The banzuke committee meets on Wednesday after each tournament to hash out the rankings for the following basho. However, most of the results are not announced until several weeks later (February 24, in the case of the upcoming March tournament). There are two exceptions, both involving major changes in status that require extra time to prepare for. One is promotion to the two highest ranks: Yokozuna and Ozeki. The other is promotion to the salaried ranks, or sekitori, which in practice means a move from the third division, Makushita, to the second division, Juryo.
We have no new Yokozuna or Ozeki this time, however much we need some, but we do have several rikishi moving up to Juryo. As expected, these are Ms1w Wakamotoharu (6-1), Ms2 Midorifuji (5-2), Ms3w Chiyonoumi (5-2), Ms4e Akiseyama (4-3), and Ms4w Hakuyozan (6-1). This represents a return to sekitori status for all but Midorifuji, who will be making his Juryo debut. Among those missing out on promotion is Ms5e Naya, who lost a de facto playoff for the last slot to Akiseyama.
The corresponding demotions from Juryo to Makushita are not announced, but are mostly easy to guess. I expect that the following rikishi will be dropping down to the third division: Sokokurai, Sakigake, Toyonoshima, and Irodori. Goeido’s retirement and a lack of additional promotion candidates in Makushita means that the two bubble rikishi, J12w Chiyootori (6-9) and injured J1e Tomokaze (0-0-15), should be ranked in Juryo on the Haru banzuke.
While the tournament is over, there are still sumo-related events happening over at Kokugikan! If you’re lucky enough to be in Tokyo, on Feb 1, Takekaze…excuse me, Oshiogawa-oyakata, will be having his danpatsushiki (ceremonial haircut). On the 2nd, Hakuho will host the 10th Annual Hakuho Cup. This is a kid’s sumo tournament, from elementary to middle school levels. The video above is from the Official Hakuho Cup website.
Goeido has decided to call it quits after a 15-year long career. A determined yotsu specialist from Osaka, he rose quickly through the junior ranks collecting yusho in Jonokuchi, Sandanme, and two in Makushita before becoming sekitori at the close of 2006. Two years later he cracked into the sanyaku for the first time.
In 2012, he reached Sekiwake again and stayed for 14 consecutive tournaments before his promotion to Ozeki after an impressive run, picking up two jun-yusho and three consecutive tournaments with special prizes. The highlight of his career was his zensho yusho in September 2016.
Unfortunately, the later phase of his career was hampered by injury, notably his ankle. This may have contributed to consistency issues which cropped up early in his Ozeki phase. Shortly after his promotion, this blog commonly referred to him and Kotoshogiku as the “kadoban twins” for the frequency with which they were under demotion pressure. For Hatsu 2020, he was kadoban yet again due to his kyujo in Kyushu but this time he was not able to clear that status with a winning record. He finished with a poor 5-10 performance, though he gave it all in each bout.
With the Osaka tournament coming up next, it seemed a perfect time for a last stand, a chance to throw everything at getting 10 wins to reclaim his Ozeki rank or at least have a last hurrah in front of the home crowd. Perhaps the condition of his injury is too poor to perform to his expectation with too little time between now and then, even with a break from jungyo.
The Official Sumo Kyokai account announced that Goeido of Sakaigawa-beya had acquired a kabu (stock), afterall, and would be taking on the elder name Takekuma (武隈). We’re eager to see Takekuma-oyakata build his own stable.
We will post future updates on dates for the intai ceremony. Ceremonies for top former wrestlers, of which he would certainly be included, are usually held at Kokugikan but I would hope they would be able to hold his in Osaka next March. In the meantime, Takekaze is next on the docket for this weekend.
Intai Watch 2020
Hakuho’s shock admission that he plans to retire this year has put the sumo world on notice that change is coming. Obviously, the date for Hakuho’s retirement is likely in the latter half of the year but a massive question mark remains. With his and Kakuryu’s kyujo, dates for both announcements may be soon.
There are also several big name retirement ceremonies on the docket this year.
Takekaze’s intai celebration will take place at Kokugikan, next Saturday, Feb. 1. We should all get used to his elder name: Oshiogawa (押尾川). Below is the announcement from his official Twitter profile. If you’ll be in Tokyo next week there are only a few seats left in the A and B rings of the upper level!
Arawashi announced his retirement during the Hatsu Basho 2020. The tournament was his second consecutive complete kyujo (全休). He had fallen from Juryo into Makushita for Kyushu and was no longer the top-ranked rikishi (heyagashira) at Minezaki beya. Arawashi’s retirement ceremony will be on May 31, at Kokugikan. (Hat tip to Herouth!) If I find a website, I will pass that info along.
The berserker’s wild, aggressive style was still quite successful in the lower ranks of the maegashira so his kyujo and subsequent retirement appeared to be quite sudden compared to the longer slides we have seen. We look forward to seeing the deshi Nakamura-oyakata (中村) produces.
There have been some very interesting storylines coming out of Hatsu but I want to focus on this one for this article. This tournament was very rough on our Ozeki as we only have one left. Four former Ozeki are fighting it out in the Makuuchi, with yet another (Terunofuji) knocking at the door to make a comeback. Terunofuji was the only one among them with a winning record at Hatsu.
As Leonid predicts, Takayasu will likely fall into the rank-and-file. Goeido will fall to Sekiwake. Tochinoshin may swap places with Kagayaki and fall to M11. Kotoshogiku may drop a slot to M14. Other than Takayasu, all have won a tournament. Getting that second one in a row…and the Yokozuna’s privilege of a break without drop in rank…is really hard.
Scanning for the Next Plateau
I’ve written about how this situation makes that Meat Puppets song (made famous by Nirvana) pop into my head. The last time I wrote about it, I looked really far down the banzuke. Perhaps I wasn’t aware how dire the situation would become. So I ask, who’s in a position to make a run now?
The criteria aren’t exact but 33 wins over three tournaments seems to be the line…though 32 may make it, as with Goeido’s 12-8-12 run. The run should also start in or near sanyaku but again we have recent exceptions. Tochinoshin’s run started from Maegashira 3 with a yusho 14Y-10-13. Ultimately, we’re looking for consistency at the sanyaku level.
I will start with Asanoyama because I think this is the strongest run, and the one that is the furthest along. Leonid has written about his run before, especially since he may be starting from Kyushu at Maegashira 2 with 10 wins. It’s also the first real chance since Mitakeumi blew his shot from late last year. His 11 wins in Tokyo this month likely means 12 in Osaka would give him the magic number of 33.
If Asanoyama’s run can start from Kyushu, Hokutofuji just started a run here at Hatsu. His 11 wins from the same rank Asanoyama occupied in Kyushu will hopefully be enough to force an extra sekiwake slot since Goeido will occupy a slot, as Leonid has speculated. I’m editorializing here but I think this would be a smart move by the Kyokai. I can’t imagine they would want a vacant Ozeki slot to last long which means they need candidates. I’m never an advocate of early promotion by relaxing criteria but I think that blocking otherwise worthy promotions because there should only be two Sekiwake would be a bit silly. 11 wins at Maegashira 2 is certainly a performance worthy of the Sekiwake rank.
Shodai’s case for a run starting now is likely weaker than Hokutofuji’s because of the lower rank, even though one of Hokutofuji’s wins was a fusen. Hokutofuji did pick up a kinboshi. But Maegashira 4 is in the joi and based on his 13-2 jun-yusho performance, Shodai certainly makes another strong case for Sekiwake. Two 10 win performances to follow and we may have Ozeki Shodai by Nagoya.
Endo’s case for a Sekiwake slot is weaker than those above but he is certainly deserving of a Komusubi slot. It would take a really special run but conceivably spectacular showings in Osaka and back in Tokyo in May could see Ozeki Endo in Nagoya but it is not going to happen. I just mention it because the run would make the newspapers go absolutely bonkers and that would be fun.