Ishiura Retires, Becomes Magaki-Oyakata

You weren’t expecting that news this morning, were you? Neither was I, frankly. We’d known Ishiura’s retirement was going to happen fairly soon but the fact that he would stay on with the Kyokai has taken us by surprise. Even more surprising is that the Magaki kabu has been occupied by the former Chikubayama, Hakuho’s former stable-master. So he’s out. As Ishiura’s kesho mawashi says, “Carpe Diem.”

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the fact that all of these kabu are in use and questions about various succession timelines. I imagine it works the same as any equity. If you own stock in Root Beer, Inc., (I like Root Beer), and more people want your stock, the value of that stock goes up. Root Beer, Inc. to the moon, baby!! But if you issue more stock, it dilutes the value of the equity you have and the price goes down. If we start handing out Kabu to every Hakuho, Terunofuji, and Harry, it will decrease the value of those already in circulation. So I presume these are the conversations that are going on among the oyakata — and may have even factored into the choice not to create a new Hakuho kabu but that’s speculation. The big difference is that I can’t be aged out of my ownership of Root Beer, Inc. when I hit 70 — and I can also buy it back if I’m full of regerts.

What does this mean? Well, ex-Magaki — I’m talking about Chikubayama, not Hakuho here — is out of the Kyokai. He’d had sanyo status where he was a retired advisor attached to Hakuho’s Miyagino-beya. The Kyokai’s profile page for Miyagino-beya has already been updated to reflect the change. So I need to look somewhere else to show you an example. Recently, Irumagawa-oyakata retired and Ikazuchi-oyakata took over. Irumagawa is still attached to Ikazuchi-beya as sanyo, and he can stay there for five years, collecting income. It’s not a big leap to presume Ishiura would have paid a premium to buy Chikubayama out early, or that this timeline was the reason for Ishiura’s delayed retirement announcement (we’ve kind of known he wouldn’t return to the dohyo for a while). Cash out before being forced out? It’s a sensible choice. Carpe Pay Day-um?

29 thoughts on “Ishiura Retires, Becomes Magaki-Oyakata

  1. I am indeed more surprise to hear today that Ishiura managed to acquire the Magaki kabu from Chikubayama, Hakuho’s former stable-master than hearing his retirement.

    For me, i think it was pretty a given. I wasn’t expecting Ishiura to return to active sumo. Ever ! Although still quite young, his injury seemed to be too much “career ending” to me. Sometime, there is nothing you can do when your body just say “NO”.

    I wasn’t expecting Ishiura to get a kabu because from what i was reading here and there on the tachiai blog, i though he had a future into coaching with a high position in the lower highschool circuit. Due to his dad and all his connection.

    But also, i though he didn’t qualified to be able to own a kabu. His highest rank was Maegashira 5. He only stayed in the top division for 5 years in a half. And through those five years, he had quite a few basho in juryo doing the yo-yo between the top and second division. So…i wonder. Did he really had the prerequisite to be able to own a kabu ?

    While i am not also questioning his skill as a rikishi and coach….having pass so little time in the top division, i cannot wonder if we could call his experience as a “elder”. scratch head

    Hmmm…i guess since he is taking anyway the kabu of good ol’ Chikubayama, maybe it isn’t too bad. I always questionned a bit the purpose of the Sanyo rank in the sumo association.
    I mean…i understand why they exist. Even when some of them get to the obligatory age of retirement of 65, they somethime are still quite healty. And some of them have acquire in time a lot of knowledge and respect throught their years of service. (Elders do merit we respect them !!! They are most of the time an infinite source of wisdow !!)

    So i totaly understand why some of them are valued and liked to still keep in touch in the organisation even when they no longer hold a working position.

    But my main question was…did they really need to hold on a kabu to do that ? (Which mean by cascading effect, preventing a more younger rikishi of having the possibility to own one.)

    I don’t know about you but….i am pretty sure that even right now if Chikubayama-sensei doesn’t own his kabu anymore. And is not officialy stated as a working employe for the sumo kyokai, if he come to lend some advise and though into Hakuho/Miyagino oyakata or any other elder…eck even to any other rikishi, his opinion would certainly be heard and taken into account. Kabu or not, when you have accumulated so much respect and notoriety throught all those years, they don’t dissapear like that. Kabu or not.

    Just my though on the subject.

    • In terms of qualifications:

      Elders must also have fought at least one tournament in the san’yaku ranks (komusubi and above), or else twenty tournaments in the top makuuchi division or thirty as a sekitori (makuuchi or jūryō division).

      Ishiura qualified with 26 makuuchi basho and 44 sekitori basho.

      It’s also not clear that the plan is for him to hold the kabu long-term, or if he’ll do it until he can take over as high school coach for his father and pass it on to someone else (Enho)? Presumably a fair bit of money changed hands to make this happen, and the most likely source of it is Hakuho.

      • Only twenty top makuuchi division tournament or thirty as sekitori ?
        Oh ! I though the requirement was way more. Like forty makuuchi and fifty as sekitori or something. I was waay off.

        Thank you Iksumo. As always, your knowledge on sumo is unfathomable. You are truly ours “Elder” of Tachiai blog. ^_^
        Glory to Iksumo kabu !

  2. Congratulations to Ishiura! While it is unfortunate he has to stop at the age of 33, I hope he finds the new role fulfilling.

    In the context of this latest kabu exchange, here is an interesting question:
    Does anyone know what are the requirements for branching off a new stable from an existing one?

    The JSA must provide their blessing for sure, but what needs to happen to see such an endeavor realized.

    The follow up question to that is how does JSA decide to increase the total number of heyas?

    Any information that can be provided on this topic will be of significant interest. Thank you!

    With Kisenosato becoming Nishonoseki (an important name as far as I understand) and Hakuho being Hakuho, their battle not only for finding powerful rikishi, but also for finding allies among the other stables in pursuing Hakkaku’s chair will be relentless.

    • In September 2006 the Sumo Association tightened the rules on opening up new stables. Now only oyakata who spent at least 25 tournaments ranked in san’yaku or 60 tournaments in the top makuuchi division may do so. The criteria for inheriting an existing heya are much less strict – the former Kanechika, for example was able to take over Miyagino stable despite having never fought in the top division at all, as only 12 makuuchi or 20 jūryō basho are needed.

      • Iksumo, thank you for trying to clarify.

        The question wasn’t what are the requirements to become an oyakata. Those are relatively straightforward and available online.

        The question was what are the requirements to branch off a new stable from an existing one? It is certain that the oyakata, who will take control over the new stable, will meet the requirements to become oyakata. But how does the JSA allow for branching off of new heya from existing ones?

        The follow up question to that was – how does JSA decide to increase the total number of heyas?

        Any insight?

        • I think that’s what he provided. The requirements to become an oyakata are less stringent.

        • Those are the requirements to branch out; they’re a lot more stringent than ones to just become an oyakata. I don’t actually know if anything beyond that is required on the JSA side, but I believe it also requires a lot of money, usually from well-heeled supporters.

        • “…how does JSA decide to increase the total number of heyas?”

          They don’t really decide on a target number in any centralized fashion, it’s left up to the individual qualifying oyakata whether they want to branch out, and of course to the incumbent stablemasters when it comes to the fate of existing stables.

          That being said, the current tough rules did come about as a leadership edict with the broad aim of reducing the number of active stables, which had gone up by around half in just two decades (1985: 37; 2005: 55) and left a lot of stables struggling after the 1990s sumo boom faded.

          • I have tried to reply multiple times, but my post was not processed!?

            Iksumo and Andy, thank you for your answers and apologies for the confusion. Asashosakari, thank you for your contribution

            Iksumo, Andy, provided you are correct and all that is required is 25 san’yaku or 60 tournaments makuuchi to branch off a new stable, why does Kakuryu (who has more than 25 san’yaku tournaments) need to wait to acquire kabu? Why is not possible for him to get a new stable going immediately?

            Here are some other questions – taking Dewanoumi heya as an example. According to the sumo database, there are 3 kabu: Dewanoumi, Nakadachi, and Takasaki. In the Sumo DB, they are all noted under the Dewanoumi heya. Does this mean that they are all branches off of that heya?

            Also, there are 5 Ichimon: Dewanoumi, Nishonoseki, Tatsunami, Tokitsukaze, and Takasago, which bear names of existing heya.

            Does this mean that originally there were only 5 heya from which all other stemmed out?

            And on the theme of the original post’s Kisenosato (Nishonoseki) and Hakuho (Miyagino) power struggle. Is Nishonoseki, more powerful in the JSA that relatively less known (for the moment) Miyagino?

            I liked Chris Sumo’s comment in his video from yesterday that with Ishiura’s assent as Magaki oyakata, he will be by Hakuho’s side as the latter vies for Hakkaku’s chair.

            Does anyone know of any sources on the history of sumo or the history/evolution of the JSA?

            Thank you for your answers and shared knowledge.

            • If you have links or something in your reply it goes into a moderation queue. I haven’t seen one so maybe there has been an issue with the comment widget.

            • I’m far from an expert on this, but a couple of quick replies. You need to have a kabu to stay as an oyakata (coach) in the JSA in an official capacity. Yokozuna get a 5-year grace period after intai to acquire one, Ozeki get 3 years, everyone else must have one at the time of their intai announcement or leave the JSA. They can be borrowed temporarily, but don’t ask me for details. The basho requirements noted apply to the eligibility to acquire a kabu and to branch out once you have a kabu. So Kakuryu is certainly eligible to open his own heya once he has acquired a kabu, but both are necessary. There are plenty of kabu-eligible rikishi who never acquire one, and I would guess ones eligible to open their own heya who never do, though don’t quote me on this. Oh, and there can certainly be multiple oyakata (kabu holders) in a heya, especially the larger ones. Like Ishiura (Magaki) will now serve alongside Hakuho (Miyagino) in the Miyagino heya.

              • Takamisakari is probably a good example of someone who is eligible to run a stable but doesn’t want to. He took over Azumazeki beya temporarily at the death of its shisho until it was wound down and absorbed by another stable. Endo has been savvy and has owned a kabu for a long time. I think Okinoumi had his on loan for a while and when he took it back, it was a sign that he was going to retire.

            • I just wanted to stress a point that Leonid made about the kabu. It’s the same word as used for stock, like corporate stock. AAPL, MSFT, etc. Instead of having millions of shares the Nihon Sumo Kyokai has a little over 100 and they’re all named and are only available to sell to those who meet the rules Leonid laid out. This is why it was such a big deal about whether a new Hakuho kabu would be granted in the same way that was done for Takanohana. Chiyonofuji had chosen to acquire the storied Kokonoe kabu.

              When Izutsu died, his family somehow maintains control over it and I hear the rules have been tightened so that it won’t happen again but, like you, I want to find the rules. So, Kakuryu is eligible to purchase a kabu but there aren’t many available. The Izutsu kabu is presumed by many to be for Shimanoumi since he married Izutsu’s daughter, which would mean Kakuryu would need to find another one.

              Endo owns one but I don’t know when he will retire or whether he has aspirations for opening his own stable. Some, like Takekaze (Oshiogawa) seem to be very savvy and acquire the kabu early and seem to climb the Kyokai ladder very quickly. I think he went straight to iin and wasn’t toshiyori long at all.

              • I believe the special kabu that Takanohana got (ichidai-toshiyori) differed in that they couldn’t be passed on—they were created for the tenure of the Dai-Yokozuna and then disappeared at their retirement. So they didn’t really “dilute the stock” in the way that creating extra permanent kabu would. Taiho and Kitanoumi also got those. More here:

            • To add to the previous responses: The main thing to note is that your current understanding of the Association’s workings is kind of backwards. It’s oyakata status first, heya ownership second. The 105 individual membership spots are a permanent feature of the Association, whether or not a given share is actually being used, while stables are essentially temporary business entities that can come and go every day. (Even though the oldest heya have continuously existed for a long time, of course.)

              “According to the sumo database, there are 3 kabu: Dewanoumi, Nakadachi, and Takasaki. In the Sumo DB, they are all noted under the Dewanoumi heya. Does this mean that they are all branches off of that heya?”

              The other two kabu aren’t really connected to Dewanoumi-beya at all. The people who are currently known as Nakadachi and Takasaki are affiliated to the stable in a personal capacity, but the two kabu themselves don’t actually belong to Dewanoumi-beya or Dewanoumi-ichimon in any meaningful sense; they’re the property of ex-Oginishiki and ex-Kinkaiyama to do with as they wish. Traditionally, oyakata reaching retirement age were expected to pass their shares on to another person within their own ichimon, but the groups’ level of control over this process has drastically weakened over the last ~30 years.

              “Also, there are 5 Ichimon: Dewanoumi, Nishonoseki, Tatsunami, Tokitsukaze, and Takasago, which bear names of existing heya. Does this mean that originally there were only 5 heya from which all other stemmed out?”

              In a very broad sense, many stables do trace their lineage back to their ichimon’s namesake heya. In detail, it’s usually a lot more complicated. Additionally, some of the ichimon actually consist of several subgroups with separate lineages that already existed when the ichimon groups were officially formed in 1947. However, these subgroups are also something that has become a lot less relevant in recent decades. So, no, there were never only five stables, it’s just that the ones that existed back in 1947 were organized into these five groups for practical reasons. (Factions in a more general sense have existed in the Association for a lot longer, though.)

              Those who are not faint of heart can look up the five ichimon on the Japanese Wikipedia. The articles have genealogical diagrams of all the stables that ever existed under each ichimon’s umbrella.

              • Asashosakari, Iksumo, Andy, thank you for the exhaustive responses.

                I found an article online by Mark D. West (1997), “Legal Rules and Social Norms in Japan’s Secret World of Sumo”, which may be of interest to those of your readers who find the stock/JSA discussion interesting, as well as sumo in general. A caveat, it is an academic article and some readers may find it “too informative”.

                According to Mark West, in 1997 the Dewanoumi Stable held the most elder shares (kabu) and dominated the JSA decision-making process, however, the Futagoyama stablemaster (the then dominant stable in the ring) also wielded tremendous power. The Isegahama beya until recently was in the position of the latter. Further the article the author states:

                “When the Tokyo Sumo Association merged with the Osaka Association in 1927,Osaka’s 17 elder shares were added to Tokyo’s 88,to create the current system of 105 shares. The Association maintains a list of these 105 names,and only eligible retired wrestlers are entitled to hold the shares (a physical piece of paper like a stock certificate) to which those names are attached.” […]

                We already discussed the requirements for becoming oyakata. Apparently there is (or was) one exception. “One exception to the general eligibility requirements pertains to so-called master elder shares:shares which belong to the 50 stablemasters and carry the same name as the stable (all other elders affiliate with stables as coaches). Many stables have long histories and utilize particular training methods. It might well be inefficient for an outsider who has no knowledge of the inner workings of the stable to take over as stablemaster.To remedy this potential problem,the Association provides that if the board of directors approves,a stablemaster elder may transfer his share to a wrestler (from his own stable) who has competed in only one tournament in the second division.”

                I do not know if that rule is in place, but it does add to the nuances of the sumo kabu regime.

                Thank you all for this informative and instructive discussion.

  3. I found this article confusing (sorry Andy!). I had to search the web to clear things up.

    Is this sequence correct?

    Hakuho needs a kabu before retiring. He can’t be Miyagino because Miyagino (Chikubayama) isn’t ready to step down yet. For reasons of health, Hakuho can’t
    delay his own retirement until Miyagino is ready to retire.
    Hakuho acquires Magaki kabu.
    Upon retiring, Hakuhi is Magaki oyakata attached to Miyagino beya.
    Miyagino (Chikubayama) reaches retirement age. He
    gives/sells his Kabu to Magaki (Hakuho). Magaki (Hakuho) gives/sells
    his kabu to Miyagino (Chikubayama).
    Chikubayama is now Magaki. Hakuho is now Miyagino.
    Magaki (Chikubayama) is somehow attached to Miyagino
    beya. He is entitled to remain there as Magaki for five years.
    Ishiura is forced to retire for health reasons. He needs or watns a kabu.
    Magaki (Chikubayama) is amenable to stepping down before his five years are up. He gives/sells his kabu to Ishiura.
    Ishiura is now Magaki oyakata attached to Miyagino beya.
    Chikubayama is now out of sumo — not a member, not a coach, nothing. A mere civilian.

    Am I the only one who finds this name switching confusing? What name do these guys
    put on their tax forms?

    • I think you understood well. I used the name Chikubayama instead of “ex-Magaki” to try to keep it straight.

    • They’re historic names with different degrees of prestige within the Kyokai and world of sumo, and we have to refer to them as such in the context of sumo conversations as the person who has assumed a certain name. It’s not that different to a shikona, which can also be changed many times.

      Their real names are still their official names, Asanoyama might be the name he fights under but he’s still Ishibashi in the eyes of the government.

      • It’s also not unique to sumo. Kabuki actors pass on the same name from generation to generation. There are probably more examples that I can’t think of right now.

    • Thanks for an excellent summary of the Miyagino/Magaki saga.
      Our yokozuna, Terrunofuji, is ow known to the Japanese tax man as Seizan Suginomori, I presume.
      And the gyogi do the weird thing kabuki actors do, calling themselves something-or-other the twelfth, forty second, you name it. Marks the march through the ranks for the first lot, is it a generational thing for the kabuki actors, Andy?
      … and then there is that excitable lady in the first row who had her face remodelled to look like a no mask.
      Japanese culture, so strange, so exciting….
      Every success to the newly minted Magaki oyakata, where ever he decides to take up his trainer career in the long term.

      • wait…. what?

        “… and then there is that excitable lady in the first row who had her face remodelled to look like a no mask.”

        • +1

          Thank you for reminding me. I meant to ask the same thing. It got a bit of a spit take from me. “Did I read that right?”

  4. Enho has 20 juryo tournaments and 9 makuuchi, a total of 29 as a sekitori. The cut-off for kabu eligibility is 30, I believe. If they relegate him to makushita this time it’s going to be agonising for him and his fans as if he can’t get back to juryo he’ll presumably miss out on ever getting elder stock.

    • There’s an “if your face fits” exemption in the rules for those who end up with 28 or 29 sekitori tournaments. Having no idea how Enho is seen behind the scenes I won’t venture a guess as to his chances of being accepted that way, but his situation is not entirely hopeless even if he doesn’t manage to come back from this demotion.


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