With a week to go until the start of the 2018 Kyushu basho, I would just like to thank Herouth for her tireless coverage of Jungo events. Without her work, the six weeks in between tournaments would be very quiet times for sumo fans.
At the close of Aki, our own resident forecast wizard, lksumo, proposed that the Kyushu banzuke would deliver many wild swings in ranking, with some rikishi moving 19 or more slots, and an almost total replacement of the top Maegashira ranks. This group of top rank-and-file rikishi is sometimes referred to as the Joi*, and will likely face at least one Yokozuna during a tournament. As readers know, always trust lksumo’s predictions, and the Kyushu banzuke did incorporate large swings in rank. Let’s take a closer look:
Maegashira 1: East/Myogiryu – West/Hokutofuji
With a bare minimum 8-7 at Maegashira 5, Myogiryu may have been a bit surprised to see himself launched to the top Maegashira post, but he is no stranger to the upper ranks. Formerly a Sekiwake, he knows what to do in this position. Hokutofuji has been at Maegashira 1 before, during 2018’s Hatsu basho, but it didn’t go well for him. His 4-11 record started a string of poor tournaments which saw him as low as Maegashira 16, and he is just now battling his way back. Hokutofuji’s 9-6 at Aki took him from Maegashira 9 all the way to Maegashira 1.
Maegashira 2: East/Tochiozan – West/Tamawashi
Two long serving veterans take up Maegashira 2. On the East, Tochiozan’s 8-7 from Maegashira 7 was enough to lift him to M2e. Tochiozan is nearing the end of his career, but is once again looking fairly sharp. Sadly, at his age, he is likely plagued by a series of chronic injuries, and may find the competition at this level a tough challenge. Tamawashi was ranked Komusubi for Aki, and produced an embarrassing 4-11 record. However, even this deep make-koshi only sent him down to Maegashira 2. It’s clear that for Aki he was hurt, and was struggling with some aspects of his sumo. I for one miss him as the steady Sekiwake.
Maegashira 3: East/Nishikigi – West/Ryuden
Oh boy, two rikishi who have really been working hard get their first shot at the big matches. On the East, Nishikigi’s 10-5 at Maegashira 12 at Aki seems to have punched his ticket into the joi. Now we just have to hope this perennial nice-guy survives the journey without a career altering injury. For the past 18 months Nishikigi has either been in Juryo, or clinging to the bottom edge of the Makuuchi bank. For Ryuden on the West, this must seem like an important milestone. After taking most of 2013 and 2014 to treat an injury, he literally had to start over, and has valiantly battled his way this far. His 10-5 from Maegashira 13 was enough to give him his shot. Make it count Ryuden!
Maegashira 4: East/Shodai – West/Yoshikaze
In one of the greatest pieces of banzuke luck since the last big Endo blow-out, Shodai’s 6-9 at Maegashira 3 drops him only to Maegashira 4. We saw some hints at Aki that he may have fixed his tachiai, and if so this could be the start of good things for Shodai, who seems to have most the elements of at least a San’yaku career if he can just put them together in the right order. On the other side of the banzuke, no-one should ever take a match with Yoshikaze for granted, and at M4, he is possibly the most dangerous man in the Maegashira joi. He has struggled since Kyushu last year, but then unloaded an 11-4 at Aki. Clearly his advancing age and all of the problems that come with it are slowing him down, but he remains capable of beating anyone else on any given day. Frankly, I can’t wait to see what he can produce.
Readers will note that most of the Yokozuna / Ozeki to Maegashira matches will happen in the first week, as the top rankers tune up and prepare to compete for the yusho. With this spread of storied veterans and fresh faces, Kyushu week 1 is likely to over-perform.
* A note from PinkMawashi: “Joi-Jin” approximately means “high ranked person”. While it is not an exact term and does not to my knowledge have an official definition, the Joi-Jin typically means the San’yaku and those Maegashira who can expect to face San’yaku opponents during the basho. That is, at least the top 16 wrestlers, although this will expand due to injuries and due to high-rankers from the same heya not being matched up. However, usually when people on English-speaking sumo sites say “joi”, they just mean the Maegashira joi-jin.