Sumo: Eagerly awaited banzuke rankings set stage for next tournament

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Asanoyama shows the newly released banzuke rankings in Kanie, Aichi Prefecture, on June 24.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterThe Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament starts on Sunday at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, located in the Ninomaru area of Nagoya Castle. Wrestlers are surely making their final preparations now.

Sumo wrestlers’ positions are decided by their banzuke rankings. There is a rule that the banzuke compilation meeting “should be held within three days of the end of the most recent tournament.” The meetings are held on the Wednesday after the final day of each tournament. The rankings for the following tournament are decided by a group of oyakata, or stable masters, belonging to the judges division of the Japan Sumo Association, after examining the wrestlers’ records in the previous tournament.

This means the new banzuke rankings for the Nagoya tournament were decided on May 29 after the summer tournament.

There is another rule that banzuke rankings for the following tournament “should be treated as top secret until their announcement, and must not be released to anyone before that.” However, there is an exception to this: Promotions to the yokozuna, ozeki and juryo ranks are announced on the day of the meeting.

A final decision on promotion to yokozuna or ozeki is made at a board meeting of the Japan Sumo Association, after which a messenger is sent to notify the wrestler. There is also a stipulation on how the board meeting should approve the promotion, saying it “must be a unanimous recommendation.”

Promotions to the yokozuna, ozeki ranks and juryo division are immediately announced because the wrestlers have to do a great deal of preparation.

It’s happy work — for example, the wrestlers promoted to juryo division need to order montsuki, or Japanese traditional formal wear bearing emblems, and hakama trousers. They also need shimekomi made of silk — the mawashi belt for tournament matches — and kesho mawashi, a decorative belt. The promotions are announced earlier because they need time to make all these preparations.

Another rule stipulates that new banzuke rankings must be announced 13 days before the first day of the upcoming tournament. As the first day of the Nagoya tournament is Sunday, the new banzuke rankings were announced June 24. This was the day when all 681 wrestlers became aware of their rankings.

Asanoyama won the makuuchi division in the previous tournament, and thus was considered likely to be made a new komusubi. But his new ranking was one level lower: No. 1 maegashira.

He frankly expressed his feelings, saying, “I feel regret.” Every banzuke announcement day brings both sorrow and delight among wrestlers.

— Miki is a sumo expert.Speech

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