TOYAMA -- Some 25,000 fans attended a hometown parade on June 16 for sumo wrestler Asanoyama, who won his maiden championship at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo in May.
The victory by Asanoyama, a rank-and-file grappler in sumo's top "makuuchi" division, marked the first time in 103 years that a wrestler from Toyama Prefecture on the Sea of Japan had clinched the title.
The parade ran through the city center for about 1.5 kilometers, starting in front of the prefectural office building and going along the road surrounding Toyama Castle Ruins Park. Wearing men's formal kimono attire with his family's crest symbol, Asanoyama sat atop the rear seat of a white convertible car and waved to fans as they shouted, "Congratulations!" and "Do your best!"
Shota Ishii, 12, a sixth-grade student at the municipal Kureha Elementary School in the city of Toyama, Asanoyama's alma mater, and a member of its sumo club, handed a bouquet to the wrestler and received a white board bearing the wrestler's autograph. "When shaking hands with him I realized Asanoyama's hands are huge. I hope he will perform well in the next tournament," Ishii said.
Teruko Taniyama, 85, a resident of the prefectural city of Namerikawa and a big fan of Asanoyama, attended the May tournament held at the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo venue in Tokyo to cheer on the local star. "I love Asanoyama. I'm happy to see him again today," Taniyama said.
Hayato Minami, a fourth-grader at the municipal Nakada Elementary School in the prefectural city of Takaoka, watched the parade with his four family members. "I saw Asanoyama for the first time and he is large and cool," Minami said.
(Japanese original by Ikuko Aoyama, Toyama Bureau)