COVID-19 at Michinoku Beya

On April 10th, the NSK announced that Wakamonogashira Fukunosato has tested positive for COVID-19.

A wakamonogashira is a position that mostly involves guiding young rikishi. For example, the people who explain to the new recruits what to do when they mount the dohyo during their presentation are wakamonogashira. They use their shikona for the job. Fukunosato’s real name is Fukuda Kunio.

Fukunosato had fever and felt fatigue, so he took an antigen test at a nearby clinic and was found positive.

The NSK announced that he was isolating at home and awaiting further instructions from the local health authority. They added that he was not in direct contact with the rikishi from the heya and that contact tracing is ongoing.

However, today, after the rikishi and staff at the heya were given PCR tests as a safety measure, another case turned up. This time it’s a rikishi, who is not a sekitori, and therefore his name is not published.

Shibatayama oyakata, the NSK’s spokesperson, says that there is a possibility there will be further cases, and that they are in the process of deciding how to proceed. For the moment, the rikishi is isolating at the heya.

With nearly a month until the start of Natsu basho, an outbreak at this stage will probably have no effect on basho participation. At Tachiai we hope, of course, that all involved recover fully and experience no long-term issues.

Yokozuna Kakuryu announces retirement

The Yokozuna has informed the NSK of his resolution to retire. The matter will be discussed in a board meeting, but it is a done deal – he will become Kakuryu oyakata, taking advantage of the Yokozuna privilege of staying up to 5 years as an elder using his ring name.

We wish Kakuryu a fruitful career as an elder, and thank him for his long career and clever sumo.

Two oyakata positive for COVID in pre-basho screening

A few days back, the NSK, via spokesperson Shibatayama, announced that it will hold global screening for COVID-19 prior to the basho, as it did in January.

The support staff (gyoji, tokoyama, yobidashi etc.) were tested first, and turned out negative.

Today the results came in for the oyakata and the rikishi. While all rikishi were thankfully negative, two oyakata were found positive.

  • Otowayama oyakata, former Tenkaiho, of Onoe beya
  • Onogawa oyakata, former Kitataiki, of Yamahibiki beya

Those of you following the NSK’s official YouTube channel will recognize these as two of the pillars of the “oyakata channel”, in charge of the more lighthearted videos and live commentary.

Onoe beya has announced on its Facebook page that it has been instructed by the NSK to go kyujo for Haru basho. It is still unclear at the time of writing whether the same has been decreed for Yamahibiki beya. This apparently depends on whether Onogawa oyakata has spent time at the heya in recent days.

Neither heya has any sekitori. The most familiar faces from Onoe beya are Ryuko and Hokutenkai, while Yamahibiki beya is home to Kitaharima.

Neither oyakata has shown any symptoms, and we wish the case will end there – with no symptoms, no after-effects, and no further chain of infections.

COVID news: 8 new cases appear, Tokitsukaze punishment

Two news items from earlier today are related to the pandemic.

Eight new cases in heya

A few days ago, we have reported that 6 rikishi tested positive at an undisclosed heya. At the time, all the others were tested as well but were negative. However, several of those previously negative have developed symptoms such as a high fever. As a result, a new test has been conducted and 8 additional rikishi were found positive, bringing the number of infections in that heya to 14 in total.

None of those infected is a sekitori, and therefore the names and the heya are undisclosed.

Tokitsukaze oyakata’s punishment decided

We have previously posted that Tokitsukaze oyakata has been caught on camera breaking COVID regulation repeatedly during Hatsu basho, and handed in his resignation. The NSK did not accept it immediately, and waited for the Compliance Committee to investigate the matter. That committee has completed its investigation and handed in a report a few days ago, recommending that the oyakata retire. In an extraordinary meeting of the board today, they have decided to issue an official “recommendation to retire”, and additionally, reduced Tokitsukaze’s severance pay by 30%.

The Tokitsukaze name, together with the heya, will transfer to Magaki oyakata, the former Tosayutaka, freeing the Magaki kabu. This was not an arbitrary selection, but rather the consensus at which the ichimon arrived as soon as Tokitsukaze made up his mind to retire.