Before the opening of another tournament, let’s check in with the latest Heya power rankings. This time out we’ve seen some wild variance in the results of a few stables, while many stables following a period of much change have consolidated amongst some more consistent performance. Are you ready for some charts? Me too:
There are a few major stories from the various stables’ performance last time out as we identify areas of improvement ahead of Haru, but let’s look at this in “Billboard” style Top 20 chart form:
(+3) Tagonoura. 95 points (+30)
(+12) Kasugano. 94 points (+71)
(+3) Sakaigawa. 60 points (+19)
(+3) Kokonoe. 49 points (+9)
(+4) Oitekaze. 46 points (+8)
(-5) Miyagino. 45 points (-56)
(+3) Izutsu. 45 points (+15)
(**) Takadagawa. 30 points (+20)
(+4) Dewanoumi. 25 points (even)
(**) Shikoroyama. 24 points (+18)
(+5) Tomozuna. 23 points (+3)
(-9) Isegahama. 21 points (-62)
(-11) Hakkaku. 20 points (-75)
(-6) Kataonami. 20 points (-20)
(+3) Tokitsukaze. 20 points (+2)
(-11) Takanohana. 19 points (-35)
(-6) Oguruma. 19 points (-9)
(-6) Sadogatake. 19 points (-8)
(+-) Isenoumi. 18 points (even)
(**) Kise. 16 points (+5)
Takadagawa and Shikoroyama rejoin the ranks with decent scores due to good debuts and special prizes for Ryuden and Abi respectively.
It’s all change, however, at the top with Tagonoura regaining top position basically off the back of Takayasu’s jun-yusho. While this may seem unfair in light of the fact that he’s the only Tagonoura rikishi to have finished the tournament, the heya scores points for having a competing Yokozuna – if Kisenosato doesn’t show up and goes full-kyujo for Haru, it’ll be tough for them to maintain this position short of a Takayasu yusho.
Of course, there’s no surprise in seeing the enormous gain for Kasugano-beya, off the back of Maegashira 3 Tochinoshin’s incredible yusho and double special prize winning performance. While that wasn’t quite enough to vault the stable to the top of the chart, given that they have a few rikishi in the banzuke who could be primed for good tournaments next time out, they should still remain in the top 10 even if they don’t score an unlikely consecutive yusho. And in a “No-kozuna” scenario, Tochinoshin should still be a good bet to perform well as a Sekiwake.
Miyagino falls here owing to the loss of its usual yusho threat Hakuho to kyujo status. Should he show in Haru, the stable could be due a nice rebound with Enho joining the sekitori ranks, especially if Ishiura can turn up genki enough to threaten a kachi-koshi.
Of the three other big stables to tumble, Hakkaku takes a drop due to Hokutofuji and Okinoumi’s inability to register even a winning record following their dual jun-yusho/special prize winning Kyushu. Takanohana, meanwhile, should be a decent rebound candidate if Takakeisho can get back to winning ways and Takanoiwa can return to action as he should be a real yusho threat in Juryo, but that remains unclear.
Finally, there’s no glossing over the incredible fall from grace for Isegahama-beya on our rankings. This is the first tournament where they’ve not featured a Yokozuna even for part of the tournament since we’ve put the Power Rankings together, and of course Terunofuji continues to tumble down the banzuke, Aminishiki was partially kyujo and Terutsuyoshi had dropped from the professional ranks in Hatsu. While it would have seemed improbable not long ago, over half of the stable’s points were registered by Takarafuji and, with most of their rikishi now in Juryo, it may be up to him to arrest a further slide. Let’s take a look at all this in visual form:
Incredibly, the recent high performance water mark for Isegahama was just three tournaments ago as Harumafuji won Aki, showing just how severe the slide has been. Obviously our metrics for performance measurement have not been the end-all-be-all, but this does at least give some reflection of the stable’s banzuke presence and on-dohyo performance in the last year, relative to itself.
With the New Years basho having concluded this past weekend with a wonderful and unexpected result, it’s now time to take a look down the banzuke and check on the overall performances of this tournament’s Tachiai Ones to Watch™. Last time out, we posted a 17-3 kachi-koshi record and collected 2 yusho from the 4 lower divisions.
Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – One of our dear favorites locked in his kachi-koshi at the last chance, posting a 4-3 record. We are unabashed fans of Enho, he is exciting and amazing to watch. However, that he was even in the promotion conversation with this record at this rank is a testament to the mess at the bottom of Juryo. He has now been receiving (semi) daily stern tests against rikishi of similar pedigree and veterans who have seen the promised land and do not appreciate being exiled from it. On the face of it, the trip to Juryo may be extremely challenging to him so let’s hope he can gain some good pounds in the right places.
Ms6 Wakamotoharu, Ms17 Wakatakakage, Ms34 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – The Arashio bros combined for a 15-6 record driven largely by Wakatakakage’s impressive zensho yusho, which should place him at or near the top of the division for Haru. Like Enho, Wakamotoharu found it tough in the insanely congested top of the Makushita division, falling to a 3-4 record, and should find himself near enough to Wakatakamoto whose 5 win basho should propel him near enough the top quarter of the division. Should those two post similar records next time out it might make things interesting for the schedulers! If we’re going to look at areas of improvement, Wakamotoharu may need the opposite plan as Enho going forward as he handled the veterans nicely but tended to struggle against the up and coming rikishi.
Ms8 Murata (Takasago) – Murata, who debuted at the same time with Wakatakakage and who had largely matched his progress, will fall back behind his rival having suffered the narrowest of make-koshi. In fairness, having come through a horrendous start, he recovered nicely in the last couple of matches to ensure his demotion will not be too extreme. If we’re going to look for a highlight, his second bout match against the triple lower division yusho winner and Kokonoe up-and-comer Chiyonoumi might provide a key for future success – he’s able to stand his ground against a composed opponent and use his mass and pushing/thrusting to keep moving forward and move him out (hat tip to One and Only for the video coverage):
Ms21 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – It’s another solid kachi-koshi at 5-2 for Nishonoseki’s university man, who just continues to progress. Ichiyamamoto is an extreme pusher-thruster and it will be interesting to watch his results as he starts now to come up against rikishi with a better plan at the tachiai. Gochozan’s revenge win against him in this tournament was a case of a match that started as a pushing festival and ended up with Ichiyamamoto’s arms getting locked up and not really having much of a plan B. If someone’s going to lock up his arms he may struggle, but if he can establish his pushing attack he’s a difficult rikishi to beat at this level.
Ms23 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Owing to the flu circulating Isegahama-beya, we’re going to have to give Nishikifuji a pass on an awful 1-5-1 tournament that blighted an otherwise brilliant start to his career. The banzuke makers of course will not be so kind, but the last time that a 1 win tournament at his rank wasn’t enough to keep a rikishi in this division was 1948. He put up 6 wins at Ms52 last time out and that’s probably about where we’ll see him next time and will expect him to restart his progress.
Ms30 Ryuko (Onoe) – Another solid tournament for Ryuko who makes it three consecutive 5-2s to follow the three consecutive 6-1s to open his career. Intriguingly, he used a greater variety of winning techniques here than some of his contemporaries higher up on this post. While he certainly gets his share of oshi- wins, over the last two tournaments he has started mixing in throws. Only one of them seems to have been particularly well executed (in Kyushu against Ikeru) but that also may come down to the quality of opponent. It’s going to be interesting to see how he mixes and matches and whether his strategy will continue to develop as he reaches the higher levels.
Ms31 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – It’s another really solid start to Tomokaze’s career, and after 4 basho he should find himself placed solidly in the upper part of the division after putting up 5 more wins here. Had he not run into Wakatakamoto in the middle of the tournament, it would have been interesting to see if he could challenge for yet another yusho, but as it stands the Oguruma man (who dealt with Ryuko for the first time in the early stages of Hatsu) will be pleased with his progress as he develops into a large and physical rikishi. What happens to his mobility as his size increases will be an interesting watch.
Ms49 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – I had picked Musashikuni almost more as a “draft and follow” kind of guy than an immediate one to watch. I thought he had a good chance this time out at handling the opposition at this rank, but it never really came together until the end of a 3-4 tournament that will leave him as very much an edge case for remaining in the division for Osaka. This is more of a long term choice and we’re going to stick with him next time out and, like his stablemate Wakaichiro, continue to bet on his potential.
Ms55 Tanabe (Kise) – Tanabe had absolutely coasted through the bottom 3 divisions and even started here with 2 wins from 3 but in truth I could tell after seeing him in person on Day 2 that this was not going to be his basho, and from the midway point he completely unraveled with 4 straight losses (to end 2-5), the lowlight of which was a shocking ashitori from Amanoshima on Day 11. He has “bouncebackability” to be sure, but he’s going to need some serious keiko to right the ship and prepare for another assault on promotion back to Makushita.
Sd2 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – Fukuyama pulls out a last ditch kachi-koshi which will secure his promotion up to Makushita. While he started his career strong with 3 straight 6 win tournaments, his progress has slowed and it will be interesting to see if he can better the results of his rival Tanabe, who he has never beaten, in his debut at the next level.
Sd21 Shoji (Musashigawa) – We doubted Shoji’s ability to pull off the third consecutive yusho on his Sandanme debut and that hesitation proved to be well-founded as he finished with his first career make-koshi at 3-4. That all being said, he improved in the latter half of the basho and won’t fall so far down that a good tournament next time won’t propel him forward, so the Musashigawa man will hope this is a minor setback. This is the first tournament where it could be argued Shoji didn’t face anyone of a similar pedigree or level of progression (and that may continue to be the case) so how he deals with more of a mixed bag of veteran opponents will determine his future.
Sd47 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Kotokumazoe’s hot comeback run was stopped dead in its tracks with 3 straight losses, but the Sadogatake man did well over the last week to finish 3-1 and end with a narrow make-koshi at what was his highest career posting to date. His thrust-heavy attack didn’t look especially inspired in either of the matches for which there is video footage but his persistence in his day 15 win against Tochikasuga at least gives some reason for optimism.
Sd83 Torakio (Naruto) – A tournament to forget for Torakio who started strong and ended injured. We thought he’d fare better than Shoji this time out, and he started strong at 2-0 but dropped 4 straight before going kyujo, the final two of which culminated in injury-inspiring and frankly very painful looking throws. However before this, what was clear from all 4 losses was that despite how strong we have seen Torakio to be, he suffered from a very weak tachiai which was beginning to be exploited even at the bottom of Sandanme. After his make-koshi clinching under-arm throw inflicted by Ryuki on day 12, he remained on the floor for a very long time. Obviously we wish the strong Torakio the best of health, and hope he can make a comeback in the upper reaches of Jonidan next time out.
Jd23 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – As has been covered extensively already on the site, Wakaichiro had a fantastic return to form at 5-2 (winning his first four) and one that will see him almost certainly repromoted to Sandanme for his second crack at the division in Osaka. The last time this record at this rank wasn’t good enough for a promotion was 1958, so it’s as close to a banker as you can get.
Jd41 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The Amatsu comeback story continues as his 5-2 record keeps him on pace to return to the higher divisions after his years long layoff!
Jd42 Hayashi (Fujishima) – “Mike” Hayashi opened his Jonidan account with 4 straight wins, looking to grab the yusho that eluded him at the first time of asking on his banzuke debut at Kyushu. Despite nursing a heavily bandaged right knee, Hayashi looked pretty composed most of the time here en route to a 5-2 result that will place him alongside Amatsu in the top 10 ranks of Jonidan in Osaka as they continue their unlikely rivalry which Hayashi leads 2-0.
Jk18 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – The pre-tournament projections of the hyped Yoshoyama and his mae-zumo results made him feel like a bona-fide yusho challenger to us but we whiffed on that as he had to rally to secure a 4-3 kachi-koshi in which he did not particularly impress.
Jk19 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – As noted in our mid-basho roundup, the Sadogatake debutant was winning with little effort owing to his size and strength differential. He ran into some trouble when pulled up to Jonidan for a match and ended up losing the playoff to finish with the jun-yusho, but it’s an encouraging start and one which should portend decent results in the bottom half of Jonidan next time out.
As for Hattorizakura… as Herouth noted he did show some improvement and some fight early on in the tournament before returning to his usual ways. The match he really should have won was his (actually quite lengthy) Day 8 match against the tiny Takita, whose two career victories to date both came against Hattorizakura. If he can at least be less afraid of the tachiai, he might be able to sneak one or two. We shall cheer for a victory in Osaka!
Today, the elections for the NSK board members – directors and vice-directors – took place.
The board is renewed every two years after Hatsu basho. If the number of candidates matches the number of seats (ten directors plus three vice directors), then elections are not held and the candidates automatically become directors or vice directors respectively.
This is, in fact, how the board selection process worked for many years. There were five ichimon. Each presented two candidates, and they became directors. In 2010, Takanohana Kōji disrupted the system by declaring an unauthorized candidacy, a move that ended in him splitting from his ichimon and forming his own together with his supporters. With six ichimon, the number of candidates was almost certain to exceed the number of seats, resulting in the five most recent occasions ending up in elections.
Takanohana succeeded in winning enough votes in the previous four elections, although he was unable to then get enough support inside the board to become its chairman. But today’s elections were different.
When the Takanohana ichimon convened to decide on their candidate, together with the three rogue toshiyori who seceded from Tokitsukaze ichimon recently, the members of the ichimon wanted their candidate to be Onomatsu oyakata (Onosho’s stablemaster), rather than Takanohana. In fact, they could not agree on a candidacy in their first meeting, and eventually, after meeting again, the ichimon announced both Onomatsu and Takanohana would be running.
Today, after the votes were counted, these were the results:
So the result is that other than his own vote, Takanohana has just one single supporter. For the first time in 8 years, he is not elected to the board, let alone able to progress to chairman.
Elections were held for the vice-director seats as well, as four presented candidacies for three seats. The results were:
Shikoroyama has seceded from Tokitsukaze Ichimon with two other toshiyori in December 2017, and declared themselves “Unaffiliated”, although, as already mentioned, they participated in the Takanohana ichimon’s election discussions. Shikoroyama is Izutsu oyakata’s younger brother.
(This part is my own personal opinion)
Takanohana is extremely popular, owing to his Yokozuna days. He is considered by many to have been the ideal Yokozuna. He has a reputation for being strictly anti-yaocho. When he became an NSK member he spoke much about reform, transparency, modernization and so on, and got himself followers both inside and outside the organization.
However, his behavior in the Harumafuji scandal seems to have left a bitter taste even in the mouths of his supporters within the NSK.
His refusal to cooperate with the internal investigation and the unusual way in which he hid Takanoiwa.
Communicating with the press only through written manifestos, some of them incomprehensible even to native Japanese readers.
Taking up a war with Hakuho with some wild accusations that were not supported by the police investigation.
Having been criticized by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees as “disrespectful”, his true believers followed up with derision against her, causing her to declare that she will not be speaking to the press again.
Reports (based on court statements in unrelated litigation) that there were unchecked and unreported incidents of violence within Takanohana-beya itself.
All of this was causing Grand Sumo to stand out in the news, all in negative contexts, which is something that the Japanese do not like. There is a common saying in Japan, “出る釘は打たれる” – “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down”. It appears Takanohana was hammered down by his own supporters. The Takanohana ichimon probably decided that reform can be achieved through diplomacy better than it can through constant conflict.
Although there was some speculation before the elections that the Takanohana ichimon actually intends to get both of its candidates in by putting on a show of conflict trying to draw in voters from other ichimon, the conflict was more than a show. Even the worst predictions gave him 5 votes. Two votes is a clear signal of lack of confidence, and the former Dai-Yokozuna should take a reality check.
As for Shikoroyama, he apparently secured the support of the Takanohana ichimon and his own “Unaffiliated” three votes, plus a couple of others. But due to the smaller number of vice-director seats, for vice-director, you actually need to secure a lot more support than for a director seat – more than a single ichimon for sure (except the Dewanoumi ichimon, which has 30 voters according to Asashosakari’s reckoning on the Sumo Forum). For Shikoroyama, no support was coming from the other ichimon, certainly not the one he came from originally, Tokitsukaze. Again, the act of secession seems to be taken as “standing out”, and the affiliation with the Takanohana ichimon, as well as competing with his own brother, were not helping either.
Let’s hope that the stream of scandals will die down now that politics are no longer an incentive to start fires. The new makeup of the board includes three new faces:
Takashima from Isegahama ichimon, replacing Isegahama himself, who didn’t run [Isegahama retired as a director after the Harumafuji incident –PinkMawashi]. He is the only director who is not a stablemaster
Shibatayama from Nishonoseki ichimon, who replaces Nishonoseki himself, who is still recovering from his head injury and the prolonged loss of consciousness that followed it
Onomatsu, the new face representing the faction of reform and modernization for the Takanohana ichimon.
Let’s hope they can bring some fresh air to the NSK, though I would advise against expecting any big changes any time soon. Many veteran stablemasters will have to retire before the new generation gets enough power for change.
Soon after each basho, the NSK holds the banzuke meeting. Although the full banzuke will be published only days before the next basho, the names of promotees to Juryo are announced immediately. This is done in order to allow new promotees and their heya to get ready with the necessary equipment for a sekitori: A silk mawashi (also known as a shime-komi), with stiffened sagari, a kesho-mawashi and an akeni (luggage box), as well as a tsuke-bito (manservant), a private room, and so on.
The list of juryo promotees includes Tachiai favorite Enho.
Enho has achieved sekitori status within the minimum required six basho (mae-zumo, followed by one each in Jonokuchi, Jonidan, Sandanme, then two in Makushita), and is only the fourth rikishi in modern history to do so.
“I couldn’t believe it”, said the shin-Juryo. “A result of 4-3 at Makushita #6 is not usually enough for promotion, though I had a tiny hope and my heart was throbbing. Today as I came out of the bath I was told I made it. ”
Enho has been appearing in zanbara, untied hair, throughout his career and has only achieved a young chon-mage for Miyagino’s senshuraku party. Now he will need more time yet to grow his hair for an appropriate oicho-mage.
Another new promotee to Juryo is the “elder” Taka Twin, Takayoshitoshi:
His advance to sekitori status marks the first time in history in which there is a pair of active sekitori who are twins.
Hint: to tell Takayoshitoshi from Takagenji, look for the mole on Takayoshitoshi’s right lip. If they smile an open smile, Takagenji will display a gap in his front teeth.
The other promotees to Juryo are all former sekitori. They include Yago (Oguruma beya), Terutsuyoshi my main man (Isegahama beya), Shimanoumi (Kise beya), Tobizaru the flying monkey (Oitekaze beya), and Akiseyama (Kise beya).
There has not been such a large group of Juryo promotees (7 in total this time) since the great purges of 2011 when nine rikishi were promoted to Juryo.