The Sumo ranking chart (banzuke)

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What is the ranking chart (banzuke) ?

It is a chart that lists the ranks of all rikishi. Ranks are apparent based on the section of the page where a name appears and the size of the lettering. The chart also includes the names of gyoji, JSA trustees, supervisors, council members, managers, elders, judging committee members, wakaimonogashira, sewanin, and yobidashi (only yobidashi of juryo-rank and above are listed).

How are rikishi ranked?

The ten rikishi ranks listed below.

  • Sekitori:rikishi with a rank of juryo or above
  • Toriteki (rikishi trainee):makushita rank and below.
  • San’yaku (three top ranks):ozeki, sekiwake, and komusubi ranks. In recent years, the term often refers to sekiwake and komusubi only. Yokozuna is not included in the “three top ranks.”
  • Yaku:refers to yokozuna and the three san ‘yaku ranks.
  • Makuuchi:the ranks maegashira through yokozuna. All sekitori exceptjuryo are included.
  • Maegashira:makuuchi rikishi other than san ‘yaku and yokozuna.
  • Hiramaku:another term for maegashira

Must there always be a yokozuna?

The rules do not require that there be a yokozuna; neither is there a rule to limit the number of yokozuna .

*The rank of yokozuna was formalized in 1909. Up until then the strongest ozeki were awarded a “title of honor.”

Must the ozeki position always be filled?

Yes, there must always be an ozeki. The rules require that the ranking chart include two each of the three san ‘yaku positions. There must be an ozeki, sekiwake, and komusubi on both the east and west sides. If there is no ozeki, the yokozuna holds the spot, and is given the title ofyokozunaozeki. In other words, as long as there is a yokozuna, the position of ozeki is covered.

Do the east and west positions have equal status?

No. The ranking chart has east and west positions for every rank. Two rikishi always have the same position, but the one on the east has the superior record from the preceding tournament. Ranks are determined at the banzuke ranking conference held after each tournament.

How many sekiwake and komusubi are allowed?

There must be at least two sekiwake and two komusubi, but there are no upper limits. Along with the east and west “regular” positions, rikishi can also fill “overflow” positions. One 1972 tournament had five rikishi ranked as sekiwake, and there four at the 1992 Kyushu Tournament.

Are there a set number of sekitori?

Below are rules for numbers of makuuchi andjuryo rikishi.

  • makuuchi:No more than forty as ofthe 1991 New Year’s Tournament. The previous limit was thirty-eight. The total number of maegashira positions is determined after subtracting the number of yokozuna, and san ‘yaku.
  • juryo:No more than 26 as of the 1967 Summer Tournament. The previous limit was 36. There are thirteen positions on both east and west sides .

What are the numbers for all ranks?

  1. Yokozuna : top position. No limit to number.
  2. Ozeki : There must be one each, east and west.
  3. Sekiwake : there must be one each, east and west.
  4. Komusubi : there must be one each, east and west.
  5. Maegashira : 16 east and west positions, 32 total. *The number is adjusted based on the number of rikishi in the four positions preceding it.
  6. Juryo (officially jumaime) : 13 east and west positions, 26 total.
  7. Makushita : 60 east and west positions, 120 total.
  8. Sandanme : 100 east and west positions, 200 total.
  9. Jonidan : about 350 rikishi. There is no limit on this rank, and it is the largest of the ten.
  10. Jonokuchi : about 100 rikishi. No limit.

Some ranks contain a limited number of rikishi while others do not. Some ranks need not be filled and some have no upper limit.

Are there a limited number of rikishi positions?

No. All rikishi are registered with the JSA, but there is no limit to the number allowed. There is a limit to the number of makuuchi and juryo positions, but not to those makushita and below.

When a rank is the same, how can you tell which is superior?

On the banzuke, east (right side) is superior to west (left side), and, even on the same side, a position on the right is always the higher.

What were the original meanings of the different ranks?

  1. Makuuchi (in the curtain) : in the days of sumo-viewing by the shogun, the upper-ranked rikishi waited for their bouts behind a curtain.
  2. Makushita (under the curtain) : implies a rank lower than makuuchi.
  3. Ozeki (great seki) : although the origin of this term is not certain, it is said that the character for “great” wasplaced in front of those for sekitori, and the tori was eventually dropped. The term ozeki was already in use in the early Edo era.
  4. Sekiwake (side of seki) : the rank to the side of the (center-stage) ozeki.
  5. Komusubi (small musubi) : the origin of this term is not clear. One explanation says that if there were bouts for neither ozeki nor sekiwake, the next position would have the final bout of the day (musubi-no-ichiban), and therefore the day was ended with the “small musubi.”
  6. Maegashira : on the ranking charts of the late 1700s, all ranks from jonokuchi to komusubi were listed as maegashira. Pre-sumo rikishi were called mae, and all others were considered makunouchi. Modem ranking charts still list maegashira throughjonokuchi ranks as maegashira (literally, head ofthe mae). The title is represented by large ditto marks (do) over the names in tiny lettering.
  7. Juryo : at the end of the Edo era, the top ten makushita positions were paid a salary of 10 ryo (literally ju-ryo – the coin is no longer in use). These “top ten positions” (jumaime) came to be referred to asjuryo. There are now 13 positions on both east and west sides, but the JSA still uses the name jumaime.
  8. Sandanme : simply, the “third level.”
  9. Jonidan : second level (nidan) from the beginning (jo).
  10. Jonokuchi : “entrance” to the ranking chart. Originally, this position was called jounokuchi (entrance to the top).

What does gomenkomuru on the ranking chart mean?

During the Edo era when benefit sumo was held, authorization from the commissioner of shrines and temples was required. A sign, called gomenfuda, carrying the characters gomenkomuru, indication that the event was officially authorized, and the date and location would then be displayed. Currently, a gomen celebration, including a gomerifuda, is held a month before each official tournament.

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