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Japanese royalties surprise sumo wrestling crowd

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Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako and Princess Aiko wave to spectators from the VIP booth of Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan indoor arena. (Kyodo)

Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako and their daughter Princess Aiko watched live matches of Japan’s ancient wrestling sport on Saturday for the first time since the Emperor ascended the throne last May.

The emperor and empress watched the final nine bouts at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan on the penultimate day of the 15-day New Year Grand Sumo Tournament. The last time the couple went to sumo matches was in 2017.

Seated in VIP booth on the second floor, the imperial family enthusiastically applauded the wrestlers while being briefed by Hakkaku, chair of the Japan Sumo Association, the tournament organizer.   Spectators also cheered as they left the packed venue.

It was their third time to watch live matches and the first in 13 years for the 18-year-old princess, known to be an avid sumo fan since her preschool days.

Hakkaku said the princess asked about the height of the dohyo, the raised ring with a sandy surface where wrestlers competes.

Princess Aiko’s interest in sumo wrestling showed in her marking win-loss records and memorizing the fighters’ names and their places of birth, according to the Imperial Household Agency. (Kyodo News)

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