Kensho Dashboard Update

I’m sorry I’m late with the kensho dashboard update. I’ve been working on another one, having to do with the banzuke, and I forgot to publish my kensho update. It’s great to see Terunofuji’s senshuraku bouts regularly surpassing the highwater mark set in the first month of Herouth’s data collection. That month, Takakeisho took on Asanoyama in a bout that had 44 kensho envelopes, which Takakeisho won. Takakeisho walked away with almost 60 this past month when he sealed Ichinojo’s yusho by beating Terunofuji.

Overall this tournament was a bit thriftier than the others this year. That doesn’t seem to be unusual with a lot more hype and excitement around the first tournament of the year back in Tokyo and noticeably less in Nagoya. 1466 bounties were pledged this July, though I bet it would have been quite a bit higher if Mitakeumi and Endo had been able to stay the entire tournament, though I figure a lot of the envelopes were just shuffled around to other bouts, later in the tournament. It may have actually helped Takakeisho walk away with that huge stack on senshuraku.

Over this past two years, Terutsuyoshi claims the top spot with the most bouts with bounties pledged (180), followed by Kiribayama and Hoshoryu (178). This has more to do with staying healthy though. Other top wrestlers have missed more days kyujo. Terunofuji has clearly taken the most cash, though, with almost 2400 envelopes won. That’s 143,820,000 yen or a little over $1 Million in sponsorship money. I think I did the math correctly this time. 600,000 yen x 2397 bounties. A half million dollars in cash with most of the rest going to retirement after the Kyokai takes its cut.

Ichinojo made it into the Top 5 Kensho Winners with this yusho, after Terunofuji, Takakeisho, Shodai, and Abi. He’s been claiming much more kensho lately, and there’s been more sponsorship of his bouts, so I’m hopeful that the increase in ice cream funds spurs him on to the next level. It’s good to see Shodai back near the top. He had won three fewer envelopes in May than Wakamotoharu. Mitakeumi had still managed to be fourth. Here’s hoping Shodai sees the benefits to warming up before bouts!

As always, feedback is greatly appreciated — positive or negative — so long as it’s not personal. I already know I smell and have been wearing the same pajamas for three weeks. I get to work from home now.

New Kesho Mawashi for Daieisho and Tsurugisho

Nihon Daigaku (Nichidai: 日大) presented Oitekaze stablemates, Daieisho and Tsurugisho, with some brand spanking new kesho mawashi. Tsurugisho graduated from Nichidai before entering Grand Sumo but Daieisho entered a graduate program there last April. (I’m always glad when athletes are making plans for their post-athletics careers. So props to Daieisho.)

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Tsurugisho is already the owner of an awesome Momotaro kesho mawashi. Well, his new one doesn’t feature the eponymous folk hero who was birthed from a peach. [Pause here while Andy recovers from a giggle fit.] “I swear all those old stories are dirty.

Instead, it features Daikokuten, one of the Seven Gods of Fortune which I have written about in the past. Remember the boat (Takarabune)? Daikokuten is generally shown with his hammer (uchide no kozuchi 打ち出の小槌). In Daieisho’s old kesho mawashi, which, coincidentally, is the one I wrote about with the beautiful sakura and Takarabune, Daikokuten is the one at the very front of the boat. The playful portrait here — this time on Momotaro’s apron — is in keeping with Tsurugisho’s jovial personality. Meanwhile, Daieisho’s new kit features an amazing image of a distant Mount Fuji framed by sakura (cherry blossoms). I look forward to seeing both of these new mawashi on the dohyo in May.

The designer of these kesho mawashi is Tanaka Yuko, vice-chairman of the Female Sumo Federation in Japan and was presented to the pair by her and her husband, Tanaka Hidetoshi, chairman of Nichidai, vice-president of the Japanese Olympic Committee among other key positions in the amateur sumo and sports-world.

Speaking of Oitekaze, what have they been putting in the power water over there? Of the 20-odd wrestlers, six are sekitori, five of them in makuuchi! And Endo isn’t even heyagashira! Daieisho’s yusho, Tsurugisho’s juryo yusho…kensho and special prizes galore!

Sponsors Withdraw Kenshokin

Thanks to my wife and Reddit, I was tipped off to the fact that 200 banners have been pulled from the tournament because of the 3 absent yokozuna. My wife sent me this link to the Asahi article. When I checked Reddit, the same article was also cited there. Reddit commenter u/saleph also linked to another article showing Takayasu as the top kensho recipient for this tournament. As I mentioned in the comments of Bruce’s previous post, this is a bit disappointing and should also clarify for us viewers that sponsorship money is another pressure for sekitori, particularly Yokozuna.

Takayasu: Aki Kensho King

I say disappointed because as I fan, I feel excited for this tournament – possibly more excited than if ALL the wrestlers were competing. With injured wrestlers out, we will see better quality matches, not just in this tournament, but next tournament as our yokozuna hopefully return healthy…or at least moderately healthy. Also, for this basho, the door is wide open for more competitors to grab a yusho or really impress. I would think this would be a prime time for sponsors to engage tadpoles rather than withhold funding. It would also be when I would think loyal sponsors would step up and continue to support their injured stars. Endo used to attract a ton of sponsorship money but when he went to Juryo, the money dried up and it does not seem to have returned. Perhaps that’s why he’s not gone kyujo, though I’m hopeful he’s genuinely healthy enough to compete.

All of my predictions from the podcast were probably totally wrong…especially my hopes for a 40th Hakuho yusho. But I am so jazzed for this basho, it isn’t funny. I really have no idea what’s going to happen. Will King Kinboshi (Harumafuji) fall out of contention in the first week? Or zen-sho yusho? My odds would be even money on both. Who will drop off the leadership pack by next weekend? Any of the ozeki? Which maegashira will be in the hunt deep into week two? I have no idea and that’s thrilling me. One Twitter fan tossed out the idea of an Ikioi-yusho…THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.

Senshuraku Incentives

In comments to Bruce’s earlier posts, Leonid, Asashosakari, and coreyyanofsky discussed the strategy of 8-6 wrestlers going into a final day of sumo. It’s harder to break down the decision-making in sumo than it is in the NFL because there are fewer decisions and they’re more subtle. To demonstrate what I mean, if you’re Endo, pushed against the bales by Aoiyama, the decision-making is, “Do I step out?”, Do I give everything – and risk a nasty fall – to spin him around?”, or, “Do I do something in the middle?”

However, managing a football team of 50+ guys, Bill Belichick and his staff face innumerable gameday decisions regarding who plays and how much, not to mention the choices made by those individual players to run their routes. (Note: Auto-correct wants to change this to “Belches,” so I now have a new nickname for my favorite NFL coach.) So, it’s easier to see how Belches and his team react to a game that has less meaning to them than to their opponent. Belches sits players, punts instead of going for it on 4th and 3, and his 3rd string QB lets the clock run out going into halftime instead of spiking the ball to run another play.

Sumo has taken a knock to its reputation from the past yaocho scandals. It’s been alluded to recently on this blog as sumo wrestlers have their cellphones confiscated on match day and yakuza are banned from the premises, and hopefully any influence on the sport. But, in the interest of the sport, how do you get the best action from your wrestlers when giving 100% leads to, and aggravates, so many injuries? To illustrate, I only need to mention two names: Kisenosato & Terunofuji.

The answer is simple: kenshokin, kinboshi bonuses, and special prizes. Unfortunately, for 95% of the wrestlers there is no kenshokin, no matches against Yokozuna, and no eligibility for special prizes. This is why I hope more interest in sumo brings more money and more banners. I want more of those to trickle down the ranks, too. There are great value bouts down in the lower maegashira but my fave, Iki-yoyo, brings it every bout. And I really want the NSK to bring those banners into the 21st Century to encourage more potential sponsors. They need to do more than just quickly walk them around the ring. A web presence would be easy…and for nerds like me it would be a draw.

This is the big reason I wish the NSK didn’t go after Araibira. After all, Araibira got me back into sumo. By sharing THE WHOLE FEED, he gave much more exposure for sponsors than the NSK does, itself. Given the data, even I would add a sponsor/kenshokin page to the site to show which wrestlers are sponsored by which companies. (In my mind, since I wouldn’t be getting the money, it would not count as putting “ads” on this site, especially if I put it on its own page for users to check themselves.)

It’s also tricky with special prizes. Right now, Aoiyama is likely set for a special prize already, while Takayasu is ineligible as an ozeki (hat tip, Herouth for setting me straight). So, kenshokin would be the only added incentive for Takayasu and Aoiyama’s chances of seizing his outsider dreams of yusho may not be great enough to affect his decision-making.

There is one more incentive, but it’s not as tangible as cold, hard, cash. Pride. When I see a great bout on senshuraku between two wrestlers without much else on the line, that sure keeps me coming back. I’ll highlight my favorite PRIDE senshuraku bout tomorrow.