Haru 2022 Kensho-kin Roundup

Thanks to Herouth’s kensho data, I’ve been working to update my kensho dashboard. The great story of this tournament has been the rising star, Wakatakakage. His largest bounty collected so far was that claimed with the scalp of Ozeki Takakeisho. He had a chance at even more, and the outright yusho, on Senshuraku but Shodai played an effective spoiler. This March, Shodai’s was fighting at a significant discount to Takakeisho and shin-Ozeki Mitakeumi, fighting for .75 cents for every dollar, on average, of the other Ozeki. Given the performance of both wrestlers, and the shift in venue back to Tokyo, I hope both will see larger sponsorship pledges for the upcoming Natsu basho.

One concern is obviously the health of Yokozuna Terunofuji. If he’s questionable for the tournament, that may impact viewership and sponsorship numbers. But with so many new story lines, we obviously won’t know for a few weeks. I have enjoyed seeing bounty pledges “trickle down” to wrestlers in the lower ranks. Again, there were more than 1,100 envelopes pledged for the bouts leading up to the musubi-ichiban. Takayasu was another wrestler who saw a bump in his usual sponsorship and I definitely loved watching him as a factor in the yusho race. Let’s hope for a repeat in May!

It was a bit of a surprise to me that Abi’s bouts actually had more kensho pledges than Wakatakakage’s. However, his peak bout was earlier in the tournament against Mitakeumi on Day 11. Wakamotoharu, brother and stablemate of the yusho winner, did not see quite as many pledges as in January without the big outlay made by Nintendo on the hiramaku bouts. But, he did fight for his two largest bounties so far. The first, 8 envelopes he lost to Takayasu and 10 envelopes he won against Endo.

Among the hiramaku, Kiribayama and Hoshoryu continue to have consistent sponsorship, though Endo is clearly still the kensho king in the mid-maegashira, claiming larger pledges than virtually everyone except the Ozeki. There’s an interesting interplay here with stablemates that I will dig into for next tournament. Takakeisho gets huge sponsorship while Takanosho sometimes doesn’t get any pledges at all, even when ranked in sanyaku. However, Kokonoe-beya wrestlers seem to have a few envelopes spread out among each…though sometimes Chiyoshoma seems to be left out on occasion. (Could it be that the henka reputation hurts his popularity enough to impact his sponsorships?)

Heya Hunters International

As detailed by Andy in his recent post (and via Twitter from Herouth, and throughout the usual dispatches from our friend Kintamayama over the preceding weeks), a number of heya changes have recently taken place. Additional changes will follow in the coming days… and in fact, there will be even more changes yet to follow later this year!

The kabu stock market tends to be an interest that’s restricted to the most intense of sumo anoraks. It’s not a topic of conversation for most normal sumo fans, confusing to others, and many changes and name transfers are often administrative in nature. However, for those wishing for a deeper dive, it seems like a good time to do some recap and analysis.

Nishonoseki Ichimon

The major story is the former Yokozuna Kisenosato taking over the prestigious headline Nishonoseki name, renaming his relatively new heya from Araiso beya to Nishonoseki beya. We have often wondered what kind of heya Araiso beya would be, and we don’t have to wonder anymore, because it won’t exist. Nishonoseki beya will be augmented by the arrival of eight rikishi from the soon to close Oguruma beya.

Oguruma oyakata reaches retirement age this spring, and the stable had long been rumoured to split into Yoshikaze (Nakamura oyakata) and Takekaze (Oshiogawa oyakata) factions. We have known for some time that Oshiogawa beya would be a new stable opening this year, but the division of the rikishi and what would happen to the existing stable and Nakamura oyakata had yet to be announced.

It was somewhat of a surprise, then, that Nakamura oyakata will make the big move up to Ibaraki prefecture to join up with Nishonoseki beya. And it was equally a surprise that the vast majority of Oguruma beya’s rikishi will not accompany the outgoing oyakata or the former Takekaze, with whom they will have had a much longer relationship, but instead be heading north with the former Yoshikaze to work under the former Yokozuna at his new stable. Kisenosato had long spoken – and even published a paper as part of his studies – about how to run a new type of modern sumo stable, and it seems that alongside his own recruits, 8 of the Oguruma beya rikishi will get a chance to experience that first hand when his new lodging opens.

Additionally, Nishonoseki beya gets an immediate quality boost with the presence of former sekitori Tomokaze, who will now almost certainly be the first sekitori of the new Nishonoseki beya as he continues his rehabilitation in the Makushita joi over the next couple of basho. While the former Yoshikaze certainly could have inherited and renamed the former Oguruma stable, and also qualifies as someone able to branch out and create a new heya in the future, he is also known to have a number of extra-curricular circumstances outside of sumo that would seem to have prevented him from running a stable at this time.

Working with Nishonoseki oyakata in the meantime, of course, does not prevent him from branching out in the future, and would appear to be a great experience for all involved: a number of the former Oguruma rikishi will certainly relish the opportunity to work under a former Yokozuna known for his fundamentals, and both coaches had very different sumo styles serving them well throughout their lengthy top division careers. And with Nishonoseki oyakata known to be both ambitious about his plans for the stable and shorthanded in the support department (most stables have an okamisan on hand to help with stable running – although this is certainly not a requirement and may be viewed as another way that Nishonoseki is progressing the tradition of stable management), the addition of a capable, young new coach should certainly help a stable master who is known to be extremely busy, between overseeing heya construction, kyokai and frequent media duties, and his various brand partnerships and endorsement deals.

As for Oshiogawa beya, former Takekaze will bring Oguruma oyakata, current sekitori Yago, and a couple others along with him to his own innovative new building (which was at one point said to include lodgings for students, and with the absence of a gym as his rikishi will apparently make use of community facilities as he seeks to integrate the stable with the local community).

Meanwhile, the man who held the Nishonoseki name for most of the last decade, former Ozeki Wakashimazu, continues as a consultant using Kisenosato’s former Araiso name. A number of his stable’s rikishi have retired following the Hatsu basho, but those opting to continue will do so under the tutelage of former Sekiwake Tamanoshima, who has long held the name of Hanaregoma oyakata, and as such, with the transfer of power complete at the former Nishonoseki beya, will run the stable – also soon to be at new premises – under the name Hanaregoma beya. The longtime shimpan and sometime heartthrob Hanaregoma will look back fondly at his move from Kataonami beya – where he was developed himself as a rikishi – to work under the former Wakashimazu, a move that certainly paid off in the long run as the legendary Kataonami beya (once home to Yokozuna Tamanoumi) fell into sharp decline.

Hanaregoma oyakata will preside over a stable with no fewer than three sekitori, as Wakashimazu’s (presumably) final recruit to make the jump to the salaried ranks, Shimazuumi, will move to Juryo in the forthcoming basho (joining stablemates Ichiyamamoto and veteran Shohozan there). I had pegged Shohozan to retire and inherit both the name and stable from Wakashimazu, having been his greatest success story as an oyakata and given Shohozan’s advancing years, but the wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, transferring names and stables, caught many sumo observers as a bit of a surprise. It’s probable however, that the deal for former Tamanoshima to take over the stable from former Wakashimazu had been in the works for a long time.

Dewanoumi Ichimon

It’s not quite as complicated here, as former Ozeki Goeido (Takekuma oyakata) and his new haircut have branched out from Sakaigawa beya, taking Makushita champ Nishikawa and promising youngster Goseiryu with him, to form Takekuma beya.

Given that Goseiryu has taken the first character of Goeido’s shikona, it will be interesting to see if this is an indicator of future shikona in the new Takekuma beya, and if more rikishi will take a “Go” prefix in deference to the new yusho-winning stablemaster. That said, the character also matches the first character of the rikishi’s given name, so it’s a little early to call.

Curiously, it’s the first time since the war that Takekuma beya will exist outside of the Tatsunami-Isegahama ichimon, and Goeido’s assumption of the name upon his retirement a couple years back marked what may become a more normal transfer of less prestigious names across ichimon lines.

Isegahama Ichimon

2021 had been a big year for this group of stables, but largely for reasons on the dohyo, with the retirement of Yokozuna Hakuho (Miyagino beya), the elevation of Yokozuna Terunofuji (Isegahama beya), and the kanreki dohyo-iri of Isegahama oyakata.

But a series of moves are now in the offing outside of the ring, and the first of these is the administrative name switch of Tomozuna oyakata (former yusho winner Kyokutenho) and Oshima oyakata (former sekiwake Kaiki), who ran Tomozuna beya for many years before his retirement, developing current sekitori Kaisei and long-time former Ozeki Kaio (for the vast majority of Kaio’s career, anyway).

Kyokutenho was brought up in the now legendary former Oshima beya under the tutelage of ex-Ozeki Asahikuni, who oversaw a decades-long production line running from Yokozuna Asahifuji (possibly now the best developer of talent in sumo as Isegahama oyakata) all the way through to Kyokutenho and his younger mates Kyokutaisei (as detailed in the film “A Normal Life”) and the newly-retired Kyokushuho.

Following the successful merger of the former Oshima beya with Tomozuna beya following former Asahikuni’s retirement, Kaiki ran the stable until his mandatory retirement in 2017 when Kyokutenho switched elder names to continue running the stable under the Tomozuna banner, in deference to Kaiki. Kaiki continued as a sanyo (consultant), and as he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 for sanyo this summer and leaves the kyokai for good, the two have switched names again to allow Kyokutenho to revive the Oshima beya name, which he will presumably run for many years to come. There are no fundamental changes to the stable beyond the name swap.

This, of course, will generate debate as to who will take the Tomozuna name when it becomes available later this year. Isegahama ichimon has no shortage of aging rikishi that may require a myoseki. And while there are those in other stables (Miyagino, Isegahama) who meet the requirements, Oshima beya will have its own coaching logjam. Former Asahisho is already using a loaner kabu (Kiriyama), which, coming from the Isegahama stable, is presumed to be Takarafuji’s in waiting. Meanwhile, Kyokutaisei, having been beset by numerous injuries and punted out of the salaried ranks, may need a kabu himself in the near future if he wishes to continue his career as an elder in the kyokai, having reached the required number of basho. While he hadn’t always seemed an obvious choice to become a coach, he assisted in the recent recruitment of one of the stable’s relatively few new recruits under Kyokutenho, the fellow Hokkaido native Kyokutaiga. It is possible he may unlock further recruits in the future from his home in the north.

All of this of course ignores the presence of 35 year old Kaisei, the veteran most closely linked to the Tomozuna name, having been the last sekitori to have reached the top division from the old heya under Kaiki’s tutelage. The Brazilian born rikishi has already taken Japanese nationality, but has also given mixed signals in the past about his desire to remain in sumo. In any case, it would be a major surprise not to see the Tomozuna name ultimately go to Kaisei, but in the meantime the name may be shuffled around the heya to protect the employment statuses of others.

If you’ve made it this far, you can accuse me of burying the lede a bit, because August brings the mandatory retirement of Miyagino oyakata in what will signal the official power transfer of the storied stable to the former Yokozuna Hakuho. Hakuho – now Magaki oyakata – has of course already become one of the sport’s most prolific recruiters and developers of talent in recent years, even while still active (to some extent) on the dohyo.

Hakuho was made to sign a statement by the Kyokai with regards to his future conduct and behaviour upon retirement, but this is not thought to be an impediment to the future transfer of the stable into his control at this time. We already know that Hakuho has indicated an intention to build a new home for the heya, but the two questions currently unresolved are 1) whether he will switch names with the current Miyagino oyakata so that the stable can continue to operate under the Miyagino name, or if it will be given a fresh start and renamed Magaki beya; and 2) whether the current Miyagino oyakata and Takashima oyakata, who reach age 65 within a few days of each other, will both continue as sanyo for another five years in support of Hakuho. If either the current Takashima or Miyagino decide to leave, it could free up a name to be used for – speculatively – Ishiura. Hakuho has longtime links to the Ishiura family – Ishiura’s father runs the powerhouse Tottori Johoku sumo club, and the continued employ of the 32 year old Ishiura in the stable after his career could further deepen the recruitment pipeline for Hakuho’s stable over the next two decades.

Takasago Ichimon

Not much happening here, but the Oyama name will become available for the first time in 36 years by October, when former Onobori reaches the mandatory sanyo retirement age of 70. The Nishikijima name was also occupied by the former Takasago oyakata and Ozeki Asashio before his scandal related departure from the Kyokai last year. Speculatively speaking, either name could come into play on loan for the former Kotoyuki, who is currently borrowing soon-to-be-37-year-old Okinoumi’s myoseki Kimigahama. Both names could also be acquisition targets for Hokutofuji, who turns 30 later this year.

Tokitsukaze Ichimon

Michinoku beya’s Tatsutayama oyakata reaches the retirement age of 65 in June, and has yet to indicate whether he intends to continue as a sanyo. This will be of interest largely because of the situations regarding the former Toyonoshima (currently borrowing Izutsu from the deceased former shisho of that stable, Sakahoko) and former Yokozuna Kakuryu (currently operating under his ring name as the rank allows for a temporary period of up to 5 years). At some point, both former rikishi will need to acquire their own name.

Toyonoshima was said to have been making payments towards the Nishikijima name for years, and the Nishikijima name belonged to the Tokitsukaze ichimon for decades before being picked up by the Takasago family more recently. So, it would not be a surprise to see it come back into play as an option for him, especially if Tatsutayama (or Isenoumi beya’s coach and a former stable master in his own right, Kagamiyama, upon his retirement in 12 months) elects not to continue as a sanyo.

The wild card in all of this is that the former Izutsu’s widow was rumoured to be adamant the name would go only to the rikishi who married her daughter, and the rikishi to have taken that particular challenge on is none other than current maegashira Shimanoumi, of Dewanoumi ichimon’s Kise beya. While Shimanoumi seems likely to qualify for elder status by 2023, it seems incredibly unlikely that the prestigious Izutsu name, having never been associated with any other ichimon (barring a brief period under Kitanofuji’s control in the 70s), would be moved to Dewanoumi ichimon (though stranger things have happened).

So, in summary, watch this space in 2022 as there may be an update regarding the statuses of former Toyonoshima and Kakuryu, as any one of the Nishikijima, Tatsutayama, Izutsu or Kagamiyama names could come into play… or maybe not!

Hatsu 2022: Kensho Update

Thanks again to Herouth for the tracking the kensho data, but I love this data. Nintendo’s sponsorship helped make this tournament the biggest as far as kensho payouts go since we started tracking it, with 22% higher payouts than Wacky-Aki and 44% more kensho than Kyushu. The increased sponsorship of hiramaku bouts made for a dramatic increase as the non-musubi total haul surged past 1,000 envelopes to 1,260. The musubi-no-ichiban bouts added another 414 envelopes to the tally. Each envelope contains 30,000 yen, with an equal portion going to the rikishi’s retirement. Adding in the Association’s fee, the sponsorship is 70,000 yen per kensho banner/envelope. This means the envelopes handed out contained 50 Million yen in cash.

*And thank you, Joe S, for pointing out that my numbers about the amount of yen were off by a factor of 10. I have fixed it. [facepalm]

Total Kensho Pledges

Despite losing the yusho, Terunofuji was yet again the Kensho King, walking away with 282 envelopes. If you do the math with me, that’s $73,600. Mitakeumi walked away with just under $50,000. I expect his bouts with Takakeisho and Terunofuji to be good paydays for whomever wins. (As Ozeki, he won’t have to fight Shodai again. Just kidding, I think.) Third place in the kensho race actually went to Abi, who pipped Shodai and Endo with a little help from his gold-star win against Terunofuji. The great news is that every Makuuchi wrestler walked away with some sponsorship money, and even a few Juryo visitors did, too. My biggest pain point with this is that Takayasu couldn’t share in the bounty.

The coolest thing is that I am starting to see some trends in the aggregate where wrestlers appear to win more bouts when there’s more money on the line. It shouldn’t be a surprise. I think if there’s a few thousand dollars on the line, I’d be more motivated to win. There’s also quite a bit of variability among wrestlers so far but I’m still early in doing that analysis because I need to properly control for rank and strength of opponent.

But on a more basic level, there was an increase in funds across the board which is a great sign. I just think that extra edge helped make the fights more competitive (even on senshuraku) and helped to make for a thrilling tournament. Each day of the tournament had more pledged bouts, and more total envelopes pledged, than any previous tournament we had tracked. This represents the high-water mark of the Covid era and hopefully signals a return to normal is just around the corner.

Speaking of Covid, the news out of Tokyo this weekend was that Mitakeumi tested positive for Covid. Unfortunately, it appears he does have symptoms (headache) so we hope his case stays mild and he recovers quickly. We also hope the case does not turn into an outbreak as he was a participant in the weekend’s retirement activities.

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.