Congratulations to Sekiwake Mitakeumi on lifting the Emperor’s Cup for the second time! While the path to the yusho wasn’t without controversy, I would argue that the best man won. Congratulations also to
Sekiwake Ozeki Takakeisho, who not only achieved the 10 wins he needed to regain his rank against the expectations of many, but made it all the way into a championship playoff. Tachiai wishes good health to both (the early reports on Takakeisho after the playoff bout are worrying), and expects more titles from them in the future.
Takakeisho (O2e) and Goeido (O1e) will be ranked at Ozeki on the Kyushu banzuke, joining kadoban Ozeki Takayasu (O1w). We know that at least the first two will also be ranked at Ozeki for Hatsu 2020. Can Mitakeumi join them? He has 21 victories as a Sekiwake in the last two basho, which means that 12 more in November would give him the unofficial promotion standard of 33, and it’s hard to see the longtime san’yaku regular not getting the nod with a line of 9-12Y-12. Could we see him promoted with 11? It worked this decade for two other popular Japanese san’yaku mainstays…
The Lower San’yaku
Mitakeumi will occupy the East Sekiwake slot for the 3rd straight basho, while newly re-demoted Tochinoshin will take over from Takakeisho as West Sekiwake, with the now all-too-familiar one-time shot to reascend to Ozeki with 10 wins. This means that Abi (9-6) will continue at the East Komusubi rank, with Endo (8-7) remaining West Komusubi.
So, you ask, what will they do with M1e Hokutofuji (9-6) and M10w Asanoyama (10-5), who did more than enough to earn san’yaku promotions under normal circustances? A maegashira one east with nine wins has never failed to be promoted, while a maegashira two with ten has had to settle for M1e once in the modern era (Kotoshogiku, after Kyushu 2006). At the same time, an extra Komusubi slot hasn’t been created for an M1 since 2006 (Roho, with 10 wins), and for an M2 in over two decades. An extra complication is that while Hokutofuji would seem to have the stronger case for forcing an extra slot, as it’s the only way he can get a well-deserved promotion, Asanoyama should be ranked ahead of him based on rank and record. And that’s before we even get to the difficulty of filling the maegashira ranks without ridiculous over-promotions and under-demotions if these two are not there to hold down the M1e and M1w slots.
The only other rikishi in the M1-M5 ranks to earn his kachi-koshi is M3e Daieisho (8-7), although M3w Tomokaze and M4e Tamawashi ended with minimal 7-8 make-koshi records, and M6w Myogiryu (8-5-2) fought enough of the upper-rankers to be considered a member of the joi. These four will be back in the joi in Fukuoka. They will be joined by well-performing mid-maegashira: M8e Okinoumi (11-4), M8w Takarafuji (9-6), and M10w Meisei (10-5). Beyond that, we have to reach for M1w Aoiyama (5-10), M5w Ryuden (7-8), and M9w Kotoyuki (9-6). This group slots in much more palatably at M2-M6 than they do at M1-M5.
Three other joi maegashira had disastrous tournaments and will plummet down the banzuke in November. M4w Shodai (3-12) should drop to around M11, and he will fare the best of the trio. For all the flack Shodai gets, he hadn’t been ranked lower than M7 since making his top-division debut in January of 2016 at M12w, and has been ranked M5 or better in 19 of his 23 Makuuchi tournaments. Tachiai hopes he comes back strong in November, where he should have the opportunity to clean up against much weaker opposition. M2e Ichinojo (1-4-10), who withdrew with an injury after his Day 4 bout against Kakuryu, should be ranked just below Shodai. And M5w Chiyotairyu, who managed a tournament-low 2 wins among rikishi competing for all 15 days, will fall even lower, into the group of “broken toys” holding down the last 10 or so slots in the top division (see below). Have I mentioned these are 3 of my favorite rikishi? 😢
Top-Division Demotions and Promotions
Going into the final day, we had two definite demotions—Toyonoshima and Takagenji—and two definite promotions—Takanosho and Chiyomaru. In Day 15 bouts, Terutsuyoshi extended his stay in Makuuchi with a victory, as did Kagayaki, simultaneously relegating Azumaryu to Juryo. He’ll be joined there by Tochiozan, who has previously never dropped from the top division since making his debut in March of 2007. Daishoho picked up his 10th loss, but should just survive given the lack of strong promotion candidates.
The places of Tochiozan and Azumaryu should be occupied by J3 Wakatakakage (9-6), marking his top-division debut, and J5 Daishomaru, making his return after 4 tournaments in the second division, which were preceded by a three-year run in Makuuchi.
Five slots in the salaried ranks should open up for sure: one via retirement (Yoshikaze) and four via demotion: Seiro, Chiyonoumi, Takanofuji (unless he also “retires”) and Asagyokusei. Four should be occupied by Ms1e Wakamotoharu and Ms2e Akua, both 6-1, and Ms4w Kototebakari and Ms5e Hoshoryu, both 4-3. The 5th man going up to “heaven” will probably be Ms5w Akiseyama, who won his “Darwin bout” to go 4-3. The other contender is Ms6e Churanoumi (5-2), but someone at his rank hasn’t been promoted with that record since the exceptional situation in 2011. If one of the two isn’t promoted, that would mean keeping J13e Irodori (6-9), but once again, someone with that rank and record has most recently escaped demotion on the same 2011 banzuke. Well, will find out the promotions to sekitori and can deduce the corresponding demotions on Wednesday, unlike the rest of the banzuke, for which we will have to wait until October 28.