Basho Behind Closed Doors – The Gory Details

Holding a basho behind closed doors is not something the NSK does very often. In fact, other than Natsu 1945, there has been no similar situation. And even then, it was not exactly closed doors – military personnel and associates of the association and rikishi were allowed in.

Here are some of the details from the press conference held by the NSK board. Keep in mind that they may reconsider any and all of these decisions during the coming week, and that more details will be ironed out as they come up.

Coming in

  • Only NSK employees (rikishi, gyoji, yobidashi etc.), and members of the press and media will be allowed in.
  • The rikishi are not allowed to use public transport to get to the arena. Shuttle buses which are not used for public transport will be provided by the NSK.
  • Rikishi will need to have their temperature measured daily three times, and if the mean temperature is above 37.5ºC, they will automatically go kyujo.
  • Members of the press and media will also be requested to have their temperature taken at the entrance.

Media interaction

  • Normally, members of the press are allowed to enter the shitaku-beya while the rikishi have their hair re-done after bouts, to ask questions. This will not be allowed this basho. Instead, there will be a designated interview area with no direct contact between rikishi and reporters.
  • Photographers will have to take photos at a distance. There is going to be a “sterile zone” of sorts around the dohyo.
  • Broadcast teams will be seated in the second floor seats, or in enclosed rooms with monitors.

The daily routine

  • Chikara Mizu – “Power Water” – will be performed without water and without the rikishi touching the ladles with their lips. They will just be going through the motions.
  • PA announcements of monoii results will still be made, for the benefit of TV.
  • Kensho envelopes and their associated sponsorship flags have not been cancelled. They are aware that sponsors may want to cancel their pledges, and will have discussions with them if this happens.


  • The san-yaku greeting on Day 1 and Day 15 usually includes a bow in all directions. This time there will only be a bow toward the main camera direction.
  • The Emperor’s Cup, Yusho Flag, Prime Minister’s Cup and yusho certificates will be awarded. However, all the other prizes are to be cancelled pending deliberation.
  • There will be no orchestra to play the national anthem, and it will be played from recording.
  • The usual yusho photographs in the shitaku beya, featuring support group members and associates, will be prohibited.
  • The yusho parade will be cancelled.

What if confirmed cases turn up?

  • If a rikishi is confirmed with COVID-19, the basho is cancelled forthwith.
  • If an oyakata or a gyoji etc. is positive, they will decide on a case-by-case basis.
  • The question of the effect of basho cancellation on ranking in the next basho is “still under debate”.

What about the heya?

It should be noted that the rikishi have already been warned not to go on unnecessary outings. Many heya have barred their practice grounds to spectators (customarily in non-Tokyo basho open practice sessions are common), and cancelled senshuraku parties and other fan interaction and events. There is going to be a meeting of the heya masters tomorrow, in which the procedure for temperature checking will be explained, and it’s likely that necessity of isolation of the heya members from the general public will also be stressed in that meeting.

24 thoughts on “Basho Behind Closed Doors – The Gory Details

    1. Why cancel the san-sho?
    2. Seems like the effect on the rankings of kyujo due to temp above 37.5 will also need to be considered.
    • Not sure they meant they will cancel san-sho, but rather the cows and mushrooms and teacup and whatnot. But now that you mention it, the san-sho decision is usually taken in a room full of reporters and oyakata. Maybe they want to avoid that.

  1. I hope they get accurate thermometers. I’m not so sure those contact-less thermometers are accurate.

    • A quick glance at the research literature suggests they are, especially if multiple measurements are averaged.

      • “it’s the usage that can be a problem.” Yikes. “Accurate” with quotes freaks me out…especially with that big old “usage” caveat. In the UI world, we don’t always have the luxury of training people on proper usage. From accidentally hitting “Reply All” to medical dosage to the proper use of contraceptives, user error can be a big deal. As I said, I hope they have the best equipment and the best people properly trained to use it.

    • A bigger worry is that recent studies show that fever is not present in all cases. Having a fever is a hint, but you can be infected and not above 37.5.

    • Uh, yeah, maybe, but there is a simple solution: if they have a reading above the mark then you test with a more accurate method.

    • Bear in mind that this is probably only applicable to the checks on the reporters at the entrance. The rikishi will be tested at the heya and I don’t suppose each heya has contactless thermometers on hand or wishes to purchase one. After all, it’s not as if the rikishi they test don’t have a hundred other ways to exchange bodily fluids.

  2. This is the right decision. Cases of the virus could keep coming up for months. What then? cancel several tournaments in a row? They will have to come up with some sort of system. The sooner rather than later.

      • I think even the most optimistic estimates are at least a year for a vaccine; therapeutics could be sooner.

  3. Not having an arena full of cheering fans will really make for a bizarre spectacle. It may be cliched but the rikishi are always mentioning how the fans motivate them. The cup ceremony will be kinda sad regardless of who wins. Personally I’d rather they just bite the bullet and cancel.

    Plus Ikioi could use the extra time to fix some of those busted parts.

  4. I understand they need to do this for the safety of rikishu and spectators. But some of these decisions puzzle me.

    “The Emperor’s Cup, Yusho Flag, Prime Minister’s Cup and yusho certificates will be awarded. However, all the other prizes are to be cancelled pending deliberation.”

    I don’t get why prizes would be cancelled. A tournament win is a tournament win, right?

    “There will be no orchestra to play the national anthem, and it will be played from recording.
    The usual yusho photographs in the shitaku beya, featuring support group members and associates, will be prohibited.
    The yusho parade will be cancelled.”

    Now that’s going to be a real bummer if we get a first-time one-yusho-wonder winner. If say Hakuho wins, he won’t really miss all the trappings as he’s had plenty to enjoy. But a new winnner … all the perks are gone! Half the joy of winning must be wondering what you’re going to do with a full beef before it goes bad.

    Praying for Japan!

    • Well, they are trying to minimize contact with non-NSK persons. The awards like the macaron and coffee jar and cow usually involve a delegate from whatever country or company contributed it. All the other stuff is also about preventing contact with “common people”. Note that the yusho winner will still be able to have his photograph taken with his ichimon’s sekitori.

  5. “Gory details”? Thanks for explaining, it’s interesting to read how the NSK are planning to adapt to this highly unusual situation.

    I’ll miss the crowd atmosphere and spotting my favourite fans, but this seems to me a sensible middle ground between no adaptions at all and cancelling the basho altogether.

  6. Honestly, They would be better off just killing this Basho outright. Still going to be a LOT of people around there, much more so when you consider all the rikishi being there from all divisions. In the end of it all, it’s a ton of stuff to go through that adds stress to what is already a worrying situation on top of empty areas.

  7. An orchestra plays the Kimigayo at the end? I had always assumed it was a recording. Wherever do they sit?

    • Apparently, they don’t sit. It’s a military orchestra. They come in just before the kore-yori-san-yaku, and gather at a corner in the upper decks (H/T The SumoSoul – we had a discussion about this on Twitter).

    • Don’t know about Osaka, but in Tokyo they sit on the back side, Isu C seats in the centre. They take all 3 rows and a large number of seats wide. Those seats are not sold to fans for senshuraku, reducing the capacity of the venue slightly.


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