Sumo In The COVID-19 Era – Where Do We Go From Here?

Much to the delight of the sumo world, the Haru Basho was able to go all 15 days without being canceled due to a rikishi contracting COVID-19. Before the start of the tournament, I went on record saying that I thought they would not make it past day 9, but I was thankfully wrong. The stables broke camp in Osaka, and retreated to Tokyo. With the spring jungyo tour canceled, the rikishi have 6 weeks to train, and where needed, heal up. Given the way that Japan in general and the heya specifically work, it is possible to sequester an entire sumo stable, as we saw in Osaka. While this limits the risk of contracting the virus, we can assume the risk is not zero.

But fans are wondering (Team Tachiai including) what the plan is for the remaining 4 tournaments in the 2020 calendar year. We have already witnessed the unprecedented 1 year delay in the summer Olympic Games, scheduled for Tokyo 2020. One indication was the sumo association departing from tradition (Hey, it can happen!) by not putting the Natsu tickets on sale immediately following the conclusion of Haru in Osaka. It would seem that the Japan Sumo Association, along with the rest of the world, do not expect things to be quite back to normal yet in mid May. We think there are a few options that make some degree of sense.

  1. Cancel the remaining tournaments of 2020 – The most drastic action would be to cease public competition. This would allow the NSK to focus on rikishi health and safety, and preserving the talent in place today. New recruits would have a long period of time to train and prepare for their first basho. This would absolutely devastate the association and the stables financially, as it would continue to isolate the supporter groups and fan clubs from interacting (a source of revenue) with the stables. I think this option would be the most unlikely.
  2. Only conduct the 2 remaining Tokyo tournaments – This would allow the stables and the association to eliminate any infection risk from travel to venues in Nagoya and Kumamoto, while still providing sumo to the public. The logistics of picking up the stables and re-homing them in distant cities would eliminated, but the number of tournaments remaining in 2020 would be cut in half. The time between them would pace out to 3½ months each, giving the rikishi a lot of time to train and heal. The net effect would be something that many readers here have expressed a strong desire to see – more time between competition for rest, recovery and improvement. Subsequent tournaments would be conducted under the same rules as Osaka – no public, but ample TV coverage. This would still be a financial blow the the association and the stables, as the sequestration of the rikishi would necessarily continue.
  3. Conduct the remaining 4 tournaments in Tokyo – This would allow the NSK to keep their schedule and their TV commitments, but would remove the logistical need (with its associated risk) of moving the stables to Nagoya and Kumamoto. There would be some impact to those host cities, but it is possible that could be dealt with over subsequent years. This would allow competition to happen every 2 months, and provide a welcome sporting event for the public, who still faces a long summer with no baseball, no soccer and limited activities in nature. The remaining 4 basho would be conducted under the same rules as Osaka – no public, but ample TV coverage. This would still be a financial blow to the association and the stables, as the sequestration of the rikishi would necessarily continue, and there would be no interactions with the supporting groups and fan clubs that are a source of much needed money for the stables.

What are your thoughts? Please feel free to chime in in the comments.

Moron Club That Is Facebook Flags Tachiai For Indecency / Nudity

As the humans all hide from the Corona Virus, the algorithms are running the internet. This morning while checking on Tachiai’s Facebook page, I was alerted that we were in violation of Facebook’s community standards for nudity and indecency. The offense? It seems to he…

Kisenosato.

Now granted, toward the end of his career, he did get quite flabby, and his chest did get a bit wobbly. But come on you dopey algorithm (I refuse to call such nonsense AI), these are sumo wrestlers.

So if Facebook readers no longer see our posts, it’s because some stupid computer program is not happy with Kisenosato.

Video Of Asanoyama’s Promotion Ceremony

Courtesy of the magic that is YouTube, some enterprising soul has encoded and uploaded a segment covering Asanoyama’s promotion ceremony. For your viewing pleasure!

From the always amazing Sumo Forum:

The acceptance phrase of the new ozeki:

相撲を愛し力士として正義を全う

Loving sumo and as a rikishi entirely righteous

sumo o ai shi, rikishi to shite, seigi o mattou

Hey, what can I say, did I call it or what? Asanoyama ❤️ Sumo…

[UPDATE] Also this clip below uploaded to Twitter… Note the rikishi pyramid, and the BIG-ASS FISH OF VICTORY!

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Delayed Due To Global Pandemic

Reports from Tokyo today that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee have agreed to postpone this year’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The hope is to re-schedule the games for the summer of 2021, provided the threat of COVID-19 has been controlled by then. This move marks the biggest pandemic triggered postponement or cancellation in the world of sports to date, and comes on the heels of multiple national olympic teams requesting cancelation or postponement of the games. This is a huge blow to Japan, that has spent billions of Yen preparing for the games, building stadiums and venues, and Japanese businesses across the country, who had been gearing up for the massive influx of world tourists to enjoy the games.

For the world of sumo, it’s open knowledge that Yokozuna Hakuho was seeking to crown his matchless career with a ceremonial dohyo-iri at the Tokyo games this summer, after which it was expected he would retire. With the delay of the Olympics until next year, this throws the entire time table into doubt. Hakuho boosters would rightly reply, “Well, he can just stay in the sport and continue to dominate”. But as we saw at the end of Haru, Hakuho was physically struggling, though he continued to dominate. Sumo is an intense, combat driven sport, and the damage to the human body of years of competition is cumulative. We can imagine that Hakuho’s skill has not decreased on bit, but his body may be telling him that he is nearly done. The sumo public has no insight to just what challenges he faces every day he competes.

Team Tachiai hopes the re-scheduled Olympics in 2021 take place in a period of celebration as the world emerges from the pandemic, and the public across the globe turn to international sporting competition with hope and enthusiasm.