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幕内

(Also: makunouchi, 幕の内)

In Sumo wrestling, the name of the top division of wrestlers. This comprises the following ranks of rikishi (which are normally divided into Eastern and Western halves, to prevent conflict of interest with sekitori from the same beya, stable, battling each other):

  • yokozuna - grand masters. Technically, yokozuna is an honorary title, not a rank, but it is invariably treated as if it were a real rank. There are usually one or two yokozuna, though there need not be any. The Nihon Sumo Kyokai, the Japanese Sumo Wrestling Society, awards this rank based on career achievement, as well as on perceived qualities as an epitome of the sport.
  • sanyaku - the three highest (real) ranks of Sumo. Officially, there are only supposed to be two rikishi at each of the sanyaku ranks, but there are generally more. When there are, the rikishi with the lowest performance scores are considered supernumeraries, haridashi.
    • ozeki - champions. Granted by the Nihon Sumo Kyokai, the ozeki rank, like the yokozuna, cannot be gained automatically by consistently winning. It must be earned for exceptional achievements.
    • sekiwake - junior champions. The sekiwake rank is the highest rank that can be achieved by the simple expedient of winning more often than losing. There are usually 2-4 rikishi at sekiwake rank.
    • komusubi. Usually, 2-3 rikishi hold this rank. The lowest sanyaku rank, this is the first really outstanding rank above the somewhat anonymous maegashira. Achieving komusubi for the first time usually makes a rikishi so nervous that he loses and is demoted to maegashira.
  • maegashira. The lowest of the makuuchi ranks, there are usually 30-32 maegashira-rank rikishi, numbered 1-16 in order of rank, in each of the Eastern and Western halves of the division. The number of maegashira is adjusted so that the makuuchi always totals 40 rikishi.

Below the makuuchi division one finds the juryo division. The juryo division, like the makuuchi, is salaried.

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