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Politics

Abe packs golf, sumo and dinner into busy day for Trump

Ahead of trade talks in Japan, US leader takes in national sport

U.S. President Donald Trump presents the "President's Cup" trophy to sumo wrestler Asanoyama at the Ryogoku Kokugikan arena in Tokyo on Sunday, as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looks on. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

TOKYO -- U.S. President Donald Trump presented a custom-made trophy to the winner of a sumo tournament in Tokyo on Sunday, marking the first time a sitting American president has appeared at an event for Japan's national sport.

Trump attended the tournament on the second day of his four-day visit to Japan, after playing golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and pro golfer Isao Aoki at Mobara Country Club in Chiba, near Tokyo. Dinner followed sumo at a restaurant in Tokyo's upscale Roppongi district.

Trump is the first state guest in Japan's Reiwa era, which began May 1 with the enthronement of the new emperor. The president is scheduled to meet Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on Monday morning and later attend talks with Abe.

Trump was warmly applauded when entering Ryogoku Kokugikan, a sumo wrestling arena in Tokyo, before taking a seat next to Abe.

"In honor of your outstanding achievement, as sumo grand champion, I hereby award you the United States President's Cup," Trump said on the dohyo, as the sumo ring is called, in presenting the trophy to 25-year-old sumo wrestler Asanoyama, who took the championship of the 15-day tournament.

The President's Cup trophy -- 137 cm tall and weighing roughly 30 kg -- is topped with a eagle with wings spread. "I was so glad that I cannot even find words to express the feeling," Asanoyama said of how he felt when receiving the President's Cup.

Unlike most prominent guests who usually observe sumo tournaments from special seats on the arena's second floor, Trump watched from a chair placed at ringside. Spectators sitting ringside normally are required to sit down with legs crossed.

Security was elevated at the sumo venue, and special measures were taken for Trump's appearance. Spectators were warned that if they tossed zabuton cushions into the dohyo, a custom for the sport when a high-ranking wrestler is beaten by a lower-ranking opponent, they would be removed from the building.

Sumo has a history of more than 1,500 years. It was a ritual performed to ensure a good harvest, according to the Japan Sumo Association, and eventually established the style that it is known for today during the Edo era. "I've always found that fascinating," Trump said last month.

After the tournament, Trump and his wife, Melania, attended a dinner in Roppongi with Abe and his wife, Akie, at a robatayaki restaurant, which serves food cooked on a traditional Japanese charcoal grill.

"I am glad to welcome President Trump and his wife, Melania, here in Japan as the first state guests for the Reiwa era," Abe said before starting dinner.

Japan typically invites just one or two foreign leaders as state guests a year. Former U.S. President Barack Obama was invited as a state guest five years ago.

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