We find ourselves halfway through the first tournament of 2021, and I’m not sure anyone could have anticipated what we have seen so far. The top division alone has provided plenty of twists and turns, but be careful not to overlook Juryo over the next week. Some veterans will need a big turnaround over the next eight days to get back to Makuuchi, while a few notable rikishi look to be well on the way to a long-awaited Makuuchi return or debut. Come with me, dear reader, as I walk you through the magnificent landscape that is the Juryo division.
There are nine Juryo rikishi inactive this month, chiefly as a result of coronavirus protocols. This has opened the field up significantly as several maegashira mainstays have been eliminated from Juryo yusho contention from the jump in Enho, Ishiura, and Chiyomaru. Chiyonoo is also out, meaning he will have to wait for another chance to make his first makuuchi appearance since 2017.
As for the rikishi who are healthy, the remaining top third of juryo has had a basho to forget. Ex-komusubi Shohozan (currently perched at J4E) is showing his age at 36, managing only three wins from his first seven bouts this month. He is without a winning record since 2019, and such a result is not looking likely this January, either. It will be interesting to see if we’ve seen the last of Shohozan amongst the top flight’s rank-and-filers. Daiamami has been unable to build on the form he showed back in November when he accrued a respectable 9-6 record, so this month’s J1W will need a big second week to find himself in the first division for the eighth time come March’s basho. Churanoumi’s 4-3 record at J3W (a career high for the 27 year old from Okinawa Prefecture) might not seem incredibly impressive, but he is riding three straight winning records, all of them 8-7. His consistency is noteworthy, and he has been slowly but steadily climbing the banzuke. He looked good on Day 7 against M17E Sadanoumi, so who knows? Perhaps another eight win effort is on the cards for Churanoumi.
The leader to this point in the basho in Juryo is J8E Tsurugisho, which is nice to see from a guy who had a cup of coffee in makuuchi from late 2019 to early 2020. Gunning for his second career Juryo yusho, Tsurugisho is undefeated so far. He hasn’t exactly been facing total scrubs either, with quality wins over the likes of Churanoumi, Nishikigi, Shohozan, and a rejuvenated Jokoryu. He has not faced the 5-2 fan-favorite Ura yet, whose return to makuuchi has been widely anticipated. Ura presents perhaps the biggest threat to Tsurugisho’s yusho hopes, as the widely publicized sekitori debut of J11W Oho has been disappointing (a mere 2-5 record so far). There is a significant portion of the division at 4-3 or 3-4, so it will be interesting to see who can separate from the pack and chase down Tsurugisho.
One last story to follow is the continuation of the Jokoryu Revenge Tour. Could he rip off a big second week and inch ever closer to his first makuuchi appearance in five years? It’s been a slow comeback for the 32 year old, but he is without a losing record since 2019. He’s got a good opportunity to build on his 4-3 start against J14E Ryuko on Day 8. Jokoryu is back, you heard it here first.
That’s all for now, catch me back here again next week with some fire post-basho Juryo analysis.
So, here we go again! It’s sumo’s last honbasho of the year, and all eyes will be once again turned to makuuchi’s higher ranks. Can Shodai win back to back yusho, for his ozeki debut? Can fellow ozeki Asanoyama and Takakeisho step up, and win their first yusho as ozeki? Will Hakuho and Kakuryu last fifteen days, or will the yokozuna have to retire?
I’m eager to find this out, but would like to provide you with a preview of sumo’s second division, juryo.
Juryo used to entertain us quite a bit in the recent past. Seeing some pixies’ emergence (Enho, Terutsuyoshi, Wakatakakage) has been a joy to watch. Watching Aminishiki hanging on, and poor Gagamaru being henka’d all over the way has added appreciable folklore, too.
The picture is a bit different today. The first obvious feature is the number of former makuuchi wrestlers. Of the twenty eight juryo candidates, only seven have never entered the dohyo alongside san’yaku elders: Midorifuji, Churanoumi, Wakamotoharu, Hakuyozan, Mitoryu, Nishikifuji and Chiyonoumi. This is more than twice less than two years ago, by Kyushu 2018 – fifteen juryo wrestlers had never discovered makuuchi before.
True, many of these fifteen have successfully knocked on makuuchi’s door (for example Enho, Terutsuyoshi or Tobizaru). Incredibly, some of them have reached sumo’s first division, and then fell down to makushita, or below (Takagenji, Tomokaze)! Though, as makuuchi got older and older, it was quite natural to see new faces coming from below – with mixed success, obviously.
But, precisely, several makuuchi elders have fallen to juryo – so what to expect from them?
Kotoshogiku (J3w) will undoubtedly be the attraction – seeing a former ozeki back in juryo is not a common thing, after all. His lower body condition will be a giant question mark, though, even to get his kashi koshi. Similar concern surround Ikoi (J8w) and Tsurugisho’s (J9e) final appearance of the year. Both certainly have set their sights much higher than their current rankings, but their bodies currently hardly allow such an ambition.
Shohozan (J2w)has recently struggled in makuuchi, four straight make koshi (7-8, 4-11, 5-10, 5-10) eventually proving fatal. He might regain some energy, though, and manage a straight comeback to makuuchi.
What about both juryo ito wrestlers? Akiseyama (J1e) and Chiyonoo (J1e) have not wrestled in makuuchi for quite some time – March 2016 and March 2017 respectively. If Chiyonoo has produced good sumo by late (10-5 and 9-6 records), Akiseyama’s 11-4 record in September came a bit in the middle of nowhere, following two indifferent basho (9-6, 7-8). Though, I believe the Kise heya resident has good chances to climb back to makuuchi.
Other promotions are already a long shot – Midorifuji (J2e) looks like an interesting outsider, but can he secure promotion so early after his juryo debut? I doubt it. For the record, the Isegahama heya resident has just wrestled thrice in juryo so far, and arguably produced just one very good tournament (11-4 in September). Remember, he might find himself a couple times in makuuchi’s torikumi, in November.
The two exchange regulars, Ishiura (J3e) and Chiyomaru (J4e) often prove a bit too good for juryo, but a bit too soft for makuuchi, and don’t really get storming performances in juryo. That means, both usually get their promotion from an already enviable spot, meaning juryo 1 or 2.
Others could aim juryo’s top ranks by January, in order to target promotion in 2021: Nishikigi (J4w), Hidenoumi (J5e), Wakamotoharu (J6w) and Azumaryu (J7w) could be looking for that. I would not entirely exclude direct promotion for Nishikigi, who definitely have the required potential. He hasn’t looked fit enough recently, though.
Remarkably, I’d certainly put makushita promotee Ura (J13e) in the “looking for more” category! Ura has recovered admirably well from his two terrific knee injuries, and should not spend too much time in juryo – remember the kinboshi he earned against Harumafuji?
The battle against relegation.
Let’s mention one certain demotion: it’ll be Abi’s (J11w) second forced kyujo, following his breach of the Covid rules. He’ll end up 0-0-15, and will start 2021 in makushita.
Both wrestlers ranked juryo 14 unsurprisingly face an uphill task for their survival. Hetouh’s favorite, Chiyonoumi (J14w), did a decent job early on in juryo; he hasn’t managed a single kashi koshi in sumo’s second division since January 2019, however. Fujiazuma (J14e), like Ura, has been as high as maegashira 4, before sliding down all the way back to makushita. He managed one comeback to juryo in 2017, but failed to get his kashi koshi and got demoted straight away. A similar fate might await him here, if he does not better than the 6-9 record he has for his last juryo return, last July.
Nishikifuji’s (J13w) juryo debut ended in frustrating fashion last basho, as he lost his five last bouts to end up make koshi (7-8). He kept exactly the same rank, but will need to gain stamina in order to avoid worse consequences.
Takagenji (J12e) has looked like a ghost on the dohyo since his brother’s dismissal. It took him just over a year to go from maegashira 10 to makushita demotion. He managded to get back to the salaried ranks thanks to a minimal kashi koshi (4-3, being ranked makushita’s top rank). Can he get his career back on track?
Jokoryu (J12w) will certainly be another curiosity, down there. The Tokyo-to born rikishi was promised a bright future, as he won the twenty-seven (!) first bouts of his career (excluding maezumo) and entered the salaried ranks just one year after his sumo debut. He went as high as komusubi; but from there, his career went backwards – he actually returned to sandanme, following an injury. Can he keep a juryo spot, now aged 32?
Finally, I tend to believe Hakuyozan (J10e), as well as Mitoryu’s (J11e) reliable juryo stint – he spent twelwe of the sixteen basho he participating in, in juryo! – in decent positions to keep their ranks.
All in all, this juryo basho promises quite some fun, doesn’t it?
As a bonus, Andy and I tried our luck in guessing full juryo results after 15 days. Let’s hope we’re not too off the mark!
Here’s Andy’s prediction, with commentaries:
“I think Ikioi is closest to retirement of this group. The past few basho he has not looked impressive. I think there are a lot of talented wrestlers here in different shades of banged up. Several of the young guns may take their shots. I hope Kotoshogiku got in some good time to heal and can come out swinging. I’m not sure about Ishiura at all and I’m sure he won’t go kyujo but I kind of hope he does to heal up.”
So, the 2020 Haru basho went through all coronavirus fears, and, fortunately, could go all the way and without incident.
It certainly has been a pretty unusual basho, with no spectators admitted. However, some recurring themes went on appearing; among them, the continuous rise – and, on several occasions, disappointment brought by the new generation of rikishi.
Thirteen’s day musubi no ichiban, which saw Hakuho facing Asanoyama, could have been subtitled as: “Who is going to take the lead of this basho? Young talent Asanoyama, or old guard leader, dai yokozuna Hakuho?”
If it’s not too hard remembering when our youngsters made their makuuchi debuts (guessing the correct year, at least), who, exactly, constitutes the “old guard”?
Let’s divide this topic into two questions:
1. Who made the oldest makuuchi appearance?
2. Who has the longest uninterrupted makuuchi appearance from today?
First of all, let’s spoil things a bit, as the podium can already be determined. Three names spring to mind: both yokozuna, obviously, and former ozeki Kotoshogiku, now 36, who has stayed in makuuchi after his demotion.
Both yokozuna have stayed in makuuchi right from their first appearance (May 2004 for Hakuho, November 2016), whereas Kotoshogiku made one last stint in juryo before establishing himself in makuuchi on the long run (first appearance in January 2005, continuously in makuuchi since May of the same year).
So, who are the best of the rest ?
1. Who made the oldest makuuchi appearance?
Several names come to mind but it’s no surprise one of the “seven samurai”, Tochiozan, holds the oldest appearance, back in March 2007! He stayed in makuuchi the whole time since his unfortunate demotion by the end of 2019, which makes an impressive 12 years stint.
His career highlight? The nervous playoff he lost to Kyokutenho, in May 2012.
Tochinoshin is known for his famous comeback from makushita to makuuchi in 2013-2014, after having sustained a serious knee injury. What is less known is that he already had five years in makuuchi behind him, his debut being back in May 2008.
His career highlight? His promotion to ozeki after, notably, clinching the January 2018 yusho.
The year 2008 also saw the first appearance of Tamawashi. He took the lift down to juryo five times – never for more than one basho – from 2008 to 2013, before establishing himself for good.
His career highlight? A nice run at sekiwake, which saw him clinching the January 2019 tournament.
Okinoumi got promoted to makuuchi in March 2010, and after a short period back to juryo, has fought in makuuchi with no exception since the end of that year.
His career highlight? Three runner up performances, and no less than four gold stars (three wins against Harumafuji, one win against Kakuryu).
However, the main core of the old guard belongs to the “2011 promotion”. Let’s pay tribute to these brave fighters. Under brackets, their age and numbers of jun yusho: Kaisei (33 y.o./2 jun yusho), Takayasu (30/4), Takarafuji (33/1), Aoiyama (33/1), Shohozan (36/1) and Myogiryu (33/0).
All of them have reached san’yaku: Takayasu got promoted to ozeki, Shohozan had a career best as komosubi, all the others went as high as sekiwake.
Let’s finally point out Ikioi, who began a makuuchi career in March 2012.
To sum up:
Oldest makuuchi appearance
2. Who has the longest uninterrupted makuuchi appearance from today?
Continuously fighting in makuuchi on the long run is no easy task, as we shall see. We may (and we should) all applause Kotoshogiku for his incredible longevity, as well as we can praise Okinoumi for being around since November 2010, and Takayasu for having not being demoted a single time to juryo, since his first makuuchi appearance in July 2011!
Several rikishi have unfortunately suffered demotion since their debut, but do hang to makuuchi for quite some time: Tamawashi (present since July 2013), Takarafuji (since July 2013), Tochinoshin (since November 2014), Shohozan (demoted during the year 2015, present since November 2015).
Some of the courageous warriors have unfortunately suffered demotion lately. Myogiryu and Aoiyama came back to makuuchi in March 2018, whereas Ikioi, Tochiozan and Kaisei all stormed back in January 2020.
So, who complete our table? Incredibly, the “new guard”! Shohozan brought Mitakeumi with him, in November 2015. We witnessed, shortly after, Shodai (January 2016), Endo (May 2016) and Kagayaki’s (July 2016) rise.
Stayed in makuuchi since
So what’s the conclusion? Some of the old guard is having a rough time, with Shohozan, Tochiozan or Myogiryu having suffering big make kochi in Osaka, not even mentioning Takayasu’s worrying state.
At the same time, the clock is ticking for the young hopes to shine…
Today’s event was supposed to have been day 10, but of the three events in Shizuoka prefecture, the one at Izu – which was the place where the typhoon made its landfall – has been cancelled. Around noon October 13th, the rikishi finally left Yamanashi prefecture and headed around Mt. Fuji, down to Shizuoka, in big buses. There have been no safety issues for the rikishi and their support staff from the weather.