Standing on the sacred mound inside the sumo wrestling arena, President Donald Trump hoisted the massive 70-pound President's Cup into the arms of a person befitting such a trophy: the 360-pound champion of Tokyo’s top sumo tournament, Asanoyama Hideki.
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"In honor of your outstanding achievement as sumo grand champion, I hereby award you the President’s Cup," Trump said, reading from a ceremonial scroll.
As part of his four-day state visit to Japan, Trump was treated to ring-side sumo seats and the opportunity to be the first American leader to award a winning trophy to the sumo champion.
Trump changed from his usual black leather shoes into black slippers to present the 4 1/2 foot tall award to the 25-year-old Asanoyama.
"That was an incredible evening at sumo wrestling," Trump said after the tournament at a hibachi-style meal of Wagyu steak with first lady Melania Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie. "We brought that beautiful trophy, which they'll have hopefully for many hundreds of years.
"That was something to see these great athletes, because they really are athletes. It's a very ancient sport. And I've always wanted to see sumo wrestling, so it was really great."
Inside Ryogoku Kokugikanto arena, the matches paused and loud cheers erupted from spectators when Trump and Abe walked to their seats.
While most spectators sat cross-legged on the floor, Trump sat back in a chair between Abe and the first lady and attentively watched as the men pushed and flung their fleshy, colossal bodies around the ring and tossed ceremonial salt. Trump and Abe conversed via their interpreters and the president at times looked amused as he watched the ancient rituals associated with one of the world's oldest organized sports.
The event allows the Japanese to showcase traditional culture that dates back to the 17th century. But professional wrestling of a different sort also happens to be one of Trump’s favorite pastimes. Before he moved into the White House, Trump made it into the WWE Hall of Fame and even entered the ring to fight with WWE owner Vince McMahon and, with some dramatic flair, shave McMahon’s head.
“I’ve always found that fascinating,” Trump said about sumo wrestling last month. He added that it is “something I’ll enjoy very much.”
The president said he was convinced to attend the tournament after Abe described it as bigger than the Super Bowl in Japan.
Outside the arena, a mix of protesters, supporters waving American flags, and gawkers greeted the president's motorcade.
Joining the president for the tournament was a full house of White House officials and diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, press secretary Sarah Sanders and adviser Stephen Miller.