Japan Covid Updates

Herouth wrote just last week that there was a Covid outbreak at Takasago-beya. On the 5th, the Kyokai announced that yet another Covid case has been confirmed at an unnamed stable. The news comes as the Olympics nears its finale and Japan finds itself in the start of what may be its worst “wave” of the pandemic. The table below comes from the WHO’s Covid dashboard. Deaths is a lagging indicator as it takes 5-6 weeks for a surge in cases to start showing up as fatalities.

As we saw from the Asanoyama scandal and revelations about the former Takasago-oyakata, not everyone observes the strict rules. Hakuho himself created a stir last week as he attended an Olympic event with the Japanese gold medal winner and the head of the International Judo Federation, leading to howls of intai from social media. This was particularly surprising as not only has Hakuho had COVID with his whole stable subsequently forced to go kyujo, his anideshi DIED of Covid just before the tournament. (In the same way, it was striking to see pictures of Ryuden with Shobushi circulate on Twitter after news broke of his scandal.) It is rather inconsistent, perhaps, to host an Olympics and restart amateur sumo tournaments on one hand, while extending the state of emergency.

There’s clearly a lock-down ennui, not just in Tokyo, but worldwide. With Kyokai staff given at least one dose of the vaccine and some modest improvement in the Japanese vaccination program, I would not be surprised to see this particular surge get much worse before it gets better. People might be less diligent about preventative steps before being fully vaccinated.

To give some context, the peaks of Japan’s Covid waves roughly correspond to the troughs we have seen here in the US. Our own fourth or fifth wave is upon us, leading to dramatic increases in cases in places like Florida with low vaccination rates. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 92 Police Officers have died so far this year due to Covid-19, which is more than 2.5x more than those killed by gunfire (36). To me, this highlights the difference between perceived risk and actual risk because if I were a policeman, I think I would naturally be much more wary of the dangers of violence than catching Covid. The effect is probably even higher given the number of people who have survived Covid with relatively minor impact versus those who have survived getting shot (22% fatality rate). And that wouldn’t include those survivors whose lives are impacted afterwards. It’s also an issue that we face at work as we try to educate rail employees and the public about the dangers in rail.

As a sumo wrestler, I wonder what the perceived risks are in their lives. A respiratory illness is likely such a nebulous, foreign concept that even with Shobushi’s death and several hospitalizations, it may register as impossibly minor even for those with pre-existing conditions. And when precautions are taken, especially if they’re hyper-vigilant as we heard from the Shikihide-beya scandal of last year, risks go down and they can end up being victims to their own successes by then sneaking out to Covid hotspots on the sly. I do understand why the ennui builds to such a degree. Every morning at asakeiko, the wrestlers are likely much more focused on not suffering head and neck injuries, broken bones, or twisted knees as those injuries will directly impact their performance, their status, and ultimately, their careers.

I do hope that at least the increased cleanliness sticks with us in the long-term. When I lived in Tokyo, I was always struck by how clean it was and that was obviously before the pandemic. I can imagine that sanitation of trains and other high-traffic areas, as well as individual homes, has gone up. And while Takasago-beya may have suffered a bit of a black eye with its recent outbreak, at least it demonstrates that stables are paying attention to symptoms, reporting, and getting tested to mitigate the spread.

Even with increasing number of cases, it will be difficult to cancel another tournament but to me the potential is still there until Tokyo’s vaccination rate improves. That would be such a shame as it would be Terunofuji’s first tournament as Yokozuna. The situation is already delayed his dohyo-iri but at least he’s getting a long time to practice!

9 thoughts on “Japan Covid Updates

  1. Watching NHK News right now, and they are asking somebody at a hospital how many COVID patients they have in. And he’s pulling a ledger and counting.

    Bound paper.

    He was looking up records in a paper ledger, and counting. I was half expecting an abacus.

    There are some things in Japan I just can’t wrap my head around.

    • My mother-in-law doesn’t need a physical abacus. 🧮 So just because you didn’t see one doesn’t mean it wasn’t there in spirit. 😂 😂

  2. The reason for lockdown ennui is that people are starting to realize that the only reward for being good citizens will be a period of relaxed rules to be followed by another lockdown when infection rates spike up again. The series of waves proves this. The biggest misinformation is that Covid will go away. It won’t. It’s becoming an endemic disease and we will all catch it eventually. The only question one has to ask oneself is do I want to have a vaccine on board when that happens.

    • There is some truth to that but I would argue that it’s not the whole picture. Covid won’t go away because it’s not the first Coronavirus and, yes, it won’t be the last. It’s called SARS-CoV-2 because it is related to the SARS virus from 2003.

      The reward for being good citizens is having infrastructure, supplies and labor capacity available to continue to combat the disease. As it was, the virus ran rampant through NYC, killing 40+ MTA workers in a few weeks crippling the public transit system.

      If a “runaway pandemic” scenario hit food and other supply chains, the result would be catastrophic. The fact that we still have food in our grocery stores and workers to stock the shelves is thanks to this approach. And governments have been doing a lot to compensate workers for lost income. So saying there’s been no reward is a bit disingenuous. Some of those programs could have been handled better here, for example. They may have saved some more of our local businesses.

      I agree that it won’t “go away” and that’s why I hope some things are here to stay. Masks, for example, should not be vilified. I lived in Japan pre-pandemic and it was common to see allergy sufferers wear masks. It’s nice NOT to be sneezed on. It should be about hygiene and not a political point.

      Pre-pandemic I would not have touched a handrail in our Metro system and was reluctant to use public toilets. I still don’t know why our office doesn’t have covers on the seats of our toilets and I don’t like how parents continue to push their kids into camps when they know they’re sick. This pandemic wasn’t the first and won’t be the last so we really need to figure out how to manage these so our systems are not overwhelmed this time, or the next.

      • Your points are excellent and we don’t have much choice but follow them as a society. What I was getting at is that I feel governments have not been honest with their people about just how very long we will be living with Covid, and have encouraged a false sense of optimism – “relief is just a few months away” People are discovering that this isn’t true and are reacting badly.

  3. Different topic but I don’t know where else to look or ask. Did Hakuho do a ring ceremony for the Olympics? Aside from the sumo wrestler sculpture in the horse jumping arena that scared some of the horses, I didn’t see anything ‘Sumo’ in the Olympics. Please excuse my rude interruption.

    • No worries. No, there was no dohyo-iri, I don’t think. During and immediately after the ceremony, people on Twitter were wondering about it. I never saw an official announcement.

  4. I’ve been following Tachiai for a long time. Wanted to add a minor comment here because my background is public health epidemiology. The lag time between being infected and being diagnosed with COVID is around 7 to 10 days, yes, when it is formally diagnosed at all. Symptoms — when there are any — tend to show up in a few days, but then people usually delay before seeking attention. The lag time between infection and death is much longer. It typically takes about a month in the hospital to die of it :- (, and so the lag time tends to be more like 5 to 6 weeks from infection to death. One bit of good news in the USA — in many areas where vaccination rates of seniors are high, cases have shifted to younger age groups and death rates are much lower than they were in past surges.

    • Thank you for the fact check! I updated the article. That last bit is good news and I hope we turn the corner soon, but it ain’t coming soon enough for my liking.


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