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.

40 thoughts on “Of Gold Stars and Straight Wins

    • Mochi-kyukin and salaries are relatively easy, because you probably get a nice pay slip that says exactly what you got. Senshuraku parties, though, can be a real issue, with people just randomly throwing cash at you. Also, there’s a tradition of sharing kensho money, and probably mochi-kyukin as well, with your oyakata. That makes the whole thing rather complicated.

        • I don’t think Toyonoshima’s tears had anything to do with the money. I read somewhere that when Tokitenku died in 2017 Toyonoshima vowed that he would get back to the sekitori ranks and that he would do it as a tribute to his old friend. So it was a very emotional moment.

          • Yes, that’s true, but I’m pretty sure his ability to provide for his family again also played a part in his emotions.

            • I beg to differ. Men are much more likely to get choked up about fulfilling a promise to a dead friend than securing a pay-rise.

              • I’m not saying it’s the only reason. But it’s not a “pay rise”. It’s a pay, period. For two years, you have a father who has not been able to feed his daughter or pay for her school uniform. And it wasn’t as if he was being the main care giver instead. He was down in the heya, working but not providing. It’s not a situation many men find themselves in.

  1. Each basho, or each basho he competed in, or each basho he competed in for all bouts?

    So did Hakuho make that money even for the bashos he sat out this year, or just the ones he actually fought in

    • As far as I understand it – for each basho you complete. So I believe he did not receive it for the ones he sat out. I’m not sure about the basho in which his salary was docked.

  2. Another great post. This is completely off-topic, but I haven’t heard anything about YDC meeting after Aki—don’t they usually meet and make comments shortly after the basho?

    • The meeting indeed took place, but the reports from it were nothing exceptional: Kisenosato got passing marks but was warned against going kyujo in the middle of next basho (that is, he still doesn’t have enough “kyujo credit”). Hakuho was praised for his ability to get his injuries under control in the right time and some said he is “two heads and shoulders above the rest”. No criticism for technique or conduct. And Kakuryu wasn’t mentioned at all, at least not in the reports I read. And then the Takanohana thing happened.

    • Here’s your answer Alex:

      Monthly salary (not including bonuses or commercial work):

      Yokozuna ¥2,820,000 €20,000 $24,250
      Ozeki ¥2,347,000 €16,700 $20,200
      Sanyaku (sekiwake/komusubi) ¥1,693,000 €12,000 $14,600
      Maegashira ¥1,309,000 €9,350 $11,250
      Juryo ¥1,036,000 €7,400 $8,900

      Makushita ?
      Sandanme about $1000 per month allowance
      Jonidan ?

      sources: https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles/understanding-the-6-ranks-of-professional-sumo/
      http://www.lemondedusumo.com/english/MDS16_wages.php?mag=mds&num=16

      • Thank you. Note that your first source is not very reliable, as it says that anybody winning all seven bouts in Makushita is automatically promoted to Juryo. This is only true at Ms15 or above. Kiribayama, who won the Makushita yusho in Natsu 2018, was only promoted up to Ms3. It also mentions prize money for bouts which I don’t believe exists below Makuuchi.

        • The second source seems a bit dated too from around 2005 or 2006, which probably means that those numbers have rosen a bit (if they were correct at that time).

          • Inflation in Japan has been negligible since that article was written, and the NSK have not changed the pay rates. The usual 2-3% you see a year in the US is more like .1% in Japan, and sometimes goes slightly deflationary.

          • 🤣🤣🤣
            This wasn’t a Juryo bout, though. Sadanoumi was in Makuuchi at the time. So it’s one of those bouts in which a Juryo wrestler is scheduled at Makuuchi to complement an odd number of Makuuchi wrestlers due to kyujo. It happens even in honbasho. And then the Juryo wrestler can win some kensho.

            Other than that, some Jungyo events are arranged as elimination tournament, and there are prizes for the winner. On such days, sometimes even low-ranking wrestlers can get some ¥.

            • I seem to recall someone mentioning once a Juryo match that had kensho on it. I think it was in the 70s and presumably between two rapidly rising stars. There’s probably nothing stopping people from putting kensho on matches not in Makuuchi, they just generally don’t want to.

  3. Thanks for this. I’ve been curious about sumo finances. Can you explain where the salaries and extra money is coming from?

    • What do you mean? You want to know the sources of the NSK’s budget, like ticket sales and broadcast right?

      • I’m curious about this too. About roles of stables and NSK etc. in finances. After your comment I guess it’s NHK’s job to pay salaries? This was a great piece and I would like to get more information about money in the world of sumo. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us

      • Yes, precisely. I guess you are saying NSK pays the salaries. That wasn’t obvious to me, so I learned that much. Who pays for the beyas and all the support staff? The crowds at the bashos look good sized, but compared to the crowds at NFL or MLB games, they seem small in size and number of events. Ticket prices seem quite reasonable and it’s hard to see them supporting all this structure. Does the government subsidize any of this? If they are getting money from NHK, and I’m sure they do, that would amount to government subsidy, no? I find it all very puzzling.

        • NHK is a public channel, but it’s not a government thing. Like most similar public broadcast services, it has public funding but is an independent body.

  4. I am loving this post. If a longtime makuuchi rikishi gets demoted to Juryo (Aminishiki…), do they lose their credits they picked up in the top division and reset at 40 credits in Juryo? If they return to Makuuchi, do they start back at their credit level when they were in Makuuchi before, or back at 60? Thanks!

    • No, no. Rest assured that Aminishiki continues to enjoy his 8 kinboshi as long as he is sekitori.

      The only credits deducted are those that were added to the account to complement it to the minimum level when the rikishi was most recently promoted. So say a rikishi has ¥56 in his account when he advances to Makuuchi. He gets an additional ¥4 to complement it to ¥60. He then spends a lot of time in Makuuchi, earning another ¥100 for a total of ¥160. If he now drops back to Juryo, the additional ¥4 he got are deducted. So he continues at Juryo with ¥156. Next time he advances, he will not get those ¥4 as he is already way past the minimum ¥60. So next time he drops there will be no deduction at all. Of course, his salary is lower at Juryo, but the mochi-kyukin stays the same.

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