By John Gunning/ The Japan Times
A sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases nationwide at the start of the year forced the Japan Sumo Association to shelve its plan to hold the March tournament in Osaka.
Instead the spring meet — like the previous four basho — will take place at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo.
The move means that for the third time in the past 11 years, fans in the Kansai region will be without an official grand sumo tournament.
A match-fixing scandal in early 2011 that rocked the sport and led to the expulsion of more than twenty wrestlers and elders resulted in that year’s Osaka tournament being called off. Although with the scheduled start date having been just two days after the subsequent Great East Japan Earthquake, the meet would most likely have been unable to go ahead in any case.
Twelve months ago, just as the coronavirus pandemic was starting to have a major impact in Japan, the JSA decided to go ahead with the Osaka tournament but hold it behind closed doors.
That move, although made with the safety of spectators in mind, unfortunately cost fans in Kansai a chance to see the first Nara-born champion in over a century in action.
As a result of the pandemic-enforced cancellation of the past two spring regional tours and the relocation of 2021’s March Basho to the capital, there will be at least a three-year gap between live sumo events for residents of Japan’s second-most populous region.
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