Having waited years to reach sumo's pinnacle, Kisenosato enters the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament looking for his second championship as yokozuna and his third in a row.
As it is, the 30-year-old enters the May 14-28 tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan holding down the top Eastern slot among the four-man yokozuna corps. It is the first time a Japanese wrestler has entered a grand tournament in pole position since yokozuna Takanohana was named to the top East post for the 2001 Nagoya tourney.
Bringing up the rear of the yokozuna cadre is Mongolian master Hakuho, who missed most of the March tourney due to injury. The record holder for career tournament wins with 37, Hakuho will be taking part in his 59th grand tournament as a yokozuna, tying him with Chiyonofuji for second most in history.
His countrymen, Kakuryu and Harumafuji fill the other two spots in the upper echelon after matching 10-5 records in March.
Terunofuji, who spectacularly lost twice to the injured Kisenosato on the final day in Osaka in March, enters as the top East ozeki. His partner at sumo's second highest rank is Goeido, who missed nine bouts in March due to injury and will need to win eight in Tokyo or be dropped to sekiwake.
For the second straight tournament, the same three wrestlers will be fighting as sekiwake. Kotoshogiku is back after failing to win the 10 bouts needed to earn a get-out-of-jail card and reclaim his ozeki status. He's joined by Tamawashi, 8-7 in March, and Kisenosato's impressive Tagonoura stablemate Takayasu, who was 12-3 in Osaka.
Takayasu, whose mother is from the Philippines, is in the hunt for a promotion to ozeki. With 11 January wins, 10 more in the upcoming meet would boost him to 33 wins from three consecutive tourneys -- a benchmark required by the Japan Sumo Association to attain promotion to the second highest rank.
At the other end of the spectrum are 23-year-old Yutakayama and 20-year-old Onosho, who will be making their debuts in the top-flight makuuchi division.
Yutakayama, who had been wrestling under the name of Oyanagi, and Onosho both went 9-6 in the juryo division in March. Also earning promotion to the top flight are former makunouchi grapplers Toyohibiki and Chiyotairyu.