Just two weeks ago a relaxed atmosphere at the All-Japan Championships seemed to reflect a widespread sense that an end to the ongoing pandemic was in sight, and that sumo would more or less be back to normal by next summer.

Scheduled retirement ceremonies for various wrestlers had begun to see lessened or removed limits on the number of spectators allowed, and a mid 2022 return for sumo’s traditional intertournament regional tours appeared likely.

An uptick in COVID-19 cases in Japan over the past week or so though has given some in the sport pause.