The art of watching sumo – The January 2024 Tournament

Sumo NHK World Japan Yokozuna Dosukoi

The January sumo tournament in Tokyo from Sunday 14/01 to Sunday 28/01/2024

A new year begins, and the zodiac sign for 2024 is the dragon, a symbol of success according to popular belief. The stars could therefore align to see the crowning of a new yokozuna in January.

By winning his second title in November, ozeki Kirishima is now on course for ultimate promotion, provided he wins the next championship or achieves an equivalent score.

sumo rankings banzuke

At the top of the pyramid is the title of yokozuna — once earned, it lasts for life. To achieve this supreme rank you already need to be an ozeki, then win two consecutive tournaments. Unlike other titles a yokozuna cannot lose his title even if he is defeated. However, if his defeats continue he will have to resign to preserve his dignity.  

The rank of ozeki comes just below that of yokozuna. Appointed at a full extraordinary meeting, he needs to have accumulated 33 victories during the previous three tournaments to be worthy of the title. If his defeats outnumber his wins he does not lose his rank immediately but becomes kadoban. To earn back his titlethe ozeki must score eight wins at the following tournament. 

At present, only Terunofuji occupies this position, but repeated knee injury problems have kept him away from the competition for the last six months, and he has only completed one tournament in the last year. So the arrival of a new talent ready and able to maintain sumo’s ancient traditions would be most welcome.

Atamifuji, the revelation of the year in 2023 thanks to his remarkable performances, continues to rise up the rankings. At just 21, the man who finished just behind champion Kirishima in Fukuoka will be competing at the top of the maegashira ranks.

Let’s not forget the young guns who are also determined to climb the ladder, such as the ambitious Hoshoryu, who aspires to match his illustrious uncle Asashoryu by attaining the prestigious rank of yokozuna, and Kotonowaka, who could soon achieve the coveted status of ozeki.

The ever-popular Ura has reached his highest level by becoming a komusubi to the delight of his fans. His outstanding technique has earned him a well-deserved reputation.

These are promising prospects, some of which could materialize as early as January.

Yohann Valdenaire
Illustration: POSTICS

To ensure you miss none of the action, visit the NHK WORLD-JAPAN website from 14 January, where edited highlights will be broadcast.


Watch the tournament from 14 to 28 January 2024 in Tokyo.