Asanoyama Promoted to Ozeki

As reported today in the Japan Times, the Sumo Association has agreed that sumo rising star Asanoyama is to be promoted to Ozeki, sumo’s second highest rank. In comments following the completion of the Haru basho in Osaka, the shimpan committee had broadly signaled that they would vote in favor to promote Asanoyama. There will be a formal meeting held on Wednesday to compile the May banzuke, which will mark the official promotion. Following this meeting, representatives from the association will travel to the Takasago stable to announce the promotion. For fans who have seen this in the past, such as Tochinoshin and Takakeisho, the Asanoyama, Takasago oyakata and Takasago okamisan will all be in formal clothes, and will assume a saikeirei bow, and accept the promotion.

Although Asanoyama feel short of the customary 33 wins over 3 tournaments from San’yaku (he ended the run with 32), the NSK has decided that sumo needs to replenish the upper ranks, and have wisely bestowed Ozeki on this talented young man. With the only remaining Ozeki hurt, and now kadoban, and both Yokozuna nearing the point of retirement, a strong, healthy and talented younger rikishi is a perfect promotion candidate. We think that we will see at least one more top rank promotion this year, and likely at least one more next year as the old guard continues to fade, and the next generation of kanban rikishi take their places.

Asanoyama won his first yusho in may of 2019 from Maegashira 8, finishing 12-3, and picking up 2 special prizes. He also is the only rikishi to ever be awarded the Trump Cup. Since then he has picked up 2 more special prizes and a jun-yusho. He has scored double digits in 5 of the last 6 basho. Tachiai predicts that if he can stay healthy and keep his body working well, Asanoyama will make a fine Ozeki.

34 thoughts on “Asanoyama Promoted to Ozeki

  1. I think this is a great decision. He also has 42 wins over 4 tournaments so 4 consecutive basho with 10+ wins

  2. Not really surprising. If they don’t promote him now they would be running the risk of Takakeisho being demoted and having no promotion candidate after the next basho.

  3. I was skeptical of Asanoyama in his early appearances in the top division. He had the classic build but he always looked light out there, opponents could move him pretty easily, and he could not impose his strength on people, just his weight.

    He has come a long way since those days…a very long way. He can make yokozuna. May he stay healthy.

  4. A great decision. Asanoyama has shown he is able to beat the very best and compete for the yusho. He is also extremely strong and fights dominant but “clean” Sumo. There is still room for improvement but as of now he will make a great addition to the Ozeki rank.

  5. It’s worth mentioning that he had a good 3-1 record against Takakeisho in the last four tournaments (in two of which the latter had 11 and 12 wins), and even in this last tournament where both Yokozuna were healty-ish, his losses to both were super-close. So really, he kind of had the overall quality, and that does count.

  6. The Tokyo Olympics is postponed by 1 year. So, Hakuho will stick around until 2021 May basho at least and we may see the 50 yusho mark toppled.

    • I really wonder, if he can stick around one more year, but to topple 50 he would have to win all but one tournament till may next year. That’s very optimistic ;)
      I although thought he hinted that he wants to retire this year. We will see, if that changes … after all he has a family too.

      • I figured that if he continues his recent practice of skipping one basho and winning the next, he could be at 47 by March of next year. Once he gets that close, he can hang around to finish it and in the process also beat Kyokutenho’s record of oldest yusho winner. We all know his desire to be recognized as the unquestioned best of all time.

        • What recent practice? This has been the first time since 2017 that there was only one other basho in between two victories of his.

  7. Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, people quickly forgot that Asanoyama won his only trophy after an utterly unfair decision against Tochinoshin … The so-called “Trump” trophy in sumo is worth and ought to be worth exactly nothing. It was a diplomatic move to strike the ego of a megalomaniac. As such it does not even deserve to be mentioned as a ground for achieving this critical Ozeki promotion.

    It becomes obvious that the unwritten rules of JSA for Ozeki promotion are unwritten for the sole purpose of bending them to allow promotions such as Asanoyama’s. Takakeisho, for instance, was at the other end of the stick not so long ago and was not promoted when he had 33 wins, because his sumo was considered too mono-dimensional. We are witnessing extremely subjective and biased decision-making by the JSA, which take away from a glorious sport that claims to be sacred, fair and meritorious.

    If 33 wins is the norm, Asanoyama should not be promoted. We all know that if Kiribayama was in the same position he would not have been considered for the rank. Sumo should not be about perceptions, future banzukes, and “what if’s”; sumo should be about skill and result. Like Takakeisho, Asanoyama should have been made to wait until he gets the coveted 33 wins. It is high time the JSA sets clear rules for Ozeki promotions.

    While recognizing the traditionalism in Japanese culture, as a non-Japanese fan of sumo myself, I and I am sure others (regardless of their ethnic background and nationality) want to see our sport free from bias, prejudice and political intricacies. Sumo is a way of life that should above all should uphold prowess, perseverance, and honour. We are setting examples today for future generations to follow.

    • As has been extensively discussed and documented here and elsewhere, 33 is a rough guideline, not a rule. Just in terms of recent rikishi, both Kisenosato and Goeido were promoted with 32. Former Yokozuna and current NHK commentator Kitanofuji (10 career yusho) was promoted with just 28 (8-10-10) at another time when there was a shortage of Ozeki/Yokozuna. The “rules” are flexible for a reason.

      • Apparently there was a spat on the Japanese NHK broadcast when Mainoumi pointed that out (and Kitanofuji wasn’t best pleased)

      • Re- Kitanofuji: That made me laugh. You’re absolutely right. 1966
        O East Sekiwake #1
        8–7
        O East Sekiwake #1
        10–5
        T East Sekiwake #1
        10–5
        West Ōzeki #1
        10–5
        Then he had three 10 win bashos, a 14 winner and two back-to-back disasters 5-10 and 7-8. In today’s era, he would have been back at Sekiwake.

        That’s back when I was a kid. That era is etched in my mind. Taiho, Kashiwado and Sadanoyama at the top. Then four Ozeki: Kotozakura, Kitanofuji, Kiyokuni and Tamanoshima (changed to Tamanoumi when he reached Yokozuna). Hasegawa was stuck at Sekiwake. Forever.

    • To follow up what lksumo wrote, I would expect that they mint at least one other Ozeki this year, given that Takakeisho is not quite in serviceable condition. The score may be lower than the 32 we saw for him. This is going to be an odd period in sumo, made even odder by what may be a limited basho schedule for the rest of 2020.

    • What’s moe important than 33 wins is that he has been consistently good for the past year. As Iksumo has pointed out previously, he has averaged double digit wins over the most recent 6 basho, and more total wins than any other rikishi of whatever rank. I thought the final day bout against Takakeisho was a fair test case – if he hadn’t won, they wouldn’t have promoted him. He came very close against Kakuryu, also,

    • I respect your opinion and preferences. But this non-Japanese fan prefers it the way it is. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

    • There’s literally nothing funnier when people tget all huffy about sumo being arbitrary, it’s like going to a Catholic mass but the altar boys are super chubby and they wrestle, like stop trying to treat it like a normal sport and you’ll be a lot less frustrated in life.

    • You seem remarkably bitter. The reason the “rules” remain unwritten is precisely to avoid getting boxed in. If it was absolutely mandatory that a rikishi can only make Yokozuna after two consecutive yusho at Ozeki, we’d hardly ever get a Yokozuna. If it was absolutely mandatory that a rikishi can only make Ozeki after 33 wins ranked in junior sanyaku, we’d hardly ever get an Ozeki. When you set things in stone, you give yourself no discretionary room for maneuvre and that’s essential in sport where no two circumstances are ever identical. Consider Kisenosato, who was arguably stronger than some Yokozuna, but because of the era he found himself in could never quite make the step up. Eventually they relaxed the promotion criteria to rightly reward him for being consistently excellent in a field with three active Yokozuna.

      • And even worse, setting promotion targets in stone is exactly how you incentivize rikishi to fix matches. Nobody needs that.

    • Not sure why stupid political option had to be included in this sport only forum. Not only that, you are displaying traits that ignore aspects of Japanese culture. Shame.

    • ” …I and I am sure others (regardless of their ethnic background and nationality) want to see our sport free from …”

      It’s not ‘our’ sport; we are outside looking in at a Japanese sport.

  8. When faced with the locked door of ozeki promotion, some men kick it down, others knock politely, Asanayoma is in the latter category. He has fewer miles on the clock than the typical 26 year old rikishi, and he’s been by far the best ozeki prospect over the last 6 basho. I think we should see one more ozeki promotion before both of our yokozuna retire. I have always thought that Mitakeumi would get there, but there are other options…

  9. While I do think Asanoyama is Ozeki material, I can’t help but feel that his promotion is unfair to Takakeisho, who was asked to post a double digit win record after having achieved the required 33 wins, which he proceeded to do when there were already 3 Ozeki competing. Asanoyama only managed 32 wins (2 of which are by default) in a time of depleted ranks and morale and is being praised for giving the Yokozuna a challenge, while Keisho flat out beat both Hakuho and Kakuryu on at least one occasion fairly recent to his promotion.

    • It’s always been a case-by-case thing (also with Yokozuna promotions) that depends on the overall state of the upper ranks, not a uniform bar.

    • Them’s the breaks, as they say. Everything in sumo is like this, even the regular banzuke. We speak often of “banzuke luck”. Pretty much every basho someone got under- or over-promoted because thats just how it has to be. Joi Maegashira often miss out on sanyaku promotions because there aren’t enough open spots. Ozeki and Yokozuna promotions get all the attention, but it’s an ever-present in sumo.

    • Sums up my thoughts, too. I would have preferred Asanoyama to rack up another good tournament prior to ozeki promotion.

    • Takakeisho’s initial 33 wins included a mere 9-win effort in which he had to rally from a score of 3-6 (!), including a 1-5 subtotal against ozeki and yokozuna. For somebody who had no significant track record of upper-rank success up to that point, that basho just didn’t contribute much. I’m personally of the opinion that he was worth promoting at that point anyway, but that kind of three-basho run is exactly the type where one would expect the Association to take a wait-and-see approach, just in case the two actually good tournaments were flukes. Asanoyama did it exactly the opposite way, with steady 10-11-10-11 wins. Focusing just on the win totals obscures what’s going on.

    • Your memory is fooling yourself a bit here. The Yokozuna he had beaten was Kisenosato who … well … was beaten by anyone and and injured Hakuho. He pretty much had a disastrous score against the Ozeki squad and Mitakeumi. Kakuryu he only faced in once and lost. Only in the tournament after which he got promoted, he beat both Takayasu and Kakuryu.
      Both decisions have been edge cases, but there are valid arguments in both cases for the way it was decided. And promotions in sumo are always dependend on circumstances.

  10. “Following this meeting, representatives from the association will travel to the Takasago stable to announce the promotion.”

    Might I suggest that, during these times of social distancing, the representatives of the association make this announcement to Takasago stable via Skype?

    I’d really hate to see Asanoyama get promoted and get exposed to the virus on the same day.

    • All the people involved have had regular contact with each other either directly or via other members of the sumo world for the last three weeks anyway. It’s a bit late to question their collective decision to practice social distancing only towards outsiders.

  11. Well deserved for Asanoyama. He fights with confidence and already had an Ozeki aura around him. Who will be next? My guess is Daieisho and Kiribayama in 2021.

    • I could see Mitakeumi and Shodai breaking through this year, but both of them have been “the next Ozeki” for years.

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