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Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008

JSA announces Mongolian tour

Kyodo News

The Japan Sumo Association officially announced Saturday it will hold a training tour of Mongolia from Aug. 25 to 29, the first tour of its kind to the country in sumo history.

The top-tier makuuchi division wrestlers and the Mongolian wrestlers in all divisions, led by yokozuna Hakuho and Asashoryu, are scheduled to attend the tour that includes exhibition tournaments on Aug. 27 and 28.

"Mongolians all love sumo. I'm sure they will be happy to see us there," Hakuho said.

Asashoryu emphasized the significance of introducing Japan's sumo culture and tradition to people in Mongolia through the tour.

"I want to let Mongolian people know not only the severity of sumo itself but traditional aspects of the sport's culture as well, including sumo songs and how gingko-shaped topknot are tied," Asashoryu said. The tour has been arranged at the height of the careers of the two wrestlers from the landlocked Asian country, who occupy both of sumo current two spots at the highest rank of yokozuna.

"We have two Mongolian grand champions — Hakuho on the east side and Asashoryu on the west side. Now is the best time to take a tour to Mongolia," JSA tour director Oshima said.

In the climax of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament last month, Hakuho defeated Asashoryu in the grand finale to win his third straight Emperor's Cup with a 14-1 record. Asashoryu finished 13-2 in his return from a two-tournament ban that stemmed from his participation in a charity soccer match in Mongolia after apparently feigning the extent of his injuries to sit out a regional sumo tour.

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