Of all the professional sports affected by bans on spectators, sumo feels to me the strangest without its crowds.

In theory, 1,400-year-old traditions and ritualised channelling of the warrior spirit should preserve the sport’s essence even without a roaring throng. As it turns out, loincloths and blubber lose a lot of their thrill without the cushion-hurling grannies and half-cut salarymen who normally attend such events.

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