U.S. President Donald Trump attended a sumo tournament in Tokyo on Sunday, watching the action from a specially prepared seat near the ring, and presented an American-made trophy to the victor.
Trump was hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the final day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan. He climbed into the raised ring to present the newly made trophy, informally dubbed the "Trump Cup," to the winner at the conclusion of the 15-day meet.
"In honor of your outstanding achievement as sumo grand champion, I hereby award you the United States President's Cup," Trump said before handing a certificate to Asanoyama, a 25-year-old rank-and-file wrestler.
The president, wearing black slippers instead of leather shoes, took the ring via a staircase instead of using the steps cut into the ring's clay, bowed slightly and smiled to the crowd. He lifted the 1.37-meter silverware with some help, and handed it to the newly crowned champion.
(Summer Grand Sumo Tournament winner Asanoyama (L) receives a special American-made trophy from U.S. President Donald Trump.)
"It was very nice and we really enjoyed being there. It was something to see these really great athletes," Trump said as he prepared to have dinner with Abe.
While spectators in ringside boxes normally sit on cushions with their legs crossed, tradition was cast aside for Trump and his wife Melania, who watched the final five bouts of the tournament sitting in chairs alongside Abe and his wife Akie.
Trump, who became the first U.S. president to attend a sumo tournament during his term, was greeted by excited fans who waved and took photographs as he entered the arena.
Known as a fan of combat sports, Trump said in April he has "always found that (sumo) fascinating," and revealed he would present a custom-made trophy to the winner of the tournament.
The trophy, with an eagle on the top as well as an engraved Presidential Seal, weighed between 27 and 31 kilograms, according to the White House.
While he was originally scheduled to watch the final three matches, Trump arrived in time to watch the last five bouts -- including Asanoyama's.
The 177-kilogram wrestler, who clinched his maiden championship on Saturday, said of being the trophy's first recipient, "Words can't describe how happy I was."
Sumo, in which oversized wrestlers compete on a sandy surface called the "dohyo," has been used many times in the past to entertain foreign dignitaries during their visits to Japan. While most distinguished guests, including members of the Japanese imperial family, sit in more-distant seats that are reserved, Trump was seated in an area close to the action.
In 1996, former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone took French President Jacques Chirac, a well-known sumo enthusiast, to a tournament. Chirac gifted a trophy to the winner of every grand tournament between 2001 and 2007 before he left office.
Former Mongolian Prime Minister Miyeegombyn Enkhbold watched a bout between two wrestlers from his country at a tournament in 2006.
The Japan Sumo Association had been preparing to host the U.S. president since before Trump revealed to reporters in April he wanted to watch a bout during his state visit.
The sport's governing body, well known for upholding the traditions of the ancient sport with religious roots, opted to break with custom on this occasion.
"President Trump likes combat sports. So he will enjoy it more if he sits near the ring rather than looking down from the royal box seats located on the second floor," an official of the Cabinet Office said.
Spectators attending the tournament had to go through an inspection of their bags, in addition to submitting their personal information including names, addresses and phone numbers to the association.
They were not allowed re-entry after 3 p.m., nearly two hours before the president's arrival.
Trump and Abe had dinner at a traditional Japanese charcoal grill restaurant in the capital after the sumo competition. The two leaders played a round of golf at the Mobara Country Club in Chiba earlier in the day.
The main item on the president's agenda during his four-day visit is a meeting with newly enthroned Japanese Emperor Naruhito and his wife Empress Masako.