Asanoyama Promoted to Ozeki

As reported today in the Japan Times, the Sumo Association has agreed that sumo rising star Asanoyama is to be promoted to Ozeki, sumo’s second highest rank. In comments following the completion of the Haru basho in Osaka, the shimpan committee had broadly signaled that they would vote in favor to promote Asanoyama. There will be a formal meeting held on Wednesday to compile the May banzuke, which will mark the official promotion. Following this meeting, representatives from the association will travel to the Takasago stable to announce the promotion. For fans who have seen this in the past, such as Tochinoshin and Takakeisho, the Asanoyama, Takasago oyakata and Takasago okamisan will all be in formal clothes, and will assume a saikeirei bow, and accept the promotion.

Although Asanoyama feel short of the customary 33 wins over 3 tournaments from San’yaku (he ended the run with 32), the NSK has decided that sumo needs to replenish the upper ranks, and have wisely bestowed Ozeki on this talented young man. With the only remaining Ozeki hurt, and now kadoban, and both Yokozuna nearing the point of retirement, a strong, healthy and talented younger rikishi is a perfect promotion candidate. We think that we will see at least one more top rank promotion this year, and likely at least one more next year as the old guard continues to fade, and the next generation of kanban rikishi take their places.

Asanoyama won his first yusho in may of 2019 from Maegashira 8, finishing 12-3, and picking up 2 special prizes. He also is the only rikishi to ever be awarded the Trump Cup. Since then he has picked up 2 more special prizes and a jun-yusho. He has scored double digits in 5 of the last 6 basho. Tachiai predicts that if he can stay healthy and keep his body working well, Asanoyama will make a fine Ozeki.

Early Ozeki Runs Hatsu 2020

The Collapse of Champions

There have been some very interesting storylines coming out of Hatsu but I want to focus on this one for this article. This tournament was very rough on our Ozeki as we only have one left. Four former Ozeki are fighting it out in the Makuuchi, with yet another (Terunofuji) knocking at the door to make a comeback. Terunofuji was the only one among them with a winning record at Hatsu.

As Leonid predicts, Takayasu will likely fall into the rank-and-file. Goeido will fall to Sekiwake. Tochinoshin may swap places with Kagayaki and fall to M11. Kotoshogiku may drop a slot to M14. Other than Takayasu, all have won a tournament. Getting that second one in a row…and the Yokozuna’s privilege of a break without drop in rank…is really hard.

“Show of hands, who wants a promotion?”

Scanning for the Next Plateau

I’ve written about how this situation makes that Meat Puppets song (made famous by Nirvana) pop into my head. The last time I wrote about it, I looked really far down the banzuke. Perhaps I wasn’t aware how dire the situation would become. So I ask, who’s in a position to make a run now?

The Criteria

The criteria aren’t exact but 33 wins over three tournaments seems to be the line…though 32 may make it, as with Goeido’s 12-8-12 run. The run should also start in or near sanyaku but again we have recent exceptions. Tochinoshin’s run started from Maegashira 3 with a yusho 14Y-10-13. Ultimately, we’re looking for consistency at the sanyaku level.

Asanoyama

I will start with Asanoyama because I think this is the strongest run, and the one that is the furthest along. Leonid has written about his run before, especially since he may be starting from Kyushu at Maegashira 2 with 10 wins. It’s also the first real chance since Mitakeumi blew his shot from late last year. His 11 wins in Tokyo this month likely means 12 in Osaka would give him the magic number of 33.

Hokutofuji

If Asanoyama’s run can start from Kyushu, Hokutofuji just started a run here at Hatsu. His 11 wins from the same rank Asanoyama occupied in Kyushu will hopefully be enough to force an extra sekiwake slot since Goeido will occupy a slot, as Leonid has speculated. I’m editorializing here but I think this would be a smart move by the Kyokai. I can’t imagine they would want a vacant Ozeki slot to last long which means they need candidates. I’m never an advocate of early promotion by relaxing criteria but I think that blocking otherwise worthy promotions because there should only be two Sekiwake would be a bit silly. 11 wins at Maegashira 2 is certainly a performance worthy of the Sekiwake rank.

Shodai

Shodai’s case for a run starting now is likely weaker than Hokutofuji’s because of the lower rank, even though one of Hokutofuji’s wins was a fusen. Hokutofuji did pick up a kinboshi. But Maegashira 4 is in the joi and based on his 13-2 jun-yusho performance, Shodai certainly makes another strong case for Sekiwake. Two 10 win performances to follow and we may have Ozeki Shodai by Nagoya.

Endo

Endo’s case for a Sekiwake slot is weaker than those above but he is certainly deserving of a Komusubi slot. It would take a really special run but conceivably spectacular showings in Osaka and back in Tokyo in May could see Ozeki Endo in Nagoya but it is not going to happen. I just mention it because the run would make the newspapers go absolutely bonkers and that would be fun.

Thoughts?

I’m eager to hear what y’all think.

Ozeki promotion acceptance phrases

In a few hours, two representatives of the NSK will arrive at Chiganoura beya, wearing formal kimono, and formally inform Takakeisho of his promotion to Ozeki. He will bow, flanked by his oyakata and okami-san (stablemaster’s wife), and formally accept the honor.

The most recently promoted (and now demoted) Ozeki, Tochinoshin, uttering his phrase

Part of this formal acceptance speech is a phrase which is supposed to express the spirit in which the rikishi wants to undertake his new duty. This phrase is often a four-character set phrase (yojijukugo), but that’s not mandatory.

Sumo fans are speculating on the phrase Takakeisho will choose to use in his acceptance ceremony, and the Japanese media published all the phrases used by all Ozeki who were promoted in the Heisei era. I thought I’d share the list with Tachiai’s readers.

YearOzekiPhraseReadingMeaning
1990Kirishima一生懸命isshōkenmeiWith all my might
1992Akebono名を汚さぬようna o yogosanu yōNot to disgrace the title [of Ozeki]
1993Takanohana
不撓不屈futō-fukutsuIndomitable, Unyielding
1993Wakanohana一意専心ichiisenshinWholeheartedly
1994Takanonami勇往邁進yūōmaishinPush forward
1994Musashimaru日本の心を持ってnippon no kokoro o motteWith a Japanese heart
1999Chiyotaikai名を汚さぬよう(See Akebono)
1999Dejima力のもののふを目指しchikara no mononofu o mezashiAim to be a warrior of strength
2000Musoyama正々堂々seisei-dōdōOpen and aboveboard
2000Miyabiyama初心を忘れず
Shoshin o wasurezuAlways remember my initial resolve
2000Kaio地位を汚さぬようchii o yogosanu yōNot to disgrace the status [of ozeki]
2001Tochiazuma名に恥じぬようna ni hajinu yōNot to shame the title [of ozeki]
2002Asashoryu一生懸命(See Kirishima)
2005Kotooshu名に恥じぬようにna ni hajinu yō ni(See Tochiazuma)
2006Hakuho全身全霊zenshin-zenreiBody and Soul
2007Kotomitsuki力戦奮闘rikisenfuntō
Fighting with all my might
2008Harumafuji全身全霊(See Hakuho)
2010Baruto栄誉ある地位を汚さぬようeiyo aru chii wo yogosanu yōNot to disgrace the honorable status [of ozeki]
2011Kotoshogiku万理一空banri ikkūMany principles under one sky
2011Kisenosato名を汚さぬよう(See Akebono)
2012Kakuryu喜んでもらえるようなyorokonde moraeru yōnaTo be able to make people happy
2014Goeido大和魂を貫いて
Yamato-damashi o tsuranuiteTo carry on the Japanese spirit
2015Terunofuji心技体の充実に努めshin-gi-tai no jūjitsu ni tsutomeWork to bring heart, technique and body to the utmost
2017Takayasu正々堂々(See Musoyama)
2018Tochinoshin力士の手本rikishi no tehonA role model for rikishi

Some of these are quite unique. Dejima’s “chikara no mononofu” is actually written as 力の士 – the kanji that make up the word “rikishi” – “a man/warrior/samurai of power”. It’s not usually pronounced “mononofu”.

Kotoshogiku’s phrase is a kind of Zen phrase, which famously appeared in the “Book of Five Rings” by Miyamoto Musashi. Its meaning is unclear and is supposed to be something to ponder as you prepare for a challenge.

Personally, I really like Kakuryu’s artless phrase. All he wants is to make people happy!

So, with a few hours to go, what kind of resolve or feeling do you think Takakeisho’s phrase will express?

Haru Story #2: A Tale of Two Ozeki Runs

The Countdown to Haru continues, and we are now one week away from the return of sumo action! Hello sumo fans, and welcome back to another breakdown of one of the big stories going into the Osaka tournament this march. Today’s video is about the two ozeki runs currently going on in the world of sumo.

Takakeisho and Tamawashi will be bringing their A-game this March and you won’t want to miss the Haru Basho!