TOKYO - Yokozuna Hakuho, a record 42-time sumo grand champion, has acquired Japanese citizenship after relinquishing his Mongolian nationality, an official government publication showed Tuesday.
Although Japanese nationality is not required to compete in sumo, citizenship is necessary if a wrestler wishes to progress to become a sumo elder upon retirement from the raised ring.
"I will try my best not to bring shame upon myself as a Japanese," Hakuho told reporters in front of his Miyagino stable in Tokyo.
"My 18 years of dedication to sumo has led to this day," he added.
(Hakuho and his family in 2017)
Hakuho, who won a record-extending top division title in March, expressed his dual loyalty to Mongolia and Japan, saying the two countries and the ancient sport of sumo are what have enabled him to become the person he is today.
The 34-year-old, who is married to a Japanese woman, made his makuuchi division debut in 2004 and has since piled up 1,038 wins. He is the only sumo wrestler in history to log at least 1,000 makuuchi wins.
Hakuho now has the right to stay in the Japan Sumo Association as a stablemaster, known as an "oyakata," after he brings his active wrestling career to a close.
While there is no penalty, Japanese law does not allow citizens to hold multiple nationalities, requiring those wishing to become naturalized Japanese citizens to relinquish their status as a foreign national.
Hakuho, whose real name is Munkhbat Davaajargal, abandoned his Mongolian citizenship in June after the country's authorities allowed his application upon a decree issued by President Khaltmaa Battulga.
Hakuho is the third foreign yokozuna to attain Japanese citizenship after Akebono and Musashimaru, now Musashigawa stablemaster, both of whom renounced their status as U.S. nationals.
Fellow Mongolian and former sekiwake Kyokutenho, who is now Tomozuna stablemaster, also naturalized in 2005 but Hakuho is the first from his country to do so at the rank of ozeki or above.
"I want to work hard for the development of sumo," said Hakuho, who has been open about his desire to operate his own stable after retirement.
A retired wrestler can earn ichidai toshiyori status, allowing him to become a stablemaster under his ring name, if the JSA considers his career achievements to be of an outstanding standard, a bar which Hakuho easily clears.