BEARDS BANNED, TAGGED ‘INDECENT’ IN SUMO-WRESTLING

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TOKYO, Japan, -Jan. 27:New yokozuna Kisenosato performed his first ring-entry ceremony before a large crowd of around 18,000 at Tokyo's Meiji Shrine on Friday. The first Japanese native to be promoted to the sport's highest rank of grand champion since 1998, the 30-year-old Kisenosato made his ceremonial debut as yokozuna. The Tagonoura stable star was accompanied in the ceremony by fellow wrestlers Takayasu and Shohozan. Kisenosato gives the sport four active yokozuna alongside the Mongolian trio of Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu.

Sumo wrestlers in Japan have been banned from growing beards under new rules on grooming and appearance. One month after Japan’s last remaining home-grown sumo champion, Kisenosato Yutaka announced his retirement after a string of tournament losses though he wanted to continue wrestling to repay fans for their support.

 

Some wrestlers in the ancient sport say beards can bring them good luck.

But officials have told them beards – along with long nails and tattoos – are no longer allowed.

“The sumo ring is sacred and its important spectators don’t see anything unsightly,” Japan Sumo Association (JSA) elder Oguruma said.

Media in Japan say sumo officials have called beards “indecent” and want them gone as part of a wider move to clean up the sport’s image, following a series of scandals in recent years.

Grand champion Kakuryu said, “It’s an important point so we must absolutely adhere to it.”

Foreign wrestlers have come to dominate sumo, amid a lack of local recruits.

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