News Round-up 1/30/2022

Lots of sumo news to cover this week.

Promotions

Atamifuji and Shimazuumi were newly promoted to Juryo, while Takakento and Ryuden will make their returns. There is some intrigue still involving the placement of Shiden from Kise-beya, who we believe may retain his Juryo rank. He had been caught up in Hidenoumi’s gambling scandal. The two were shown to have visited an illegal casino so Kise-oyakata had pulled both from the Hatsu tournament, which was also to-be Shiden’s first in Juryo.

After the investigation, the Kyokai decided Shiden’s participation had been only in his capacity as Hidenoumi’s tsukebito, he had not gambled and therefore there would be no suspension. Since they can’t exactly rescind a suspension which has already been served, we think his rank will be retained. For his part, Hidenoumi’s suspension was the one tournament. He will likely fall into Juryo for the Osaka tournament.

Shimazuumi’s Career-Tracker

Shimazuumi, formerly known as Nakazono, is from the new Hanaregoma-beya, pictured below with his dapper-looking shisho. He’s the third sekitori at the stable, joining Ichiyamamoto and Shohozan as a full-time, salaried wrestler. He’s been near the promised land for over a year and finally punched his ticket after three consecutive kachi-koshi basho.

You may remember the shifting of stable names after the Kyushu tournament which saw former Kisenosato acquire the name Nishonoseki from the retiring oyakata. The new Araiso has stayed on in a post-retirement sanyo position in the new Hanaregoma-beya. Hanaregoma-beya is now run by the former Tamanoshima who won five fighting spirit prizes and one technique prize in a career that reached Sekiwake.

Atamifuji, on the other hand, has had a swift rise from his Jonokuchi debut at the start of 2021. When Shimazuumi (then Nakazono) was already Ms4, Atamifuji won his first yusho in a playoff with Arauma and then followed it up with another in Jonidan. He has not had a make-koshi losing record, yet, and will hope to continue that streak.

Danpatshushiki

This weekend has been jam-packed at Kokugikan with retirement ceremonies for Goeido (now Takekuma-oyakata) and Tochiozan (Kiyomigata-oyakata). The two came up together in amateur sumo before being rivals in Grand Sumo, so it was quite fitting to share their retirement weekend. This upcoming week will be Yoshikaze’s turn.

Takekuma-oyakata will split out from Sakaigawa stable and take three wrestlers along with him next month. There have been a lot of name changes and new stables lately, so this graphic is very helpful that Herouth has been so kind to translate. In fact, Yoshikaze (whose retirement ceremony is this upcoming weekend) will also be moving. He’s going with Arai—oops—, Nishonoseki-oyakata, to that mega sumo church in Ibaraki.

Stay tuned! We’re very eager to see this troupe make its way to Osaka for Haru basho.

Mitakeumi Promoted To Ozeki

In a ceremony Wednesday morning, representatives from the NSK officially announced that Mitakeumi had been promoted to Ozeki, sumo’s second highest rank. The ceremony featured Mitakeumi, along with Dewanoumi oyakata and okamisan in a deep bow, as Mitakeumi accepted the promotion.

Mitakeumi becomes the third active Ozeki in the current rotation, and punctuated his bid with a 13-2 yusho (his third) on top of a run of 7 straight kachi-koshi basho in san-yaku. He had been trying to reach Ozeki since (I think) 2017, and each time fell just short of the goal. But he never gave up, and never lost his drive

Team Tachiai congratulations Mitakeumi on his promotion, and hopes he serves long and well. Some media below of the proceedings.

Full video here

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.