Aki: Catching up on the “Ones to Watch”


Before the beginning of Aki, I selected 20 rikishi from the lower divisions to follow throughout the tournament, including some intriguing duels. While most of their selections were down to their impressive talent and track record in the areas of the banzuke we don’t usually cover, others were feel good stories — and in a couple cases down to potentially historic futility.

Makushita

Ms3 Kizaki (Kise) – Kizaki, who’s never suffered a make-koshi, got off to a rough start against should-have-been promotion contender Kotodaigo on Day 1. But he’s rebounded nicely to a 3-1 record, enhancing his promotion credentials if he can keep his win streak going. He faces Oitekaze’s Juryo rebound candidate Tobizaru on Day 9, who is also 3-1. The two men have never met in the ring.

Ms14 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Challenging for the yusho at 4-0, he’s now won 8 straight matches going back to Nagoya. He’s not had a particularly easy schedule but it will intensify as he goes for his 5th win on Day 9, when he comes up against 4-0 Ms3 Masunosho.

Ms16 Wakatakagake (Arashio) vs Ms16 Murata (Takasago) – I noted before the tournament that these guys had tracked each other’s results with career 18-3 records and that has continued, as both are 2-2. Wakatakakage knocked off Murata head-to-head on Day 1. They won’t be in action again until at least Day 10.

Ms30 Ikegawa (Hakkaku) – After a promising start to his career, I marked this as an interesting basho to watch for Ikegawa who is fighting at a career high level, having reached it not without some difficulties. The difficulties may continue, as he’s 1-3.

Ms56 Obamaumi (Sakaigawa) – Obamaumi was my pick to follow as he has a second chance at consolidating his Makushita status, having stormed up to a new career high after a year-long layoff. He’s 2-2 after fortunately picking up a fusen win on Day 7 so he’s got a decent shot to hang in there.

Ms57 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – Ichiyamamoto has cruised through the lower levels after entering in Maezumo following University. That looks set to continue as he’s off to a 3-1 start, but will face a potentially stiff challenge on Day 9 in the also 3-1 Aomihama of Dewanoumi-beya.

Sandanme

Sd2 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Nishikifuji looks set for a promotion as he’s 3-1 here, his sole loss coming from a visit to Makushita against Ichiyamamoto’s next opponent.

Sd11 Ryuko (Onoe) – He’s only lost once in each of his 3 basho before now, and he was on track to better that until he ran into Tachiai favorite Enho. He’s 3-1 and will also push for a Makushita promotion.

Sd18 Enho (Miyagino) – Miyagino’s burgeoning rockstar has continued his undefeated start to his career as he’s 4-0 and challenging for a third consecutive yusho. He faces a stern test on Day 9 against another 4-0 contender and former university man Ichiki, from Tamanoi-beya.

Sd68 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd71 Tanabe (Kise) – As I remarked before the tournament, Fukuyama had only ever lost to Tanabe and Tanabe had only ever lost to Enho. And that has also continued: Fukuyama is 3-1 having lost to Tanabe on Day 6, while Tanabe is 4-0 and likely won’t see Enho unless there’s a yusho playoff. Fukuyama is idle on Day 9 while Tanabe takes on 35 year old Kasugakuni in a battle of two unbeaten rikishi at the lower end of the Sandanme ranks, possibly to determine who gets to fight Enho later.

Here’s some video of Tanabe getting the better of Fukuyama for the third time:

Jonidan

Jd4 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – We love Wakaichiro and have covered his basho extensively. He’s 2-2, but while he has a slight margin for a error in so much as he’ll almost certainly get promoted to Sandanme with 4 wins, we’re cheering for him to finish wish the maximum wins possible!

Jd15 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – The reigning Jonokuchi yusho holder was the other Jonidan rikishi I was looking at in this basho, but it doesn’t look like he’ll follow in the footsteps of so many others and make it two on the spin. His 3-1 record so far foreshadows a promotion to Sandanme if he can keep it going, but nothing less than perfection will do for the yusho.

Jonokuchi

Jk25 Shoji (Musashigawa) vs Jk26 Torakio (Naruto) – I marked out Shoji as a potential yusho winner before the basho and he is fulfilling that prediction so far with a 4-0 start. I also remarked that Torakio gave him a good run for his money in a Maezumo match that was better than some of the stuff we’ve seen in Makuuchi. However, while Shoji knocked off Torakio early to establish his dominance in their burgeoning rivalry, Torakio is 3-1 and clearly on course for a Jonidan promotion next time out.

Jk18 Sawanofuji (Isegahama) vs Jk28 Hattorizakura (Shikihide) – And finally, the fight for futility. A refresher: Sawanofuji entered 9-48 with 7 wins against Hattorizakura. Hattorizakura entered 1-75 with 1 win against Sawanofuji. We knew they would match up, and they did, with Sawanofuji taking the match over the hapless Hattorizakura (video of a very difficult to watch match, below). Sawanofuji then picked up a fusen win – any more of that and we may see him in Jonidan next term! As for Hattorizakura… we wish him many bowls of chankonabe.

(video clips c/o One and Only on YouTube!)

Aki: More “Ones to Watch”


Enho

Much has been made on these pages of the opportunities for up and coming rikishi in this Aki basho. It’s exciting. And while we typically are looking at those Maegashira who will look to impose themselves and make things difficult for their most established counterparts, it’s worth taking a look further down the banzuke at the hundreds of sumotori outside the professional ranks.

Many of us have a few firm favorites – indeed, Wakaichiro‘s results will be well documented in these quarters – so I figured it’s worth sharing some of mine. I’m not going to catch all of the talented rikishi here, so feel free to share your own in the comments.

Makushita

Ms3 Kizaki (Kise) – I’ve covered Kizaki a couple times now in my Heya power rankings roundups as he may be the next name to make the jump to Juryo for Kise. Starting from maezumo in early 2016, he’s never suffered a make-koshi and has a pair of lower division yusho. He’s handled the transition to Makushita well and a strong tournament here could be the last before we see him as a professional.

Ms14 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – One of the most covered men at this level, he hasn’t made the dominant start that we’ve seen from others who have become household names in recent years after entering in the upper reaches of Makushita. This tournament could be a bellwether in determining whether he’s set for a fast track to sekitori status or whether it’s going to take some time for him to establish himself.

Ms16 Wakatakagake (Arashio) vs Ms16 Murata (Takasago) – Both these gentlemen entered the banzuke together at Sandanme 100 earlier this year and have more or less tracked each other’s results beat for beat (both are 18-3 lifetime with Wakatakagake holding a Sandanme yusho via a playoff win over Murata). As they start to make their move, it’ll be interesting to see if they can continue to match results or if one can pull ahead.

Ms30 Ikegawa (Hakkaku) – Another rikishi with back to back zensho in his first basho (being advanced for the levels), he’s stuttered a bit upon reaching Makushita. Will be interesting to see if he can assert himself upon reaching the upper tiers.

Ms56 Obamaumi (Sakaigawa) – Not actually named after the President, but I love stories of rikishi who fell completely off the map before storming back to career highs. He wasn’t able to capitalise on his Makushita debut (8 years into his career) in Nagoya, but he’s got a second bite at the cherry here.

Ms57 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He’s thrashed his way through the lower divisions after entering the banzuke in March. What’s next?

Sandanme

Sd2 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Another rikishi who made quick work of the bottom two divisions, he’s slowly made his way through the crowded Sandanme tier this year. With injuries ravaging the top dogs at Isegahama, can he mark himself out as a consistent “one to watch”?

Sd11 Ryuko (Onoe) – Wakatakakage and Murata are an entire division ahead of him having entered higher up the banzuke, but like his more esteemed rivals Ryuko has an 18-3 career record having coughed up 2 of those losses against the yusho winners in those respective basho. Now he’s placed to fight for his own yusho and in a position where a winning record could give him a strong Makushita bow in Kyushu.

Sd18 Enho (Miyagino) – It’s 2 yusho in 2 attempts and now we’ll see what he’s made of. We’ve talked a bit about where the next superstar in Hakuho’s heya could come from, and he’s well placed to continue his rise.

Sd68 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd71 Tanabe (Kise) – Fukuyama’s sole losses in his opening two basho have been to Tanabe (whose own sole losses have come at the hands of Enho). Bizarrely, Fukuyama continues to hold a slightly higher rank on the banzuke.

Jonidan

Jd4 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Obviously!

Jd15 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – he won the Junokuchi yusho last time out, so worth a look. Will the schedulers put his road to another yusho attempt through our man Wakaichiro?

Jonokuchi

Jk25 Shoji (Musashigawa) vs Jk26 Torakio (Naruto) – The highest ranked of the five debutants after a clean performance in Maezumo, Shoji is “old” for the level at 23 having come from Saitama University, so it’ll be interesting to see if he sweeps all comers. Torakio meanwhile lost to Shoji in a really decent match (especially for maezumo!) that lasted about a minute, where he had Shoji on the edge and gave him a real good Kotoshogiku-style hug-n-chug that was ultimately unsuccessful as his elder counterpart lifted him up and turned him around. But mostly I’m interested in how he gets on being a new Bulgarian entrant making his first appearance in a basho.

Jk18 Sawanofuji (Isegahama) vs Jk28 Hattorizakura (Shikihide) – This is the battle of the bottom – two rikishi who just love sumo, and cannot possibly win. Sawanofuji is 9-48 lifetime with 7 of those 9 wins coming against Hattorizakura, whose astonishing 1-75 record in 11 basho served up his sole win against Sawanofuji. Sawanofuji (still only 16 despite making his 10th appearance at Aki) appears to be gaining some weight but Hattorizakura is unbelievably skinny despite being 3 years his foe’s senior. It seems unthinkable that these two will not meet again so long as they are both active, so perhaps Hattorizakura can break his streak of seven consecutive 0-7 tournaments!

Heya Power Rankings: August 2017


Welcome to the third installment of the Heya Power Rankings. The purpose of this series is to gauge how the various stables are performing relative to each other, and track their progress over time. Now that we’ve been looking at this over the first four basho of 2017, we can start to identify some trends.

For a refresher on the methodology and calculations behind these rankings, visit the original post. Let’s jump in:

chart-7

And in “Billboard” style Top 20 chart form (ties broken by previous ranking with the most recently better heya ranked higher):

  1. (+1) Miyagino. 107 points (even)
  2. (-1) Isegahama. 95 points (-29)
  3. (+1) Kasugano. 78 points (+20)
  4. (-1) Tagonoura. 75 points (even)
  5. (+4) Oitekaze. 48 points (+14)
  6. (-1) Sakaigawa. 47 points (-3)
  7. (+-) Kokonoe. 43 points (+2)
  8. (+-) Izutsu. 40 points (even)
  9. (+3) Dewanoumi. 35 points (+5)
  10. (-4) Oguruma. 32 points (-10)
  11. (-1) Kise. 25 points (-8)
  12. (+1) Sadogatake. 22 points (-7)
  13. (-2) Isenoumi. 20 points (-13)
  14. (+-) Kataonami. 20 points (-5)
  15. (+-) Takanohana. 18 points (-6)
  16. (+-) Hakkaku. 18 points (-5)
  17. (+-) Tokitsukaze. 15 points (-5)
  18. (+1) Takadagawa. 15 points (-2)
  19. (-1) Onomatsu. 13 points (-7)
  20. (**) Nishonoseki. 13 points (+5)

Movers

Well, there aren’t really that many, which may come as a surprise, but less points were awarded on the whole due to there only having been 2 special prizes this time, and a clear jun-yusho (Aoiyama). We can probably isolate 5 clear “winners” this time out:

Miyagino takes the top spot on the same points total as last time, so this is more a product of Isegahama not getting the production despite having twice as many rikishi. The only change here is that Yamaguchi and Ishiura trade make- and kachi-koshi, as of course Hakuho wins another yusho.

Kasugano makes another big points gain off the back of Aoiyama’s pushy-thrusty jun-yusho, but this isn’t as spectacular a gain as it would have been for another stable as it replaces Tochinoshin’s jun-yusho last time out. That being said, all three rikishi here performed well and even if they lose points for not mounting a championship push next time out, we should see some promotions and hopefully their inevitable fall down the power rankings won’t be so tough.

Oitekaze makes a big move up the charts off the back of Daiamami’s Juryo yusho. The fun might stop there. The stable is otherwise looking at a series of demotions (including the worrying health of top man and “Mr. Popularity” Endo) in spite of this, and will lose Tobizaru to Makushita in September.

Dewanoumi has moved up to the limit of what they can achieve without special prizes, yusho challenges or Ozeki promotions from Mitakeumi. Worryingly for a stable of 16 rikishi, only 2 of the men behind Mitakeumi have put up back to back kachi-koshi (and one of them is 33 year old Kihonoumi), so it’s going to be up to him for the foreseeable future. Finally, Shohozan propels Nishonoseki onto the listing in the final position, off the back of a nice tournament.

Losers

Andy referenced that he wanted to see what would happen to Sadogatake on this chart and the results are surprising – they actually move up a spot, but again this is just due to less points having been awarded in total, as the stable has lost 8, 6 and 7 of our points in each of the past three tournaments. Mostly this is of course due to Kotoshogiku fighting at lower levels and not winning, but this slide is going to continue as we’ll see demotions for all 3 sekitori. Kotodaigo will fight at his highest level in Makushita at Aki, but unless he has a big tournament then we won’t see him at Juryo until the new year, at which point the situation could be considerably more dire and there aren’t many more reinforcements coming any time soon.

Isegahama‘s drop is largely down to Terunofuji’s downturn in performance and Harumafuji’s failure to challenge for the yusho, but a decent tournament from either (however unlikely) could see them regain the top spot next time out. Kise takes a bit of a hit owing to Ura’s injury-influenced make-koshi, but will have a decent spot at at least holding their position next time out due to a pair of Juryo promotees in Kizenryu and Daisedo. The rest is much of a muchness, but a word for Isenoumi who will be reliant on Ikioi regaining his form to move back up the listings.

Up Next

We noted last time that Kise had reinforcements on the way, and had a remarkable 11 rikishi fighting at Ms19 or higher in Nagoya. Two have been promoted, but 24 year old university man Kizaki may not be far behind. We highlighted his performance last time out, as he’s never suffered a make-koshi in his 8 competitive tournaments so far (including zensho-yusho at Jonidan and Sandanme). He’s taken a minute to acclimate to Makushita but might be on the cusp at Aki, after another solid 5 win performance in Nagoya at Ms7. Shimanoumi’s Juryo comeback bid was halted in Nagoya, but having put up 3 wins he should get another bite at it this time.

Arashio-beya has been feasting and more recently in famine depending on Sokokurai’s results, but Wakatakakage has been rocketing up the banzuke and could be around to provide backup soon. He’ll be due a big promotion to the top end of Makushita after a 6-1 tournament. Likewise, Takasago‘s Murata may be arriving soon to provide backup for Asanoyama having lost the Natsu yusho duel to Wakatakakage back in Sandanme, and having adapted almost as well to the next level of competition.

A Day Out at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium


image1

I was fortunate enough to take in Day 2 of the Nagoya basho in person, so here’s a firsthand account of the day, the venue and the atmosphere.

Booking Tickets

At Bruce’s recommendation, I reached out to BuySumoTickets.com a couple months in advance to try and get tickets, and they delivered! I knew I would have time in Nagoya to go to either Day 1 or Day 2 (or both), and knowing how difficult it would be to get tickets owing to Nagoya being a smaller venue and the ever-rising popularity of the sport, this ended up being a safer option than booking my own tickets through NSK like I did for Hatsu before Tagonoura-beya changed the face of the banzuke with a pair of promotions.

We ended up getting Chair “A” seats. In the Kokugikan this will put you at the front of the second tier, but in the smaller venue this puts you at the very back of the arena. I also threw a pair of J-League 2 tickets into the bargain for Nagoya Grampus. The tickets arrived to California well in advance of my flight to Japan (which was 11 days before Day 2 of the basho), and the site was a pleasure to work with.

Arriving at the Gymnasium

Coming from near Nagoya station, we took the subway to Shiyakusho/City Hall station on the Meijo line. Exiting the station, you end up just on the edge of Meijo Park, which houses both the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium as well as Nagoya Castle. The park is nice and leafy and green, and provides a nice counterpoint to the majesty of the Kokugikan. We arrived at around noon, and the atmosphere outside was mostly subdued, with a handful of lower division rikishi walking around and the punters being generally easygoing and happy.

Entering the venue is quite cramped and I’m glad we arrived “early” (it would have been earlier if Wakaichiro had been competing!), as the hallway can only fit about 3-4 people across at a time which is quite a difference from the great hall that welcomes you to the Kokugikan! Already a handful of fans were queueing up for the arrival of the more vaunted rikishi, so we decided to make a lap around the arena and check out the merch and food options before heading to our seats.

Speaking of entering the venue, here’s a time-lapse of the makuuchi (west) rikishi getting started (sorry for the shaky camera – I had to hold it a LONG time!):

Merch, Food & Souvenirs

Keeping with the theme, both the diversity as well as the quantity of the merch and food offerings are downsized at Nagoya, however the dispersal and consistency of merch to be found is very impressive. You are just never far from a pretty good collection of sumo merch regardless of where you are in the venue. As it was a hot day, ice cold beer, water and ice cream were plentiful and there were plenty of roving vendors supplying ice cream throughout the day as well. There was a decent bento selection but we opted to grab some edamame and dango before heading to our seats. I’d been hopeful to get a cup of chankonabe, but there was quite a long queue and the signs around the venue made clear that today’s stew would be limited to 400 cups.

As the hallways were extremely narrow, it made purchasing merch (and boy, did I ever) a challenging proposition. When ordering multiple items, the vendors often needed to go around the shop to work out what each item cost before totalling them all up. It’s not quite a smooth of an operation as in Tokyo but everyone was extremely enthusiastic and thankful for the business.

And judging by what was on display, it was clear that shin-Ozeki Takayasu was the popular man – not only gracing most of the main magazines but also quite prominently across most of the featured food items and other souvenirs. There is just enormous love for Takayasu right now and most of the media coverage we saw leading up to the day centered squarely around him. Beyond that, as expected, Kisenosato and Hakuho were the other two big sellers.

image1 2
Yum!

Seats

Our seats were near the back of the arena on the west side, but the sight lines are outstanding in the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. There literally is not a bad seat there, and at the back the slope is just steep enough that you don’t need to worry about seeing over the row in front of you – there’s always a clear sight of the entire dohyo.

When we visited the Toyota Stadium a few days earlier to take in the Grampus match, we were able to book a “pairs seat,” which is a fantastic innovation in that it’s two seats with direct aisle access that has a mounted table in front (if you live in a city in America that has an Alamo Drafthouse movie theatre, it’s similar to this). This was unbelievably handy and it was cool to see that the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium also has these type of seats installed – I would highly recommend trying to book those seats if you are able. I will definitely try to do so on my next visit.

It was also interesting that both the tickets that I booked directly from the sumo association as well as the tickets I booked through BuySumoTickets put me amongst a large group of foreigners. It was cool to be able to explain what was going on to others and hopefully help them get more excited about the sport, but I will say that in future it would be good to be able to participate in more of the atmosphere by being surrounded by folks who know the sport. I have a feeling that may come simply by managing to get better/more expensive tickets. On the whole however, the tourist crowd was better in Nagoya as they were at least more interested in the matches – when I was in Tokyo in January there were several disinterested tour groups whose presence probably prevented a few genuine sumo fans from getting into the venue.

Finally, the one oft-discussed element of Nagoya has been the weather. While the hallways were very swampy and humid owing to doors being open to the outside, our seats themselves were very cool and comfortable. It rained earlier in the day which may have contributed to this, but since we weren’t anywhere near the hot lights down below, and the venue does have a degree of air conditioning, it was very nice. It only started getting warmer once the venue started to fill up, and the seats are VERY close together (by American standards). So I was only a little upset that I didn’t need to use my new Ura fan!

Matches

Bruce has largely covered this so I won’t go into too much detail, but it is true that the live experience is very different from both the extended coverage and the NHK highlights, both in terms of the cadence of the day as well as the angle you experience the match and the crowd.

We got to see huge wins for Takayasu, Tamawashi and Ura, and the crowd really exploded at each of those owing to the nature of each victory. In fact, the Australians behind us spilled their beer from celebrating when Ura won! Kisenosato seemed extremely defensive, and people seemed more relieved than anything at his win. Fans were really behind the typically popular rikishi – though one woman a couple rows down tended to scream out the name of whoever the crowd favorite was up against! The day of course ended with the Shodai kinboshi and as I’ve now been fortunate to experience that final match kinboshi on 2 occasions, the sight of seat cushions flying everywhere is just one of the coolest ways to end the day.

The Hakuho/Tochinoshin match was notable because you could really hear and feel the battle, and also because getting to sit and witness someone like Hakuho who is the very best at what they do is always special no matter what it is that they do. In a few years we will be talking about The Great Hakuho in the past tense, and being there for even just a piece of those 1,038 wins feels significant. And also, the chance to see this, perhaps one last time:

 

Projecting a Champion: Part 1


One of the interesting by-products of my dive into Miyagino-beya’s silver medal squad was uncovering a potential new jewel in Enho. For a stable that produces very little in talent behind possibly one of the greatest rikishi ever to walk the earth (and let’s be honest, Miyagino-oyakata can be forgiven for that), it was curious to see a newcomer blast his way to a 7-0 yusho in the lower levels.

When looking to see whether this was at all something he shared in common with the current crop of sekitori as a possible signal of success, the answer was overwhelmingly yes. Of course, it is not the only signal, and as with many other sports, so much can go wrong (injuries, confidence, new trainer, etc.). But several top level rikishi put up multiple such records in their early (first year) basho and many more did it at least once. So this then begs a new question: out of the hundreds of men trying to break their way into professional sumo, is it possible to use this indicator to pluck names from down the banzuke – and if it is, when do we expect to see them bringing honour to their heya? If they don’t manage it, how much harder is it to then reach the top? This will be the first part in a series to attempt to try and figure all of this out.

First things first, let’s look at the most recent crop of 70 sekitori. We can use the March banzuke as a guide to figure out if there’s a story here because any makuuchi/juryo promotions/demotions aren’t going to massively change the calculus and the turnover from juryo to makushita doesn’t meaningfully affect our sample size (and we’re not only interested in who might make it to Juryo 14W someday).

chart-3

What I’ve done here is split the sekitori into four categories: those who managed multiple 7-0 records in their first 6 full tournaments (post-maezumo), those who managed it one time, those who didn’t manage it, and those who didn’t manage it but were already in Juryo well before their 6th tournament (owing to entering the banzuke at makushita level as an amateur champion). This doesn’t tell the full story but it is somewhat telling that half of the professional ranks managed an early zensho. Of course, you’d expect the wrestlers who have been contending for titles their whole career to float towards the top, and so let’s see if that’s what we’ve got:

chart-4

chart-5

This confirms those suspicions. Makuuchi contains a higher number of rikishi to have put a zensho on the board their first year at least once (Kisenosato registered his first in his 7th basho otherwise this would have been more extreme), and as you’d expect it also contains a larger number of amateur champions who fast tracked their way to the top (and stayed there).

For the next parts in this series, we’ll start to look at how long it took these sekitori on average to reach juryo, and then start to look at the success rates of those who score this record and start to identify commonalities among them (kimarite, stature, etc), to model out who we might expect to charge up the banzuke soon and give us some more lower level candidates to track over the coming year. Again, this is just one of many signals – and there are many other intangible variables (stable, personality/confidence, etc) but it will be interesting to dig in and get an understanding of how impactful it is.

Heya Power Rankings: June 2017


With the banzuke announcement just a few days away, it’s time to revisit the Heya Power Rankings series. Thanks to everyone who commented on the first version of this post – this time I’ve been able to make the key update of stacking the bars vertically, and hopefully by the time August rolls around I can get them sorted properly and then we’ll really be off and running!

For a refresher on the methodology and calculations behind these rankings, visit the original post. I’m pretty happy with how this held up for the second version – for example the accomplishments of Tochinoshin (kachi-koshi and jun-yusho from M12) are ranked equivalent to Tamawashi’s kachi-koshi at S1, and that seems fair. Without further ado:

chart-2

And in “Billboard” style Top 20 chart form (ties broken by previous ranking with the most recently better heya ranked higher):

  1. (+1) Isegahama. 124 points (-1)
  2. (+2) Miyagino. 107 points (+57)
  3. (-2) Tagonoura. 75 points (-55)
  4. (+5) Kasugano. 58 points (+24)
  5. (-2) Sakaigawa. 50 points (-10)
  6. (+5) Oguruma. 42 points (+15)
  7. (-1) Kokonoe. 41 points (-2)
  8. (-3) Izutsu. 40 points (-5)
  9. (-2) Oitekaze. 34 points (-4)
  10. (+3) Kise. 33 points (+9)
  11. (+7) Isenoumi. 33 points (+18)
  12. (+3) Dewanoumi. 30 points (+10)
  13. (-5) Sadogatake. 29 points (-6)
  14. (-2) Kataonami. 25 points (even)
  15. (-5) Takanohana. 24 points (-6)
  16. (-2) Hakkaku. 23 points (even)
  17. (-1) Tokitsukaze. 20 points (even)
  18. (**) Onomatsu. 20 points (+15)
  19. (**) Takadagawa. 17 points (+8)
  20. (**) Minato.  / (-3) Tomozuna. (both 13 points)

Movers

Isegahama takes the top spot this month on a slightly diminished score owing to quality AND quantity: Terunofuji’s second straight jun-yusho and consistent levels of performance across the board push them up to the summit. Miyagino vaults up as the greatest gainer on points owing mostly to Hakuho’s zensho-yusho (we’re not currently giving a bonus score for a 15-0, but this is something to think about), and Ishiura grabbing a KK didn’t hurt.

Kasugano takes a big jump up the listing owing to a big performance from Tochinoshin which more than offset declines elsewhere. Yoshikaze’s special prize gives Oguruma a boost, while all four Kise rikishi grabbed winning records to propel the stable forward with modest gains. Isenoumi is the greatest chart gainer with just two rikishi, but Nishikigi’s Juryo yusho and Ikioi’s regained form give the heya a big boost. Dewanoumi’s sole contributor Mitakeumi grabbed a special prize and he’ll likely have a good shot to maintain his score next time out as he will in all likelihood fight at a higher level.

Finally, 3 new heya hit the chart as Onosho’s performance drives Onomatsu, Kagayaki and Ryuden’s solid performances put Takadagawa on the board, and Ichinojo grabs a kachi-koshi for Minato.

Losers

Tagonoura lose their grip on the top, but this is simply owing to Kisenosato not winning (in any capacity). Their top 3 spot should be relatively safe however, with Takayasu’s promotion confirmed, and both of them when on-form now represent title challengers. Elsewhere, Sakaigawa takes a hit just owing to Toyohibiki coming off a Juryo yusho onto a make-koshi and not much support among the rest of the crew beyond Goeido. Meanwhile, Kokonoe’s quality doesn’t translate to quality as despite 6 sekitori, only 3 could manage winning records and the toppermost – Chiyonokuni and Chiyoshoma – ran into a san’yaku slaughterhouse.

Up Next

Takanohana could be set for another dip, with Takagenji heading out of Juryo and Takanoiwa and Takakeisho likely swapping ends of the banzuke. Tomozuna’s fortunes will also likely get worse before they get better, with Asahisho likely following Takagenji, moviestar Kyokutaisei set for a drop down to the nether regions of Juryo, and Kaisei looking like he may only be a couple tournaments behind.

Shikoroyama (not ranked) should grab their second Juryo rikishi as Abi should certainly be promoted (5-2 at Ms1), and one would think Iwasaki (6-1 at Ms2) would join him in the pro ranks to give Oitekaze a shot in the arm. If Daishoho can get his act together soon and join up later this year, the stable would have a truly impressive number of rikishi in the top 2 divisions.

Kise had a great basho at Natsu as outlined above and they may also be ready to call on reinforcements soon: they boasted 7 rikishi between Makushita 1 and Makushita 12 and while none look like certain promotion candidates for Nagoya… ALL of them scored winning records, as did 2 of the 3 just behind (so that’s 13 of their top 14 with a kachi-koshi – bear in mind some stables don’t even have that many rikishi in total!). As always with the larger stables, a number of these guys are journeymen and also-rans, but the names to watch here are Shimanoumi (5-2 at Ms5W won’t get the job done this time, but he’s scored no less than 5 lower division unbeaten yusho and will be determined to get back to Juryo after fighting back from a period out of competition), and former university man Kizaki (who has raced to the top of Makushita in a year with 7 straight KK, including a pair of yusho).

Beyond The Boss


Hakuho is a legend, and if you are reading this site then you probably know this. The meteoric rise, all the titles, all the techniques, all the style and lately, all the attitude. There’s a lot that’s interesting about Hakuho, and you could probably do a whole site just about him. However that’s not only why you’re here, and so we’re going to talk about Hakuho in the context of not really talking about Hakuho.

One of the things that has been discussed quite a bit recently on the site is that there are some interesting story lines involving top rikishi and their relationships with others within their stable: Kisenosato and Takayasu, Terunofuji and Shunba, etc. There are also a number of rikishi at the top who hail from notable heya which have stacked the banzuke with talent. To name just a few: the Isegahama powerhouse, belly bop king Kotoshogiku topping the ranks of the prolific Sadogatake stable, and of course the incredible volume of wrestlers created of late by Kokonoe.

But Miyagino, Hakuho’s stable, hasn’t produced a whole lot of note beyond the man himself over the past 20 years. There are potentially numerous reasons for this. One of them is that they simply don’t carry many rikishi – there haven’t been more than a dozen at a given time since Hakuho’s emergence. Another might be that perhaps the stable just isn’t good at producing talent in general: Hakuho’s emergence in its own right was unexpectedly one of the greatest stories in sports after no other heya would accept him and Miyagino took him on only as a promise and/or had him foisted upon the stable, depending how you hear the story told. Still yet another reason could come from dysfunction at the very top: stablemaster and architect of legends Chikubayama was forced to give up the elder stock to Kanechika who obtained it by marrying the daughter of the previous holder (perhaps not a recipe for coaching excellence in any sport). Kanechika was a fun guy who, after eventually having to hand the elder stock back over to Chikubayama after getting snaffled in a match fixing claim, then had his assistant eat a whole tub of wasabi in addition to inflicting a bunch of other punishments upon him (what’s not to love?).

All of that turmoil can’t have been helpful, but let’s look at it by the books. Here are the four men who have been #2 to The Boss since his ascendance to top dog at Miyagino in March 2004:

  • Kobo: a journeyman and one of the first products of Chikubayama to become sekitori, he was already on the down slope by early 2004 and only made a solitary appearance (at Maegashira 17!) in the top division after Hakuho surpassed him. His career as a sekitori was over 3 years later.
  • Ryuo: a Mongolian who surpassed Kobo at Nagoya 2006, but whose career was spent almost entirely in the bottom divisions. He managed 4 tournaments in makuuchi and only one kachi-kochi (though he did manage to claim the scalps of young Kisenosato and Goeido during his brief stay). He finished his career with 4 unbroken years as a Makushita before calling it quits.
  • Yamaguchi: some 6 years later, he appears at Haru 2012 out of Nihon University and instantly becomes the second highest ranked in the stable upon his debut. Managed a single makuuchi bout as Daikiho before everything fell apart and he tumbled down to Sandanme. He has been working his way back up over the past 4 years however and seemed like a good bet to challenge for a makuuchi promotion in the near future before a catastrophic Natsu basho landed him with a 10 loss make-koshi in a tournament which, as this site has covered, was both a massively up-for-grabs and turgid affair. Still only 28 though, and with a lack of can’t miss talent at his current level, could be back in the big time by 2018 if he can string together some winning records over the rest of the year.
  • Ishiura: at Nagoya 2014, having just been dealt his first make-koshi after a strong start to his career (including two lower division yusho), Ishiura moves past Yamaguchi and he’s been at that level since. Notably, he possesses a pedigree the 3 aforementioned rikishi do not and makes quick work of the lower divisions, making his pro debut in 2 years. We’ve all seen quite a bit of him over the past 4 basho in makuuchi and his evolution from henka-addict to a more respectable rikishi trying to develop what he would probably describe as “his brand of sumo.” Namely, not being a particularly excellent pusher-thruster or mawashi man or as flexible as Ura, he seems to either run around a lot or just get in low and try to pull his man down, and will need some more developed facets of his game if he’s able to consolidate and push up the banzuke in a meaningful way.

Beyond these folks, there just hasn’t been anyone of quality at all in the stable since Hakuho started to dominate the sumo world, which makes Hakuho’s achievement all the more stunning in that no one else that his coach has coached has even shown promise of being a top level rikishi until Ishiura.

One of the signals of a fast moving rikishi is racking up multiple unbeaten records/yusho at the lower levels (in many cases back to back) in their first few basho, and so for this reason it will be worth keeping an eye on young Enho who went unbeaten in his first tournament at Natsu and will make his Jonidan bow at Nagoya. Many rikishi who have made a dent on the top division, including Goeido, Yoshikaze, Ishiura, Aoiyama, Hokutofuji, Takakeisho, Sokokurai, Ura, and the recently deposed Yutakayama, have managed this. Many, many others at the level managed at least a single early yusho in their first tournaments (notably, Hakuho did not, mostly owing to his unique development as a very slight rikishi in his younger days).

Given that the percentage of rikishi reaching the top level is so small to begin with, and the number of Miyagino rikishi reaching that level is just 2-3 per decade, it will be interesting to see if Enho can establish himself. Of course it is silly to read too much into a rikishi at this stage of their career, though his sumo best seems to be described as “composed.” He appeared unrattled in all 7 wins at Natsu and the only rikishi to even put up a serious challenge was his former university-mate Tanabe, who created a fight better than some of the stuff we get on the NHK highlights (Enho is the little guy):

Hakuho is obviously a force, and statistically he will retire in serious contention to be debated among the very greatest of all time. A lot of this comes from his background, his sheer desire to continue to develop, and his coaching. But it is curious in the context that his stable does not possess a particularly keen ability to scout and develop as evidenced by their lack of ability to put a second even competitive product onto the dohyo. Hopefully at least, with continued improvement from Ishiura and the development of rikishi like Enho, that could soon change.