Just a quick observation. The joi denotes the top group of rikishi comprising the San’yaku (named ranks) and the top maegashira who face the San’yaku. Given that the basho is 15 days long, this group numbers 16 active wrestlers. “Active” is the key here. In recent years, when everyone has been healthy, the San’yaku has usually numbered 11 rikishi, so the top 5 maegashira, M1e-M3e, would make up the rest of the joi. When someone had to pull out, lower-ranked rikishi got pulled up to face the top-rankers.
This brings us to Aki. As everyone knows, 3 of the Yokozuna pulled out before the start of the basho, lowering the San’yaku number to 8 and extending the joi boundary down to M4w (Ura). Ura, of course, also had to withdraw, as did Takayasu and Terunofuji. Even with Aoiyama’s (ill-advised?) return, this leaves only 13 of the top 19 ranks active, and calls for 3 more wrestlers to get pulled up to face the San’yaku.
Which brings us to the title of this post. Guess who is number 22? None other than the gentle giant, Ichinojo. If my math is right, he will soon be facing the likes of Harumafuji, Goeido, and Mitakeumi. This should be…interesting. Of course, the makers of the torikumi could pull up other, lower-ranked rikishi to share the burden, but usually they just go with the next guy by rank, and Ichinojo has a good-enough record at the moment that he is definitely in the line of fire.
I’m curious whether and at what point some of the 6-1 and 5-2 guys from lower down the banzuke get brought up to face tougher competition if they keep hanging around at or near the top of the leaderboard, though this likely won’t be until the last couple of days of the basho. It is interesting to note that current co-leaders Daieisho and Daishomaru are from the same heya and can’t face each other.