion.
Ozeki Goeido and newly promoted Takakeisho also posted convincing wins on Day 1.
Kakuryu, seeking his sixth top-division title, won the spring meet last year in the absence of two yokozuna, Hakuho and the now-retired Kisenosato.
Hakuho was forced to sit out the 15-day meet with a right biceps injury that he suffered while defeating Kakuryu in the final bout of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, where he secured a record-extending 42nd makuuchi-division title with a perfect 15-0 record.
Among the ozeki on opening day, Goeido bolted out of the gates with a sharp slap to Hokutofuji and bulldozed the top-ranked maegashira over the straw.
Takayasu, meanwhile, was forced out by No. 1 maegashira Kotoshogiku. The former ozeki got the better of the initial charge and steadily muscled out Takayasu with an underarm grip.
In his first bout at sumo’s second-highest rank, Takakeisho dominated No. 2 Endo and started off strong in his campaign to become the first ozeki debutant to claim the Emperor’s Cup since Hakuho achieved the feat in 2006.
The newly-promoted wrestler immediately launched an all-out offensive against Endo, then pushed the maegashira off balance and quickly struck again to secure the match.
In other upper-ranked bouts on the first day, sekiwake Ichinojo took a loss at the hands of No. 2 Daieisho. The big Mongolian got knocked back after the initial charge and was eventually pushed out of the ring.
Facing a daunting task to regain ozeki status, Tochinoshin got the first win out of the way by beating No. 3 Chiyotairyu. The sekiwake got a solid grip on the 198-kg Chiyotairyu’s belt and, in a show of sheer strength, lifted him clear off the ground and deposited him outside the ring.
The Georgian was demoted after finishing with a losing record in the past two meets and needs at least 10 wins to earn promotion back to ozeki.
Komusubi Aoiyama defeated No. 3 Tamawashi, delivering a right-handed slap that stunned January’s champion and allowed the Bulgarian to drive him over the straw.
Aoiyama is making a return to the sanyaku (the three ranks below yokozuna) for the first time since January 2015.
Among the rank-and-filers, makuuchi debutant Enho picked up his first top-tier win, overcoming an 86-kg deficit to beat top-division returnee Tokushoryu.
At 99 kg, Enho is the lightest of the sekitori (wrestlers in the top two divisions) and has already gained a significant following during his rise through the lower ranks.