• Kyodo


New yokozuna Kisenosato performed his first ring-entry ceremony on Friday before a large crowd of around 18,000 at Meiji Shrine.

“I’m relieved it ended without trouble,” the 30-year-old said after making his ceremonial debut as yokozuna. “I came with a sense of gratitude and wanted everyone to see powerful figure. I focused on being relaxed, making myself big and carrying it out with strength.”

The first Japanese native to be promoted to the sport’s highest rank of yokozuna since 1998, the Tagonoura stable star was accompanied in the ceremony by fellow wrestlers Takayasu and Shohozan.

Kisenosato gives the sport four active yokozuna alongside the Mongolian trio of Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu.

“The sense of responsibility will grow even bigger. I really think it’s all starting here,” Kisenosato said.

Kisenosato revealed he had been watching the footage of former yokozuna with the unryu style — one of two styles for the ritual — and practiced through late Thursday night to master the procedure.

JSA chairman Hakkaku, the former yokozuna Hokutoumi, acknowledged the support from the fans as well as the imposing performance from Kisenosato.

“I’m overwhelmed with so many people in attendance. I’m really glad to have been associated with sumo, I was moved,” Hakkaku said. “His movement was smooth because he has a flexible lower back. That’s why he’s strong, too.

“I hope he takes encouragement from this (large crowd) rather than as a load to be carried.”

Kisenosato’s parents were also in attendance.

“It’s finally sunk in that he has become a yokozuna,” said his father, Sadahiko Hagiwara. “It feels as if he’s no longer my child. He has completely left our hands.”

Kisenosato reflected on the journey of becoming a yokozuna by saying, “There has never been a week as full as this in the past 15 years (since my debut). I won’t forget it the rest of my life.”

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