If you’re like me, the sumo stables (heya) are a rather daunting mystery. There are so many of them that even after all of these years, beyond a few famous ones, I still can’t tell my Futagoyama from my Nishikido. After all, there are 45 active stables and there have been significant changes in the past couple of years. There are also many former and a few active wrestlers, ready to spread their wings and set up their own new stables.
There are great resources online to help out. First, the Sumo Kyokai’s website has the Sumo Beya Guide with a list of the wrestlers and staff. In a pinch, it’s a great, current roster. Then, of course, the SumoDB has a ton of information on the stables of each wrestler and does a great job tracking the history of changes; wrestlers do move from one heya to another — usually because a stable closes and its wrestlers are absorbed by a second stable, or a new stable opens and rikishi follow their recruiter to his new home.
Hat-tip to Bruce for this excellent reference book. It has a complete roster with mugshots of all the wrestlers at the time of printing, grouped with their heya. It also has the staff, including coaches, hair dressers, gyoji, and support staff…my go-to reference, especially when watching those lower division matches because it includes the all-important furigana to help me penetrate some of the more bewildering shikona.
To add to these resources, I put together a little dashboard that I hope you will find as helpful as I do. This helps me get even more of a sense of not only which wrestlers are in which stable but also where the stables draw their wrestlers from. I can also drill into the kimarite (or winning techniques) the rikishi prefer, as well as what they fall victim to.
Feel free to click around. You can select a heya from the radio buttons on the right on either tab and the banzuke will filter to only those wrestlers from your selected heya. On the first tab, you can also click on a shusshin to have the banzuke filter to the wrestlers from that shusshin and on the second tab, click on the individual wrestler’s name to filter the kimarite chart. The kimarite includes each wrestlers’ career record — not just Osaka.
As an example, let’s take a look at Oitekaze-beya, home of Endo, Daieisho, and just about everyone else named Dai~~ and Tsurugisho. Curiously, Oitekaze oyakata seems to recruit exclusively from the southern half of Japan. Tatsunami-beya, on the other hand, picks guys from the far north, the far south, and around Kanto…skipping over much in between.
On the second tab, you can see how well each wrestler did in Osaka in the top graph. In the bottom chart, you can discern his strengths and weaknesses. For Endo, we’ve got a clear preference for yotsu techniques while Daieisho prefers an oshi-battle, win or lose. You can get a sense that he will force the issue and not allow anyone near his belt while Endo is not quite as able to assert his preference.
I’m eager to hear what you discover about your favorite stables…or if it helps you find a stable to investigate further. I’ll update this with the current banzuke as we get closer to Nagoya Tokyo.
Yes, it’s that time again, the time when we tabulate all the points and rank the top heya based on their respective sekitori rank and performance in the previous basho. Last time out, Izutsu-beya grabbed the top spot off the back of a long awaited yusho win for Yokozuna Kakuryu. How do the top stables fare this time compared to last time? Onward:
And now that we’ve added a couple more new (but non-sekitori-bearing) stables to the chart, let’s have a look at this in our Top 20 format:
(+-) Izutsu. 95 points (even)
(+4) Kasugano. 90 points (+40)
(-1) Tagonoura. 50 points (-40)
(+4) Miyagino. 50 points (+14)
(-2) Oitekaze. 48 points (-17)
(+1) Kokonoe. 47 points (-1)
(-3) Sakaigawa. 45 points (-15)
(-3) Tomozuna. 32 points (-23)
(+2) Tokitsukaze. 25 points (+5)
(+3) Minato. 25 points (+5)
(+8) Isenoumi. 25 points (+10)
(+8) Nishonoseki. 25 points (+10)
(**) Sadogatake. 25 points (+11)
(-5) Takadagawa. 22 points (+1)
(+2) Oguruma. 22 points (+6)
(**) Takanohana. 21 points (+8)
(-7) Dewanoumi. 20 points (even)
(**) Onomatsu. 20 points (+20)
(-5) Isegahama. 18 points (-1)
(-8) Kise. 15 points (-5)
(legend: ** = new entry, +- = no movement, higher position in the previous chart breaks the tie. Shikoroyama and Kataonami also scored 15 points but were lower placed than Kise on the previous chart)
Movers & Losers
We’ll group both sets of upward and downward bound heya together this time. It’s an interesting chart to put into context this month because the absence of so many rikishi at the top of the banzuke meant that several rikishi from heya usually found further down the listing put up better results, grabbed kachi-koshi they otherwise might not have (see: Kotoshogiku, Shohozan, etc), and added more points to their stable’s tally.
So, this creates a situation where a heya like Takadagawa can actually score one more point than last time (via addition of Hakuyozan to Juryo) but slide 5 places overall. Similarly, Dewanoumi put up an equivalent score to last time (our model gives Mitakeumi the same amount of points for a kachi-koshi at Komusubi as a make-koshi at Sekiwake), yet slid 7 places overall. The more cynical among us might say there were 16 more impressive storylines than Mitakeumi eking out his winning record from a position where he looked like he’d throw it away again.
Izutsu-beya holds the top spot with no change in the tally owing to Kakuryu’s repeat yusho, while Kasugano-beya reclaims the second spot after Tochinoshin’s sansho-laden jun-yusho. His promotion means he’ll add more points to the heya’s tally next time as an ozeki, but the overall points tally will be dependent on yusho challenges going forward as he’ll be unable to repeat his special prize wins.
Beyond those two stables there weren’t many remarkable performances among the groups: Kokonoe actually took a step backwards in terms of points in spite of Chiyonokuni’s remarkable sansho-winning exploits, as the four other sekitori in his heya all put up make-koshi en-route to a miserable 23-37 combined record.
In terms of what’s next, the stables to watch with potential to bound up the listings in Nagoya are going to be Tagonoura (who will be forced into action next time with the return of kadoban Takayasu and a potential last stand for Kisenosato) and Kise. Kise-beya receives two promotees from Makushita (Kizenryu and Churanoumi-née-Kizaki) and will have fully 1/4 of Juryo with no fewer than seven rikishi in the division next time out. And potentially making way on the chart could finally and sadly be Isegahama-beya which slips to the penultimate spot this time: perma-injured Aminishiki has been relegated to Juryo, and Homarefuji and Terutsuyoshi will be hovering ominously in danger zone to the Makushita demotion to which former Ozeki Terunofuji has now been condemned.
It’s not an April Fools joke: the Heya Power rankings are in (earlier than usual)! We love charts over here at Tachiai, and during the Haru basho, it was cool to note some of other contributors prognosticating in the comments what bearing the various results might have on the newest ranking sheet. I’d reiterate that this post is mostly for our own interest and fun, to see which stables are impacting the top end of the banzuke, rather than anything being paid attention by people within the sport itself. Our own Bruce put his bets on a nice jump in the standings for Oitekaze-beya. Was he right? Well let’s get into the bar chart and the “Billboard” style Top 20 ranking format:
Bruce was indeed right, because Bruce is a good sumo pundit. Let’s look at the Top 20 chart in slightly more verbose terms:
(+6) Izutsu. 95 points (+50)
(-1) Tagonoura. 90 points (-5)
(+2) Oitekaze. 65 points (+19)
(-1) Sakaigawa. 60 points (even)
(+6) Tomozuna. 55 points (+32)
(-4) Kasugano. 50 points (-44)
(-3) Kokonoe. 48 points (-1)
(-2) Miyagino. 36 points (-9)
(-1) Takadagawa. 21 points (-9)
(-1) Dewanoumi. 20 points (-5)
(+4) Tokitsukaze. 20 points (even)
(+8) Kise. 20 points (+4)
(**) Minato. 20 points (+5)
(-2) Isegahama. 19 points (-2)
(-5) Shikoroyama. 17 points (-7)
(-3) Hakkaku. 16 points (-4)
(+-) Oguruma. 16 points (-3)
(-4) Kataonami. 15 points (-5)
(+-) Isenoumi. 15 points (-3)
(**) Nishonoseki. 15 points (+2)
(legend: ** = new entry, +- = no movement, higher position in the previous chart breaks the tie)
Izutsu-beya hits the summit for the first time, after Kakuryu’s ultimately comfortable yusho win. He is a Yokozuna and he won the yusho, and you get a lot of points for all of that action the way we calculate it. While the stable is almost empty behind Kakuryu, that has been the case for many years and Izutsu-oyakata is still about 8 years from mandatory retirement. They did add a tiny 16 year old named Bando Jinki in the last year, but he may be one to wash rather than ‘one to watch.’
That all said, what makes me feel good about this model is the way that it rewards stables that have a number of strong performers. Oitekaze-beya is that kind of heya (and Kokonoe would be that kind of heya if they could find this kind of consistency). Yes, Endo won a special prize and had a great tournament and will finally be in san’yaku and there is going to be a lot of cheering. But the stable had seven men in the top 2 divisions accumulating points here, and five of them grabbed kachi-koshi. The other two (Tsurugisho and Tobizaru) were towards the wrong end of Juryo where the stakes are lower anyway, so the stable top-loaded its best records.
The fan-and-rikishi-favorite, former-Kyokutenho-and-now-Tomozuna-oyakata’s heya also scales new heights owing to a thrilling yusho-and-ultimately-jun-yusho-challenge from the Kaisei mammoth. I probably should have tacked on a couple more points here, because in a sport where you don’t always get a lot of face, the Brazilian has been giving some wonderful reaction shots of late (Abi and Ikioi are also members of that club). Kaisei will be finally joined by movie-star Kyokutaisei in Makuuchi at Natsu. The schedulers did the Hokkaido man few favors at Haru by way of repeated call-ups to test his readiness, so he may well have a good chance to stick in the top division. Kyokushuho has been stuck back in Juryo for a year now, and there’s nobody coming up behind him imminently, so it’s going to be on the top two men’s shoulders to keep the good times rolling.
Let’s also talk about Sakaigawa-beya for a minute. Despite the fact that Goeido hasn’t won on Day 15 since September of 2016 (his yusho tournament), he’s actually managed to put together a fairly consistent if unspectacular run of results to keep himself out of kadoban recently. Admittedly, this is probably somewhat helped by the absence of many of the top men of the banzuke, but you can only beat what’s in front of you. Usually, the stable which wins the Juryo yusho gets a bit of a drop off in the following tournament as we award 15 points for that achievement. However, there’s no drop here as both the Hatsu winner (Myogiryu) and Haru winner (Sadanoumi) come from the stable. Our man lksumo believes that Myogiryu is going to dodge the demotion bullet, so the three sekitori will need strong performances to maintain the heya’s position on our chart after Natsu.
Despite their fall, I’m charitably going to include Kasugano-beya in this section. Asking for a repeat yusho was a lot and they were always bound for a big drop, but they are hanging in there at the top end in light of another very strong performance from Sekiwake Tochinoshin and his latest special prize. They could even be due another bounce in the next couple months if his Ozeki run is in fact successful.
We’ve talked a lot about the sea change that is (slowly) taking place atop the banzuke, and the three stables I’m going to mention here include two that didn’t even make the chart this time.
First of all, the fall of Isegahama continues. This is probably the bottoming out of their ranking as they just have too many sekitori competing at the moment. With 3 men in Juryo and another 2 in Makuuchi next time out, I just can’t see the performance getting lower, especially if Terunofuji can right the ship and challenge for the Juryo honours. Also, Takarafuji was better than his 5 win record at Haru, and even if he’s in for a stiff demotion, he hasn’t had a make-koshi at Maegashira 6 or lower in over 4 years. Additionally, we may see the next wave of Isegahama rikishi challenge for Juryo later this year: while, yes, there are plenty of rikishi in the stable stuck in Jonidan quicksand, Nishikifuji and Midorifuji are on a fast track for fun times.
The question will be whether their strength in numbers restores the stable to the force it was just a half year ago, or a stable like Kise or Kokonoe that’s big on numbers but low on prizes. The road to the former case would seem to run through Terunofuji redeploying his inner Kaiju, Terutsuyoshi making the next step in his development to move up a division and Nishikifuji and Midorifuji establishing themselves as sekitori (Midorifuji will also need to add some heft). And the other case? Well, that’s what you get if all of the above doesn’t happen, and Aminishiki retires.
The other two aforementioned stables are the former powerhouse Sadogatake and the beleaguered Takanohana. Sadogatake, which has an incredible number of rikishi in the lower divisions, hasn’t seen the reinforcements arrive for the struggling Kotoshogiku and Kotoyuki yet, and Kotoeko just hasn’t managed to put together a run for Maegashira promotion. He will have his best shot in some time at Natsu, but it may only serve to offset the continuing declines of the other sekitori in the heya.
As for Takanohana-beya, we gave nil points for the debut of Takayoshitoshi after his assault-inspired half-kyujo tournament, and the limping out of the tournament from Takakeisho was perhaps a metaphor for performances there and elsewhere. The stable combined to go 22-28-10 in the upper tiers, and unless Takakeisho can put together a storming return to sansho-grabbing form or someone can win a yusho in Juryo, it’s unlikely the stable will trouble these charts again soon.
It is an article about two new foreign born elders starting their own heyas, former Ozeki Kotooshu and former Sekiwake Kyokutenho. Just to note, both are have won yusho and I’m sure that’s significant in the decision to let them run stables. **Updated to reflect the point made by Asashosakari: Kotooshu is starting his own stable while Kyokutenho is inheriting the Tomozuna stable.** In this headline there are two shikona so we’ll start there, Kotooshu (琴欧洲) and Kyokutenho (旭天鵬). Immediately preceding both shikona is the kanji for “former,” 元 .
To knock out a few more of the easy terms and sumo-specific terms we will go back to the beginning, “Foreign born sumo elders.” The first two kanji, GaiKoku is the Japanese word for foreign. Shusshin is place where you’re from. You hear this word every time the announcer at sumo tournaments introduces the wrestlers. If they’re Japanese he says what prefecture they’re from and if they’re foreign he says what country they’re from. You hear a lot of “Mongolia shusshin.” Lastly we get to the term for “elders.” Kotooshu and Kyokutenho are running their own stables and thus “oyakata.” The first kanji is parent and the second is the honorific, formal word, for person.
These new heya are setting sail, being launched. It’s actually pretty exciting. I’m happy for both new oyakata. Please visit Mainichi’s site. They have a nice picture of Naruto-oyakata in front of his stable with three of his wrestlers. The base seems to be in Tokyo so it could be interesting to check out. We’ll see about the other heya, as well. We’ll be tracking their performance and hope that they register on our new power rankings in the coming years.
That character for new should be old hat by now. A new thing (mono) is being done here. We’re starting to get foreign elders. Recently Musashimaru started his stable and we’re eagerly following the exploits of our Young Texan, pun intended, Wakaichiro. Now it’s Kotooshu and Kyokutenho. Others will follow. This is certainly a welcome development if sumo is ever to become an Olympic sport. Maybe foreign expansion? Asashoryu heads up wrestling in Mongolia. What if there was an officially santioned sumo offshoot? Think American O-sumo in the vein of NFL Europe. Okay, maybe that’s not a good example. Maybe like how the NBA is quickly taking over? Spain, Italy, China…Professional King of the Hill goes global?
Who doesn’t love Hakuho, Osunaarashi, Gagamaru? These rikishi (力士) are loved (愛される). Clearly, rikishi is a sumo word you’ll want to know. Some of you may be familiar with the Nakashima Mika song, “Aishiteru,” or “I love you.” Well, if you use this “saseru” form of the word, it becomes the passive. The wrestlers are loved. So there we have it, “Foreign Born Elders Set Off, ex-Kotooshu ‘A New Thing is Being Done’ / Kyokutenho ‘These Wrestlers are Loved’.” Clunky, but the best I could do after a couple glasses of an amazing Reisling.
When we turn to the translation engines, this one is a doozie. First let’s look at Google: “Foreign born master’s ship Origen Kinpuzuzu “New things” / former Asahi Tenpen “To be loved wrestlers”.” Wow. I am officially changing my name to Origen Kinpuzuzu. This is my new shikona. You all can just call me King Puzuzu. This Google brand word sausage is the greatest tripe available. I swear, I can’t read this without laughing because there’s no discernable reason for this translation. It is now, utterly unrecognizable pork “product.” Maybe there’s some horse in there?
Yahoo! seems to actually know some shikona. It didn’t pick up Kotooshu but it got Kyokutenho. “The sailing former koto Europe ‘new thing’ of the boss from foreign country to / former Kyokutenho ‘loved sumo wrestler’”
Excite also did a terrible job. “Sail of a chief from the foreign country For the sumo wrestler by whom motokonousu “of something new”/a former Asahi heaven legendary gigantic bird “is loved.”
It should be clear now that the translation engines are good to take words you don’t recognize but for whole sentences in Japanese, especially in a sumo context, they’re pretty poor. But “Origen Kinpuzuzu” takes the cake. I’m still smiling because it’s just that…WTF.
King Puzuzu of Tachiai-quetzel-kukamunga