Category: Media & Culture / January 8, 2013 11:33 AM EST
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.