Aki banzuke crystal ball


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My Nagoya banzuke predictions turned out to be reasonably accurate. This last basho created quite a mess, and a less predictable banzuke––I don’t envy the guys who have to make the real thing, which we will get to see on August 28. I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Takayasu Goeido
O2 Terunofuji  

No change in the Yokozuna pecking order after Nagoya. The real question is whether we will have more than one Yokozuna start, much less finish, the next basho. Takayasu takes over the top Ozeki spot after putting up the only reasonably solid Ozeki performance at Nagoya. Goeido and Terunofuji are both kadoban, and I hope Terunofuji can recover from his persistent injuries.


Lower San’yaku

Usually, this part of the banzuke is relatively predictable. Not so this time. Kotoshogiku drops out of San’yaku for the first time since 2010. The only certainties are that Mitakeumi will hold the S1e slot, and that Yoshikaze will remain in San’yaku after going 9-6 at Komusubi. Otherwise, there’s quite a logjam for the remaining slots, and a lot of uncertainty as to who will end up where. The contenders:

Tamawashi, who went 7-8 at Sekiwake and will drop at least to Komusubi after four tournaments at the higher rank.

Tochiozan, who had a great tournament at 12-3 as maegashira 5, defeating an Ozeki and both Sekiwake along the way.

Aoiyama, the Jun-Yusho and special prize winner, who went an amazing 13-2 as maegashira 8, but didn’t beat or even fight anyone of note until his defeat of a fading Yoshikaze on the final day.

Tochinoshin, who more than held his own in the meat grinder as maegashira 2, fighting all the big guns and defeating a Yokozuna, an Ozeki, both Sekiwake and a Komusubi on his way to a 9-6 record.

By the numbers, I would rank-order the 5 contenders for the 3 slots behind Mitakeumi as  Tochiozan, Yoshikaze, Aoiyama, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, placing Tochiozan in the S1w slot, Yoshikaze and Aoiyama in the Komusubi slots, and leaving Tochinoshin and Tamawashi out in the cold. However, being in San’yaku confers certain privileges: Yoshikaze probably gets first dibs on the Sekiwake slot, and Tamawashi is unlikely to drop lower than Komusubi despite coming in last on the list above. Judging by past history, none of the performances were sufficiently strong to “force” the creation of extra San’yaku slots. So I’m going to go with the prediction below, much as it pains me to leave out Tochinoshin.

S Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
K Tochiozan Tamawashi

The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4e ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition (as we saw in Nagoya, the exact “joi” boundary is fuzzy, and changes during the tournament after withdrawals and, to some extent, based on performances to that point).

The meat grinder ranks actually acquitted themselves relatively well in Nagoya, unlike the disasters of the previous two basho. Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji both earned their kachi-koshi, and each deserves to be one rank higher up the banzuke, but there isn’t room. Onosho should find himself at M3 after two extremely impressive 10-5 tournaments following his Makuuchi debut. He seems unintimidated by anyone, and may hold his own despite his lack of experience. Chiyotairyu and Shohozan put up the only other solid records in the mid-maegashira ranks, and find themselves vaulting up the banzuke from M10.

M1 Tochinoshin Aoiyama
M2 Hokutofuji Kotoshogiku
M3 Onosho Chiyotairyu
M4 Shohozan

Mid-maegashira

The rest of Makuuchi was a mess of of make-koshi records, ranging from bad to worse, and some weak kachi-koshi performances among the lower ranks. This makes it difficult to come up with a fair and consistent rank order. Rikishi with 7-8 records in a weak field are especially hard to place, as their computed rank may suggest a promotion, which as far as I know is never done for kachi-koshi records. One can start by dividing the rikishi into groups of similar projected rank, and then worry about the order within each group.

Group 1, M4w-M5w: Ura, Shodai, Takakeisho.

Everyone’s favorite Ura managed a 7-8 record at M4e despite being thrown into the meat grinder prematurely and getting injured as a result. Shodai and Takakeisho each went 5-10 at M1. It would be reasonable either to place Ura at M4w, with the other two at M5, or to flip this order. Given that Ura went make-koshi, that he was under-ranked last basho, and that Shodai tends to get over-ranked, I have a feeling NSK will do the latter, despite Ura’s slightly higher computed rank.

Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.

Ichinojo put up another lackluster performance, going 7-8. He should drop in rank, but there are no other reasonable contenders for M6e. Kagayaki has the best claim of the rest to M6w.

Group 3, M7-M9: Ishiura, Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, Takanoiwa, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji.

A mix of poor records higher up the banzuke and better records quite far down the banzuke. Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, and Takanoiwa deserve bigger drops in rank, but Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji did not earn this much of a promotion. Ishiura actually has the best computed rank, and deserves the M7e slot, but since he went make-koshi (7-8) at M8w, he can’t be ranked any higher than that. The main question in this group is whether to place him at M8w, or move him below the two kachi-koshi guys, Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji. As with Ura, I’m opting for the lower rank.

Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.

This is straightforward: M12 guys both went 8-7 and move up to M10.

Group 5, M11-M12: Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei.

This order drops Daishomaru (M11w, 7-8) below Chiyomaru (M15w, 9-6), but keeps him above Kaisei, the top Juryo escapee.

M4 Shodai
M5 Takakeisho Ura
M6 Ichinojo Kagayaki
M7 Ikioi Chiyoshoma
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyonokuni
M9 Takarafuji Ishiura
M10 Arawashi Takekaze
M11 Daieisho Chiyomaru
M12 Daishomaru Kaisei

Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions

Sadanoumi and Nishigiki earned Makuuchi stays by going kachi-koshi. Endo and Okinoumi suffer big drops but should be safe. Gagamaru earned a quick return to Juryo and should fall far down the Juryo banzuke, while Kotoyuki also definitely earned a demotion. Yutakayama and Asanoyama should definitely join Kaisei in Makuuchi, one of them at the expense of Sokokurai. This would mark a Makuuchi debut for Asanoyama. I think that Myogiryu will claim the last promotion slot, which will be vacated by Tokushoryu, and that Aminishiki will just miss out on promotion.

M13 Sadanoumi Endo
M14 Okinoumi Nishikigi
M15 Yutakayama Asanoyama
M16 Myogiryu
J1 Aminishiki Tokushoryu
J2 Sokokurai

Looking toward Nagoya


What a great tournament we just had! To me, what stood out is the large number of outstanding performances throughout the banzuke, from Hakuho‘s zensho yusho all the way down to Onosho‘s 10-5 record in his Makuuchi debut. Terunofuji got his Jun-yusho, and would have been in contention on the final day if not for his early hiccups on days 1 and 2. Takayasu handled the pressure and will be ozeki in Nagoya. Tamawashi may have started his own ozeki run, and has been fighting at that level. Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze held their own in San’yaku, and Shodai, Takakeisho, Tochinoshin, Hokutofuji, Ikioi, and Ura all put up great numbers in the maegashira ranks.

We don’t get the official Nagoya banzuke until June 26, but here are some early thoughts on the top and bottom of the banzuke.

The yokozuna ranks should get reshuffled as follows:

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu

We will have 3 ozeki: Terunofuji, Goeido, and Takayasu.

Tamawashi will keep his sekiwake rank, and Mitakeumi should join him.

Yoshikaze will keep his komusubi rank, and I think Kotoshogiku did just enough to only drop down to the other komusubi slot.

We should have a strong new crop of upper maegashira, who may even fare better than their predecessors at these ranks:

M1 Shodai Takakeisho
M2 Tochinoshin Hokutofuji
M3 Ikioi Ura

At the other end of the banzuke, Yutakayama, Myogiryu, and Toyohibiki will find themselves in Juryo, replaced in Makuuchi by Sadanoumi, Chiyomaru, and Nishigiki. I think Kaisei will just barely hang on to the top division at M16. They could swap him with Gagamaru, but what would be the point?

Full banzuke prediction to come once I’ve had some time to digest Natsu.

Turbold Baasansuren Debuts in Makushita & Test of Translation Engines


Today’s headlines bring more news about how the May banzuke will shake out. According to the Mainichi newspaper (Mainichi literally means “Every Day” re: “Daily”), two college yokozunas have had their professional debuts approved. They will debut in makushita division at makushita 15. I didn’t see shikona in the article and haven’t found anything on the Sumo Kyokai website but will bring that to you as soon as I can. Their real names are Turbold Baasansuren, the first foreigner to achieve Yokozuna rank in amateur sumo, and Takanori Yago, both from Chuo University. Several other headlines discuss Turbold because, as a foreigner from Mongolia who chose college over immediately going pro, he’s a bit of a trailblazer. Anyway, getting to the actual headline:

幕下付け出し2人を承認

With a hat tip and thanks to reader Asashosakari, I decided to test out the other translation engines he suggested. In the comments of an earlier post, he pointed out that Yahoo! Japan and Excite Japan have their own Japanese to English translation engines. Today, I thought I’d toss this headline in each engine and see which word sausage tastes best. Google, by any account, tastes like stale McDonalds breakfast sausage. The other two were much better but not perfect, definitely some good pub bangers, though. Much more satisfying. Japanese is really hard to translate, especially for machines, and especially given the context of sumo which is not exactly a day-to-day usage.

According to Google: “Approved two curtain gifts.”
Yahoo! Japan: “I begin to acquire a junior division and approve two people.”
Excite Japan: “2 makushita bills are approved.”

All three engines picked up the important verb at the end, “approve” (承認). The rest of Google’s attempt clearly just gets a WTF response from me. Context! C’mon guys, context! Well, Yahoo knew that makushita was the junior division but leaving it as makushita, as Excite did, is fine too. At least Yahoo! recognized and used the counter for people (人), so I’d probably give their translation the edge this time.

But getting to our translation, we’re sumo fans and know that Makushita(幕下) is the junior division. You should also recognize the next character as the last part of “banzuke,” that wonderful list we’re all eagerly anticipating. But together with -dashi, when we’re talking about sumo, we’re talking about a debut as they’re out on the list for the first time. As for -dashi (出し), you will see this character (出) all over the place, meaning “out,” especially for “exit,“ or deguchi (出口).

Putting it all together, we’ve got “Makushita Debut of Two Approved.” This was a bit too simple of a headline so this is the first one where I decided to challenge us to read the first paragraph. Luckily, this whole article was one, very short paragraph and very simple. It mentions their names, the school they came from and the heyas they are joining. The only term I want to highlight for now is 日本相撲協会. This is the Nihon Sumo Kyokai, or Japanese Sumo Association, thus a very important term to know and a great resource for us fans.

We see that these translation engines do have difficulty with contextual Japanese but the Yahoo! and Excite ones are much more helpful that Google, so far. We’ll keep going and testing all three and trying to find others. But I cannot stress enough the need for basic Japanese for sumo fans so I hope you will find these articles helpful.

Takagenji Juryo Debut in May


To illustrate the importance of basic Japanese ability for sumo fans, I point my dear readers to the Japan Sumo Association’s website. The English site has two news items with today’s date: the Sumo Museum Calendar and the Dohyo Matsuri information for the May tournament. Fascinating stuff, but the Japanese site includes those and two more: a list of retirements from March and the list of wrestlers promoted to Juryo. Takagenji and Meisei will be promoted to Juryo. For those of us hoping to construct well-informed banzuke, that would be particularly important information, especially if there were makuuchi wrestlers listed among the retirements (there are not). The most senior retirement was Ryouounami in Makushita.

So, appropriately, today’s news headline addresses the Juryo debut of Takagenji. Again, from Nikkei:

大相撲夏場所、19歳貴源治が新十両 番付編成会議

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Kisenosato’s Meiji Shrine Dohyo-iri


kisenosato-meiji

Massive Crowd Welcomes New Yokozuna

Tokyo – In the overnight hours US / EU time, Kisenosato performed his first public dohyo-iri on the grounds of the Meiji shrine, in front of sumo officials and a crowd estimated to be over 20,000. It is customary for a new Yokozuna to perform this ceremony two days after his elevation to sumo’s highest rank. His attendants were (as expected), Takayasu as sword bearer and Shohozan as dew sweeper.

As there has only been two days to prepare, Kisenosato’s dohyo-iri was a bit rough, and lacked many of the polished, fluid qualities seen in, for example, Hakuho’s dohyo-iri. For this debut dohyo-iri, Kisenosato and his retainers do not yet have their own sword, or their matching Keshō-mawashi (long aprons), so the shin-yokozuna customarily borrows them from a predecessor. In this case it was the great Wakanohana I.

Kyushu Storyline #4: Hokutofuji Debut


20150042Hokutofuji makes his makuuchi debut this Sunday. If you’re like, “Hoku-who-ji?”, you’re not the only one. He changed his shikona from Daiki. He’s a fast rising rookie, fresh off a Juryo yusho and has yet to have a losing record since entering sumo. In that manner, he’s very similar to Shodai except he’s spent one fewer tournament in Makushita. He’s making his debut at M11, one rank higher than Shodai’s debut. I expect some great things from him in the lower makuuchi but he’ll be contending with Ichinojo, Myogiryu, Kagayaki, and the always wily Sokokurai.

Along with Hokutofuji, Ishiura will make his debut, as well. He’ll start toward the bottom of the division at M15 with Toyohibiki and Gagamaru. He’s much smaller, has had a slower rise through Juryo, and hasn’t ever won more than 9 matches so I’m not expecting any special prizes out of Ishiura. But it will be great to see him up with the big boys.

元Kim Jong-un Sumo Debut in May


As the world is rightly aware, and has been widely reported, Kim Jong-un told his people to prepare to eat roots again. However, this is not due to famine as most media has speculated. In fact, Kim Jong-un has just eaten all of the food in North Korea; the country is known in Japanese as 北朝鮮 (kita cho sen). futotchoIt can now be disclosed why he has eaten all of the food. He’s been preparing to take the sumo world by storm. His debut will come in May. A source close to the dick-tater has revealed, exclusively to the Tachiai blog, a picture of his training (right). The now former Kim Jong-un has taken on the shikona 太っ朝 (ふとっちょ Eng: Futotcho).

The Tachiai blog wishes Futotcho the best in his new chosen career. Due to his stature, he will debut in the makuuchi division directly at the rank of Maegashira 7. He’s ballooned to such girth that odds makers are giving him a 25% chance of winning his debut tournament, only 15% less of a chance as being given to current champion, Hakuho. If he is able to win the May yusho, he will earn enough rice to feed 15% of the country…provided he hasn’t gorged himself on it before he leaves the Kokugikan.

*Update (4/1): We regret to inform that our anonymous source was discovered and has been executed. For the crime of this leak, he was dried and smoked to death and his corpse was shaved into katsuobushi-like flakes.