Haru Special Prizes

The January winners

Sanshō 三賞, literally “three prizes” are the three special prizes awarded to top (Makuuchi) division sumo wrestlers for exceptional performance during a sumo honbasho or tournament. The prizes were first awarded in November 1947. The three prizes are:
Shukun-shō (殊勲賞), Outstanding Performance prize
Kantō-shō (敢闘賞), Fighting Spirit prize
Ginō-shō (技能賞), Technique prize


Who will get the trophies and the ¥2 million that comes with them? The prizes are voted on before the final day’s bouts take place, but some are conditional on a rikishi winning his last bout or on more exotic outcomes, such as winning the yusho. This Chris Gould video provides a rare inside look into the deliberations that took place in January:

The results of the vote for the March tournament have just been announced. And the only unconditional award is a well-deserved Outstanding Performance Prize for Ichinojo. There are quite a few conditional prizes as well: Kotoshogiku and Takakeisho could claims theirs with victories, and a prize is on the line in the Aoiyama vs. Tomokaze bout.

Shukun-sho (Outstanding Performance Award)

West Maegashira #4 Ichinojo (Altankhuyag Ichinnorov) 
Minato Beya
Date of Birth: April 7, 1993 (25 years old)
Place of Birth: Mongolia
2014 January Debut

Kanto-sho (Fighting Spirit Prize)

East Maegashira #7 Aoiyama (Daniel Ivanov)  conditionally
Kasugano Beya
Date of Birth: June 19, 1986 (32 years old)
Place of Birth: Bulgaria
2009 July Debut

Kanto-sho (Fighting Spirit Prize)

West Maegashira #8 Kotoshogiku (Kazuhiro Kikutsugi)  conditionally
Sadogatake Beya
Date of Birth: January 30, 1984 (35 years old)
Place of Birth: Fukuoka
2002 January Debut

Kanto-sho (Fighting Spirit Prize)

East Maegashira #13 Tomokaze (Yuta Minami)  conditionally
Oguruma Beya
Date of Birth: December 2, 1994 (24 years old)
Place of Birth: Kanagawa
2017 May Debut

Gino-sho (Technique Prize)

East Sekiwake Takakeisho(Takanobu Sato)  conditionally
Chiganoura Beya
Date of Birth: August 5, 1996 (22 years old)
Place of Birth: Hyogo
2014 September Debut

Haru Storylines, Day 14

A special expanded edition of the “storylines” series today, going into senshuraku.

The Yusho Race

Yokozuna Hakuho (14-0) stands one victory away from his 42nd championship, and 15th zensho yusho. Tomorrow, he faces fellow Yokozuna Kakuryu (10-4), whom he’s bested in 42 of 49 prior encounters, in the traditional closing match of the tournament. By then, he’ll know if his sole pursuer, M4 Ichinojo (13-1), has matched him at 14 wins. Ichinojo gets the highest-ranked available opponent who had a winning record going into Day 14, M2 Daieisho (7-7). Ichinojo lost their first bout 3 years ago, but prevailed in the next 3.

The Ozeki Playoff

A few days ago, it seemed rather unlikely that the senshuraku match between Ozeki Tochinoshin (7-7) and Sekiwake Takakeisho (9-5) would be a de facto “exchange bout,” but all the stars aligned so that this is indeed the case. For Tochinoshin, a win secures his rank, while a loss will see him at “Ozekiwake” in May, needing 10 wins to immediately reascend to Ozeki. For Takakeisho, a win means likely if not certain promotion to sumo’s second-highest rank, while a loss at the very least delays it till May, and it would probably take a near-yusho-winning performance at Natsu to pull it off. Takakeisho has dominated their matchup 5-1, with his only loss coming during Tochinoshin’s yusho-winning campaign in January 2018.

The San’yaku Ranks

It looks like three slots will be open, with West Sekiwake Tamawashi (5-9), East Komusubi Mitakeumi (6-8), and West Komusubi Hokutofuji (6-8) all dropping into the rank-and-file. One Sekiwake slot should be occupied by the loser of the Tochinoshin-Takakeisho bout, unless Takakiesho wins but is denied promotion.

Win or lose, Ichinojo should be Sekiwake at Natsu, rejoining the rank he held for the final four basho of 2018. One Komusubi slot should go to Aoiyama (M7, 11-3); the other will be decided between Daieisho and Kotoshogiku (M8, 11-3).

Special Prizes

Ichinojo should get one or more prizes for sure. Tomokaze should get a fighting spirit prize if he can reach double-digit victories in his Makuuchi debut by winning tomorrow; it won’t be easy, as he is matched with Aoiyama, who himself might claim a prize with a win. I’m not sure if, as a former Ozeki, Kotoshogiku would be in line for one even with a 12-3 record. Other possibilities are Takakeisho if he wins, and Meisei if he reaches double digits for the first time in Makuuchi.

The Make/Kachi Line

Eight rikishi have left their promotion/demotion fate to be decided on the final day, going into senshuraku with 7-7 records. One is the aforementioned Tochinoshin, who obviously has a lot more on the line than a mere winning vs. losing record. At the opposite end of the banzuke, the last man in Makuuchi, M17e Chiyoshoma, probably needs to win to stay in the top division. For the other six, pride and smaller moves up or down the banzuke are at stake. Some got off to a strong start only to fade; others have recorded most of their victories in the second week. Without further ado, the six are: M2 Daieisho (who could be in line for a San’yaku debut with a win), M5 Chiyotairyu, M6 Okinoumi, M6 Abi, M7 Takarafuji, and M8 Asanoyama. Somewhat surprisingly, there are no “Darwin bouts” matching 7-7 rikishi, so all eight men can succeed or fail in their quests to claim the all-important 8th victory.

The Makuuchi <-> Juryo Exchange

This is a good basho to be bad in Makuuchi, as the performances in
Juryo did not create a lot of even borderline promotion candidates, and Chiyonokuni’s unfortunate kyujo accounts for one of the needed slots. Nevertheless, Yutakayama (M16w, 3-11) has managed to limbo under a very low bar, and will be in Juryo in May.

Who will be joining him? There is no shortage of candidates! Toyonoshima (M14w, 4-10) and Ikioi (M9w, 2-12) already sport records that would guarantee demotion in any normal tournament, but their victories today leave them hoping that a win tomorrow, combined with losses by others, could leave them clinging to the bottom of the top division by their fingernails. Who are the men they need to lose on senshuraku? Take your pick from among Daishoho (M16e, 6-8), Terutsuyoshi (M14e, 5-9), Kotoeko (M15w, 6-8), Chiyoshoma (M17e, 7-7), and Ishiura (M15e, 6-8). That’s a whopping nine men at risk of demotion, if you’re counting. There’s only one grisly pairing between two of them: Terutsuyoshi vs. Ikioi, with the loser all but assured of a trip to Juryo.

Who wants to go up to Makuuchi in May? Anybody? If you have 8 wins in Juryo, raise your hand! Going into Day 15, there are only two records in the second division that would normally warrant promotion, and these belong to the J1 pair who got snubbed the last time. Shimanoumi (J1e, 12-2) will make his top-division debut after an impressive second-straight Juryo yusho, going J11 -> J1 -> mid-maegashira! Chiyomaru (J1w, 9-5) is set to join him.

Since these are not normal times, Enho (J2w, 8-6) should reach the top division even with an 8-7 record, and Tokushoryu (J4w, 8-6) might be able to do so from an even lower rank; Enho is certainly in with a victory, and Tokushoryu likely is too. And while their records would not be good enough even with senshuraku victories under any other circumstances, I’m not crossing Takagenji (M4e, 7-7), Kyokyshuho (J6e, 8-6), and Wakatakakage (J5e, 7-7) off the list just yet.

Haru Storylines, Day 13

The Yusho Race

All 4 rikishi who went into Day 13 with a 10-2 record lost today, so with two days to go we have a simple if somewhat unexpected two-pony race. Yokozuna Hakuho ran his record to 13-0 in pursuit of his 42nd championship. The only man with a chance to stop him is M4 Ichinojo (12-1), who continued his dominant form. Hakuho’s remaining bouts are against Ozeki Takayasu and fellow Yokozuna Kakuryu, both 10-3. He leads the head-to-head series against these opponents by 17-2 and 42-7, respectively.

In the bout of the day, Ichinojo is matched with promotion-seeking Sekiwake Takakeisho (9-4) tomorrow. Takakeisho leads the series 7-2, and can likely clinch his ascension to Ozeki with a victory, but this is not the same Ichinojo he’s faced in the past. Ichinojo’s final opponent will likely be the highest-ranked available option—the other Sekiwake, Tamawashi.

Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin

His loss today against Kakuryu dropped the Georgian to 6-7. Unless he can prevail in both of his remaining bouts, against Tamawashi and Takakeisho, he will be Sekiwake in May and will have to put up 10 wins at the Natsu basho to return to Ozeki.

Takakeisho’s Ozeki Run

Takakeisho’s win over Takayasu ran his total to 9 and added a high-quality victory to his collection. A win against Ichinojo tomorrow or against Tochinoshin on senshuraku should see him promoted. If he loses and Tochinoshin wins in tomorrow’s bouts, then their Sunday clash will decide which one will be Ozeki in May.

The San’yaku Ranks

Today’s loss by Tamawashi (5-8) ensures that he’ll vacate his Sekiwake slot; one more loss will drop him out of San’yaku altogether. East Komusubi Mitakeumi also picked up his 8th loss, and should join West Komusubi Hokutofuji (5-8) in the rank-and-file in May.

Ichinojo has locked up the number one spot in the promotion queue and will be back in the San’yaku ranks at Natsu. The other leading promotion contenders are Aoiyama (M7, 10-3), Daieisho (M2, 7-6), and Kotoshogiku (M8, 10-3).

The Makuuchi <-> Juryo Exchange

As things stand at the moment, we have 3 down and 3 up. Dropping out of the top division: Chiyonokuni (M12e, 0-0-13), Yutakayama (M16w, 3-10), and Toyonoshima (M14w, 3-10).

Coming up from Juryo: Shimanoumi (J1e, 11-2), Chiyomaru (J1w, 9-4), Enho (J2w, 8-5).

Also already demotable: Ikioi (M9w, 1-12). Nobody wants to see tomorrow’s horror show bout between the ghost of Ikioi and the walking dead Yutakayama.

Terutsuyoshi (M14e, 4-9) needs to win out to have even a marginal top-division record, while Daishoho (M16e, 6-7), Kotoeko (M15w, 6-7), Chiyoshoma (M17e, 7-6), and Ishiura (M15e, 6-7) need one apiece. Holding on to hopes of promotion in case of a sufficiently ugly lower Makuuchi finish are Tokushoryu (J4w, 7-6) and perhaps even Wakatakakage (J5e, 7-6) and Daiamami (J3w, 6-7). The fact that they’re possibly in contention at all tells you just how bad things have been near the bottom of the top division.

Haru Storylines, Day 12

Three days remain in the exciting Haru basho, and with apologies to Bruce, almost everything of consequence has yet to be decided. Here are the storylines to follow in the closing days.

The Yusho Race

Yokozuna Hakuho leads with a 12-0 record. Tomorrow, he faces one of his pursuers, Ozeki Goeido (10-2). His remaining two bouts should be against the other 10-2 Ozeki, Takayasu, and his fellow Yokozuna, Kakuryu (9-3).

M4 Ichinojo (11-1) remained one off the pace with a dominating victory over Asanoyama. His degree of difficulty goes up tomorrow with a bout against Komusubi Mitakeumi (5-7), who leads the head-to-head 6-3. Mitakeumi is a challenging opponent even at less than 100%, although if Ichinojo maintains his current form, he should prevail. I am guessing that we will see Ichinojo matched with Takakeisho on Saturday. The options for his final opponent include Tamawashi, Hokutofuji, and Kotoshogiku.

Only Kakuryu fell out of the 10-2 hunt group today, leaving 4 two-off-the-pace pursuers: Takayasu, Goeido, M7 Aoiyama and M8 Kotoshogiku.

Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin

Tochinoshin was unable to record a second career win against Hakuho, and his record stands even at 6-6, leaving him two victories short of the required 8. His remaining three bouts should be against Kakuryu, Tamawashi, and Takakeisho, with the last of these possibly deciding which of them will be Ozeki in May.

Takakeisho’s Ozeki Run

Takakeisho could not avenge his promotion-denying loss to Goeido at Hatsu, and fell to 8-4. Like Tochinoshin, he also needs 2 wins from 4 bouts to be Ozeki in May. He will try to break his two-bout losing streak tomorrow when he faces Takayasu, who leads the head-to-head 6-2. This is likely to be followed by a bout against a rampaging Ichinojo, and, if Takakeisho splits the next two matches, a potential winner-take-all clash with Tochinoshin on senshuraku.

The San’yaku Ranks

Remarkably, with only three days remaining, the number of open San’yaku slots could still mathematically range from zero to four. The zero slot scenario: Takakeisho fails to be promoted, Tochinoshin is demoted, and the duo occupies the two Sekiwake slots. Tamawashi (5-7) goes 2-1 and drops to Komusubi, while Mitakeumi wins out and defends his rank. The four slot scenario: Tochinoshin clears kadoban, Takakeisho becomes Ozeki, Tamawashi loses more than one bout, and Mitakeumi picks up a loss. Of course, in all likelihood, we’ll end up somewhere in between.

Ichinojo has all but locked up the number one spot in the promotion queue; only Aoiyama has a slim chance of catching him. The other best-positioned contenders are Kotoshogiku and Daieisho (M2, 6-6) should the latter be able to reach kachi-koshi.

The Makuuchi <-> Juryo Exchange

This will be interesting, as with three days to go, quite a few Makuuchi rikishi have not done enough to avoid demotion territory, while the list of promotion candidates in Juryo is rather slim. Even with some over-promotions, a number of top-division rikishi may be thanking their lucky stars come banzuke day.

Dropping out of the top division: Chiyonokuni. Taking his spot: Shimanoumi (J1e, 10-2).

Already failed to do enough to avoid demotion, and must hope for a lot of banzuke luck: Yutakayama (M16w, 3-9).

Already right on the bubble, cannot afford any more losses, and might face demotion despite winning out: Toyonoshima (M14w, 3-9), Terutsuyoshi (M14e, 3-9).

Probably need to win out to be safe: Ikioi (M9w, 1-11), Daishoho (M16e, 5-7).

Needs two wins to be safe: Chiyoshoma (M17e, 6-6).

Still need a win for mathematical safety, but may be okay anyway given the long list of those in worse shape: Kotoeko, Ishiura, Sadanoumi, Yago.

Chiyomaru (J1w, 8-4) will be the second Juryo man to go up, and his many fans will be happy to see round boi make a comeback. Enho (J2w, 7-5) took a step closer to promotion, and one more win might do it, given the sorry state of lower Makuuchi. The only other remaining realistic promotion candidate is Tokushoryu (J4w, 7-5), although someone else could get lucky with a record not usually good enough to warrant a jump to the top division.