August 2022 Degeiko

In just over two weeks the sumo world will be gearing up for Aki and I cannot wait. The banzuke will be out in a few days and we’ll be digesting all of the moves. It will be a unique situation and we’ll probably see some unprecedented “banzuke luck” for wrestlers with several losses and incomplete records at Nagoya, the chief beneficiary being Ozeki Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi also missed out on a portion of the jungyo because of another positive test at Dewanoumi beya.

Takayasu’s situation will be more straightforward since he missed the entire tournament. To get himself primed for action he’s been among the more active wrestlers venturing to other stables for degeiko. In the video here, he’s taking on Yokozuna Terunofuji at Isegahama stable. He’d also visited Tatsunami earlier in the break. We’ve also seen Takasago simultaneously hosting Miyagino, Asakayama, and Naruto.

So, as we’ve seen here and over the past couple of weeks, sumo stables are easing back into pre-pandemic rituals: degeiko, Jungyo, and vacations. This must signal a shift in the Sumo Association’s Covid policies in order to avoid another mass kyujo mess. But Mitakeumi’s kyujo from the last day of Jungyo, after just recently having Covid, would suggest that we’re in for another raft of Covid kyujo. Especially given the sudden openness, however, I wonder if the testing regime won’t be scrapped altogether, or at least significantly altered (if there were already some exceptions to testing for those who had recovered from their infections).

In our kids’ schools last year, there was a weekly testing regimen. Kids who tested positive for Covid were sent home for a period that would follow the latest guidelines. But in a crucial element for us sumo fans — those students were not retested for 90 days because people can still be shedding the virus and testing positive after they’re no longer infectious.

If a similar protocol were put in place for rikishi who tested positive and were kyujo from Nagoya, it’s possible that a large chunk of wrestlers wouldn’t even be tested before Aki…if they still conduct the pre-basho testing, at all. Otherwise, one would think there would have to be a surge in positive cases during pre-basho testing.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if testing will only be required for those who are symptomatic with kyujo for positive tests, and mask wearing (off the dohyo) for those who have been in close contact. Let’s take a look at the four-stable degeiko I mentioned above.

Takasago hosted a good crew of three other stables: Asakayama, Miyagino, and Naruto. Enho had several “smaller” wrestlers to spar with and help coach, from Ishizaki to Asakiryu. Unfortunately, I did not see Ishiura and have not heard any news on that front. If someone else has, please leave it in the comments.

Asakayama coaching Ishizaki

I really want to see the return of happy Asanoyama. Takasago shared some great video of the former Ozeki taking on Oshoma. The last year must have been rough and he’s just starting to claw his way back. From top dog, he’s now 8th in the chanko queue. As for Oshoma, covid kyujo put an early end to the latter wrestler’s sekitori debut. Both wrestlers are certainly eager to put their best foot forward.

It would be unreasonable to demote wrestlers like him who posted more wins than losses but I wonder if he may actually receive a modest promotion out of this. The bigger question, which will be answered in a few days, is how to handle wrestlers with losing records before their exit? Sometimes wrestlers are able to recover in week two but these wrestlers lost that opportunity.

After keiko, though, out came the pick-axes. The keiko-ba was destroyed in that great ritual of renewal. The stable will rebuild the fighting surface and to complete the process, a gyoji will perform a ceremony like a small scale dohyo matsuri, to bless it. The pictures below show the process of destruction.

This will be repeated at all of the stables. As an example, we have Oshiogawa oyakata, proud of the work done by his stable, recreating the dohyo.

Let’s hope there’s no more covid and no more covid kyujo.

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