TOKYO Mongolian Hakuho led the best sumo wrestlers in welcoming in the New Year with a traditional foot-stomping performance at Tokyo's famed Meiji Shrine on Friday.
Hundreds of spectators, wrapped up on a cold day in Tokyo, cheered as Hakuho, in traditional dress, performed the ritual at the shrine ahead of the first event of the year on Sunday.
"I'd like to show performances that will make sumo fans remember me as powerful warrior of this era," said the 31-year-old Hakuho, who has won a record 37 top division championships in his career.
Hakuho's compatriots and fellow Yokozunas Harumafuji and Kakuryu also attended the ceremony.
Some Japanese expressed their dismay that foreign-born wrestlers were winning the top title of Yokozuna, or grand champion.
"Sumo wrestling is a Japanese sport so it's a little sad to see Japanese wrestlers lose to foreigners," said 16-year-old Haruka Katsuragawa.
The last Japanese-born wrestler to hold the rank of Yokozuna was Wakanohana, who retired in 2000.
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in London, editing by Ed Osmond)