The Kyokai announced that there are three new Juryo debutants and one wrestler making his return to Sekitori status. Kotoyusho, Shiba, and Kitanowaka are being promoted for the first time. Shiba is changing his shikona to Shiden to mark the occasion. Chiyoarashi is being repromoted after an *eight year* absence. Congratulations to all of the new sekitori!
The final day of the Kyushu tournament saw 14% more envelopes awarded than the final day of Aki. But the rest of the tournament did not see a substantial boost, even with the much publicized involvement of Pokemon. There was more kensho awarded in Kyushu than in blistering hot Nagoya, Hakuho’s finale, but it was the second lowest kensho total for the year. Kyushu 2021 definitely outperformed November 2020 (in Tokyo), mostly from the senshuraku boost as well as a modest boost during the middle weekend. But overall, Kyushu 2021 paid out 15% fewer kensho over the course of the tournament than the high-water mark set at Whacky-Aki.
The pledges made by ranks had some interesting trends. The Ozeki pairing of Asanoyama and Takakeisho averaged higher kensho than the recent Takakeisho/Shodai pair but that is a bit misleading since Asanoyama and Takakeisho also got boosts from sharing the lucrative musubi-no-ichiban when the Yokozuna were absent. Terunofuji has enjoyed about double the pledge rate of Ozeki during these last two tournaments. In all, he won more than 350 envelopes which puts his haul at 10,770,000 yen, or just under $95,000 at current exchange rates. That does not include his regular salary or yusho bonus.
At the other end of the spectrum, Shodai lost the most money of any wrestler this tournament. His opponents walked away with 85 envelopes stuffed with 2.55 million yen. He didn’t walk away a pauper, though. His nine wins netted him more than 2 million yen in kensho. But he is leaving a lot of money on the dohyo. His performance has not met the expectation of an Ozeki as he has yet to win 10 and has frequently been kadoban — or in danger of going kadoban.
Mitakeumi, Terutsuyoshi, and Kagayaki have been fortunate enough to have had kensho-kin pledged on all 15 bouts over the course of the last 8 tournaments. As people noticed on Twitter, Terunofuji, Takakeisho, and Endo all had some kyujo. Still, Terunofuji, Takakeisho, and Shodai have been the Top 3 kensho winners over the eight tournaments, followed by Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, and Endo.
For January, I will take a look at how pledges correlates with winning to see whether wrestlers win more bouts in tournaments when more money is up-for-grabs. I imagine it will not be the same for all. The tricky bit that I am trying to control for is the strength of competition. Obviously more money is riding on sanyaku competitors and they are more difficult opponents. So when Kiribayama plays up, he has more money pledged but likely a lower probability of winning because of the opponent difficulty. But would the pledges give him a “boost” or extra encouragement to give 110%, vs 100% against someone like Takarafuji or Akua?
In the end, the Jonokuchi title came down to one bout: undefeated Inoue against Tsukubayama, a Jonidan-ranked wrestler with one-loss. I was a bit puzzled by the pairing, frankly. Inoue had faced both Chiyoshishi and Goseiryu on his path to the yusho, so I had assumed he would face Raiho. Instead, Inoue faced Tsukubayama, a young man from…you guessed it…Tsukuba city in Ibaraki prefecture. He’s another young’un who started his sumo career last summer and has remained in Jonidan but at Jonidan 91, even a 6th win would likely not be enough to secure a promotion to Sandanme.
Inoue pressed forward and defeated Tsukubayama, without breaking a sweat. Tsukabayama half-heartedly tried a henka, shifting to his right at the tachiai. Inoue’s coming off an injury, so he’s not going to be charging headlong into the crowd. Inoue just pivoted left and bulled forward, shoving Tsukubayama out. Congratulations, Inoue, on the yusho!
Chiyoshishi tossed Takabaho for a dominant ouchie-ta-ouchie win. And lastly, Raiho defeated Goseiryu. Raiho latched on quickly to Goseiryu’s belt with his left-hand, and then came down hard with his right, throwing Goseiryu to the ground.
The Jonidan yusho race came down to three wrestlers with 6 wins; Chiyoyamato, Yurikisho, and Kaiho. Higher-ranked Kaiho was paired against Sandanme yusho contender, Taiyo. Chiyoyamato faced Yurikisho in the bout from the tweet below.
With Yurikisho’s victory assured, he still had to wait for the Kaiho bout to know whether he won outright or would need to fight in a playoff. Kaiho won, meaning there would be a Jonidan playoff.
In Sandanme, the Kaiho victory meant Taiyo was out of the race and the winner would be one of two men. You’ll remember Arauma as the Jonokuchi yusho contender from January, who beat Atamifuji on their first meeting but then lost in their playoff rematch. This tournament, he faced the Kinbozan, who debuts in sandanme because of his success at the university level. Kinbozan was 10cm taller, and 30kg heavier and used all of that mass to overpower Arauma. Atamifuji awaits both, as they will be promoted to Makushita but Atamifuji is already nearing the precipice to Juryo.
Ryuden won the Makushita yusho with straight-forward oshi-zumo against former Juryo wrestler, Chiyonoumi. This victory marks his return to action after serving a suspension. Along the way he did face several former sekitori, including Chiyonoumi, so his path to yusho was not easy.
He will need to do it again in January for promotion to Juryo, but that will be even more difficult with many wrestlers, including Atamifuji, fighting for the few slots which open up.
Lastly, Ichiyamamoto claimed the Juryo yusho with an impressive 13-2 record. He’s virtually assured a slot in Makuuchi with Hakuho’s retirement, Asanoyama’s suspension, Shohozan’s demotion, and possible demotions for Kaisei and Kagayaki.
I couldn’t get all of the bouts into the video, so I supplemented with some of these clips from YouTube. I did manage to get the yusho ceremony so that’s tacked onto the end of the video at the top.
Congratulations to Yokozuna Terunofuji (15-0) on a well-deserved victory. With all the results now in the books, let’s take a look at how they’re likely to reshuffle the rankings for January.
Yokozuna and Ozeki
Terunofuji will remain the lone East Yokozuna. Takakeisho (12-3) will take over the more prestigious East Ozeki rank from Shodai (9-6), who will move to the West side.
Mitakeumi (11-4) will remain East Sekiwake. His 11 wins, and 20 over the last two tournaments, put him on an Ozeki run in January. Given his consistent performance in the named ranks, and the current dearth of Ozeki and Yokozuna, he may well have a lower target than the oft-cited 33 wins over 3 basho.
M2w Takanosho (11-4) will take over the West Sekiwake rank from Meisei (7-8), who managed to do enough to limit his fall to Komusubi. With both current Komusubi, Ichinojo (5-10) and Kiribayama (6-9), set to drop into the rank-and-file, there is another open slot, and it was claimed by M1e Daieisho (8-7) with a final-day win. Just missing out on a san’yaku return is M1w Wakatakakage (8-7). There have been 22 times in the 6-basho era that an M1w with a winning record merely slid over to M1e; the 3 most recent instances even involved rikishi with 9-6 records.
The Upper Maegashira
The joi-jin loosely comprises the named ranks and the maegashira who regularly face them. With only 7 san’yaku ranks, that line falls somewhere between M5e and M5w (Takayasu and Hoshoryu on the current banzuke). The ten ranks from M1-M5 ranks should be occupied by Wakatakakage, the two demoted Komusubi, M7e Ura (10-5), M4w Endo (8-7), M6w Tamawashi, M3e Okinoumi (7-8), M12w Hokutofuji (11-4), M7w Chiyoshoma (8-7), and M15w Abi (12-3), with M5w Hoshoryu (7-8) landing just outside the range. I’ve listed the maegashira in the rough order, with Kiribayama probably landing between Ura and Endo and Ichinojo between Tamawashi and Okinoumi.
At least three open slots in the top division: Hakuho’s, Asanoyama’s, and M17w Shohozan’s (4-11). And there are three clear promotion cases in Juryo: the yusho winner J4w Ichiyamamoto (13-2), Wakatakakage’s bro J1w Wakamotoharu (11-4), and J1e Tsurugisho (9-6).
Will we see any other exchanges? The possible demotion cases are M14e Kagayaki (5-10) and M17e Kaisei (7-8), with Kagayaki more likely to go down by usual criteria. The candidates to replace them are J7e Oho (11-4) and J3w Bushozan (8-7), with Oho having the better case by the numbers. I think we will see Oho make his long-awaited Makuuchi debut, with Kaisei just surviving and Kagayaki and Bushozan occupying the top rung in Juryo, but frankly all four cases are marginal enough that nothing will surprise me, although I’d rate Kagayaki getting the nod over Oho as more likely than Bushozan displacing Kaisei.
What could have been a messy promotion/demotion situation shook out very neatly in the end. Four spots are open in Juryo: Hakuho’s, Hokuseiho’s, J9w Kyokutaisei’s (2-13), and J14e Kyokushuho’s (6-9), whose uninterrupted run in the second division will end after 28 basho. And conveniently, there are precisely four rikishi in the Makushita promotion zone with winning records: Ms1w Kotoyusho (4-3), Ms2w Shiba (5-2), Ms3e Kitanowaka (5-2), and Ms4e Chiyoarashi (5-2). The first three will be making their sekitori debuts, with Kitanowaka’s the most eagerly anticipated, while Chiyoarashi will be returning to Juryo after an 8-year absence.
J10e Yago’s (5-10) final-day victory, combined with a lack of promotion candidates, earns him a lucky stay in the salaried ranks and makes him the biggest beneficiary of Hakuko’s retirement.