Hanyu opened with a quad toeloop and completed a flawless triple axel for a score of 87.65 points. His only mistake came when he popped a triple lutz triple on a combination jump.
“I don’t know the reason I popped the lutz,” Hanyu said. “But I felt I did really well otherwise and put myself in a great position for tomorrow’s free skate.”
Han Yan, of China, was second with 85.08 points, while Richard Dornbush, of the United States, was third with 83.01.
Takahashi botched his opening quad and fell on his triple axel and finished fourth with 82.62.
The Four Continents is the last major competition before the world championships in March.
World champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, were first after the ice dance short program. Virtue and Moir received 75.12 points to finish ahead of world silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White, of the United States, who had 74.68 points.
“We had a couple little mistakes here and there, which certainly you can’t get away with at this point,” Davis said. “We’re looking to execute everything perfectly at this point in the season. When you are competing against Scott and Tessa, you pretty much have to be perfect.”
Madison Chock and Evan Bates, of the United States, were third with 65.44 points.
“That was a solid performance for us,” Chock said. “That’s how we’ve been training. We want to be consistent and keep improving from here up to worlds.”
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada placed first in the pairs short program with 70.44 points while compatriots Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch were second with 66.33 points. Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, the U.S. champions, were third with 53.06 points.
Two-time world champ Mao Asada of Japan is looking to regain the title she lost at last year’s Four Continents to Ashley Wagner of the United States when the women’s event begins on Saturday.