Banzuke Weekend!

The Mole Boss Is Ready – Banzuke Weekend Is Here!

That’s right sumo fans, the long drought is nearly at an end. The rikishi has been training, healing and having some nice adventures during the last 6 weeks while there was no jungyo. But now many of the heya are in Nagoya to get used to the heat and prepare for the basho that starts on July 7th.

We will, of course, be all over the banzuke when it drops Sunday evening US time, though we are planning to do our podcast next weekend.

Sumo Retrospective Video

Herouth (@sumofollower on Twitter) found and shared this retrospective from YouTube. With all of the hype around our up-and-comers, it’s cool to go back a decade and see who the up-and-comers were back then. It’s great to see Ama during the good ole days. It also opens with a bout in that long Kisenosato vs Kotoshogiku rivalry.

Nagoya Banzuke Crystal Ball

Tochinoshin will be an Ozeki again. Image from Japan Times.

It’s time for me to try to predict the sumo rankings for the Nagoya basho ahead of their official release on June 24th. The rankings represent a substantial reshuffle, with 3 new San’yaku rikishi, 3 predicted exchanges between Makuuchi and Juryo, and several big moves up or down the ladder.

Biggest Rises

I have Takagenji jumping 9 full ranks, from J2 to M9, after his 13-2 performance at Natsu, though you should take this with a grain of salt, as my forecasts have been known to be overly optimistic about the Makuuchi ranks of high-performing Juryo rikishi. [EDIT: In the spirit of learning from my mistakes, I’ve bumped Takagenji down a rank to M10w in my final prediction, with Daishoho and Yoshikaze each moving up half a rank.] Surprise yusho winner Asanoyma leaps up 8 ranks, from M8 to Komusubi. Another Juryo promotee, Kotoyuki, rises 7 ranks from J6 to M15. Rising 6 ranks each are Shodai (M7 to M1), Shimanoumi (M12 to M6), and Daishoho (M16 to M10).

Biggest Falls

There were not a lot of disastrous performances at Natsu, and some of them were cushioned by banzuke luck. So the only notable drop belongs to Kaisei, who is projected to fall 8 ranks from M8 to M16 after racking up an injury-marred 3-5-7 record. How do you go from East maegashira one to the bottom of the rankings in two tournaments? By posting a total of 6 wins. Kaisei is actually lucky to escape demotion, as staying in the top division with 3 wins at M8 has been a 50:50 proposition in the modern era. The last person in this position? None other than Kaisei, in March 2017, when he was demoted to M15 after going 3-7-5, posted a 7-8 record in May, and dropped to Juryo for July.

Best Banzuke Luck

As mentioned above, Kaisei is lucky to stay in Makuuchi, and Terutsuyoshi is even more so with a 6-9 record at M15, assuming that I am right about him not getting demoted. Interestingly, the last two rikishi with this rank and record also escaped demotion (Myogiryu a year ago and Ishiura last basho), but before that, it hadn’t happened since the 1950s.

But the best banzuke luck is to be found at M10-M12. Natsu performances left a giant hole at these ranks, with no rikishi “deserving” to be ranked there, and yet the ranks had to be filled, so they contain a combination of extreme over-promotions and under-demotions. The “ridiculously generous promotion” awards go to Daishoho (M16 to M10 with 9 wins) and especially Kotoeko (M15 to M11 with only 8 wins). For Kotoeko, this big bump comes after he managed to stay at M15w for 3 straight basho despite 7-8 records in the first two, so he is enjoying quite a run of luck.

The “extremely lenient demotion” award recipients are Yoshikaze (M6 to M10 with 4 wins), Nishikigi (M9 to M11 with 5 wins), Tochiozan (M11 to M12 with 6 wins), and Kagayaki (M10 to M12 with 5 wins). In particular, two-rank demotions after 5-10 records are very rare, but I can’t find more deserving candidates to fill these slots.

Worst Banzuke Luck

In the upper maegashira ranks, there were too many deserving rikishi to squeeze into the available slots. Ryuden did enough (10-5 at M5) to be ranked Komusubi, but will have to settle for the top slot in the rank-and-file. Similarly, Endo, Daieisho, Ichinojo, Kotoshogiku, and Takarafuji all ended up half-a-rank lower than their rank and record would suggest.

Biggest Question Marks

From the top of the banzuke:

  • Which Komusubi will be ranked on the more prestigious East side? Abi (M4w, 10-5) has higher rank and strength of schedule going for him, while Asanoyama (M8w, 12-3) sports the gaudier win total and the yusho. A toss-up in my opinion.
  • Will Aoiyama and Ichinojo receive milder-than-predicted demotions because of their San’yaku status?
  • What will be the relative ordering of the following pairs: Hokutofuji-Meisei, Myogiryu-Tomokaze, and Okinoumi-Onosho?
  • How high will Takagenji actually debut?
  • What will they really do with the mess from M10 down, and especially from M11w down? My forecast includes several rank-record combinations that have never occurred in the modern era, but I couldn’t come up with a better scenario that doesn’t involve promoting rikishi with losing records. With 14 rikishi all deserving to rank no higher than M13, something had to give.

With all that out of the way, here’s the guess:

Takakeisho’s Bento Box: A Tachiai Review

Takakeisho's Bento Box at Kokugikan
The Takakeisho Bento Box

The last day that I visited Kokugikan during the recent Natsu honbasho was actually also the first day I had ever had the fortune of sitting in one of the “masu” boxes on the ground floor. It felt appropriate to celebrate the moment by engaging in one of the time-honored sumo and uniquely Japanese experiences: purcashing a proper bento box for lunch and enjoying a meal while watching some feisty lower division matches.

Given that Natsu was the first basho following the promotion of Takakeisho to Ozeki, it was a good moment to explore the Takakeisho bento box. As covered previously on the site, there are bento boxes for sale which contain selections from all of the Ozeki and Yokozuna (as well as some other generic boxes). This also means, that following the demotion of Tochinoshin to Sekiwake before the Natsu basho, that the previously available Tochinoshin bento was no longer available (and presumably, as the man himself resumes Ozeki duties, will be making a return for Nagoya).

Takakeisho Bento Box Interior
Takakeisho’s bento is rich with both flavour and detail

The Takakeisho bento included the following:

  • Umeboshi rice with black sesame seeds
  • Katsu pork with sauce and mustard
  • Soy sauce egg hard boiled
  • Tempura thing which seemed to be a fish cake
  • Broccoli and corn
  • Mushrooms (buried under the egg – they really pack a lot of stuff in there)
  • Carrot cut into the shape of a flower

At ¥1150, it’s an insane bargain (as much food is at sumo), especially by western standards. The box feels like it would easily be a $20+ package here in the States.

It should be pointed out that if you want to get your hands on one, then you’d better arrive well before Juryo: all of the sekitori bento typically sell out on a normal day at the basho, and the new nature of the Takakeisho box and popularity of its curator meant that his were flying off the shelves quicker than usual. A further pro tip for our readers: if you’re seated on the ground floor and all of the bento have sold out, more may be available in the gift and snack stands on the second floor of Kokugikan.

Takakeisho has done a great job on the whole of choosing very attractive – especially for sumo – and filling ingredients. As a very hearty bento, I actually think it is a box that would be very suitable especially for the Hatsu basho in January.

Katsu, Tempura and Egg inside Takakeisho's Bento Box
Beside the katsu and underneath the perfectly cooked egg, delicious mushrooms are revealed

Let’s get into the taste. The dried marinated fish element is probably better suited to the start of the meal. And if we’re talking tactics, I’d probably eat this from the left, the right then the center.

The broccoli and corn were surprisingly flavorful – moist and incredibly well seasoned, very peppery. These were among the standout items of the dish. Conversely, if I have one complaint, it would be that the rice was somewhat cold and hard, although I don’t know that that can be helped in the bento format. The egg was extremely delicious and a perfect caramel shade.

It was a bit a bit early in the day for me to imbibe when I was eating it, but Takakeisho’s bento would be a very nice accompaniment for any beer. The tempura item was a bit bland, but the mustard packet helped.

Four very generous cuts of katsu were included, and the accompanying sauce was very rich. I recommend using it sparingly.

No wonder Takakeisho came back early from kyujo! if I knew this was at Kokugikan…

Tachiai’s Rating: ⚪️⚪️⚪️⚪️⚫️