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The Mongolian government appointed Kyokushuzan, the first Mongolian to wrestle in professional sumo’s top division, as goodwill ambassador to Japan on Thursday in a bid to lure Japanese tourists to the country. During a ceremony at the Mongolian Embassy in Tokyo, Kyokushuzan received a blue satin band and an ornament from Ultnasan Ulambayar, Mongolia’s deputy minister of infrastructure.

“We have a great vast prairie, we can see beautiful stars, and we remain pure just like the Japanese in olden days,” remarked the 29-year-old Kyokushuzan. “Please visit Mongolia, a country with a prairie and nomads.”

Having suffered amid an arduous transition to a market economy, Mongolia has launched a campaign titled Visit Mongolia 2003 in an effort to develop its tourism industry.

Mongolia expects to draw 20,000 Japanese visitors in the current fiscal year, up from slightly more than 14,000 the year before, said Gankhuyag Shiilegdamba, director of the Mongolian Tourism Board.

In 2002, Mongolia drew a total of 230,000 foreign visitors. Around 22 percent were tourists, while 47 percent were visiting relatives or friends, according to the tourism board.

Kyokushuzan, who was a sixth-ranked maegashira in the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, made his professional debut in 1992. He has a career record of 400 wins and 414 defeats.

He has also been engaged in welfare work in Mongolia.

Fellow Mongolian wrestler Asashoryu, whose real name is Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj, became the first Mongolian to be promoted to yokozuna, sumo’s highest rank, in late January.

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