Heya Power Rankings: Kyushu 18-Hatsu 19

Takakeisho & Takanosho - Takakeisho Victory Parade

It’s time for everyone’s favorite chart that just about makes it to print in time to become fully obsolete: the heya power rankings!

Before the Kyushu basho, we know that there would be one massive effect on the Power Rankings: Takanohana announced that he was dissolving his stable and all of the stable’s rikishi would be moving over to Chiganoura-beya.

Chiganoura had only recently even made an impact on the top two divisions since Takanosho’s promotion to Juryo, and subsequently Makuuchi, and so hadn’t really been a figure in this series before. However, with Takagenji, Takanoiwa (or so we thought), and budding tadpole superstar Takakeisho moving over to Chiganoura-beya, it was clear that the stable would start to put itself at least among Kokonoe, Sadogatake and other mid-level mainstays of our rankings list.

What we did not anticipate was that the stable would rocket up to the levels of powerhouse stables like Miyagino (3 sekitori including one dai-yokozuna), Kasugano (epic year with big ozeki promotion and yusho champ), and Tagonoura (perpetually injured yokozuna plus serial jun-yusho bridesmaid). How far did the stable rise? Let’s check out the big chart:

Heya Power Rankings - Kyushu 18 Hatsu 19

And now this list in the usual Top 20 format:

  1. (**) Chiganoura. 108 points (+98)
  2. (+1) Tagonoura. 95 points (+15)
  3. (+1) Kasugano. 60 points (+4)
  4. (-2) Sakaigawa. 53 points (-32)
  5. (+1) Oitekaze. 43 points (even)
  6. (-5) Miyagino. 39 points (-65)
  7. (+9) Oguruma. 35 points (+18)
  8. (-3) Izutsu. 30 points (-15)
  9. (-2) Kokonoe. 27 points (-14)
  10. (+7) Tokitsukaze. 27 points (+12)
  11. (+2) Takadagawa. 23 points (+1)
  12. (+2) Isenoumi. 23 points (+3)
  13. (+6) Sadogatake. 23 points (+8)
  14. (-4) Dewanoumi. 20 points (-5)
  15. (-4) Minato. 20 points (-5)
  16. (-4) Hakkaku. 20 points (-2)
  17. (**) Onomatsu. 20 points (+12)
  18. (+-) Kataonami. 15 points (even)
  19. (+1) Isegahama. 15 points (+1)
  20. (-5) Tomozuna. 13 points (-4)

(legend: ** = new entry, +- = no movement, tiebreaker 1: higher position in the previous chart, tiebreaker 2: highest ranked rikishi on the banzuke)

Analysis

We thought Chiganoura would become a big player in these rankings, but Takakeisho‘s (somewhat) unprecedented yusho and accompanying special prizes meant that the stable vaulted straight to the top in its inaugural posting. We’d expect this to cool down next time, as it looks like a repeat from the young starlet is a big ask. However, should be continue to push for Ozeki promotion, some special prizes would certainly be on offer. Takanoiwa‘s retirement will also take a small bite out of the stable’s points tally in our listing.

Tagonoura somewhat appropriately reclaims the #2 spot as its two sekitori have done on so many occasions, with Takayasu‘s jun-yusho more than offsetting the yokozuna’s partially kyujo and kachi-koshi-less tournament. It should be said that like the banzuke committee, this chart does also give Kisenosato more credit than his fellow yokozuna just for turning up.

Sakaigawa shifts down owing to the jun-yusho switch from Goeido to Takayasu, and the former’s partially kyujo tournament (in spite of his kachi-koshi) didn’t help matters, otherwise it would have been a closer run race for #3. Oguruma meanwhile vaults up the listings owing to Juryo-debutant Tomokaze‘s yusho – but unlike in previous occasions where a juryo yusho practically guaranteed a drop in the next rankings, there’s a good reason to believe Oguruma could hold serve with Tomokaze now the favorite for the Juryo-yusho race again, and Yago making his makuuchi debut at Hatsu to complement Yoshikaze‘s somewhat fortuitous placing just outside the likely joi-line.

Otherwise, further down the listings, it’s much of a muchness. Miyagino‘s big drop of 65 points is exactly what happens when a yusho-winning (+50) yokozuna doesn’t show up (-10), never mind get a winning record (+5). Dewanoumi and Minato lose points as both sekiwake came up short of a kachi-koshi.

Kokonoe was the most disappointing stable to end 2018, with its six sekitori posting a miserable 31-59 record in the final basho. Fans of the heya’s remaining sekitori will be hoping for better results from the former powerhouse. And speaking of former big time stables, on a final curious note, this marks the first positive points movement in well over a year for Isegahama-beya (owing to Terutsuyoshi‘s kachi-koshi). Hopefully in 2019 we’ll see Nishikifuji and Midorifuji complete their push from Makushita to replenish the heya’s depleted sekitori ranks.

 

Hatsu ’19 Banzuke Crystal Ball

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It’s that time again when I try to predict how the shimpan department will reorder the rikishi rankings based on the results of the just-completed tournament. Unlike the mess left by Aki, the Kyushu results were fairly orderly, and we shouldn’t see giant banzuke leaps and plunges with rikishi taking up slots nearly unprecedented given their prior rank and performance. Nevertheless, every banzuke forecast must grapple with some tricky puzzles. Aside from the usual uncertainty about who should be ranked on the East or the West side at a given maegashira rank, or whether someone will be M6w or M7e, here are the key question marks for Hatsu (scroll down if you just want to see the forecast).

Will they reshuffle the Yokozuna order?

To recap, Y1e Hakuho and Y1w Kakuryu sat out Kyushu from the beginning, while Y1w Kisenosato showed up, dropped his first 4 matches and handed out 3 more kinboshi to run his total to an alarming 16 in 63 Yokozuna bouts (for comparison, Hakuho has conceded 19 kinboshi—in 913 bouts!). He then withdrew, with the 5th day fusen loss making his official record 0-5-10. You’d think he wouldn’t be rewarded for this performance, but there is some question as to whether showing up at all will be viewed more favorably than sitting out the entire basho, and hence if Kisenosato will leapfrog the others on the banzuke. Precedent isn’t very helpful here, as the only parallel scenario happened in 1953, when a 0-3-12 Yokozuna switched sides with a 0-0-15 Yokozuna. In my forecast, I’m hoping sanity prevails and keeping the status quo.

What will be the composition and order of lower sanyaku?

This actually seems fairly straightforward to me. The two Komusubi put up diametrically opposed performances, which will be reflected in the their banzuke moves. Kaisei will drop into the maegashira ranks (see below), while Takakeisho will be promoted to a new career high rank of East Sekiwake. What will happen with the two current Sekiwake? History strongly suggests that a 7-8 record at Sekiwake leads to a demotion to Komusubi, while a 6-9 record means a fall from sanyaku. Exceptions to this pattern are rare and require a lack of suitable promotion candidates, which isn’t the case this time. Two upper maegashira rikishi have clear promotion cases: M2w Tamawashi (9-6) and M1e Myogiryu (8-7). While one could debate the details, I have Tamawashi at West Sekiwake, Mitakeumi at East Komusubi, and Myogiryu at West Komusubi, with Ichinojo falling to M1w.

How far will Kaisei drop?

Every basho this year has featured a Komusubi with 4 or fewer wins: Onosho (4-6-5) in January, Chiyotairyu (4-11) in March, Endo (3-10-2) in May, Shohozan (3-12) in July, Tamawashi (4-11) in September, and now Kaisei (3-9-3). The rankings of the first five in the following basho? M5, M4, M6, M7, M2. While Tamawashi’s demotion stands out as historically lenient, all saw lesser drops in rank than if they were treated as “M0”. How much of this “Komusubi bonus” will Kaisei enjoy? Unlike the case at Aki, the upper maegashira ranks generally performed well in Kyushu, and there were also several several very strong showings lower down the banzuke, leaving fewer rikishi for Kaisei to plausibly jump over. I have him at M8e, although it is conceivable that he will end up a couple of rungs higher.

Where will the Juryo promotions be ranked?

In a pattern opposite to the one considered in the previous section, the rankings for the rikishi moving up from Juryo always tend to be lower than if we simply treated J1 as M17 and so on. The countervailing force this time around is that the four worst performers in Makuuchi who aren’t at risk of demotion—Yutakayama, Chiyoshoma, Chiyonokuni, and Daiamami—were just barely good enough to stay out of Juryo themselves. So I have Yago, with a strong 10-5 record at J1e, debuting at M13e, Kotoyuki at M14e, and Kotoeko and Terutsuyoshi holding down the final two M16 slots.

Who takes the last slot in Makuuchi?

It should come down to keeping M14w Daishomaru (6-9) vs. promoting J5w Terutsuyoshi (10-5). The shimpan department has shown a recent preference for keeping borderline demotion candidates over those with marginal promotion claims. Daishomaru’s rank and record at Kyushu are identical to those of Chiyomaru at Aki, who got a one-basho reprieve from a trip to Juryo. However, Terutsuyoshi has a somewhat stronger promotion claim than Yago did last time, so I am going with a top-division debut for the pixie from Isegahama beya, who is certainly the more exciting choice!

With the preliminaries out of the way, my forecast is below (kachi-koshi records are in green; make-koshi records are in red). Please let me know what you think in the comments, and we’ll find out how the banzuke actually shakes out a little earlier than usual—on Christmas Day!

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Not All Rises Are Meteoric

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I came across an interesting tidbit on the Sumo Forum: this year, no Makuuchi rikishi managed to record a kachi-koshi in all six basho for the first time since 2003. The post also noted that one Juryo rikishi managed this feat: Daishoho. This observation made me do a double-take. On the one hand, good for Daishoho. On the other hand, how do you get six winning records in one year in the second division, which only has 28 slots, and not make it to Makuuchi? No wonder the last time this happened was 1975.

So I looked up Daishoho’s stats. He started the year at J13, went 9-6, rose to J9, where another 9-6 took him to J6, and then had 4 straight 8-7 tournaments. His rank progressed to J5, J3, and J2, and his latest minimal kachi-koshi almost certainly left him one victory short of promotion. Daishoho should be ranked J1 in January, and a 7th straight Juryo kachi-koshi should finally get him to the top division.

The slow progress through Juryo isn’t uncharacteristic of Daishoho’s career. He entered sumo in 2013 and made quick work of the lower divisions, arriving in Makushita after one year and rising to the Makushita joi a year later. There, he hit the proverbial Makushita wall. Daishoho spent 8 straight tournaments ranked between Ms9 and Ms1, advanced to Juryo for one tournament, was immediately demoted, and then spent another year ranked in Makushita single digits before embarking on his recent slow rise through Juryo. Contrast that with someone like Tomokaze, who made it through Makushita in 5 total basho, got promoted to Juryo in his first try from the Ms1-9 ranks, won the Juryo yusho in his inaugural appearance, and seems likely to arrive in Makuuchi in another tournament or two. Just goes to show that sumo careers can follow very different trajectories.

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 1 (Dec 2)

Yes, we’re back with the series of Jungyo Newsreels that will try to keep your blood sumo levels above the emergency threshold until a new tournament is in site.

As a reminder – the Jungyo is a promotional tour in which the sekitori (Juryo and Makuuchi) participate. Each takes one tsukebito (manservant, a wrestler ranked between Jonidan and Makushita), except Yokozuna and Ozeki who get to have a “team”. Together with a bunch of shimpan, gyoji and yobidashi, and of course the big heads from the Jungyo department, they travel through small towns around Japan, performing from morning through the afternoon, and letting the locals get a bit of live sumo and sumo-related fun. For a fuller description, refer to the Introduction To The Jungyo I published a while back.

The winter Jungyo is supposed to be the shortest Jungyo of the year. However, with the rising popularity of sumo, it’s not that short any more. The 2013 Fuyu Jungyo included only six events. The 2018 Fuyu Jungyo includes 17 events spread over 21 days! In fact, there were more Jungyo days in 2018 than honbasho days!

So without further ado, let’s see what we had on day 1.

🌐 Location: Nagasaki, Nagasaki
😛 Goofometer: ◾️◾️◽️◽️◽️

Nagasaki is a popular tourist destination in Japan. So some members of the entourage took time to explore. While Hakuho had a little excursion to the lighthouse to have some Champon (a Nagasaki noodle dish), Kokonoe oyakata decided to visit the famous Spectacles Bridge:

Rikishi wisely assembled just above the support column

One rikishi was on the tour, who was neither sekitori nor tsukebito. Tachiai favorite Wakaichiro had a one-day adventure. The reason for this is that he is registered as coming from Nagasaki. His mother is from Nagasaki, and his grandparents came to this day’s event to watch him. As you all know, he actually grew up in Texas. He mostly spent summer vacations in Nagasaki. This being his first Jungyo, he had a bit of trouble getting the hang of things (remember, there are no sekitori in Musashigawa). The press was mostly amused that he decided a good place to camp in the shitaku-beya would be right between Takayasu and Tochinoshin. (Well, yeah, it is a good place!)

As a “local boy”, he received some kawaigari (TLC – the euphemism for butsukari, especially when used as a torture session) from Jokoryu. This was the effect:

Wakaichiro was not the only novice in the Jungyo – though the others have the advantage of traveling with familiar faces and being used to the company of sekitori. One new face in the Jungyo is Midorifuji, who is serving as Terutsuyoshi’s tsukebito (I’m getting worried about Terunohana, Terutsuyoshi’s long-time tsukebito, who has been kyujo for quite some time). Midorifuji is considered one of the most promising current talents at Isegahama beya, and I think they decided to send him on the Jungyo to get some “sekitori experience”. Here he is with Terutsuyoshi and Aminishiki’s tsukebito, Terumichi:

Another new face in the Jungyo is Wakamotoharu (though he had been on at least one event in the past). He is there as his little brother’s tsukebito – the little brother being Wakatakakage, of course.

The shimpan squad has also been refreshed. In the previous Jungyo we saw Futagoyama, Tomozuna and Furiwake. This tour we have Asakayama, Hanaregoma and, of course, Kokonoe.

This is before they wear their heavy mon-tsuki kimono

And what are the rikishi up to? Well, it’s early morning, so Ichinojo demonstrates his ability to squat while sound asleep:

Luckily, there are no wolves in Japan

Then there are these inseparable two. Surprisingly, Terutsuyoshi is rather hands-off today:

But of course, most of the attention goes to one participant: Hakuho, back from his post-operative kyujo, and trying to regain some fitness. Here he is doing some shiko:

Mmmm… Hakuho said he can stomp with power now, but this seems to be very tentative shiko.

By the way, the Yokozuna also changed his seating arrangements in the Jungyo bus. Apparently, one of the reason his leg got worse in the previous Jungyo was sitting with cramped, bent knees for hours on end, while traveling. He used to sit in the front seat of the bus, but decided to change to the back seat, to allow himself to fully stretch his legs. I suppose that means he took the entire back bench to himself and stretches himself on it – he did mention something about getting some sleep. Maybe he should borrow one of Yoshikaze’s folding mattresses…

By the way, I did not mention this before, but there are several rikishi who are kyujo from this Jungyo – at least for the time being. Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Goeido, Kaisei and Arawashi from Makuuchi, and Kyokushuho, Kyokutaisei and Chiyonoo from Juryo. All Tomozuna sekitori are absent! Yoshikaze was also off the torikumi, but he is definitely in the Jungyo.

This also means that Hakuho is left with only one Makuuchi rikishi from his own ichimon for the dohyo-iri. Indeed, his tsuyuharai is Chiyoshoma:

The shiko here is stronger, of course.

Chiyoshoma looks a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing. I predict that for the Meiji-Jingue dohyo iri of January 2019, we’ll see Terutsuyoshi as his tsuyuharai (this will be after the new banzuke is announced so Terutsuyoshi is expected to be in Makuuchi).

Let’s take a look at some practice bouts. First, Hakuyozan vs. Takagenji.

Then, Meisei and Aoiyama:

Aoiyama seems to be getting more and more confident lately. Here he is vs. the Yusho winner (that’s Takakeisho, if you have been on another planet last month).

Takayasu is saying he wants to work towards his first yusho, but he won’t get there if his keiko looks like this:

That’s Tochiozan – not exactly a semitrailer.

Here is todays full Sumo Jinku. Yes, that’s 15 minutes of Jinku. You are allowed to press stop only if you understand everything they say. 😛

The members of the Jinku team this Jungyo are:

ShikonaHeya
TochigidakeKasugano
KoshinishikiTatsunami
MutsukazeOguruma
KotomyozanSadogatake
KotomanabeSadogatake
DaishowakaOitekaze

It’s easy to recognize Mutsukaze by his prominent mutton chops. If you can’t recognize the others, here’s a little challenge: try to guess who is who by the kesho-mawashi they wear. It’s supposed to be borrowed from a sekitori in their heya (OK, so that won’t help you with the two Sadogatake guys…).

Going into the competition part of the event, the lower divisions each had its own elimination-format tournament, while the upper divisions had the traditional format torikumi. I’m sorry to say that Wakaichiro dropped in the first round of the Jonidan tournament. The winners got prizes – which is not an everyday occurrence for lower-division wrestlers.

  • Jonidan winner, Imafuku, won a bag of rice. At least, that’s what it looks like.
  • Sandanme winner, Wakanofuji, won a big bottle of saké.
  • Makushita winner, Obamaumi, won a… picture of rice crackers? Hey… It sucks to be in Makushita!

OK, so if you’re wondering about those two Goofometer points above, here is what was afoot between Juryo bouts:

Hidenoumi decides to tickle Terutsuyoshi with his sagari. Terutsuyoshi, in response, goes all “Oh yeah, baby, ooh, that’s good, give it to me, baby”.

Hidenoumi has an expression like “God, man, aren’t you enjoying this just a little bit too much?”, or maybe “Whoa… do I really want this guy hanging around anywhere near my little brother?”

Not that his little brother is any better…

OK, OK, so we have a few bouts to see! Here are the “Kore-yori-san-yaku”. Well, two of them. By the way, there was a slip in the torikumi program. They had Hakuho doing the musubi with Takayasu. Hakuho is not really dohyo-ready in any way, shape or form. So eventually Asanoyama was placed at the bottom of san-yaku for a second bout, and everybody else was shifted one space up, sort of.

And once again Takakeisho needs a mawashi adjustment right before the bout.

Asanoyama, of course, is no match for the mighty tadpole – who gets some kensho.

The Mitakeumi/Ichinojo bout is rather comical. I’m not sure Ichinojo actually intended to belly-bump Mitakeumi. That’s a funny tsukiotoshi.

Yago
Chiyomaru
DaiamamiMeisei
DaishomaruTakanosho
OnoshoChiyoshoma
AoiyamaEndo
SadanoumiOkinoumi
KotoshogikuYutakayama
DaieishoShohozan
AbiIkioi
TakarafujiKagayaki
TakanoiwaAsanoyama
ShodaiChiyotairyu
Nishikigi
Ryuden
TochiozanTamawashi
MyogiryuHokutofuji
TakakeishoAsanoyama
MitakeumiIchinojo
TochinoshinTakayasu

OK, so who shall we put up as our pin-up boy this time? Maybe Terutsuyoshi?

Hey, what’s with the sour face? We know you are quite capable of a big smile. Especially if you’re looking at Enho. Anyway, that photo looks a bit like a Soviet propaganda poster, doesn’t it?

So maybe just revert to Enho:

Now we can all have a big smile! This commercial for “Macho” proteins brought to you by Ishiura, by the way.