Aki 2021 Kensho Roundup

Once again, thank you, Herouth for providing the data on Kensho for the basho. It provides a very interesting metric which may be a bit of a proxy for commercial (possibly public) interest in particular wrestlers or even the sport as a whole, though these Covid times are not exactly comparable to “The Before Times.” That’s admittedly a rather massive caveat and hopefully normal times resume soon.

As Herouth mentioned prior to the tournament, pledges this basho were way up compared to July. In fact, they were higher than any tournament over the past year, surpassing the tally at Hatsu by 8%. The increased interest was not only for the musubi-no-ichiban, either, as more of the earlier bouts had pledges (233). The amount of envelopes pledged on those bouts was 8.25% higher than in July.

Notably, interest in the new Yokozuna led to a substantial increase in pledges made on the final bout of the day. While the musubi-no-ichiban attracted 192 banners in Nagoya, it more than doubled that tally back in Tokyo (385). Interestingly, that’s not quite as much as the amount pledged last Aki in the drama-filled showdown won by Shodai (415). In that tournament, the musubi cycled through the three Ozeki as they each took turns fighting the final (often the most lucrative) bout of the day.

Terunofuji crushed the field by taking home more than triple the kensho when compared to his closest competitor, Mitakeumi. That fat stack on senshuraku helped but it was really a story of 13 of 15 paydays. Takakeisho, on the other hand, let the most pledges slip through his fingers, followed by Shodai.

Myogiryu, the dark horse of the basho, did quite well, too. His win over Takakeisho provided him with an even fatter stack of kensho than when he beat Terunofuji in May. He also beat Shodai and scored a nice haul there, as well. That’s quite a different story than in November and March when he lost all of those big payday bouts against Ozeki.

I’ve updated the kensho-kin visualization and put it after the “read more” link to keep it from loading every time anyone visits the site. I know you love my data viz but if you’re trying to read more about Hakuho, you probably don’t want this thing rendering every time.

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Natsu Kensho Report

Hello all! I compiled the kensho data collected by Herouth into an updated dashboard. Click on the “Read More” link because I didn’t want it to bog down your devices. We can make out the clear impact of having no fans on the kensho pledges during the first three days of the tournament. The sponsored bounties were paying out at a rate lower than November’s tournament. However, pledges clearly picked up when the crowd came back and with a full set of four Ozeki. There’s no surprise, then, that pledges dropped off a bit on Day 12. Still, it was encouraging to see a few days this tournament with payouts higher than January and March, especially as the drama built on the final weekend.

The clear leader over the past five tournaments in both kensho won and lost, is Takakeisho. He won a yusho in November and then followed that up with a disastrous Hatsu, only two wins and seven kensho stacks lost in that one tournament. Still, he has won nearly 900 envelopes. If I got my math right, that’s a quarter of a million dollars in cash bounties physically handed over to him on the dohyo, with a comparable amount set aside for his retirement.

Terunofuji, on the other hand, has had a much better ratio of kensho won. However, much of this time was actually spent in the lower ranks, one each as maegashira and komusubi, two at sekiwake, and then this last one at Ozeki. Hakuho has the best win ratio, with 27 kensho won and none lost. Note: the envelopes won and lost are fusen-adjusted while “pledges” are not.

An interesting trend here is the declining Musubi-no-Ichiban payout over these 10 months. Pledges have been rising for the other bouts, from 745 in September to 919 in May but pledges on the final bouts have decreased from 415 to 284. Much may be increasing payouts to Terunofuji as well as declining pledges for Takakeisho. In September, he and Asanoyama would alternate between musubi-no-ichiban but Takakeisho’s pledges were averaging a bit more than Asanoyama. Now there are more Ozeki in the cycle. We shall see what July holds for us.

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Kensho Roundup 2020

Thanks to Herouth, we’ve got some great data on kensho again for the November basho. With the hype around a new Ozeki, I was expecting a bump in the number of fat stacks being handed out. However, overall pledges were down 10% from September’s tournament. This was true from Day 1, not something easily explained by Asanoyama and Shodai’s injury withdrawals.

The middle weekend of the September tournament was a holiday, but the bump in pledges in that tournament may have been because of the Endo/Terunofuji bout. There were also huge pledges made for his Day One bout against Asanoyama and his scheduled Day 12 bout with Takakeisho. Takakeisho’s matches saw slightly fewer envelopes, despite being the only “top dog” for much of the tournament. As we see from the chart above, senshuraku again had the most pledges but the bounties placed on Takakeisho vs Asanoyama was higher than Takakeisho vs Terunofuji.

Terunofuji was the most effective wrestler at winning envelopes. He won 87% of the bounty envelopes from his matches while Takakeisho only won 83%, the difference there being Terunofuji’s big win on senshuraku to force a playoff.

Mitakeumi unfortunately came out of this tournament as the biggest loser, letting 79 envelopes slip from his grasp, while last basho, Asanoyama lost the most “fusen-adjusted” envelopes. (For this metric, I took out the envelopes pledged in fusen matches.) Second place for this dubious distinction goes to Enho (-65) and third goes to Takayasu (-61). Takayasu still won 41% of bounties from his bouts while Mitakeumi only won 35% and Enho won 22%. Endo actually had more pledge money up-for-grabs than anyone but Takakeisho in this last tournament.

As with last tournament, I’ll publish the visualizations for you all to play with but I’m going to take a little more time to make it look nice before publishing it. I already think there may be more interesting views than what I’ve got here, so we’ll see what I can do. Anyway, it will only get more exciting when there’s more data to track performance through time.

Katsuya Takasu, Sumo Super Fan

Japan watchers are likely already familiar with Katsuya Takasu, likely from his ubiquitous “Yes, Takasu Clinic” commercials. The cosmetic clinic mogul is a colorful figure in the Japanese business world and is a big fan of sumo. Ever the believer in cosmetic surgery, the company site lets you see how he, himself, has been transformed via cosmetic surgery.

As a sumo fan, he has been seen sitting ringside during many tournaments. He puts his money into the sport as well, something this blog is a big proponent of. Eagle-eyed kensho banner watchers will notice his “高須クリニック” and the same text appears below his cartoon advertisements on several kessho mawashi – including Nishikigi and Ikioi.

During Week 1 of this current tournament, there was a bit of drama in the sumo world as the sumo kyokai accidentally forgot his banners for the Nishikigi bout. He’d paid for three during Nishikigi’s bout, five for Ikioi, and 3 during the final bout. If you go back to Day 2 footage, you’ll see him in bright yellow sitting on the very edge of the first row. In some instances, you’ll notice him on his phone, presumably tweeting his displeasure at the Sumo Kyokai. The Kyokai got apologized and made up for it by adding banners to Ikioi.


The Hanamichi Life

If a sumo fan needs more of a reason to learn Japanese, it’s this. There’s a whole world of entertainment gossip that surrounds every pop culture topic, and sumo is no exception. We miss out on so much detail when we’re not able to follow along in the Japanese press and on social media. Given the increasing coverage of sumo in the Japanese press, and the always colorful Japanese Sumo Twitter, yours truly will re-double efforts to open these doors. Google Translate is just about the worst when it comes to meaningful translation of Japanese so it is important that sumo fans have somewhere to turn to get information. This blog post by Dr Takasu about “BannerGate” is a great example of the stuff we miss out on. It’s also wonderful because he uses a casual form of Japanese that many of us are not exposed to in our “Business Japanese” courses.


And by the way, when I say that the guy sits in the front row, I mean the FRONT ROW. This is one of the pictures of Ikioi he took from his seat. I think this seat is even better than being in the center because wrestlers fall on those poor chaps all the time. From this seat he can strike up a conversation with a wrestler, greet them as they come and go, and pop out to the bathroom without having to climb over everyone else. Anyway, Katchan was very happy when Ikioi won, thus getting his kenshokin.