Le Petit Banzuke Illustré
Hors série n° - december
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Gilles Furelaud
translated by Olivia Nagioff
proofread by Susan Lyon

The new rikishi on the banzuke

After the slim pickings of the last few months, once again the recruits are arriving in more reasonable numbers!

Seven young fighters passed the mae-zumo tests last November, and thus appear on the banzuke for Hatsu 2007. To this we must add a fighter who is exempt from these tests and makes his debut directly in makushita.

Two rikishi emerge as the stars of this promotion: Masumeidai and Ichihara (although we might note that Masumeidai’s mae-zumo tournament was partly spoilt: he suffered one defeat).

The third “star” of this banzuke is really multiple stars: the rikishi returning to the banzuke (they had dropped out of the rankings – become banzuke-gaidue – to absence). There are, in fact, no fewer than six on this banzuke! Among them, note the return of Kinryuzan, absent for a year and half (and injured again). Also note the thunderous return of Hisanoumi, veteran of sandanme division, on whom we must rely for the jonokuchi yusho!

Lastly, a particular shin-deshi deserves mention: Otokoyama. This deshi did indeed pass his physical examinations, but it was in July 2005! Since then he has not taken part in a single combat (not even in mae-zumo). He finally managed it in November, and here he is, finally making his debut in January 2007.

Let us now move on to the two main stars for January.

Masumeidai

Here we have a good-sized rikishi (1.89 m). His main characteristic is that he is a graduate of a large university (or almost; he will be in March). He comes from the University of Nagoya, also known as ‘Meidai’. Shuichi Tanaka will, therefore, have the unusual feature of having the name of his university in his shikona!

Masumeidai (nikkansport)

Few rikishi are graduates of such a prestigious university. Another example we can cite is veteran rikishi Ichinoya. Masumeidai has admitted that he has dreamed of meeting this famous predecessor in combat, something which may be possible, considering Ichinoya’s current ranking, in low jonidan.

His shisho, Chiganoura oyakata, believes he will be able to adapt quickly to the world of professional sumo, to gain at least 20 kilos, and to progress quickly in the banzuke.

Ichihara

This represents the biggest event of the last few years! For the first time since the new rules governing makushita tsukedashi were put in place, a deshi has been placed at makushita tsukedashi 10. If he manages not to lose in January, then promotion to juryo could not be refused him!

Ichihara at his physical examination (mainichi)

Ichihara is the first to have profited from this provision reserved for the most talented amateurs, thanks to his victories in the Japan Games and the National Amateur Championships. During his university career, Ichihara won no fewer than eleven tournaments! That is an impressive run and means that one cannot but expect great things of this 22 year old. His technique and power seem already very significant, and in any case, more than those shown by the last makushita tsukedashi (who have mostly been disappointing after their professional debut).

It should be noted that he could have won a third major tournament, losing only in the final of the Japanese university championship. When he was at school he was already number 1 in Japan. And at college? The same, number 1. He was thus a school yokozuna and college yokozuna, but not university yokozuna (having finished only second).

This lovely little fellow of 165 kg has joined Kise beya, directed by former maegashira Higonoumi, who attended the same university (Nichidai) as he did.

Kise oyakata (ex-Higonoumi) and his star recruit Ichihara (mainichi)

He will unquestionably be one to reckon with in January. Ichihara has admitted that he wants to become the fastest rikishi to reach the ranks of the sekitori. He will thus be very motivated when he faces the best rikishi in makushita!

Reminder of the rules for makushita tsukedashi

This rule has long existed to make it possible for the best young fighters to avoid going through the lower ranks. Since the 1960s, however, this principle has been codified to give a precise rank to these privileged deshi.

From 1966 to 2001, the qualified rikishi began at the bottom of makushita division (makushita 60 tsukedashi). For that qualification, a rikishi had simply to be regarded as “very good”. In 1993, this criterion was made more objective: in order to meet this requirement, a deshi had to perform well in the major tournaments (for example, to reach the final sixteen in the National Championships).

Since 2001 the rules have become even stricter: An amateur winning one of the four major titles in Japan gains the right to begin at makushita tsukedashi 15. In the event of two victories the same year, he is offered the chance to start at makushita tsukedashi 10. The other rikishi begin in jonokuchi (like Masumeidai for example); and it is the same for tsukedashi qualifiers if they do not take up their rank in the same year as their victory (or victories).

[Thank you to Joe Kuroda, Moti Dichne and “Madorosumaru”]

The new rikishi on the banzuke in January 2007

rank shikona real name date of birth height weight heya
Jonokuchi 30 East Fujimori Toshiki Fujimori 31 August 1988 175 cm 128 kg Kise
Jonokuchi 30 West Masumeidai Shuichi Tanaka 16 March 1984 189 cm 110 kg Chiganoura
Jonokuchi 31 West Toriumi Shigeo Toriumi 30 October 1989 174 cm 153 kg Nakamura
Jonokuchi 32 East Tamadaito Takahiro Tanaka 29 January 1991 178 cm 151 kg Kataonami
Jonokuchi 32 West Sadanohama Keishi Hamaguchi 17 March 1988 185 cm 132 kg Sakaigawa
Jonokuchi 33 East Matsushita Daiki Yasumiya 2 August 1989 178 cm 114 kg Magaki
Jonokuchi 33 West Otokoyama Akito Mizuse 24 April 1990 174 cm 75 kg Takadagawa
Makushita tsukedashi 10 Ichihara Takayuki Ichihara 16 August 1984 182 cm 165 kg Kise

Average height of the shin-deshi: 1.79 m (range 1.74 m to 1.89 m).

Average weight of the shin-deshi: 128 kg (range 75 kg to 165 kg).

Banzuke-gai rikishi making their return to the banzuke

rank shikona last basho last appearance on the banzuke highest rank debut height weight heya
Jonokuchi 35 West Kinryuzan March 2005 September 2005 Sd 42 May 2003 187 cm 139 kg Matsugane
Jonokuchi 34 East Kanai January 2006 March 2006 Jk 24 July 2005 177 cm 104 kg Michinoku
Jonokuchi 29 West Hisanoumi September 2005 May 2006 Sd 24 March 2001 181 cm 90 kg Tagonoura
Jonokuchi 34 West Kotokaneko March 2006 July 2006 Jd 74 March 2002 189 cm 115 kg Sadogatake
Jonokuchi 31 East Nishikawa July 2006 September 2006 Jd 126 March 2006 168 cm 135 kg Tagonoura
Jonokuchi 35 East Yamamoto July 2006 September 2006 Jk 2 March 2005 171 cm 115 kg Naruto

Mae-zumo bouts in November 2006: outstanding facts

Only unbeaten deshi: Hisanoumi (banzuke-gai), 3 wins.

Deshi with 1 loss: Fujimori (shin-deshi). Lost to Hisanoumi.

Deshi with 1 loss: Masumeidai (shin-deshi). Lost to Toriumi.

Others deshi with more wins than losses: Nishikawa, Toriumi and Tamadaito (3-2).

Otokoyama and Kanai had only one win to 4 losses each.

Yamamoto and Kinryuzan fought only twice before being injured. Absence feared for January.