Ozeki Kisenosato will be hoping the fourth time will be the charm that lands him promotion to yokozuna.
The 30-year-old ozeki enters the 15-day Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament knowing his first career title will mean promotion to sumo’s most exalted rank. This will be the fourth promotion chance for Kisenosato, who fell short in July 2013 and January 2014. His 12-3 record in July in his third attempt saw him get another chance at Ryogoku Kokugikan starting Sept. 11.
If he does win a championship, Kisenosato will become the first Japanese-born wrestler to take the big step up from ozeki since Wakanohana became a yokozuna in 1998.
While Kisenosato continues his quest for history, two of his fellow ozeki, Kotoshogiku and Goeido, will be fighting to avoid relegation. Kotoshogiku suffered ligament damage to his left knee that caused him to drop out of the July tourney, while Goeido finished with a losing 7-8 record. Both will need at least eight wins in Tokyo to avoid demotion.
Two others keen to prove they belong are Takayasu and Takarafuji, who will be in the sekiwake hotseat for the first time in Tokyo.
The 26-year-old Takayasu, who does not have to fight his Tagonoura stablemate Kisenosato, went 11-4 as a komusubi in July. Takarafuji, 29, went 10-5 in July as a No. 2 maegashira, and also has the advantage of having no bouts against his Isegahama stablemates, including July’s champion, yokozuna Harumafuji and ozeki Terunofuji.
Harumafuji will be looking to win two tournaments in a row for the first time since he went 15-0 in July and September 2012 to earn promotion to yokozuna.
To do that, Harumafuji will have to get past the other Mongolian yokozuna, Hakuho and Kakuryu.
Hakuho, who is seeking to extend his record for the most grand tournament titles in history to 38, is coming off a dismal 10-5 mark in Nagoya, while Kakuryu went 2-2 and sat out 11 matches after withdrawing due to lower-back trouble.
Making their first appearances in the elite makuuchi division are 25-year-olds Amakaze and Chiyoshoma.
Amakaze will fight as a No. 13 maegashira after winning the second-tier juryo division in July, while Chiyoshoma, from Mongolia, is the first new makuuchi wrestler to enter since his former stablemaster Kokonoe, legendary yokozuna Chiyonofuji, passed away on July 31.