Japan rejoiced on Wednesday as sumo wrestler Kisenosato became the first Japanese born and bred grand champion in nearly two decades, ending foreign-born wrestlers’ domination of the ancient sport’s top rank.
Sumo, which features giant wrestlers clad only in loincloths, has seen such an influx of foreign grapplers over the last 50 years that prior to this week all three grand champions – known as yokozuna – were Mongolian. Hawaiian-born Americans have also held the rank.
Until January 2016 a homegrown rikishi, as the wrestlers are known, hadn’t even won a tournament championship for a decade.
But all this changed on Wednesday, when 30-year-old Kisenosato was promoted to yokozuna, becoming the first native Japanese to attain the sport’s most exalted rank since 1998.