On September 5th, a PCR test was administered to the entire NSK workforce. The results revealed one low-ranking rikishi from Miyagino beya was positive. Given Hokuseiho’s positive result and this new case, it has been decided the entire heya will be absent from Aki basho.
Although the rikishi have tested negative in a PCR test following Hokuseiho’s infection, a rikishi has already complained at the time that he is feeling unwell.
Takashima oyakata, gyoji Shikimori Kandayu, and yobidashi Ryuji, who belong to the heya but have not been attending it, will all participate in the basho.
This will be the second time the heya goes on “COVID kyujo”, after Hakuho’s infection barred the other members of the heya from participating in Hatsu basho.
In other heya
At Oguruma beya, a sewanin (Nishikikaze) has tested positive on September 2nd. Although he was at the heya, he was observing practice wearing a mask, rather than participating in the activity, so the rikishi were not deemed close contacts. In yesterday’s PCR test, they all tested negative. They are therefore cleared to participate in Aki basho.
As for Minato beya, Ichinojo’s heya, Shibatayama oyakata says the NSK has not received information from them about their status at the time he was interviewed. But he said that if Ichinojo tests negative, then at least as far as schedule is concerned, he will be cleared to participate as well.
We wish the infected rikishi and sewanin a speedy recovery and no long term effects. We hope no further cases turn up.
The fresh Juryo man from Miyagino beya (J12W) has been complaining of cold-like symptoms yesterday, and was therefore tested for COVID-19, and the test results were positive.
The other rikishi from Miyagino beya are undergoing tests today, and the results should come back tomorrow.
Shibatayama oyakata, the NSK spokesperson, says it’s likely the rikishi will have to miss the beginning of the basho, as there are less than two weeks to go until he starts. He notes there is a possibility of them joining the basho in the middle, but it all depends on the results of the tests and how things develop – if other rikishi test positive in the following days, it will become difficult for them to participate.
This comes on the heels of Ichinojo’s positive test from last week. However, the big Minato beya man is likely to be able to participate in the basho, as his case was confirmed earlier. Following Ichinojo’s case, all the rikishi who participated in the combo practice, in which he participated for the full four days, have been tested twice, and have all been negative.
We wish Hokuseiho and Ichinojo a speedy recovery and no further symptoms, and hope that no one else has been infected, though with the Delta variant raging across the world, my own hunch is that Hokuseiho is not the last case we will be seeing as we anticipate Aki basho.
Yesteday, Ajigawa oyakata tipped us off about a tsuna-uchi taking place at Isegahama beya.
But – except to those who can estimate it by the amount of hemp – we were completely unready for two ropes in the same day!
Rikishi from Isegahama beya, with some assistance from Asakayama beya, started by rubbing the hemp with rice bran.
And then, under the watchful eyes of supervisors from the NSK, who were there to make sure tradition does not drift, the hemp was laid on the long sheets of white cotton:
Tied off and anchored to the teppo pole:
But… more than one rope was being made. The other rope was red!
A red rope can only mean one thing: A Yokozuna is about to celebrate his 60th birthday.
Or, because this is the world of COVID, A Yokozuna is about to celebrate his 60th birthday a year or two after the fact.
In Japan, the 60th birthday, called “kanreki”, is a special occasion, and it is usually celebrated wearing something red – typically a red vest and big beret. But former Yokozuna get to celebrate it in a unique way – wearing a red tsuna, in their old style, and performing a dohyo-iri. Their assistants, the dew gatherer and sword bearer, are not mere rank-and-filers, but Yokozuna themselves, wearing their own tsuna. Most of the times, they are former Yokozuna, but on rare occasions, the 60-year old will have the privilege of being accompanied by active Yokozuna, as did the late Chiyonofuji in his kanreki dohyo-iri:
Isegahama oyakata turned 60 last year, and is now 61, and like all the oyakata who are waiting for their hair cutting ceremony, he is waiting for his kanreki dohyo-iri to be held, hopefully with spectators, as befits the occasion.
Back to Isegahama beya:
There is still no official date for Isegahama’s big event, but the rope is now ready.
And I think I will not be way off mark to think that at least one of the Yokozuna accompanying him there will be an active one.
Ah, yes. The white rope.
That one is actually the center of today’s attention. Here is a short video from the NSK summarizing Terunofuji’s big day:
Yeah, learning that dance isn’t easy.
Isegahama oyakata is apparently the only oyakata to have guided two of his own deshi in the Yokozuna dohyo-iri (Harumafuji and Terunofuji, in addition to Hakuho who is not his own disciple). Two Yokozuna from the same heya are relatively rare. Two Yokozuna from the same heya whose master was a Yokozuna is even rarer. Kitanofuji raised two Yokozuna, but his first (Chiyonofuji) was the one to guide his second (Hokutoumi).
It’s still unclear when Terunofuji’s first official dohyo-iri – the one performed at the end of the “suikyoshiki” ceremony at Meiji Grand Shrine in Tokyo – will take place. Those of you with sharp eyes may have noticed that Terunofuji was wearing one of his own Ozeki-era kesho-mawashi for this practice. And also, that Isegahama has borrowed one off of him. This means they have not as yet gone into the vault where, presumably, Asahifuji’s old kesho-mawashi sets are kept, and have not yet prepared a set for the suikyoshiki.
Congratulations to both the new and the old Yokozuna, may Terunofuji’s career be serene and his health as good as possible, and may Isegahama live a long and healthy life after his kanreki dohyo-iri, at least as long as Kitanofuji, and see more of his deshi and grand-deshi reach the highest rank of sumo.