Giants of sumo take the stage

Some of the biggest names in sumo wrestling took centre stage at the Yasukuni Shrine grounds in Tokyo yesterday.

They had gathered for the Honozumo, a ceremonial sumo tournament that is held every year at the controversial war shrine to mark the beginning of a new season of bouts, to pray for good fortune and to honour the shrine itself.

More than 6,000 spectators enjoyed this one-day event celebrating all things sumo. It is such a family event that the wrestlers often take their children to the ring before the matches begin.

Sumo wrestling, Japan's national sport, goes back over 1,500 years with its roots in a religious ritual conducted in Shinto shrines to pray for abundant harvests, reported Reuters.

It involves two wrestlers going head-to-head in a ring as they try to force their opponents to the ground or out of the ring.

The sport was closed to outsiders for a long time.

But, in the past few decades, a number of foreigners have begun to compete in the top two divisions. In fact, among the four current yokozuna or grand champions, three are from Mongolia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2017, with the headline 'Giants of sumo take the stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe