Asahiyama-oyakata hosts TV Special on Saturday

For those in Japan, mark your calendars for Saturday at 1:30pm on BSFuji TV. Asahiyama-oyakata will join Karahashi Yumi to discuss sumo. Though there will be no Natsu Basho, there is clearly A LOT to discuss, including the results of Haru, Asanoyama’s Ozeki promotion and the pandemic’s impact.


This morning we learned of the tragic passing of Shobushi. To recap, a month ago he tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Upon his positive test, he was sent to the hospital and to likely isolation. Sadly, his death — and the last month of his life — were likely quite lonely.

Shobushi’s Shokkiri (photo: Nicola)

While in the hospital, visitors would have been banned. If in stable condition, every four hours to six hours or so, a nurse would come in to check vitals. Once a day a doctor would come in and check on him. We learned that nine days after his positive test, his condition worsened and he was sent to intensive care. At that point he may have been given more oxygen and remained conscious and alert, or sedated and intubated so the machines could help him breathe. In NYC, 80% of these ended in fatality.

So, when conscious and not intubated, his nurses and doctors would come in and they’d they’d ask him questions about his symptoms, wish him well, and leave to continue their rounds. Lots of people in the room and a flurry of activity would be very bad news indeed.

Several of his stablemates and his stable master would later test positive and be sent to the hospital, too. Had they been permitted to come visit him? Or had they caught it at the stable? Such a visit would have been against the guidance of many health agencies so it is unlikely.

But in any case, we knew a wrestler had tested positive, gone to the hospital, and there had been no news about whether he had come out. His stable master and other stablemates were discharged and our days carried on. But while the Kyokai debated whether they could hold a Natsu basho, he lay in the ICU, alone. No family, no friends, no supporters.

“Andy, where are you going with this?” I’m probably not the only one to wake up this morning, shocked and dismayed at the news that a rikishi had died from the Coronavirus. But the thing is, I’d been expecting it.

His illness and death were not sudden. Many insiders and heya supporters may have known the identity of the unnamed rikishi and some possibly knew of his condition. However, I am disappointed that more news was not shared by the Takadagawa-beya or the Sumo Kyokai.

It feels quite morbid to celebrate the life and career of someone whose name I was not familiar with. Herouth has covered him in her Jungyo posts, pictured with homeboy Ryuden and as tsukebito for Kagayaki. I do wonder how things would have been different if we had known his identity earlier and kept abreast of his condition.

I don’t ask for more information out of morbid curiosity but of genuine concern. And privacy is a certainly a valid concern…but so is the health and well-being of our fellow man.

I’m not a religious person so I’m not going to think that, “Oh, we could have prayed for him and he’d be better.” But I can’t help think about that last month of his life and wonder about what I’d have done if I’d known. The little news offered about the other wrestlers (one or two of whom may still be in hospital). And I can’t help but think about how I could have found this picture among those in Nicola’s archive weeks ago, shared it with you weeks ago, and we could have wished him well. And, if he tracked the news and social media, perhaps he could have known we were rooting for him.

Sandanme Wrestler, Shobushi, Dies of COVID-19

Shobushi, whose name is Suetake Kiyotaka, has died at the age of 28.

The sumo world mourns his loss and is rocked by the news.

The official statement from the Kyokai was very brief and provided few details. More detail is provided in this Japan Times article, including the detail that he had been the first positive case in sumo, on April 10 and he was sent to the ICU on April 19. Six more men from Takadagawa stable, including its master, later tested positive.

Kyodo News also reports that the Kyokai will begin antibody testing to understand who else may have caught the virus in the past. I hope this is paired with broader testing of active infections, as well. We have seen that people may be asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms.

Tachiai extends our condolences to Shobushi’s family and friends.

Natsu 2020 Cancelled, Kyokai Aims for July Basho in Tokyo

The government’s state of emergency declaration is being extended until the end of the month. Inhabitants are encouraged to stay home, and that includes sumo wrestlers. With multiple wrestlers positive for the Coronavirus, containment is key to stopping the spread of the virus. Tachiai hopes for their speedy recovery.

The official Kyokai announcement for the Natsu Basho is available on their website. The tournament is officially cancelled. As JC called in the comments on our previous post, they aim to hold a tournament in July in TOKYO instead of Nagoya, without spectators. Further, the Fall Jungyo is also cancelled.

The prospect of hundreds of Kyokai staff crowding onto public transport to head to Nagoya was daunting and very risky. If one wrestlers picked up the virus in that trip, it is exceedingly likely that the virus would spread like wildfire throughout the heya. The resumption of physical competition at a Nagoya-hosted basho would then spread the illness further. This is the right move.