Continuing our series on Sumo 101, giving newbies to the sport the chance to learn everything they can about the world of sumo in preparation of the upcoming basho starting on January 8th 2012! Enjoy!
Basho or tournaments are conducted over a period of 15 days with each rikishi facing a different opponent each day. The goal of each rikishi is to obviously win the whole basho by scoring the most wins or achieving whats called a Yusho. There is a constellation prize though for those rikishi who can not win the Yusho but have a good record over the course of the 15 days. If a rikishi can at least score a winning record (that’s a minimum of 8 wins and is called a kachikoshi), he is guaranteed to NOT slide down the banzuke rankings (see next post for more info on the banzuke). If a rikishi can NOT score kachikoshi he ends the tournament with a losing record or a makekoshi and will slide down the banzuke. Therefore if a young rikishi can score a kachikoshi its been a good basho veen if he didn’t win the whole basho. This grueling contest can wear down the best rikishi and its very common to have a rikishi bow out during a tournament due to injury or to save face if he is facing makekoshi. There are six bashos per year, one every other month, with three of them taking place in Tokyo at the legendary Ryokukigan and the other three taking place in Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya.
After a winner is chosen by the gyoji, it is his job to also hand the winning rikishi any prize money or Kensho they earned from winning the match. This prize money is provided by sponsors who sponsor the individual sumo match, kinda like how sponsors here in the states will sponsor sporting teams or events. Usually it’s the top ranked fighters that get the sponsors and of course the Yokozuna match will get the most. There are some popular rikishi like Takamisakari who always gets sponsors for his matches regardless of where he ranks, as long as he is in the Makuuchi ranks which we will discuss at a later time (this also makes him a very popular rikishi to fight because the winner of the match gets the prize money NOT the popular fighter). Before each sponsored match begins the sponsor’s name is paraded around the ring on a banner and their name is announced on the speaker as well. Some matches will have one lonely banner paraded around while a really popular Yokozuna can have anywhere from two to three trains of banners parading around the dohyo (with anywhere from 15 to 20 banners per train!) The minimal sponsorship is about $550 which means a top ranked Yokozuna or rikishi who beats the Yokozuna, could win anywhere from $10k to $20k per match! There are fifteen matches per tournament so a really successful Yokozuna could easily see a $200k payout just in kensho ALONE!
There are three prizes (or sansho) that are usually given out after the end of a Basho. In order to earn one of the sansho a rikishi must be ranked in the Maegashira (below Ozeki) and have a winning record (kachikoshi). The award is decided by the Sumo Association and press members covering the basho. The sansho do NOT have to be awarded every basho, especially if any rikishi has not earned the award, and rikishis can win more than one sansho in a basho (with some winning all three in one basho, though its only happened five times in the history of sumo). Also multiple rikishis can win the same sansho in the same basho. Each sansho comes along with a 2 million yen prize (equivalent to $20,000).
The Shukun sho (or outstanding performance award) is usually given to the rikishi who has defeated the Yokozuna or the winner of the basho. If neither of these happens (say the Yokozuna wins the basho undefeated) then the award will NOT be awarded.
The Gino-sho (or technique prize) is awarded to the rikishi that has displayed the best techniques during the basho. It is the prize most sought after by the rikishis and is the rarest to be awarded of the sansho (one time it was not awarded for five straight bashos).
The Kanto-sho (or Fighting Spirit Award) is awarded to the rikishi who showed the best spirit during the basho.