It has been nine years since the 2011 “yaocho” match-fixing scandal tore up the reputation of professional sumo. Spring of that year was the last time a honbasho was canceled. This past Monday, Japan’s state of emergency was extended to the end of the month, and in turn sumo was put on hold.
On the 5th, Stablemaster Takasago revealed his opinion on the decision to cancel Natsu Basho. He also provided details on current life at Takasago-beya and how new Ozeki Asanoyama is feeling.
When asked about his reaction to the recent cancellation, “The last time was a problem within the sumo association,” said Takasago-oyakata, referring to the match-fixing, “This time it’s a nationwide and worldwide problem. The fact that there were cases of the virus in sumo has nothing to do with it. Naturally we will abide by the government’s policy,” he said, backing up the words of spokesman Shibatayama from Monday.
Natsu Basho would have been Asanoyama’s first tournament at Ozeki, a big moment that the young belt fighter and his coach were both looking forward to. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, “He told me he’s grateful for the time off because he can let excessive nerves die down,” said Takasago, “It’s good to think positively like that.”
Takasago-beya is no exception when it comes to thorough measures against the virus. Takasago-oyakata said, “Observing guidelines such as taking temperatures, washing hands, gargling, and ventilating the training room have all helped in reducing anxiety when it comes to getting sick.”
Keeping training sessions to under two hours and designating Sunday as a complete rest day has been the strategy of late. “It’s good to focus on the long-term battle we’re in, because in this situation, excessive fatigue can lower resistance to infection. That’s why we’re opting for shorter practice sessions.”
When it comes to meal time, Takasago wrestlers have little room to complain about variety. “There’s more natto and kimchi stew on the menu. I’ll order pizza when the wrestlers get tired of the other food. They’ll also request donuts sometimes. This comes out of my pocket money,” chuckled Takasago, “All the wrestlers are fighting through this so I want to give them something extra to weather the storm.”