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

Nagoya Follow Up #4 – Mitakeumi’s Sekiwake Debut


Mitakeumi Kensho Stack

In early July, we anticipated that shin-Sekiwake Mitakeumi would make the most of finally breaking into the Sekiwake rank, after waiting for multiple basho for a slot to open up.

Nagoya marked a milestone achievement for Mitakeumi, after nearly a year bouncing between Maegashira 1 and Komusumi, he was finally able to land a position at Sekiwake. Mitakeumi has had a fascinating career since he joined professional sumo in 2015 (yes, just two years ago). He came from being a college Yokozuna at Toyo University, straight to a started rank of Makushita 10, where he proceeded to kick everyone’s butt in brilliant and overwhelming fashion, including taking the Yusho in his first basho in Juryo.

It was clear from the start that Mitakeumi was never going to slow down, and he has been continuing to be the leader of the class of the new generation of rikishi. He has been competing at Sekiwake for at least two basho prior to Nagoya, but the clog of Takayasu waiting to move up and Kotoshogiku waiting to move down prevented him from taking his slot to begin an Ozeki campaign.

That campaign likely did not start at Nagoya, as it seems young Mitakeumi still needs to tune up a bit before he can start pressing for double digit wins at Sekiwake, turning in a 9-6 result and a second Shukun-sho (outstanding performance) special prize. His Nagoya record includes a rather impressive defeat of dai-Yokozuna Hakuho, handing him his only loss, and braking any chance he could start another run at the Futabayama consecutive win record. He also defeated the damaged Yokozuna Kisenosato on the first day.

With his winning record and outstanding performance, he remains at Sekiwake, and will push for double digits in Tokyo this September. For Aki, we anticipate that he will be Sekiwake 1 East, and play foil to both kadoban Ozeki, each of which will need to score a win against him to help stave off demotion.

Nagoya Follow Up #2 – Hakuho’s Record Run


Hakuho-Meter

The team at Tachiai anticipated that Nagoya would be the basho where Hakuho finally broke the all time win record, surpassing first Chiyonofuji and then Kaio, to add yet another record to his name. On his way to racking up his 39th yusho, he was only defeated on day 11 when he was surprised by future Ozeki Mitakeumi.

His “go-ahead” victory came against Takayasu on day 13, and it was “The Boss” side-stepping the shin-Ozeki’s tachiai that put him in control. Some sumo fans were outraged that he would use essentially a henka to win his record setting match, but I think it is perfectly in keeping with Hakuho’s approach to sumo. He uses everything at his disposal to win every time he can. He does so with power, and uncanny speed.

For those that want to review the match, it’s at the end of Jason’s day 13 highlights on YouTube

Sadly, because of his loss, Hakuho cannot even begin to consider an assault on a record fans know he lusts for – the all time consecutive win streak owned (possibly forever) by the god of sumo, Futabayama.

Hakuho’s fans (and they are legion) are justifyibly jubilant, and many have proclaimed that he is once again unassailable. Sadly, Hakuho is all too human, and has put a very fine image forward that hides the fact that having been the top man in one of the world’s brutal combat sports, his body is one big injury away from retirement.

Tachiai notes with some worry that Hakuho withdrew from the summer jungyo to rest up a nagging knee injury he has been nursing since before Nagoya. We continue to hope that he will get his wish to be front and center at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremonies, performing a dohyo-iri on a grand scale in front of the whole world.

Heya Power Rankings: August 2017


Welcome to the third installment of the Heya Power Rankings. The purpose of this series is to gauge how the various stables are performing relative to each other, and track their progress over time. Now that we’ve been looking at this over the first four basho of 2017, we can start to identify some trends.

For a refresher on the methodology and calculations behind these rankings, visit the original post. Let’s jump in:

chart-7

And in “Billboard” style Top 20 chart form (ties broken by previous ranking with the most recently better heya ranked higher):

  1. (+1) Miyagino. 107 points (even)
  2. (-1) Isegahama. 95 points (-29)
  3. (+1) Kasugano. 78 points (+20)
  4. (-1) Tagonoura. 75 points (even)
  5. (+4) Oitekaze. 48 points (+14)
  6. (-1) Sakaigawa. 47 points (-3)
  7. (+-) Kokonoe. 43 points (+2)
  8. (+-) Izutsu. 40 points (even)
  9. (+3) Dewanoumi. 35 points (+5)
  10. (-4) Oguruma. 32 points (-10)
  11. (-1) Kise. 25 points (-8)
  12. (+1) Sadogatake. 22 points (-7)
  13. (-2) Isenoumi. 20 points (-13)
  14. (+-) Kataonami. 20 points (-5)
  15. (+-) Takanohana. 18 points (-6)
  16. (+-) Hakkaku. 18 points (-5)
  17. (+-) Tokitsukaze. 15 points (-5)
  18. (+1) Takadagawa. 15 points (-2)
  19. (-1) Onomatsu. 13 points (-7)
  20. (**) Nishonoseki. 13 points (+5)

Movers

Well, there aren’t really that many, which may come as a surprise, but less points were awarded on the whole due to there only having been 2 special prizes this time, and a clear jun-yusho (Aoiyama). We can probably isolate 5 clear “winners” this time out:

Miyagino takes the top spot on the same points total as last time, so this is more a product of Isegahama not getting the production despite having twice as many rikishi. The only change here is that Yamaguchi and Ishiura trade make- and kachi-koshi, as of course Hakuho wins another yusho.

Kasugano makes another big points gain off the back of Aoiyama’s pushy-thrusty jun-yusho, but this isn’t as spectacular a gain as it would have been for another stable as it replaces Tochinoshin’s jun-yusho last time out. That being said, all three rikishi here performed well and even if they lose points for not mounting a championship push next time out, we should see some promotions and hopefully their inevitable fall down the power rankings won’t be so tough.

Oitekaze makes a big move up the charts off the back of Daiamami’s Juryo yusho. The fun might stop there. The stable is otherwise looking at a series of demotions (including the worrying health of top man and “Mr. Popularity” Endo) in spite of this, and will lose Tobizaru to Makushita in September.

Dewanoumi has moved up to the limit of what they can achieve without special prizes, yusho challenges or Ozeki promotions from Mitakeumi. Worryingly for a stable of 16 rikishi, only 2 of the men behind Mitakeumi have put up back to back kachi-koshi (and one of them is 33 year old Kihonoumi), so it’s going to be up to him for the foreseeable future. Finally, Shohozan propels Nishonoseki onto the listing in the final position, off the back of a nice tournament.

Losers

Andy referenced that he wanted to see what would happen to Sadogatake on this chart and the results are surprising – they actually move up a spot, but again this is just due to less points having been awarded in total, as the stable has lost 8, 6 and 7 of our points in each of the past three tournaments. Mostly this is of course due to Kotoshogiku fighting at lower levels and not winning, but this slide is going to continue as we’ll see demotions for all 3 sekitori. Kotodaigo will fight at his highest level in Makushita at Aki, but unless he has a big tournament then we won’t see him at Juryo until the new year, at which point the situation could be considerably more dire and there aren’t many more reinforcements coming any time soon.

Isegahama‘s drop is largely down to Terunofuji’s downturn in performance and Harumafuji’s failure to challenge for the yusho, but a decent tournament from either (however unlikely) could see them regain the top spot next time out. Kise takes a bit of a hit owing to Ura’s injury-influenced make-koshi, but will have a decent spot at at least holding their position next time out due to a pair of Juryo promotees in Kizenryu and Daisedo. The rest is much of a muchness, but a word for Isenoumi who will be reliant on Ikioi regaining his form to move back up the listings.

Up Next

We noted last time that Kise had reinforcements on the way, and had a remarkable 11 rikishi fighting at Ms19 or higher in Nagoya. Two have been promoted, but 24 year old university man Kizaki may not be far behind. We highlighted his performance last time out, as he’s never suffered a make-koshi in his 8 competitive tournaments so far (including zensho-yusho at Jonidan and Sandanme). He’s taken a minute to acclimate to Makushita but might be on the cusp at Aki, after another solid 5 win performance in Nagoya at Ms7. Shimanoumi’s Juryo comeback bid was halted in Nagoya, but having put up 3 wins he should get another bite at it this time.

Arashio-beya has been feasting and more recently in famine depending on Sokokurai’s results, but Wakatakakage has been rocketing up the banzuke and could be around to provide backup soon. He’ll be due a big promotion to the top end of Makushita after a 6-1 tournament. Likewise, Takasago‘s Murata may be arriving soon to provide backup for Asanoyama having lost the Natsu yusho duel to Wakatakakage back in Sandanme, and having adapted almost as well to the next level of competition.

Yokozuna Kisenosato To Miss Summer Jungyo


Kisenosato-Dohyo-Iri

As reported today in Nikkan-Gendai Jiji News, Yokozuna Kisenosato will sit out the summer sumo tour of northern Japan. The Jungyo (literally, making the rounds) is a daily traveling sumo show that takes a set of some 50 rikishi to medium sized cities across Japan to bring sumo closer to the fans and the public, and is responsible for driving and maintaining sumo’s popularity.

His absence should be view as part of the larger program to heal up the very popular Yokozuna, and may be a sign that he will or currently is undergoing expanded medical treatment for what could be a career ending injury to his left pectoral muscle.

Corrected: Thanks to Herouth for catching the wrong link. I need to sleep instead of wading through Kisenosato news.  The other article is more focused on his injuries. You can find it here.

Meet Enho (炎鵬), Sumo Rising Star


As Josh pointed out before Nagoya, Miyagino heya has a few other interesting rikishi in addition to the mighty Hakuho. One person of great and growing fascination is Enho (炎鵬).

When you bag a yusho, they interview you on NHK! So above is Enho looking very happy and delighted to ace his second basho.

Enho has been in sumo for really 2 basho, plus one where he was doing the introductory Maezumo “lets make sure you know what sumo is” sessions. He has won the junior league yusho for each division he has faced. That translates into the Jonokuchi yusho in May, and the Jonidan yusho in Nagoya. Yes, thus far, Enho is undefeated.

Of course this won’t last, but it’s quite an amazing start to his life in grand sumo. Although he attended Kanazawa Gakuin University, he entered sumo at the bottom, rather than at a higher division as is common for some university rikishi.

For an example of his sumo, we have a video below from sumo media saint, One and Only, where Enho faces a much taller and heavier Masunoyama on the final day in Nagoya. It was not even close.

It’s likely that this guy will be in Sandanme as soon as Aki. We will continue to watch his progress and wish him good fortune and good health.

Nagoya Aftermath – How We See It


Goeido Down

Day 15 put an end to a Nagoya basho that marked a further evolution of a trend that started with Hakuho’s injury a year ago. At that time, it was clear that “The Boss” was damaged, and no one knew if he was going to be able to return. Hakuho has been such a dominant force in sumo for an extended period of time, and his internal presence at the top of the banzuke set the rules for every basho for years.

With his win at Nagoya, Hakuho has managed to achieve back to back yusho after surgery and an extended recovery period. How long will his new reign last? Hakuho hopes at least 3 years, as he has stated yet again that he wants to perform a dohyo-iri as part of the 2020 Olympic ceremonies immediately following the Nagoya basho. His achievement of coming back after most fans (and it turns out the YDC) thought he was done, drew comment from the committee in their post basho meeting at the Kokugikan. They have decided to give Yokozuna Hakuho a special award for breaking the all time wins record and being the Michael Jordan of sumo. I am going to assume he needs to buy a shed to keep all of this stuff in. Maybe he can have Ishiura build him one with parts from Tokyu Hands.

We are in a transitional period where the old guard is either fading or staging their last mad surge of glory. We now have the next generation (I call them Tadpoles, because they mostly share the same body shape), in Makuuchi, and they are getting comfortable at the higher levels of competition. We guess that would be one of the stories at Nagoya, and it turns out it was a big continuation of the evolution in sumo.

Winners

  • Aoiyama – Jun Yusho! Congrats, prepare for your brutal fisting at Aki.
  • Takayasu – You did not choke in your first Ozeki basho. Rest up that pulled groin and bask in the fact that your peers are both kadoban.
  • Tochiozan – Not sure where that came from, but please, can we have more of this version of Tochiozan? He’s great. Calm, calculating, patient. He dismantles his opponents methodically.
  • Onosho – Two basho in makuuchi, two 10 win results. That’s big stuff. Get in line behind Aoiyama at Aki, you get to play with the big guns.
  • Ura – Yeah, you ended up with a make-koshi, but you survived a trip through the upper ranks without doing too poorly, and you got your first kinboshi. Excellent work expanded your sumo repertoire! Go heal up that knee and come back healthy.
  • Tochinoshin – When your healthy, you can really unleash some great sumo. It was great to see you genki again. I just know you are one more tweak to that knee away from being a breath away from intai.
  • Nishikigi – Never give up, never surrender. Fighting spirit like yours makes the sumo world go ’round!

Losers

  • Goeido – Kadoban again? You won Aki 2016 in a clean sweep! You are a fantastic Ozeki when you are in your groove, but it’s getting harder for you to find that groove.
  • Kakuryu – The YDC is talking about Aki being your last chance. It had to happen some time, please get well soon.
  • Terunofuji – I hope you did not damage that freshly repaired knee. Sumo needs you big kaiju.
  • Kisenosato – No, you can’t “naturally” heal a torn pectoral. Get your giant self to a surgery and get rebuilt.
  • Okinoumi – I wish there were some way you could get that painful injury repaired without retiring from sumo.
  • Gagamaru – Again we ask, “what are you doing in Makuuchi?”
  • Ikioi – Everyone wants you strong and ready to fight. Do you have one last run in you?
  • Kotoyuki – Either you get healed up, or you fade away. The modern sumo schedule is brutal, and it’s tearing you apart.
  • Kotoshogiku – You continue to fade, your spirit is strong but your body is failing your sumo. You make me sad now to watch you fight.

Thanks to all the readers who gave us yet another record breaking month. We are eternally thankful for you spending part of your day with us, and we hope you tell your friends and family about the joy of sumo. Onward to Aki!