Kyushu Juryo Debuts

Two wrestlers will be in the sekitori (Makuuchi + Juryo) ranks for the first time in Fukuoka: Gokushindo and Tomokaze. They enter the paid ranks following strong performances in the Makushita joi—Gokushindo won the 3rd-division yusho with a perfect 7-0 record from Ms5, while Tomokaze went 5-2 from Ms4. Tomokaze’s promotion was a surprise, as Daiseido (Ms2, 4-3) should have been ahead of him in the promotion queue according to historical precedents.

While the two debutants are of similar age (22 and 23), they took very different paths to Juryo. Tomokaze has had something of a meteoric rise. After a university sumo career, he entered professional sumo in May of 2017, debuting in maezumo, where he went 3-0. I’m not sure why he did not start higher up the banzuke, as some collegiate wrestlers do—either he wasn’t sufficiently successful in college, or he chose to enter at the bottom of the sumo ladder. After that, he flew through the three lower divisions in one tournament apiece (Jonokuchi 7-0 Yusho; Jonidan 6-1; Sandanmne 7-0 Yusho) before posting 5 consecutive kachi-koshi records in Makushita to earn a spot in Juryo. That’s right—he has yet to post a losing record.

Gokushindo, on the other hand, entered sumo all the way back in 2012 as a 15-year-old. It took him a few tournaments to get established in Sandanme, where he spent almost three years before making his Makushita debut in 2015. He also lost all or part of three tournaments to injuries. After bouncing back and forth between Sandanme and Makushita, he finally established himself in the third-highest division in May of 2017—the same tournament that saw Tomokaze make his maezumo debut. He worked his way to the top of the division, flopping in his first chance at promotion by going 3-4 at Ms4 in March, missing out on promotion despite a 6-1 record at Ms7 in May, and failing again from Ms2 in July (3-4) before finally succeeding in emphatic fashion with a zensho yusho.

It will be interesting to watch how the two men fare in the sekitori ranks. Will they make it to the top division? Who will get there first?

HARUMAFUJI haircut

Harumafuji’s retirement ceremony was last night. Nicola was among those at the Kokugikan celebrations and captured many great pictures of the event. She also summed up my feelings pretty well in this tweet. It’s been a long year since the scandal broke and he was forced into retirement. We’d not see him mount the dohyo as a competitor again, but he’s moved on. With his charity work back in Mongolia and his new art career, he was able to squeeze in some time for an appointment with the barber. I’ve got to close with my favorite Harumafuji moments. I was there on senshuraku for his yusho win in Nagoya. Not only did I see my favorite yokozuna win the Emperor’s Cup, I got to see the macaron in person for the first time. We wish you well, HARUMAFUJI! Thanks for the memories!

Juryo Banzuke Projections

Since questions about Juryo come up a fair bit, I though I’d post my projections for the Kyushu banzuke. The methodology is the same as for Makuuchi, but these have received a lot less curation by hand, and I know less about precedents that go into making the Juryo rankings—in particular, how promotions from Makushita are treated. Makuuchi demotions in red; Makushita promotions in green.

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Of Gold Stars and Straight Wins

Most of you may know that a wrestler who earns a gold star, “kinboshi”, awarded when a maegashira beats a Yokozuna in an official bout, earns money for it. But how exactly does that work? Are there other ways to earn extra money? How long does the bonus last?

Ura’s Kinboshi – can he treat his friends to a drink with it?

The money for a gold star – and other achievements, which we will get to shortly – is called Rikishi Hōshōkin or Mochi-kyūkin. It can be viewed as a savings account. When a rikishi first appears on the banzuke, he is awarded ¥3. Then, he earns a small sum for each achievement. The money accumulates. Every time he completes a basho as a sekitori, he receives that saved money as bonus – multiplied by a factor which changes from time to time. Currently the multiplier is 4000.

So the answer to the question in the photo caption is “no”. Although Ura does have his “mochi-kyukin” account, which includes his gold star, and continues to earn small sums, he will not receive the cash until he climbs up all the way from Sandanme back to Juryo and completes a basho there.

What earns the rikishi credits?

The achievements that can earn rikishi mochi-kyukin are:

  • Kachi-koshi. For each point difference in a kachi-koshi, the wrestler earns 50 sen, or half a yen. So, if you were 4-3 kachi-koshi in Makushita, like Hoshoryu, you earned half a yen. But if you were 6-1, like Toyonoshima, you earned 2.5 yen. There is no credit deduction for make-koshi.
  • Kinboshi – earns ¥10.
  • Makuuchi yusho. If you win the Emperor’s cup, you get ¥30, unless it’s a…
  • Makuuchi zensho-yusho. If you win all fifteen bouts in Makuuchi and win the yusho, you get ¥50.
Zensho yusho. That’s ¥50, multiplied by 4000.

So, take Enho for example. How much money would he have earned in his debut in Juryo? He had one of the fastest advancements – three 7-0 tournaments, followed by one 5-2 and one 4-3, though the Juryo tournament he completed was a make-koshi, which doesn’t count. This should have earned him ¥12.5 in addition to his initial ¥3. So, did he get ¥62,000 at the end of that basho?

The answer is… no. There is a minimum amount for each new level that you reach. If your credits did not exceed that minimum amount, the difference is added to the account. However, if you drop back below that level, you lose the added difference.

  • Juryo: ¥40
  • Makuuchi: ¥60
  • Ozeki: ¥100
  • Yokozuna: ¥150

So, in fact, Enho received ¥160,000 for his debut Juryo basho. However, dropping right back to Makushita, he dropped back to ¥15.5 in his account. Back in Makushita he had two additional 5-2 basho, which earned him another ¥3, but that’s still below the Juryo minimum. So again, the account was set to ¥40 on his return to Juryo. With a 9-6 kachi-koshi in Juryo, that’s another ¥1.5, so this time, he got ¥166,000 in cash.

Should be enough to put some drinks in that belly

Yes, while sekitori salaries are paid using bank transfers, mochi-kyukin is paid in cash.

Who is the richest of them all?

At this point you can probably guess who the record holder for mochi-kyukin is. Yes, it’s Hakuho. Let’s take a look at his earnings so far.

  • Below Juryo, his kachi-koshi balance adds up to ¥18. Add that to his initial ¥3, and the sum is below the ¥40. So He started Juryo with ¥40.
  • Spending only two basho in Juryo, he earned ¥6 for a total of ¥46. That’s below the minimum of ¥60 for Makuuchi, so he starts Makuuchi with ¥60.
  • As a maegashira, he earns one kinboshi (¥10), and the total for his kachi-koshi up to and including sekiwake is ¥32.5. This puts him at ¥102.5 upon his promotion to Ozeki. That’s actually above the minimum for Ozeki, so he stays with ¥102.5.
  • As Ozeki, he has ¥28 for his kachi-koshi. Two “simple” yusho give him ¥60, and his first zensho-yusho another ¥50. So upon promotion to Yokozuna, he has ¥240.5, which is, of course, above the ¥150 minimum for a Yokozuna.
  • It is at this point that the man starts earning the big money:
    • Kachi-koshi as a yokozuna – all at large differences, of course – adds up to ¥350.
    • 24 simple yusho, each for ¥30, for a total of ¥720.
    • 14 zensho-yusho, each for ¥50, for a total of ¥700.
    So the dai-yokozuna’s current sum is ¥2010.5, for a whopping ¥8,042,000, bimonthly (and still increasing). As usual, nobody even comes close – the next in line is Taiho, ¥1489.5, and the multiplier in his time was a lot lower.

Summary

Rikishi may earn money in various ways, including salary, kensho envelopes, mochi-kyukin, sponsorships and senshuraku parties. Most of these avenues are only open to sekitori, or even only to Makuuchi wrestlers.

The mochi-kyukin system is a merit-based bonus system. Earnings are made at all levels, but actual payments are only made to sekitori. The system is heavily biased to benefit dai-yokozuna, who earn yusho and large-difference kachi-koshi by the score.

The calculation of a wrestler’s mochi-kyukin is complex, as it requires a look over his entire history of kachi-koshi and promotions to check whether he passed the required minimums for each level, in addition to the plain calculation of gold stars, yusho and zensho-yusho. The rikishi continue to receive their bonus as long as they are sekitori. No deductions are made for make-koshi, kyujo or even suspensions. But if a wrestler loses sekitori status – he is left only with the credits and stops receiving money.

Kyushu Banzuke Crystal Ball

The official rankings (banzuke) for the November tournament won’t be announced until October 29th, but the results of the recently completed Aki basho can be used to forecast these rankings with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Interested in where the rikishi you’ve been following are likely to end up on the sumo ladder? You’ve come to the right place. Below, I go through the rationale for my ranking projections; scroll down to the bottom if you just want to see the predicted banzuke.

Every tournament’s results are idiosyncratic, and present their own special difficulties for forecasting the rankings. As I already noted, Aki 2018 was exceptional in how poorly the upper and middle maegashira ranks performed. As a consequence, the top of the banzuke—the four named ranks—are very easy to predict this time, but the upper maegashira ranks are a real challenge, and we will see combinations of current rank, performance, and future rank that have rarely occurred in the past.

First, the easy part. The named ranks will look exactly the same as they did at Aki, with three exceptions. First, Kakuryu and Hakuho will trade places atop the banzuke, following the latter’s zensho yusho. Second, Takakeisho will slide over to the East side into the Komusubi slot that will be vacated by Tamawashi. Finally, Kaisei, by far the highest-ranked maegashira with a winning record, and the only one to face the full slate of upper-rank opponents, will move up to the open West Komusubi slot.

Then we come to the upper maegashira ranks. Things start innocently enough. Myogiryu (M5e; 8-7) is a relatively weak candidate for the top M1e slot, but not exceptionally so. Tochiozan (M7w; 8-7) and Hokutofuji (M9e; 9-6) are even weaker candidates for the M1w and M2e slots, but not historically so, and they’re the best we’ve got. But who should be ranked M2w? Remarkably, the best (only) candidate among  higher-ranked rikishi with losing records is Komusubi Tamawashi, despite his terrible 4-11 performance. To find the next most-deserving wrestler with a winning record, we have to go all the way down to Nishikigi (M12w; 10-5). Neither man belongs anywhere near M2 by historical criteria: a Komusubi with that record received a demotion only down to M2 twice, and that was in the same basho back in 1953, while a 10-5 M12 has been promoted to M2 on a total of only six occasions (most recently, none other than Tochiozan in 2009). Based on this history, I’m going to guess that Nishikigi will find himself in a part of the banzuke he’s completely unfamiliar with: his previous career high rank was M6 two years ago, and resulted in a 4-11 beating, so I shudder to think what will happen when he has to face the Yokozuna and Ozeki at Kyushu!

If we slot in Nishikigi and Tamawashi at M2w and M3e, we are still not out of the woods. The best of the remaining higher-ranked make-koshi rikishi, in order, are M3e Shodai (6-9), M5w Asanoyama (7-8), M2w Chiyotairyu (5-10), and M4w Abi (6-9). The list of the best-placed kachi-koshi rikishi starts with the 10-5 M13 pair of Ryuden and Takanoiwa, and continues with 11-5 M15 Yoshikaze. These ranks and performances are historically weak for consideration this high up the banzuke. The MK wrestlers actually have a better claim, but of course they cannot be promoted with a losing record, and while a 7-8 performance will sometimes find a rikishi at the same rank in the next tournament, a record of 6-9 or lower guarantees demotion. So if we adhere to these rules and maintain the rank order above, the highest rankings for them are Shodai M4e, Asanoyama M5w, Chiyotairyu M6e, and Abi M6w. Ryuden, Takanoiwa, and Yoshikaze then slot in at M3w, M4w, and M5e—unusual but not completely unprecedented for their rank and record.

After that, the banzuke starts to look more normal, with MK Kagayaki, Shohozan, Takarafuji, and Kotoshogiku (all 7-8) receiving small demotions, and KK Daieisho (7-8) a reasonable promotion. Below them, we find some of the more disastrous Aki performers from the upper maegashira ranks (Ikioi, Yutakayama, Chiyonokuni, Endo, Onosho) along with the mediocre performers from the lower ranks. I’m going with four promotions from Juryo, exchanging Yago for Chiyomaru, and this quartet rounds out the bottom of the banzuke.

As usual, I expect this forecast to get the big picture right. As for the details…we’ll find out October 29th!

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Note: kachi-koshi records are in green; make-koshi records are in red. If you spot any errors, please let me know in the comments. And of course, please feel free to discuss the projections and ask questions!