Le Petit Banzuke Illustré
Hors série n°17 - september 2006
(Click on the picture to download
the full french issue, with pictures,...)

Gilles Furelaud
translated by Olivia Nagioff
proofread by Steven Pascal-Joiner

The new rikishi on the banzuke

We almost had a complete lack of new rikishi! Just a single debutant showed up for the mae-zumo tests last July. However these tests usually involve fighting…for which you obviously need at least two…

Fortunately enough, the mae-zumo tests, which confer the right to be classified on the banzuke, have as participants not only new rikishi (shin-deshi), but also any who have left the banzuke due to repeated absences (banzuke-gai). Two banzuke-gai rikishi attended the mae-zumo tests, allowing bouts to be organised between the three rikishi:

Masunoyama, the shin-deshi, who joins Chiganoura beya;

Kuwana, from Kasugano beya, highest rank jonidan 64;

Kuramochi, from Miyagino beya, who made his debut a year ago and has an injury-affected record of 12 wins, 12 losses and 18 absences.

rank shikona real name date of birth height weight heya
Jonokuchi 35 West Masunoyama Tomoharu Kato 1st November 1990 176 cm 143 kg Chiganoura

On the number of shin-deshi…

A single shin-deshi (new rikishi) is an unusual occurrence, and we can benefit from the occasion by dwelling a bit on the issue of the number of recruits to professional sumo.

To the untrained eye, in fact, reading the heading “New Rikishi on the Banzuke” every two months in “Le Petit Banzuke Illustré” may give rise to many questions. On one occasion 70 recruits will be seen and, only a few months later, just one. This may well appear to be surprising.

But you need to bear in mind that these recruits are mostly young men who have just finished school or college. The Japanese academic year ends in March, so it is logical that the greatest majority of shin-deshi make their debut (with their mae-zumo tests) at the Haru Basho in March. More than half of all rikishi making their debut in sumo thus do it in the March Basho.

The two bashos on either side of the Haru Basho are also important for recruitment, completing a busy period of recruitment which spreads from January to May. From May 2001 to March 2006, more than 83% of shin-deshi passed their mae-zumo tests during the period of January to May.

The rest of the year is therefore traditionally particularly quiet in the field of recruitment. However seeing only one shin-deshi is exceptional. The last time this happened was back in September 2000, with just Tochidaiyu from Kasugano beya. This rikishi had a career that was otherwise unexceptional, retiring in January 2005 with a tally of 85 wins, 83 losses and 14 absences and a highest rank of jonidan 5. In his case a returning banzuke-gai (Wakadaiki of Hanakago beya) was able to fight him in mae-zumo.

Should this single recruitment for July 2006 be a cause for concern? Does it indicate falling recruitment or just chance? It is hard to say.

In fact recruitment during the ‘low season’ (July to November) has been quite consistent for the last two years, and the indicator provided by the number of recruits in March doesn’t show a worrying extreme. This observation leads us to conclude that the single recruit for July was just chance.

However, observing the recruitment pattern in recent years might lead us to fear that recruitment is falling. From 2000-2002, when there was a lot of talk of a drop in interest in sumo related to the retirement of the Hanada brothers, the recruitment totals were quite poor. Afterwards we saw an upsurge in recruitment, peaking with 77 recruits in March 2004. Since then recruitment seems to have levelled off even though the popularity of sumo seems to be on the rise, thanks to the exploits of Asashoryu, the arrival of new blood (Hakuho, Kotooshu and company) and the resistance of some veterans like Kaio or even Tochiazuma.

The future will show us whether we are really in the doldrums with the number of shin-deshi, or if it is just a natural fluctuation, a kind of pause.

To be continued…

Download Le Petit Banzuke Illustré n°17 to get more information on this subject:
Shin-deshi by basho from May 2001 to July 2006.
(Understandable without speaking French)