The Natsu basho is upon us, time to find out who is stepping out from behind the curtain and joining the paid ranks. This Kokugikan tourney we have two rikishi making their first visit to sekitori world. With some hard work and a little luck, perhaps they can stay there. In addition, we have one rikishi returning to the paid ranks.
Ms1w Wakatakakage (4-3) got the minimum number of wins to become a sekitori. He is from Fukushima city in Fukushima prefecture. At the promotion interview, he made a point of saying that he was going to do his best on behalf of his home prefecture, which suffered during the 2011 Tohoku disaster.
Wakatakakage entered sumo at sandanme tsukedashi, “where an amateur wrestler finishing in the top 8 of either the All-Japan Championships, All-Japan Corporate Championships, National Student Championships, or the National Sports Festival Adults tournament is allowed to skip the bottom two divisions and start at the bottom of the sandanme division.” Hence, he was allowed to skip maezumo, Jonokuchi, and Jonidan. It still took him 7 basho to reach sekitori, the slowest of the all wrestlers who started at sandanme tsukedashi.
For his stable, Arashio-beya, he will be the second Fukushima rikishi to reach Juryo. Incidentally, Wakatakakage’s older brothers are also rikishi at the same stable. His oldest brother, Wakatakamoto, went 5-2 from Ms22w, while the middle brother, Onami, went 4-3 from Ms12e. Fun fact. Their grandfather is none other than komusubi Wakabayama. Perhaps one day, one of the brothers can take their grandfather’s shikona in the paid ranks.
Ms1e Hakuyozan (6-1) hails from Yamagata prefecture and is only 23 years old . Yamagata prefecture’s last shin-sekitori was Hokutokuniin back in 2008. In an interview, Hakuyozan said his goal is to reach the same rank as his stablemaster, Takadagawa oyakata, AKA, ex Sekiwake Akinoshima. His oyakata replied that he need to stretch further and reach the Yokozuna, just like another Fukushima rikishi, Yokozuna Kashiwado.
Ms3w Asabenkai (6-1) is from Kanagawa prefecture. He is making his second trip in the paid ranks. He had spent 6 basho in Juryo from his debut at the 2015 Kyusho basho, then dropping behind the curtain at the end of the 2018 Aki basho. Asabenkai will be the sole sekitori from Takasago-beya on the Natsu basho banzuke.
With three rikishi going up, there will be three rikishi trading their silk mawashi for cotton. J14w Ehno could manage 4 wins and will return to Makashita. Since he started sumo at the 2017 Osaka basho, this is the first time he posted a losing record. J14e Takayoshitoshi got 3 wins, and the he was the last 6 days of the tourney with an injury. J7e Amakaze could also only get 3 wins and will join the others behind the curtain.