Looking Toward the Haru Banzuke

The 2021 Hatsu basho is in the books, and all the kensho has been handed out. How will the results reshuffle the rankings for the Haru basho? As usual, I’ll have a full banzuke prediction posted once I’ve had more time for analysis, but here’s an early look at the key points. Note: I’m assuming that the rikishi who had to sit out the tournament due to COVID will have their ranks frozen, following the Tamanoi beya precedent from September. This actually helps to create a sensible Makuuchi banzuke, but creates major problems in Juryo.

The named ranks

With both Yokozuna absent, nothing will change at the top of the rankings. Barring retirement, we will have Hakuho on the East side and Kakuryu on the West for the 6th straight tournament. The Ozeki ranks will see a reshuffle, with Shodai and Asanoyama, both 11-4, occupying O1 East and West, respectively, and newly kadoban Takakeisho falling to O2e.

All the incumbents in lower san’yaku—S1e Terunofuji, S1w Takanosho, K1e Takayasu, and K1w Mitakeumi—are kachi-koshi, and all have 9 wins, with the exception of Terunofuji’s 11, which means that they will keep their ranks. I’m going to guess that Daieisho (13-2) will vault all the way to Sekiwake, creating an extra slot (he has unquestionably done enough to force a san’yaku promotion this time, after a very unlucky miss following the previous tournament). And with 24 wins in his last two basho, Terunofuji is officially on an Ozeki run and can re-ascend to sumo’s second-highest rank with another double-digit performance in March.

That’s a lot of wins (73, to be exact) soaked up by just 7 rikishi, and in a zero-sum game, the reverberations will be felt further down the banzuke.

Upper maegashira

It was feast or famine in this part of the banzuke. Daieisho aside, M2e Takarafuji and M3w Onosho recorded nine wins apiece, while everyone else was make-koshi. Takarafuji and Onosho will occupy the top maegashira rank, and Hokutofuji, with his minimal 7-8 make-koshi, will fall one rank to M2e. “Frozen” Wakatakakage conveniently occupies M2w, but filling the next few ranks isn’t easy. M5e Endo and M5w Okinoumi, both 7-8, can be placed no higher than their current rank, everyone else in the joi will fall even lower, and there’s not much help from the ranks immediately below them. This means bringing up kachi-koshi rikishi from lower down the rankings way up the banzuke. I have M7e Meisei, M8w Kiribayama and M9w Myogiryu, all 8-7, and M10e Shimanoumi, 9-6, all jumping up 4-6 full ranks, much more than their records would typically warrant.

Makuuchi-Juryo exchanges

With a 10-man san’yaku, the M17e rank will disappear, and its current occupant, Sadanoumi (5-10), will be heading down. I’m quite confident that he’ll be joined by M13e Akua (5-10). Beyond that, things get a little muddy. We have two clear promotion candidates—the yusho winner, J8e Tsurugisho (12-3), and Tobizaru’s big brother, J6w Hidenoumi (11-4), who hasn’t been in the top division since March 2018. We also have J1w Daiamami (8-7), who should be promoted, and with Ishiura “frozen” at J1e, there’s nowhere to put him except Makuuchi. I think this means that M8e Tokushoryu (3-12) will have to make room and fall to the second division a year after his triumph.

There are two other men in this conversation: J8w Daishomaru (11-4), who handed Tokushoryu his coup de grâce, and M15e Yutakayama (7-8), who could not pick up his 8th win on senshuraku and left his fate in the hands of the banzuke committee. I believe that the incumbent will just hang on, but this is a close call.

I’ll end this here, and cover what I think will happen in Juryo and upper Makushita after the new Juryo promotions are announced on Wednesday (it’s the only part of the banzuke we get to see early). Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think in the comments!

46 thoughts on “Looking Toward the Haru Banzuke

  1. Ma boule de cristal…
    Hakuho Y Kakuryu
    Shodai O Asanoyama
    Takakeisho O
    Terunofuji S Takanosho
    Daieisho S
    Takayasu K Mitakeumi
    Takarafuji M1 Onosho
    Hokutofuji M2 Wakatakakage
    Meisei M3 Shimanoumi
    Kiribayama M4 Myogiryu
    Ichinojo M5 Endo
    Okinoumi M6 Tamawashi
    Kotonowaka M7 Kagayaki
    Tobizaru M8 Tochinoshin
    Chiyonokuni M9 Hoshoryu
    Midorifuji M10 Akiseyama
    Chiyotairyu M11 Ryuden
    Aoiyama M12 Kotoshoho
    Terutsuyoshi M13 Chiyoshoma
    Kotoeko M14 Hidenoumi
    Tsurugisho M15 Yutakayama
    Kaisei M16 Daiamami

  2. M3 to M5 is going to look very odd with some remarkable promotions even if, as I suspect, Endo and Okinoumi hold their places despite 7-8 records. Meisei, Shimanoumi, Myogiryu and Kiribayama look likely to be shot up the ranks like they had rockets tucked in to their mawashi. That’s not a bad thing: Myogiryu has been up there many times before and the other three will get a chance to prove that they belong in the elite.

    The promotion/relegation between the top two divisions is less clear cut than it has been for a while. I think that Daiamami might find himself stuck in the same spot and being leapfrogged by Hidenoumi and Tsurugisho. Tokushoryu? Daishomaru? Yutakayama? Your guess is probably better than mine!

  3. There are some big things to watch in the interim, including whether the YDC pushes the Yokozuna to retire as well as any big news from the head injury debacle. I believe Hidenoumi’s last visit to Makuuchi involved a head injury. Am I remembering that right? I seem to remember he got knocked out, laid there for quite a while, and staggered around for an uncomfortably long time.

          • No worries. I’m not always as clear when writing as I think. When I re-read things, like even that last reply, I switch subjects and create ambiguities…

            頑張ります. :)

    • Well, they can’t push Hakuho to retire, given the reason for his absence, but Kakuryu is definitely a question mark. Personally, I don’t think we’ll hear much about the head injury situation.

      • It will be a missed opportunity but if they do anything, it will likely be narrow in scope to that exact situation. There’s a bigger gap there where I wish they’d “professionalize” the injury treatment rather than stand around, staring at each other like, “What do I do?”

  4. Total chaos in the banzuke room this coming week. I hope they laid in a hearty stock of strong drink to help them sort it all out.

    I would predict at least Ikioi intai, and I really worry that Hakuho’s COVID may have left him with lingering problems. 2021 is going to be a hell of a year in Sumo.

    • Lingering post-COVID effects are definitely a thing for some, but most people, especially with symptoms as mild as his, recover fully, so I don’t think there’s any reason to be overly concerned 🤞🏻.

      • Co-worker had a mild case, now 4 weeks later he is out of breath after walking up a single flight of stairs. His O2 levels struggle if he does anything mildly strenuous. It really surprised me. Not a guy with co-morbidities either.

        • People blame breathlessness after a respiratory infection on their lungs, but it can be from cardiac damage caused by the cytokine storm. Suggest he sees a cardiologist, if he hasn’t already. (Been there done that)

  5. Any reason why they would not promote Terunofuji to Ozeki now? He has 32 wins over last 3, with a runner up in there, and a Yusho preceding. And has always been kachi-koshi in his run. They have promoted people in the past with less.

    Also, why would he need double digits next time, when he is at 24 over the last two. 9 should be the magic number, even if he does not get it this time.

    • A nine-win tournament would be an interesting scenario but given the past treatment of Miyabiyama, who had a three-basho record of 34-wins in 2006, I think the kyokai may hold former Ozeki to a higher standard than those who make the rank for the first time. We already have an issue of ozeki who cycle on-and-off kadoban. Shodai, Asanoyama, and Takekeiho may be the Kadoban Triplets after Goeido and Kotoshogiku were the Kadoban Twins.


      Personally, I don’t think we’ll know until it happens. His three kyujo bouts in the M1 tournament loom large given the last two tournaments, but I would not be surprised if we hear he needs 11 or more. The last three tournaments have been fought with 0 bouts against Yokozuna. His last bout against a Yokozuna was a loss to Hakuho…in 2017. His last win against a Yokozuna was against Kakuryu just before the famous Kisenosato play-off. Bottom line, I think the past three tournaments have been against an extraordinarily weak field with no Yokozuna and ailing Ozeki. They won’t want to rush to bring in another ailing Ozeki, so I don’t think they’ll loosen the regular 33-win criteria. I think they may RAISE the bar.

      • The promotion criteria explicitly include “ten or more wins in the tournament just completed,” i.e. the final basho of a successful run.

          • I believe that’s a general rule; in any case, it’s never happened. The non-promotion of Miyabiyama that’s puzzling is the prior 3 tournaments: 10-14-10. I’ve heard it said that they raised the bar after his previous not very successful stint at Ozeki, but it’s also possible that the final 10 wasn’t considered impressive enough for some reason. Maybe someone who was following sumo at the time or knows the history can chime in.

            • Yeah, his run in the third tournament was basically dead and buried when he was only 5-5 partway through, despite the eventual 10-5 finish.

              Day 15 quotes from an old Sumoforum post:

              Miyabiyama: (Realistic about ozeki promotion) I have been doing sumo [during the latter part of the basho] with the idea of keeping the hopes alive to next basho. I am pleased that I was able to win 10 bouts.

              Kokonoe Oyakata, deputy shinpan chief: It was an unanimous decision [not to promote Hakuho and Miyabiyama]. Still, Hakuho’s 13 wins are highly commendable. [Tsunatori] would, obviously, be carried over to next basho.

              As for Miyabiyama, Hanaregoma Oyakata [chief shimpan] said, “We wanted one more win. We also felt the content quality was also insufficient.” Although Miyabi surpassed the normal guideline of “33 wins in sanyaku” with his 34 wins, he had four losses by Day 7 and only two wins in orthodox manner such as oshi-dashi. That was given significant negative consideration.

              And then the next tournament delivered more of the same, from 5-6 to 9-6. I don’t believe they even bothered to make an announcement after that one. Also, there were already five ozeki at the time, so nobody was really clamouring for the second coming of Miyabiyama.

              • Thank you! Since many of the decision-makers will be different if Terunofuji has the exact same circumstance, I figure it may still be a different decision…

              • It’s interesting seeing Hakuho being talked about as tsunatori already when Miyabiyama was almost repromoted. Looking back at that banzuke, Hakuho is the only one left from Makuuchi. Kakuryu was in the top of Juryo, and the next closest current Makuuchi rikishi were Tamawashi and Okinoumi who were MK in mid-Makushita.

    • As we’ve often written on this site, there is no magic number, and double-digit wins in the final basho before promotion is a requirement.

      There’s no “even if”; if he was going to be promoted we’d know already, and the NSK already said he can get it next time.

  6. Hello all. I’m fairly new to sumo, as I started following in 2017. I think I’m starting to figure it out.

    Aa a former wrestler, I tend to favor the smaller guys like Enho (of course), Tobizaru and Takakesho. I was especially pleased with Daiesho’s performance.

    Regarding Terenofuji, I think Raja stated that he would need another double-digit performance for promotion.

    • First post fail. I did not mean Takakeisho (misspelled). I do like him. I meant Kotoeko. That dude does not miss shoulder day.

    • Welcome to Tachiai! Yeah, Kotoeko really seems to have been very diligent about hitting the weights. I am puzzled why he was struggling this tournament and ended with a make-koshi. There are so many injuries that we never hear about, and you can get a rikishi who is at a comfortable rank turn in a poor performance, you and just never know why.

    • Keep in mind that when it comes to future promotion decisions, NHK’s commentators are not doing anything more than their print colleagues or any reasonably clued-up fans: informed guesses. And unless Terunofuji delivers a slam dunk case next time (starts the basho 10-1 or something like that), even the guys in charge of making the decision at the Association are unlikely to settle on a final judgement until the last couple of days of the tournament.

      Everything you’ll hear between now and then is either speculation (if it’s coming from outsiders) or opinionated spitballing (from insiders). The only thing that’s reasonably definitive is that – as lksumo mentioned in another comment – it’s practically impossible for Terunofuji to finish with less than 10 wins and still get promoted. 10 wins is the floor, everything beyond that will be subject to factors that are subjective and can only be guessed at.

  7. I would suspect Diaeisho is also Ozeki promotion candidate in March. 11 or 12 wins should do it. Very possible to see 2 Ozeki promotions.

    • With only one san’yaku basho, I don’t think so—it’s never happened, though there aren’t many negative examples, either (Wakahanada in 1992/93 being the closest). Maybe if he does something truly extraordinary…

      • I do feel the committee has demonstrated a much greater willingness to consider non-standard runs than is commonly acknowledged, especially by fans who are hung up on the 33 wins. Going back to Goeido’s promotion, really only two of the last seven have been what one would consider to be by the book, Takayasu’s 11-12-11 in a full sanyaku run, and by sheer impressiveness Tochinoshin’s 14-10-13 despite the M3 start.

        With that, we’re back to the dreaded subjective factors again. Daieisho will have a big mountain to climb as any first-time yusho winner has had – maybe he’ll be lucky that there won’t be much in the way of between-basho celebrating this year… But if he somehow actually manages to “look like an ozeki” again next time out, who knows. I’m fairly sure it won’t be talked about in any official capacity before the basho though, same as Terunofuji wasn’t before Natsu 2015.

          • “The book” doesn’t actually exist of course, but if it did it would be something like this, IMHO:

            33 or more wins across 3 consecutive tournaments
            all three tournaments in sanyaku, unless a first one at maegashira was exceptionally strong
            minimum of 10 wins for the lowest-scoring tournament, minimum of 11 for the middle-scoring one
            the last of the three tournaments can’t be the weakest one
            no exceptionally weak results against incumbent yokozuna and ozeki during the run
            no credit for what happened before the three tournaments under consideration

            Takakeisho’s whole 10-9-13-11-10 run never fulfilled all of those at the same time, the eventual promotion failing to pass the “last not the weakest” aspect.

            (Before this post gets misconstrued, I’m totally in favour of looking beyond that book for deciding ozeki promotions. I’d have promoted him after the 11.)

            • I hadn’t really though of point 4 as part of “the book”, but it looks like Takakeisho is only joined by Takanohana the elder in not meeting it in the 6-basho era. (The 3rd is violated pretty frequently)

              • Kisenosato’s 10-12-10 comes to mind, too (joint-weakest only, but also twice below 11), but in his case they were pretty clear that they were acknowledging the effect of the death of his shisho just before the third tournament.

                The 10-win minimum is frequently not relevant, I agree, but lack of double-digits is the kind of thing they will happily point to if and when it’s convenient. Baruto’s initial 12-9-12 run was rejected chiefly because of that. (“Still lacks consistency” is the usual way of putting it.) On the flipside of course there’s stuff like Goeido’s 12-8-12 getting waved through.

          • Ugh, the automatic reformatting of that post really left something to be desired… That second paragraph is meant to be a list of six bulleted entries.

        • I’d be curious whether the committee has any standard in mind. I would expect that if he somehow manages another 13-win (or more) yusho, sure. But would a 13-win or 12-win jun-yusho be enough?

      • Even if you adopt the “he was a virtual Komusubi this time” point of view, his preceding 10 wins are unlikely to count, you kind of need more than that to start the run as a top Maegashira. We can look at Tochinoshin’s 14-win yusho as an example of what does count. Similarly, this tournament for Daieisho – 13-win yusho, plus the rotten luck that landed him at M1e – it almost certainly would count as the first log of an Ozeki run.

    • It’s just faintly possible, but I think it would take another yusho in March. 11 or 12 wins in March AND May would probably do it.


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