Aki: Wrapping up the “Ones to Watch”


Many thanks to the readers of the blog who have mentioned that they liked digging into the interesting rikishi making their way through the lower reaches of the banzuke. We’ll look to make this a regular feature: picking a selection of guys who are interesting for some reason ahead of the basho, catching up with their progress midway through, and then seeing whether those story lines continued after the conclusion of the basho.

Of course, for many, many rikishi down in the lower divisions, the road is “long and winding” and their progress cannot be judged on one tournament alone. So, some rikishi will be featured next time out, while other rikishi with interesting stories may replace some of the crop from Aki 2017. Either way, I’ll be trying to keep it at around 20 rikishi per tournament and I look forward to Tachiai readers sharing stories of the lower division rikishi that they are following, as well.


Ms3 Kizaki (Kise) – I had been very bullish on Kizaki, a rikishi who had never fallen to a make-koshi before Aki. However, the streak will always end somewhere and it ended at Ms3, so Kizaki will need to take a step back and we won’t see him in Juryo until at least Haru, barring a zensho next time out. Unfortunately, a very strong group of opponents provided a stern learning curve. Although he did beat a Juryo opponent in the demotion-bound Kitaharima, he couldn’t repeat the trick against Yago in his final bout and ended up 3-4.

Ms14 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Mitoryu has been much hyped and delivered his best result yet, with a 6-1 record that should see him near the top end of the Makushita listings in Kyushu. Again barring a zensho yusho (which is possible given that he only coughed up the yusho on his final bout, to the eventual winner), he’ll likely need a couple more strong tournaments and it may be March at the earliest that we’d see him as a sekitori.

Ms16 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms16 Murata (Takasago) – These two had identical career records all the way until day 10 of this tournament, and had been quick movers, starting out their careers 18-3 over their first three tournaments. Wakatakakage finished the Aki basho 4-3 to Murata’s 3-4, the difference effectively coming down to their head to head on day 1.

Ms30 Ikegawa (Hakkaku) – Ikegawa started his career strong and I picked this as a bellwether tournament to see whether he could continue his recent progress at the level, which had slowed considerably. Ikegawa took another backward step here en route to a 3-4 record.

Ms56 Obamaumi (Sakaigawa) – I loved the story of this rikishi coming back from a very long layoff to force his way up the banzuke and to a career high in Nagoya. This was his second chance to establish himself in the third tier but he looks to have passed up the opportunity, going 3-4.

Ms57 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – The past few paragraphs make for grim reading, but here’s another pick we got right: Ichiyamamoto is a former university man who has absolutely cruised through the divisions so far and he’s set for another big promotion after a 6-1 record that saw him react to a second-bout loss to another yusho challenger in Asakoki by rattling off 5 straight wins.


Sd2 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Nishikifuji started his career with a pair of zensho yusho and looked to be a fast mover but he’s found the Sandanme division tougher to negotiate. He’s still impressively made it through in no more than 4 tournaments, and will fight in the third tier for the powerhouse Isegahama-beya in Kyushu, having notched another 4-3 record this time out.

Sd11 Ryuko (Onoe) – I liked Ryuko as it seemed he was fighting below his level when compared to his more esteemed counterparts in Wakatakakage and Murata. This was confirmed as he cruised to a 5-2 that will probably see him promoted, having coughed up both losses to extremely difficult opponents – the first to the next man on this list and the second to Makushita yusho-challenger Asakoki.

Sd18 Enho (Miyagino) – The young rockstar of Miyagino-beya takes the yusho in some style after winning the only lower division playoff of this tournament. While his career record officially starts 21-0 after a remarkable three consecutive zensho yusho in the three bottom divisions, adding in playoffs and Maezumo you can consider it 25 consecutive wins to open his career. Given where the past several Sandanme champions have landed on the following banzuke, we will likely see him well inside the top half of the division and probably somewhere around Makushita 15-20 for Kyushu. Were he to repeat the trick again, he’d be Juryo bound in time for Hatsu but it will likely take him a few tournaments to cope with the jump in competition.

Sd68 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd71 Tanabe (Kise) – Going into this tournament the incredible stat here was that Fukuyama had only ever lost to Tanabe, who in turn had only ever lost to Enho. And after they posted identical 6-1 records yet again, nothing has changed. Fukuyama coughed up his sole defeat to Tanabe on Day 6, while the schedulers threw the 6-0 Tanabe up against the 6-0 Enho for their final scheduled bouts and, well, you know the rest. The cool thing is that we are getting to see some nice rivalries develop. These guys should both be pushing for promotion from somewhere around Sandanme 5-15 next time out. I’ve taken lumps before for asking minor questions of the NSK on the banzuke, but it will be incredible if they continue to rank Fukuyama above Tanabe next time.

Here’s Enho’s spirited zensho clinching win over the larger Tanabe (who will need to work on his Hatakikomi technique):


Jd4 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – As has been covered extensively, our main man Wakaichiro posted another kachi-koshi with a 4-3 record, and will find himself up a division in Sandanme next time out. Congratulations Wakaichiro!

Jd15 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – Tomokaze held the Jonokuchi yusho and I’m always interested to follow rikishi who can repeat the trick. He turned out not to be one of them as he coughed up an early loss, but should find himself comfortably promoted to the fourth tier in Fukuoka and will have a chance to continue to challenge for honors.


Jk25 Shoji (Musashigawa) vs Jk26 Torakio (Naruto) – I loved this battle of first timers on the banzuke. My pre-basho pick for the yusho was Shoji and he indeed delivered a zensho for his first career title. Torakio was the one man I thought might be able to stop him and he really came close, just losing their head to head and finishing 6-1. These guys may sweep all comers again in Jonidan, so we’ll continue to track their respective progress. Torakio, a rare Bulgarian rikishi, will no doubt attract interest – and here he is knocking off stubborn Jk1 Fukuazuma on his final bout:

Jk18 Sawanofuji (Isegahama) vs Jk28 Hattorizakura (Shikihide) – I called this the fight for futility and these two continued to deliver. Hattorizakura put up a remarkable 8th consecutive 0-7 tournament that leaves the enthusiast rooted to the bottom of the banzuke, and it will be interesting if the NSK ranks him above any newcomers at all next time out. I really want this guy to put together a nice run of results and at least get a promotion to Jonidan at some point in his career – perhaps a run of fixtures against a handful of 15 year olds at some point will see him someday get those magical 4 wins. As for Sawanofuji, his 2-5 record was artificially propped up by a fusen win. Whether he can muster a win against anyone not named Hattorizakura again, we’ll have to wait until November to find out.


Of the 18 competitive rikishi we picked this time out, we saw 12 kachi-koshi against 6 make-koshi (I’m not counting Hattorizakura and Sawanofuji), and yusho winners in 2 of the 4 divisions. I’m fairly happy with a 67% hit rate – while the goal isn’t simply to pick winners but interesting narratives, continued success and progress up the banzuke is certainly a part of the story. We’ll continue to follow a number of these guys, as well as add in some interesting stories next time out.

Thanks to YouTube’s incredible “One & Only” for the videos as ever.

9 thoughts on “Aki: Wrapping up the “Ones to Watch”

  1. It seems to me that Naruto beya is currently set up so that Torakio will have one passable butsukari partner and a couple of tsukebito once he hits Juryo. Naruto Oyakata seems intent of converting his fellow countryman into a second Kotooshu. Definitely worth follow-up, that guy.

  2. I have really enjoyed the articles on this topic. Picking the stars of the future is easy if you only look at the top two divisions, but digging a little deeper is much more interesting: some of these lads will become makuuchi regulars, others will give it up and go to work in in office or drive a delivery van for their dad’s business.

    Of course not all the top men had stellar starts to their careers: Kakuryu took 16 tournaments to get beyond sandanme.

    • Cheers! Yeah it’s true. Hopefully the methodology will be more diverse as we go along, but I’m equally as interested in following the stories as I am in following the obvious and immediately exciting guys like Enho. Hopefully as we grow as a community we can surface some of those stories.

      Also agree about the guys who take what we would call the “long and winding road” — not everyone blasts their way through and for the guys who have been fast movers, there will be setbacks. There’s no question that there are guys meandering their way up and down the Makushita and Sandanme ranks right now that will go on to do great things, but individual losses along the learning curve mean it may take them a bit longer. Hell, even the then small Hakuho spent a year in Sandanme, and Takayasu spent several years between the third and fourth divisions.

  3. I often follow rikishi in the lower divisions that are either gaijin or have some other interesting story or quirk, to make it more fun for my SO. He knows zero Japanese, and can’t really follow along with the videos, which isn’t made any easier by everyone having the same color mawashi.

    Like the incredibly variable Furanshisu (Francis is a funny name for a wrestler) who sadly went 2-5 in his Sandanme debut in Aki. Or the other American, Musashikuni who went through a pretty bad slump recently and got knocked out of makushita.

    • Loved this! Thanks for the comment. Perhaps we’ll keep a closer eye one one of these guys next time out!

  4. https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI don’t agree with some of your ranking ideas.
    First, Mitoryu. See here: http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Query.aspx?show_form=0&form1_rank=ms14&form1_wins=6&form1_year=%3E1980&sort_basho=2&sort_by=rank
    Even thought they’ve cut back on the movement of makushita rikishi somewhat in the past year, I would expect him to be somewhere that a 6-1 would have a good shot. Even at Ms6, lower than anyone else has been after a 6-1 Ms14 since 1980, a 6-1 isn’t completely unknown to get a promotion (although obviously not this tournament) – a similar query would show it’s 7/18 since 1980. Ishiura got his start in Juryo on such a record & rank combo. I’m predicting him at Ms5, which increases the odds to around 80%.
    Second, Enho will be in the top quarter of Makushita, if just barely. Everyone since 1990 that has gone 7-0 in the top fifth of sandanme has had such a promotion: http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Query.aspx?show_form=0&form1_rank=sd15-sd20&form1_wins=7&form1_year=%3E1990 – Many of those are in the last few years, including one earlier this year.
    Third, Fukuyama absolutely 100% will be ranked ahead of Tanabe, because he had the same number of wins and was ranked higher for Aki. This rule (don’t promote someone past someone else unless they had more wins) is pretty much an iron clad rule of banzuke making, only potentially broken on Ozeki and Yokozuna promotions and even then I’m not sure if it’s actually happened. Strength of schedule (other than that which is inferred from banzuke ranking) means absolutely nothing in the lower ranks (and only matters as a tiebreaker or occasionally half-rank adjustment for those facing all the top-rankers), and head-to-head results even less.

    • You raise some good points, but I think it’s still a bit speculative

      Re: Mitoryu – Reality is wherever they put him, based on the logic presented, he’d need to put up another 6+ wins, which he’s still only done once. I think he’s good value for another KK and perhaps another dominant performance, but I think the likelihood is that he needs one more basho to get himself in prime promotion position and we see him in Haru. He’s going to face stiffer competition this time. The examples you raised from SumoDB are all fair, but it’s difficult to use some of those precedents because – based on some of the logic you used further down – the ranking is going to be dependent on the other traffic in front of him and the top of Makushita is just really competitive right now.

      Re: Enho – fair point – personally I think he will be at Ms15 which would be right at the top of what I predicted. I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands one or two places higher. So, I fully agree he should be ranked in that top quarter and probably will be.

      Re: Fukuyama – I understand all this, but I don’t agree with it in the bigger picture. When you look at it from basho to basho yes it makes sense that two guys with the same record are going to keep their ranking order. But when you look at it on the whole, here’s a guy who’s started his career 3 slots ahead of a guy he has lost to three consecutive times to open his career and has remained in front of him for no reason other than scheduling (their Maezumo records were obviously also equivalent). My hope is at the very least owing to banzuke movement and being in fluid division, they will at least be ranked closer together next time out. Even if Tanabe didn’t move in front of him by Aki, he should have at least been drawn closer to him.

      Obviously this is nitpicky stuff – the reality is that if he’s truly a rikishi of higher quality then it will work itself out over time which it always does. As for now, you’re looking at two guys entering at the same time, and with a ranking system that doesn’t take into account their true results. Just because that’s how it works doesn’t mean it’s not a misleading look.

      • In the big picture, a lot of the banzuke-making rules don’t make a lot of sense. Banzuke aren’t meant to be a definitive guide as to how the rikishi rank in order of strength, or else they wouldn’t demote guys for being injured as much as they do. It’s very similar to something like the World Golf Rankings, except instead of accumulating points based on finishes, only your previous placement and current finish matter. You can go 10-5 12 times in a row at Sekiwake (Ok, *maybe* you get promoted in that case, assume slightly weaker scores if necessary) and then one 7-8 and you’re down to Komusubi, while someone else goes 11-10-12 into Ozeki and then alternates 8-7 and 0-15 every tournament stays as Ozeki. Do you really think the first rikishi is worse than the second? Even if you don’t go to such extremes with the records as I’ve done, someone can have a very long run at Sekiwake and never put together an Ozeki run and be clearly seen as better than someone who put up an Ozeki run 5 years ago and barely hangs on to his rank. I think there has been a lot of underestimation of Kotoshogiku since his demotion where people think it must mean that he’s significantly worse than he was before, when that’s not true at all. He’s probably the best below Ozeki still (though not a healthy Terunofuji), with Mitakeumi being very close. For much of the time Kisenosato was Ozeki and Kakuryu was Yokozuna, I would say Kisenosato was generally considered slightly better – at very least on par.

        The Banzuke simply does not reflect a rikishi’s strength, but merely the rikishi’s record in tournaments. Wanting it to consider things that it doesn’t is like wanting the World Golf Rankings to take into account a player’s score and not just what place they got (a guy can win a tournament and then shoot 100 the first two rounds at the next, and have way more ranking points than someone with the same combined score over those tournaments that’s more consistent). It simply doesn’t matter for the way the rankings work.


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