Sumo New Year’s Tradition Honored In Japan

Category: Media & Culture / Jan 08, 2013 11:33AM EDT
Japan's sumo stars ushered in the new year on Tuesday (January 8) with a foot-stomping performance at Tokyo's Meiji shrine. Clad in nothing but loin cloths in the depths of winter, Japan's two top-ranking "Yokozuna" elite, Hakuho and Harumafuji, led the traditional new year ritual, flanked by lower-ranking wrestlers. Hakuho weighs 340 pounds (153-kilos) and stands 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) tall, slightly larger than fellow Mongolian-born compatriot Harumafuji's 6 feet 1 inches (1.85 m) and 290 pounds (133 kg). "It was wonderful that the weather was so good today, although it was a little bit chilly. But it felt great that so many people turned out to watch me," Hakuho told journalists after the ceremony. Professional sumo now has more than 40 foreign-born wrestlers from nearly a dozen nations ranging from Bulgaria to Brazil. The participation of foreigners has raised eyebrows in the conservative sumo world, with a Japanese wrestler denied the top spot since 2000. But the rivalry between waves of foreign competitors -- the Hawaiians in the 1980s and the Mongolians in the 1990s -- and their Japanese counterparts has also been credited with halting a decline in the sport's popularity. -Reuters