Bouts from the lower divisions – Day 13

Look who is back in the interview room!

Today has been a day of decisions in the divisions below Juryo, and yet another fun day in Juryo. Let’s look at some sumo!

Jonokuchi

Before taking a look at the yusho race, we bid goodbye to the record holder in the anti-yusho ranking, our friend Hattorizakura. Today he said his farewells to Kyushu 2018 by way of Azumayama:

It seems we are safe for a while yet from having to memorize a new shikona for this icon of sumo (which his stablemaster promised him he will be given if he gets a kachi-koshi).

On to the Yusho race. As I explained yesterday, if Hatooka lost his bout today, we would have a complex playoff situation on our hands.

Hatooka vs. Kojikara

Fortunately, Hatooka resolved that issue decisively. A harizashi followed by pushing forward like a locomotive. Hatooka is the Jonokuchi yusho winner. In his interview today on NHK he talked about his injury and recovery. You can see his knee is in a massive brace. It’s the aftermath of an injury to the knee that saw him go kyujo and drop all the way to Jonokuchi from Makushita. In Aki, he did the same trick as Ryuden to avoid dropping off the banzuke completely, and participated in one bout, which he won. Now he came back with a vengeance. He said in his interview that he was inspired by the sekitori in his heya, such as Ura, Akiseyama and Shimanoumi (who was also kyujo for several consecutive basho).

Jonidan

Here is a video with several Jonidan bouts, the first of which is the yusho decider between Kotourasaki and Kenho. Other bouts in this video:

  • Kamada-Watatani
  • Umizaru-Osumifuji
  • Zendaisho-Satonofuji
  • Yukiumi-Abezakura
  • Sakurafuji-Imai

The size differences between Kenho and Kotourasaki are striking. Nevertheless, Kotourasaki knows how to defeat the big guy. He is 7-0 – sorry, Kenho fans. At this stage he waits for the result of the Mitsuuchi-Fukunofuji bout in the beginning of the Sandanme bouts.

Satonofuji’s bout (around 9:30 min.) is quite interesting, with the yomi-turi performer emeritus going for a half-henka, an attempt at tottari, then sticks his head into Zendaisho’s chest. It takes the shimpan quite a while to declare the kimarite (watashikomi).

The final torikumi (about 13:30) introduces you to Sakurafuji, one of the tallest in the low ranks at Isegahama beya at 183cm. He currently serves as Takarafuji’s tsukebito and is considered a nice guy all around, but for a man with his build, his career has been less than satisfactory, stalling way too long at Jonidan.

Sandanme

The first bout of the day at Sandanme is between Mitsuuchi, who has 6-0 at Jonidan, and Fukunofuji, with 6-0 at Sandanme. If Mitsuuchi wins, there will be a playoff in Jonidan. If Fukunofuji wins, a playoff in Sandanme.

Well, that was decided very quickly. Mitsuuchi railroads Fukunofuji off the dohyo, and the Jonidan playoff between him and Kotourasaki will take place on Senshuraku.

Before moving on to the other yusho decider, let’s take a look at Torakio vs. Rao. Both are 4-2, thus kachi-koshi.

Again, Torakio displays rather good sumo, but loses at the edge, and again expresses his frustration by shoving his opponent slightly. Doesn’t his oyakata watch his bouts?

Now on to the yusho decider, and now the participants know that whoever wins this is the Sandanme yusho winner then and there. The participants, by the way, are Ura (Sd33E) and Hikarifuji (Sd81W). It’s a no-brainer, really.

This reminds me of an old anime, Yu-Yu Hakusho, where the protagonist’s most formidable weapon was the tip of his finger, which was loaded with a huge amount of energy. The bout here starts with a mutual attempt at getting inside, until Ura decides he has had enough and seems to blow Hikarifuji away by the power of the tips of his fingers. He looks at him and nods apologetically, before he returns to his place on the dohyo with an expression of “Oops, did I do that?” on his face.

Ura is Sandanme yusho, and it will be rather entertaining to see him go through Makushita (and possibly meet Hoshoryu there. Yummy).

Makushita

Here is a match between the two Ms9 wrestlers, Kotokamatani and Satoyama. Both 3-3, so winner kachi-koshi, loser make-koshi.

No monoii there. The kimarite is shitatenage, and Satoyama is kachi-koshi.

About an hour after this bout is over, the NSK informs the public that this was, in fact, Satoyama’s last bout as an active wrestler. Satoyama was formerly a long-time sekitori, and seems to have given up the hope of returning to the top. He is retiring and joining the NSK as Sanoyama oyakata, apparently borrowing the Sanoyama kabu from Chiyootori. (I wonder if he purposely picked a kabu which sounds so similar to his own name!)

On to the yusho decider. In Makushita, it’s the simplest situation: Sokokurai and Takaryu are the only ones with 6-0. Winner takes the yusho.

And after a matta, Sokokurai works hard to prevent Takaryu from getting a grip with his left arm, then goes for the pull down. Sokokurai is the Makushita yusho winner, and ensures himself of promotion to Juryo in Hatsu. There has never been a case where a yusho winner at Ms5 was not promoted.

Interestingly, he may actually go over the heads of the two kachi-koshi wrestlers at Ms1. If the shimpan department decides not to relegate more than two wrestlers from Juryo, Daiseido, who currently has 4 wins at Ms1W, and may earn his fifth today, might find himself promoted merely from Ms1W to Ms1E.

Sokokurai was also interviewed on NHK and assured the interviewer that his leg is “fine” now. By the way, I haven’t been around long enough to hear Sokokurai before, so I was rather impressed with his Japanese. It sounds as good as Kakuryu’s.

Juryo

  • Enho seems to have rallied back a bit. Yesterday he looked totally lost and unsure what to do. Today he is back to seeking that grip of his. But Tomokaze denies him, despite the little one’s quick attacks. Enho finally lands his grip, but only at the edge of the dohyo where Tomokaze shows him out. Enho must be feeling grateful that he managed to secure his kachi-koshi before this slump. Tomokaze has a double-digit winning score, which is very impressive for a newcomer to Juryo.
  • Gokushindo tries to be careful and watches his own feet, but he is not protecting his mawashi and gets easily trapped by Azumaryu.
  • Chiyonoo once again tries everything he can and hangs on to his opponent’s mawashi, but Jokoryu gets him out nonetheless. Chiyonoo’s fall down to Makushita is going to be a long hard one.
  • Kyokushuho is quickly dispatched by Shimanoumi, who is now kachi-koshi.
  • Toyonoshima complained yesterday that he doesn’t know what to do with small opponents. Today Terutsuyoshi seems not to have posed any problems. The Isegahama homunculus seems to have run out of steam. He looks very disappointed at the end of this bout, as he is relegated to the chaser group. I hope he still has it in him to get that extra win and go double-digits.
  • Tobizaru pushes Ishiura down. Ishiura manages to survive two additional seconds by hanging on to the monkey’s legs, but that’s not a tenable position. Tobizaru kachi-koshi. Ishiura may get there yet. I think we haven’t seen him henka for two or three bouts, so there will probably be one tomorrow.
  • Chiyonoumi fights bravely, with several nodowa, lots of thrusts, and even a mawashi attempt. However, he repeats a mistake we have seen from his heya-mate, Chiyonokuni, several times in the previous basho – foot out on the Janome, and the bout is over. Chiyonoumi’s make-koshi deepens and the fires of purgatory are already reaching his feet.
  • Takagenji can’t afford another loss, and attacks aggressively to stave it off. Hakuyozan is overwhelmed by the young angry twin. Still no kachi-koshi.
  • The loser in the next battle is make-koshi. Two veterans face off. Tokushoryu has Takekaze trapped almost immediately, and the make-koshi goes to Takekaze. Again, he will assess his situation and let us know by Banzuke meeting day, as he has in the past two basho.
  • For some reason, the Kotoyuki-Mitoryu duel is completely one-sided. Has Mitoryu’s leg issue reasserted itself? Luckily, he is kachi-koshi already. Kotoyuki – double digits! Not much rolling this basho!
  • Aminishiki also can’t afford a loss. He slaps, he pushes, and Tsurugisho finds himself doing the Kotoyuki roll. Tsurugisho is make-koshi.
  • Akiseyama turns the bout with Daishoho into a leaning match. Daishoho is Mongolian, and resolves the long stalemate Mongolian-style, with a kick that gives him enough room to maneuver Akiseyama to the edge. Yori-kiri. Daishoho closer to a kachi-koshi, Akiseyama can’t afford another loss.
  • Kotoeko tries a henka. Kyokutaisei recovers, but can’t quite overcome Kotoeko’s barrage of tsuppari. Kotoeko kachi-koshi. Kyokutaisei has two more chances at his.
  • Wakatakakage very impressive today. I saw his brother’s bout earlier today (Wakamotoharu-Gagamaru) and despite having a very similar body, their skill level is completely different. Yago must be happy his kachi-koshi is secure already. Wakatakakage has two days to get the win he needs for his own.

Of Gold Stars and Straight Wins

Most of you may know that a wrestler who earns a gold star, “kinboshi”, awarded when a maegashira beats a Yokozuna in an official bout, earns money for it. But how exactly does that work? Are there other ways to earn extra money? How long does the bonus last?

Ura’s Kinboshi – can he treat his friends to a drink with it?

The money for a gold star – and other achievements, which we will get to shortly – is called Rikishi Hōshōkin or Mochi-kyūkin. It can be viewed as a savings account. When a rikishi first appears on the banzuke, he is awarded ¥3. Then, he earns a small sum for each achievement. The money accumulates. Every time he completes a basho as a sekitori, he receives that saved money as bonus – multiplied by a factor which changes from time to time. Currently the multiplier is 4000.

So the answer to the question in the photo caption is “no”. Although Ura does have his “mochi-kyukin” account, which includes his gold star, and continues to earn small sums, he will not receive the cash until he climbs up all the way from Sandanme back to Juryo and completes a basho there.

What earns the rikishi credits?

The achievements that can earn rikishi mochi-kyukin are:

  • Kachi-koshi. For each point difference in a kachi-koshi, the wrestler earns 50 sen, or half a yen. So, if you were 4-3 kachi-koshi in Makushita, like Hoshoryu, you earned half a yen. But if you were 6-1, like Toyonoshima, you earned 2.5 yen. There is no credit deduction for make-koshi.
  • Kinboshi – earns ¥10.
  • Makuuchi yusho. If you win the Emperor’s cup, you get ¥30, unless it’s a…
  • Makuuchi zensho-yusho. If you win all fifteen bouts in Makuuchi and win the yusho, you get ¥50.
Zensho yusho. That’s ¥50, multiplied by 4000.

So, take Enho for example. How much money would he have earned in his debut in Juryo? He had one of the fastest advancements – three 7-0 tournaments, followed by one 5-2 and one 4-3, though the Juryo tournament he completed was a make-koshi, which doesn’t count. This should have earned him ¥12.5 in addition to his initial ¥3. So, did he get ¥62,000 at the end of that basho?

The answer is… no. There is a minimum amount for each new level that you reach. If your credits did not exceed that minimum amount, the difference is added to the account. However, if you drop back below that level, you lose the added difference.

  • Juryo: ¥40
  • Makuuchi: ¥60
  • Ozeki: ¥100
  • Yokozuna: ¥150

So, in fact, Enho received ¥160,000 for his debut Juryo basho. However, dropping right back to Makushita, he dropped back to ¥15.5 in his account. Back in Makushita he had two additional 5-2 basho, which earned him another ¥3, but that’s still below the Juryo minimum. So again, the account was set to ¥40 on his return to Juryo. With a 9-6 kachi-koshi in Juryo, that’s another ¥1.5, so this time, he got ¥166,000 in cash.

Should be enough to put some drinks in that belly

Yes, while sekitori salaries are paid using bank transfers, mochi-kyukin is paid in cash.

Who is the richest of them all?

At this point you can probably guess who the record holder for mochi-kyukin is. Yes, it’s Hakuho. Let’s take a look at his earnings so far.

  • Below Juryo, his kachi-koshi balance adds up to ¥18. Add that to his initial ¥3, and the sum is below the ¥40. So He started Juryo with ¥40.
  • Spending only two basho in Juryo, he earned ¥6 for a total of ¥46. That’s below the minimum of ¥60 for Makuuchi, so he starts Makuuchi with ¥60.
  • As a maegashira, he earns one kinboshi (¥10), and the total for his kachi-koshi up to and including sekiwake is ¥32.5. This puts him at ¥102.5 upon his promotion to Ozeki. That’s actually above the minimum for Ozeki, so he stays with ¥102.5.
  • As Ozeki, he has ¥28 for his kachi-koshi. Two “simple” yusho give him ¥60, and his first zensho-yusho another ¥50. So upon promotion to Yokozuna, he has ¥240.5, which is, of course, above the ¥150 minimum for a Yokozuna.
  • It is at this point that the man starts earning the big money:
    • Kachi-koshi as a yokozuna – all at large differences, of course – adds up to ¥350.
    • 24 simple yusho, each for ¥30, for a total of ¥720.
    • 14 zensho-yusho, each for ¥50, for a total of ¥700.
    So the dai-yokozuna’s current sum is ¥2010.5, for a whopping ¥8,042,000, bimonthly (and still increasing). As usual, nobody even comes close – the next in line is Taiho, ¥1489.5, and the multiplier in his time was a lot lower.

Summary

Rikishi may earn money in various ways, including salary, kensho envelopes, mochi-kyukin, sponsorships and senshuraku parties. Most of these avenues are only open to sekitori, or even only to Makuuchi wrestlers.

The mochi-kyukin system is a merit-based bonus system. Earnings are made at all levels, but actual payments are only made to sekitori. The system is heavily biased to benefit dai-yokozuna, who earn yusho and large-difference kachi-koshi by the score.

The calculation of a wrestler’s mochi-kyukin is complex, as it requires a look over his entire history of kachi-koshi and promotions to check whether he passed the required minimums for each level, in addition to the plain calculation of gold stars, yusho and zensho-yusho. The rikishi continue to receive their bonus as long as they are sekitori. No deductions are made for make-koshi, kyujo or even suspensions. But if a wrestler loses sekitori status – he is left only with the credits and stops receiving money.

Day 14 – and the winner is…

hakuho-yusho-41

Yokozuna Hakuho, in a year of injuries, in which he previously completed just one basho, is back, and is breaking records. Today he won his 41st yusho. It was also his 1000th Makuuchi win, with Kaio trailing far behind with 879. Also, this is the 13th consecutive year in which he wins at least one yusho – breaking Taiho’s record of 12. In the shitaku-beya he said “I am leaving the children who will be entering Grand Sumo in the future a big challenge to aim for”. I doubt if the child who will break those records is going to be born any time soon – perhaps if sports medicine advances far enough, and the world of sumo changes its mindset well enough, to extend an average rikishi’s viable career as a sekitori into his forties. Then, maybe, maybe.

But the Yokozuna’s yusho was just the cap on yet another good day of sumo, so let’s dive right in.

Arawashi visited Makuuchi today, to see if he should be exchanged for Kotoyuki. Kotoyuki denies him any access to his mawashi, and in the tsuppari match that ensues, Arawashi’s foot slips to the janome (the ring of fine sand surrounding the tawara). This has been happening a lot this basho. Bales slippery or buried a tad too deeply? Only the Yobidashi and the gods of the dohyo know. Arawashi needs to win his bout tomorrow to still secure his kachi-koshi and return to Makuuchi – especially now that Aminishiki is make-koshi and will not advance (Aminishiki has been the victim of two consecutive henkas by men almost half his age, believe it or not).

Chiyoshoma, who has secured his kachi-koshi for the first time since the Haru basho (the only Kokonoe sekitori to do so so far), got a mawashi grip on Okinoumi right from the get-go. However, it was Okinoumi who executed a lovely uwatenage, usually Chiyoshoma’s expertise, rolling the Kokonoe man to the edge of the dohyo. Okinoumi is kachi-koshi.

Ryuden aims to get a morozashi on Sadanoumi. He achieves a left hand inside with a good grip, while Sadanoumi latches on with his right hand outside. The two fight over the hold with the other hand, Ryuden trying to lock his armpit, and Sadanoumi getting a “nozoki” (his left hand peeks through). Then Sadanoumi suddenly reverses direction, and uses the good hold he has on Ryuden with his right to pull the man in the black mawashi over to the edge and force him out with a yori-kiri. Both fly to the front rows. Sadanoumi checks with Ryuden that he is alright, Ryuden nods. Sadanoumi is kachi-koshi, and Ryuden may yet get to double digits, but not today.

Takanosho and Daieisho both use their arms to pad their impact. From there, it takes Takanosho half a second to drop Daieisho to ground. Oshitaoshi.

Hokutofuji seems to be Takanoiwa‘s Kryptonite. Takanoiwa has not beaten him in any of their bouts. It seems Takanoiwa is always aiming for a right “sashi” (hand insertion), and Hokutofuji always succeeds in sealing that side off. And this time, too, he gets rid of the posky right hand and proceeds to destroy Takanoiwa’s game plan. Oshidashi, Hokutofuji wins, both are 9-5, may get double digits tomorrow.

Ishiura tries to get a mae-mitsu grip on Daishomaru, but realizes that he has achieved a morozashi (both hands inside), and simply proceeds to yori-kiri the Oitekaze man. Where was this Ishiura for the length of this basho?

Aoiyama, who only two days ago pommeled Ishiura in anger for trying a henka, decided to go that way himself, and sidestepped Takarafuji mightily. Does Aoiyama really need to henka the fading Isegahama heyagashira? Takarafuji is now make-koshi and in sore need of rest and recuperation.

Nishikigi continues to surprise. With a large bruise on his right elbow he faces Shohozan, whom he has never beaten before. Shohozan starts with a harite, and while the two fumble with their arms on one side, Shohozan manages to insert his left hand inside through Nishikigi’s ottsuke on the other. But Nishikigi cooly converts that ottsuke into a kotenage – remember, that’s his injured elbow – and Shohozan finds himself below the dohyo. Nishikigi is yet another rikishi who may secure double digits tomorrow. Shohozan, on the other hand, is make-koshi.

Chiyomaru starts his bout with Tochiozan with a morotezuki – thrust with both hands – and then pulls and tries to slam the veteran Kasugano rikishi to the ground. Tochiozan survives, wraps his arms around the Eternally Round One, and sends him rolling with a tsukiotoshi. Chiyomaru is now officially make-koshi and in danger of demotion to Juryo. Tochiozan will have to wait until tomorrow for his kachi (or make) koshi.

Kotoshogiku doesn’t leave much to write about. He slams into Kagayaki, lifting him up, and then drives him out Goeido-style before Kagayaki can think of any response. Kotoshogiku wins, and both parties are now 7-7 and wait for senshuraku to decide their fates.

Asanoyama tries to land a yotsu hold on Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze pulls and drops the young man to the ground. Experience, experience… Yoshikaze and his magical rash are in double digits. Asanoyama has to wait for tomorrow to try for a kachi-koshi.

Endo‘s present to Yutakayama for his birthday is a quick and merciless tsukidashi. Yutakayama is 2-10-2, Endo 3-11. Both are not going to be anywhere near the joi the next basho, and I hope they’ll both find some time to heal (whatever it is that is ailing Endo).

This is followed by yet another match-of-the-hapless, in which Ikioi manages to win yet another one of those kensho envelopes pledged for him by his fiancee’s sponsor. A barrage of tsuppari finds Onosho spread on the dohyo by hatakikomi. Onosho doesn’t look injured, but like Yoshikaze in the previous basho and Endo in this one, something seems to be plaguing him. Both parties are now 3-11.

Chiyotairyu somehow fools himself into believing that going chest-to-chest with Kaisei is going to benefit him. Although he has a morozashi, he doesn’t use it to secure a hold – probably because he doesn’t have the reach, with both Kaisei’s bulk and his own increasing the circumference he needs to cover. Kaisei, on the other hand, secures a good grip in a soto-yotsu, much like Tochinoshin had a few days ago, and calmly walks Chiyotairyu to the edge. Chiyotairyu increases his losing score to 4-10. Kaisei is now 7-7, and if he wins on senshuraku, may find himself in sanyaku again.

That sanyaku spot is going to be vacated by Tamawashi, who faced Chiyonokuni. They start a tsuki-oshi exchange, but Chiyonokuni manages to land a couple of thrusts that set Tamawashi spinning like a top. Tamawashi is not really with us. Next basho he is probably safely away from any Yokozuna and Ozeki.

Takakeisho pulls Myogiryu down in a typical hikiotoshi. Takakeisho is kachi-koshi, and will stay in sanyaku. Depending on Ferdinand the Bull he may even advance to Sekiwake – but we’ll get to Ichinojo in a minute.

So Ferdinand, I mean, Ichinojo, slams into Shodai and the impact drives the maegashira almost to the edge. The two frantically attempt to land a grip and defend against being gripped, when Ichinojo realizes that he has gained enough ground to safely pull. Hatakikomi, and as is usual with Ichinojo, this means Shodai is spread on the dohyo like Philadelphia cheese, and Ichinojo is hovering over him with a slightly worried “Did I do that?” face. Shodai manages to stand up. It’s Ichinojo’s win, and somehow, unbelievably, Ichinojo once again finds himself with a possibility of a kachi-koshi on senshuraku. If he does that, he maintains his Sekiwake position, and his winning streak at 7 consecutive kachi koshi. If he doesn’t – well, he’ll be komusubi, and Takakeisho Sekiwake. Shodai, by the way, is make-koshi.

Tochinoshin finds a way through Abi‘s tsuppari, and catches on Peter Pan’s mawashi. The latter squirms and bends. I’m pretty sure he actually touched the dohyo with the top part of his foot at some point there – but it’s a moot point, as Tochinoshin performs the shitatenage, and finally gets that precious 8th win that he needed so dearly. Tochinoshin maintains his Ozeki rank, and avoids repeating Musoyama’s quick relegation to Ozekiwake following one kyujo as shin-ozeki and one kadoban in 2000 (Musoyama went on to win 10 bouts and regained his Ozeki rank at the time). Everybody in Georgia lets out a sigh of relief – we still have three Ozeki going into Kyushu. Abi, by the way, is now make-koshi.

The next bout features the suffering Mitakeumi against the near-perfect Takayasu. Takayasu’s usual slam is properly met by the sekiwake. Takayasu tries to slide his left hand through, and Mitakeumi uses a ferocious ottsuke while both of them are also defending on the other side, keeping their mawashi away from each other’s arms. Takayasu does manage to overcome Mitakeumi’s ottsuke and gets to Mitakeumi’s Mawashi. At the same time Mitakeumi pierces his right side. But Mitakeumi converts his ottsuke into a strong lock on Takayasu’s arm, and drags him down the dohyo. Both of them fall. The gyoji points to Mitakeumi.

The result of the monoii deliberation: both are out, “dotai”, but since Mitakeumi was clearly the attacking side, it’s his win.

So Mitakeumi gets the win, secures his kachi-koshi, and maintains his Sekiwake status. Takayasu, however, goes 11-3, and loses his place in the Yusho race.

Then follows the Yokozuna bout of the day. Kakuryu starts with a good forward-moving attack, and Kisenosato defends with all the tools that he has – mainly his lower body. At some point Kakuryu runs out of energy, and a leaning session ensues, as both try to find an opening. But then Kakuryu makes what seems to me like a rookie mistake – he reacts to the gyoji’s call of “oi-hakioi”, trying to do something prematurely. This leaves him open, and Kisenosato, one-armed Yokozuna though he is, seems to be very sharp this basho. Sharp enough to envelope Kakuryu and get him to the nearest edge. Kakuryu loses for the fourth day in a row. Amazingly, the Yokozuna who looked like he was going to take the Yusho only five days ago, winning decisively and brilliantly, is suddenly neck to neck with the Yokozuna we all predicted will have a hard time getting an F-ing kachi-koshi. Hats off for Kisenosato. He achieves his yokozuna kachi-koshi of 10 wins.

Musubi no ichiban. Hakuho is zensho, but had some very precarious bouts in this basho. Goeido, other than his first day bout, has been magnificent this basho. Who is going to prevail? The bout is preceded by yet another set of matta. Both the fault of Hakuho, who seems to be very tense. Upon the second one, I was sure we are going to see the Yokozuna being swept away by a raging Ozeki.

Er, nope. Nopity-nope-nope. Hakuho goes straight forward, grabs Goeido’s mawashi with his left hand, and within a couple of seconds the Ozeki is in a heap on the nearest shimpan. Hakuho is feeling magnanimous enough to help Goeido back up the dohyo. The dai-yokozuna gets his 41st yusho, his 1000th Makuuchi win, his 1094th win overall, his 13th year in a row winning a yusho, and who knows how many more records, with just one typical uwatenage.

All that is left is to see whether Kakuryu will manage to spoil his zensho.

yokozunameter-2018-aki-day-14
Kakuryu and Kisenosato tied. Unbelievable.

 

Legends of the Dohyo #6: Holy Grail

Futabayama Yusho
Futabayama, 1939

In January of 2015, Yokozuna Hakuho Sho made history when he won his thirty-third Emperors Cup, surpassing a record established by the legendary Yokozuna Taiho Koki over forty years prior. When he accepted his 32nd championship and drew even with Taiho one basho prior, Hakuho stated that the god of sumo had blessed his efforts on the dohyo. Blessed indeed, as he is one of only a select few to have ever amassed over thirty yusho, and even fewer have one to their name. It is the dream of all rikishi to one day win the yusho and lift the Emperors Cup, the holy grail of Japans national sport. Despite being the most prestigious, sought-after prize in all of sumo, the Emperor’s Cup simply did not exist for much of the sport’s history. Even the concept of the yusho, Japanese for victory, has only been a part of sumo for a third of its existence.

The evolution of the yusho we know today was long and gradual, and dates as far back as the seventeenth century. Before this time, many of the men who defined the pre-yusho era of sumo, such as Onogawa Kisaburo, Raiden Tameemon, and Inazuma Raigoro, received no official championships or recognition besides credit for having the best record of their respective basho. The first semblance of a yusho or prize in sumo is found in the Edo period, when onlookers rewarded their favorite rikishi for winning bouts by by throwing  gifts of money onto the dohyo. Over time, these gifts transformed into more organized prizes and trophies provided for each basho by private financiers and awarded to the rikishi with perfect records. However, as Hikiwake (draws), Azukari (Decisions too close to call), and absences were not considered loses during this period, the rikishi with the most wins was not always awarded the tournament prize. It was also common in this period for several rikishi with identical records to be declared the champion of a basho and receive rewards for their efforts, as playoffs would not be introduced until much later.

Around the turn of the century, in January of 1900, this old system underwent a major change when the Osaka Mainichi Shinbun newspaper company offered a kensho-mawashi as a prize for the rikishi with a perfect record or the fewest losses at the upcoming basho. This development would establish the concept of a singular champion for each basho. The first tournament to declare an official yusho champion was the 1909 summer basho, when Maegashira 7 Takamiyama Torinosuke defeated Ozeki Tachiyama Mineemon. While the system of an individual basho champion was begging to take form, there were still some key differences when compared to sumo today. The most significant of these differences was the protocol for breaking ties. There were no playoffs in sumo during this era, and in the case of two men having identical records, the yusho was awarded to the rikishi with the higher rank. Playoff rules would be incorporated into sumo in 1947 after several controversial decisions saw Higher ranked rikishi being chosen over men below them without consideration for the circumstances of the basho. One such controversy involved Ozeki Hitachiiwa Eitaro receiving the yusho over Meagashira Misugiiso Zenshichi, despite one of his wins coming by default.

The final piece of the modern yusho structure came in 1925 when Crown Prince Hirohito donated a trophy, called the Prince Regent’s Cup, to be awarded to the yusho winner of each basho. Upon Hirohito taking his place on the Chrysanthemum throne in 1926, the trophy was renamed the Emperors Cup, and has remained the physical embodiment of the yusho ever since. From humble beginnings of monetary gifts showered upon rikishi from the common folk, the concept of a yusho unfolded gradually, eventually evolving into a splendid trophy from the highest lord in all the land, the Emperor himself. The yusho has become a milestone achievement, a career-definer, and the holy grail that every rikishi strives for each and every day.

Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17 Wrap-up

Above: Enho rounds off his tournament by escorting Akinohana off the dohyo.
Video c/o Asashosakari

Remember way back in September and October when we were shaking our heads in disbelief at “Wacky” Aki? How positively calm those days seem now. We took a week or so to collect ourselves following the conclusion of the unprecedented events of the Kyushu basho, but now it’s time to wrap-up our “Ones to Watch” series for 2017. Thanks to everyone who sent through kind words and their suggestions of future rikishi to follow – I think we’ll have a good list in store for Hatsu.

Results

So, how did our picks do on the whole?

Kachi-koshi: 17
Make-koshi: 3
Yusho: 🏆🏆
Hattorizakura-watch: ⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️

Makushita

Ms4 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Mitoryu sealed his promotion to Juryo with a fine 6-1 record, justifying our selection as top pick in the Makushita ranks this time out. He’ll be ineligible for the list next time, but the much-vaunted rikishi will continue to be one to watch as he continues his progression and hopefully consolidates his place among the sekitori.

Ms7 Hokaho (Miyagino) – I was somewhat hopeful that Hokaho could continue his run, having scored winning records in every other basho in 2017. However the run stops here as he slumped to a 3-4 make-koshi courtesy of a final match loss against…

Ms11 Takayoshitoshi (Takanohana) – … who sealed his kachi-koshi in the same match. Takagenji’s twin will no doubt be challenged to follow his brother’s (who has managed to hold on to his place in Juryo) progress as he’ll see himself inside the top 10 Makushita ranks for Hatsu. The question is whether he can put together the run of consistency that could see him in promotion contention by mid-2018 – his mental makeup and application have been debated somewhat within the comments section of this site.

Ms12 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms22 Murata (Takasago) – Despite entering the tournament at a similar pedigree (just the odd loss separating them over their careers), the strength of schedule really told here. Wakatakakage was simply out-shoved against a selection of seasoned vets at this level en route to a 3-4 make-koshi, including the eventual yusho winner Tochihiryu. Murata on the other hand was able to bulldoze his way through the middle of the pack to a very strong 6-1 record that will see him promoted above his contemporary next time out and almost certainly into the top 10 Makushita ranks.

Ms14 Jokoryu (Kise) vs Ms14 Enho (Miyagino) – I felt there was a lot of spice in the Makushita 14 pairing as Jokoryu was the very last rikishi before Enho to achieve 3 consecutive 7-0 records to begin his career. With different goals at stake – Jokoryu’s late career fightback to the pro ranks, Enho’s effort to continue a blistering start to his career – both men valiantly achieved 5-2 records which will see them also placed in the Makushita top 10 in January.

It’s worth noting that Enho’s energy is absolutely remarkable, and currently his speed is the main trait that helps him overcome the massive size gaps that exist between him and most competitors. Additionally, he does a good job of keeping his opponents away from the mawashi, as once he’s locked up he’s fairly easy for larger, stronger rikishi to move around (as somewhat evidenced by his loss to the enormous Akiseyama, albeit a match where his arms rather than his belt were locked up). While he displays at times a composure beyond his years in the manner in which he dispatches much larger opponents, he also has suffered a few wild crashes off the dohyo, so we will hope that he stays healthy as he continues his development.

Ms26 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – I got this one a bit wrong, as I picked Ichiyamamoto as a bit of a sleeper yusho pick owing to the weak strength of schedule and his absolute tear up the banzuke to this point. He will continue his progression after posting a 4-3 kachi-koshi but we will want to see more next time. He displayed some good poise, despite being smaller than many of his opponents.

Ms50 Ryuko (Onoe) – A strong performance in his Makushita debut, putting up a 5-2 kachi-koshi, the odd loss coming to…

Ms52 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – … whose victory over Ryuko (in a match that probably could have gone either way, Nishikifuji slapping down Ryuko on the verge of being pushed out at the edge) sealed a 6-1 tournament in which both men coughed up the other losses to the promising Mongolian Kiribayama. Both Ryuko and Nishikifuji are set for strong promotions upward in January and we will continue to monitor their progress. It’s worth noting that Nishikifuji’s performance at Kyushu was a rare bright spot for the otherwise beleaguered Isegahama stable.

Sandanme

Sd13 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd16 Tanabe (Kise) – I’ve rated Tanabe as the better of these two for a while, having only lost to Enho in his career entering the basho (in fairness to Fukuyama, he’d only lost to Tanabe, but he wasn’t running into Enho). This time, Enho was in another division and Tanabe repaid this faith with a solid 5-2 record that bested Fukuyama’s narrow 4 win kachi-koshi. Tanabe’s showing should be good enough to earn him a promotion, while Fukuyama will likely need to take another crack from the top of Sandanme next time out. As an aside, this is the part of the banzuke where an awful lot of rikishi’s successes are dependent about how they do against the squad from Sadogatake-beya. Both of these guys ended up facing 3 Koto-men – as did Tomokaze and Wakaichiro.

Sd53 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – Tomokaze comes up one loss short of “doing an Enho” from his first three tournaments – he dropped one match in Aki, but stormed back with a zensho (via playoff) here that solidified his credentials as a bona fide prospect. His relatively low ranking in the Sandanme division means he should end up somewhere around the magical Makushita 30 mark at which another unprecedented zensho might clinch another promotion, but it is likely based on past precedent that he’ll fall just short of this mark.

Sd84 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Talking of the myriad prospects of Sadogatake-beya, Kotokumazoe reinforces his credentials after his lengthy absence from the banzuke with a third straight solid tournament. His 5 win record should fire him up another 30-35 positions next time out.

Sd85 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – There’s no getting around that it was a disappointing debut at Sandanme level for the Texan, who has vowed to do better next time out. While his 1 win performance in the final basho of the year was not what he or his fans were hoping for, we are excited to see him continue his progression and hopefully solidify his credentials upon his return to Jonidan where he has already shown solid skill in several previous tournaments this year.

Jonidan

Jd15 Shoji (Musashigawa) – It’s a second straight yusho for Wakaichiro’s stablemate, who will swap places with the Tachiai-favorite in January as he earns an automatic promotion that will see him placed somewhere between Sd20-30. As we noted in our lower division yusho wrap-up, Shoji sealed the deal with a final match win over Torakio with whom he is developing a nice little rivalry.

Jd49 Torakio (Naruto) vs Jd49 Sumidagawa (Naruto) – Torakio may yet get another chance to avenge his second straight yusho race defeat to Shoji at Hatsu, as his 6 win record will more than likely be enough to get him up to Sandanme (the last time it wasn’t from his level was 1975). So while they’ll likely work from opposite ends of the division, one wouldn’t bet against the big and strong Bulgarian getting matched up with Shoji again should both men dominate in their step up.

For Sumidagawa, Torakio’s massive stablemate, the goal at Hatsu will be consolidation and further progression after he netted a 4-3 kachi-koshi which some Tachiai commenters mentioned might be the height of his ambition with respect to his more esteemed aforementioned colleague.

Jonokuchi

Jk20 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – 27 year old Amatsu turned in a fine performance on his comeback to the dohyo after nearly 3 years away. He only suffered one blemish, with a 6 win record that will see him comfortably promoted in his effort to make it back to the Makushita ranks. As I remarked last time, it was disappointing not to see him matched up with the yusho winner Kotoseigo given they were only placed 2 spots apart on the banzuke.

Jk20 Hayashi (Fujishima) – Speaking of solid performances, top debutant “Mike” Hayashi turned in a 6-1 record, his sole loss coming to the yusho winner Kotoseigo. He will be promoted at Hatsu and we will continue to monitor his progress. He will likely be replaced as our “top debutant to watch” at Hatsu by much vaunted Mongolian Yoshoyama of Tokitsukaze-beya.

Finally, while we don’t technically list Hattorizakura of Shikihide-beya as “one to watch,” we certainly will continue to look for his results, and unfortunately he put up his ninth straight 0-7 tournament at Kyushu. This tournament saw him do what I guess we can call a reverse Futabayama, as he has passed the legendary Yokozuna’s run of 63 and run his loss streak now to 67 consecutive losses (his second loss this time out, against the debutant Takita, was particularly heartbreaking as it looked like a sure win until he got Aminishiki’d at the edge). Here’s an interesting stat if you’re a Hattorizakura fan: only 16 other rikishi have managed to stay on the banzuke while not winning for seven consecutive tournaments (without going banzuke-gai). All of the other 16 were kyujo at some point, though a few did put up legitimate winless tournaments over that period. The great Yokozuna Takanohana II is a member of that list in the injury-addled latter stages of his career, so I guess Hattorizakura can at least say they have that in common!