• Sumo

Yokozuna Kakuryu to Miss 4th Consecutive Tournament

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yokozuna Kakuryu

Yokozuna Kakuryu, already issued a disciplinary caution for missing all or part of the past three tournaments, will skip the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament starting Sunday due to a back injury, stablemaster Michinoku announced Friday.

Kakuryu’s absence means the tournament, to be held at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan amid the recently declared state of emergency, will now be without either of the two yokozuna, as Hakuho had already been ruled out after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Both yokozuna had been strongly urged to participate in the first tournament of the year after becoming the first-ever wrestlers of their rank to be issued with cautions from the Yokozuna Deliberation Council. They received the warning based on association bylaws following the November tournament due to their excessive absences in recent tournaments.

But Kakuryu was unable to resume full-fledged training and on Thursday night, appealed to stablemaster Michinoku to be allowed to pull out of the tournament because of his back injury, Michinoku told the media.

“There will be no more absences,” the stablemaster said he told Kakuryu. “The yokozuna himself said, ‘I will put my career on the line and fight hard in the next tournament,’” referring the Spring tournament in March.

Kakuryu became a Japanese citizen last December, making him eligible to remain with the Japan Sumo Association as an oyakata coach or stablemaster after his retirement.

■ Crowd limited to 5,000

The Japan Sumo Association officially decided Friday to limit the daily crowd at the New Year tournament to 5,000 spectators, and to implement thorough infection prevention measures.

The decision was made at an extraordinary meeting of the board of directors in response to the government’s declaration of a state of emergency.

A ban on eating and drinking in spectator seats will be strictly enforced, and the planned sale of chanko nabe pots in the arena has been cancelled, according to Shibatayama, the public relations manager of the association. Ticket sales have already ended.