Makuuchi

A makuuchi match with the 69th yokozuna Hakuhō beating Dejima as the 68th yokozuna Asashōryū watches in the background

Makuuchi (幕内) or makunouchi (幕の内) is the top division of the six divisions of professional sumo. Its size is fixed at 42 wrestlers ( rikishi), ordered into five ranks according to their ability as defined by their performance in previous tournaments.

This is the only division that is featured on NHK's standard live coverage of sumo tournaments. The lower divisions are shown on their satellite coverage, with only the makuuchi broadcast having bilingual English commentary.

Makuuchi literally means "inside the curtain", a reference to the early period of professional sumo, when there was a curtained-off area reserved for the top ranked wrestlers to sit before appearing for their bouts.

Wrestlers are considered for promotion or demotion in rank before each grand tournament according to their performance in the one previous. Generally, a greater number of wins than losses ( kachi-koshi) results in a promotion, and the reverse ( make-koshi) results in demotion. There are stricter criteria for promotion to the top two ranks, which are also privileged when considered for demotion.

Overview

At the top fixed positions of the division are the, "titleholder" or san'yaku ranks of yokozuna, ōzeki, sekiwake and komusubi. There are typically 8–12 san'yaku wrestlers, with the remainder, called maegashira, ranked in numerical order from 1 downwards.

San'yaku (三役) literally means "the three ranks", even though it actually comprises four ranks. The discrepancy arose because the yokozuna was traditionally regarded as an ōzeki with a special license to wear a particular rope around his waist and perform a distinctive ring entry ceremony. In modern use san'yaku has a somewhat flexible definition. This is largely because the top two ranks of yokozuna and ōzeki have distinctive differences from the lower two ranks and from each other. Therefore, a reference to san'yaku can sometimes mean only the bottom three ranks, or in other cases only sekiwake and komusubi.

There must be at least one sekiwake and komusubi on each side of the banzuke, normally two total, but there may be more. Although there is usually a yokozuna there is no requirement for one, and it has sometimes happened that no active yokozuna or no ōzeki were listed in the ranks. If there is more than one yokozuna but only one ōzeki, the lower rank will be filled out by designating one of the yokozuna as yokozuna-ōzeki. There is no recorded instance of there being fewer than two yokozuna and ōzeki in total.

There are a number of privileges and responsibilities associated with the san'yaku ranks. Any wrestler who reaches one of them is entitled to purchase one of the membership shares in the Japan Sumo Association, regardless of the total number of tournaments they have spent in the top makuuchi division. They may be called on to represent all sumo wrestlers on certain occasions. For example, when the president of the Sumo Association makes a formal speech on the opening and closing days of a tournament, he is flanked by all the san'yaku wrestlers in their mawashi. Similarly they may be called to assist in welcoming a VIP, such as the Emperor, to the arena.

The san'yaku can be split into two groups: The senior yokozuna and ōzeki, and junior sekiwake and komusubi.

The former group have special promotion criteria and higher salaries, and have additional perks such as a higher number of junior wrestlers to assist them, an entitlement to park in the Sumo Association compound and voting rights in the election for Association directors. Senior yokozuna and ōzeki also have added responsibilities. They are expected to represent wrestler views to the Association, assist in advertising events and meet event sponsors.

The latter group, sekiwake and komusubi, have lesser responsibilities and are still eligible for one of the three special prizes, or sanshō that are awarded for exceptional performance at the end of each tournament.

Other Languages
Deutsch: Makuuchi
eesti: Makuuchi
español: Makuuchi
français: Makuuchi
한국어: 마쿠우치
日本語: 幕内
português: Makuuchi
русский: Макуути
svenska: Makuuchi