By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterPayment for sumo wrestlers in the top two makuuchi and juryo divisions consists mainly of monthly salaries and bonuses, which depend on their performance.
Monthly salaries range from ¥1.1 million for juryo to ¥3 million for yokozuna.
Bonuses are decided based on the sport’s unique payment system called rikishi-hoshokin. Each wrestler receives a bonus point worth ¥3, called mochi-kyukin, when he enters the banzuke rankings as a jonokuchi, the sport’s lowest division.
The payment increases by one point worth 50 sen, or ¥0.5, for every win that exceeds the number of losses in a tournament.
For example, a lower-rank wrestler receiving a bonus point of ¥3 gets a ¥0.5 raise with a 4-3 record, as the number of wins surpasses that of losses by one. In the same way, another wrestler who wins all seven bouts gets a raise of ¥3.5 in bonus points, leading him to have an accumulated bonus of ¥6.5.
Wrestlers in the makuuchi top division, who have 15 bouts per tournament, get the same rate. But a hiramaku (the rank-and-file of the makuuchi division) wrestler who defeats a yokozuna gets a bonus point worth ¥10. Such a win is called a kinboshi, or gold star.
Winning the championship provides a special increase of ¥30 in bonus points. A wrestler with a perfect record would have an increase of ¥50. Mochi-kyukin continues to rise as long as wrestlers are on the banzuke rankings. No deduction is made even when losses outnumber wins.
As of the end of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in March, yokozuna Hakuho, who has won 42 championships, had the highest accumulated bonus of ¥2,050.5. Yokozuna Kakuryu, who has won the championship five times, had an accumulation of ¥346.5, nearly six times less than Hakuho despite the two having debuted together in 2001. It is mainly because of the difference between them in the number of championships and undefeated tournaments.
The mochi-kyukin bonus is multiplied by 4,000 to calculate the rikishi-hoshokin payment for each tournament. The payment is made even when wrestlers pull out of the tournament. Hakuho withdrew from the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, but still got ¥8.202 million as his bonus payment for the basho.
Wrestlers in the makushita division or lower can also accumulate bonuses. But they can receive the payment only after they are promoted to the juryo division. This is why when they retire, many sumo wrestlers single out a bout that promoted them to the juryo division as a particularly memorable match for them.