Sumo-Hakuho headlines somber Spring Festival in Tokyo

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Sumo-Hakuho headlines somber Spring Festival in Tokyo
Sumo wrestlers line up to leave after praying before the start of the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
A sumo wrestler takes shelter from sunshine as he waits for the start of the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
A sumo wrestler poses with a child for pictures during the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
Mongolia-born grand sumo champions Yokozuna Hakuho (L) and Kakuryu prepare to compete during the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
Sumo wrestlers wait for the start of the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
Mongolia-born grand sumo champion Yokozuna Hakuho performs a ring-entering rite during the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
A sumo wrestler sits on a fence during the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
A sumo wrestler grabs salt before competing at the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
Sumo wrestlers line up as they pray before the start of the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
Mongolia-born grand sumo champion Yokozuna Hakuho throws salt during the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
Sumo wrestlers perform a show fight during the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sumo wrestlers perform a show fight during the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
A sumo wrestler leaves the ring during the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
A visitor holds a cutout of Mongolia-born grand sumo champion Yokozuna Harumafuji during the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
Sumo wrestlers compete during the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sumo wrestlers wait for the start of the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino SEARCH "SHINO SUMO" TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.
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TOKYO, April 19 (Reuters) - Nearly 8,000 spectators attended the ceremonial Spring Festival sumo wrestling tournament held outdoors at a controversial war shrine in the Tokyo sunshine on Monday.

The headline act was top-ranked Yokozuna, Hakuho, the most successful sumo wrestler of all-time with a record 36 career tournament wins.

SEE ALSO: Drone footage reveals full extent of Kumamoto, Japan quake damage

The Mongolian beat compatriot and fellow Yokozuna, Kakuryu in his bout, one of almost 30 that took place between wrestlers who weigh on average over 120 kilograms (265 pounds) and grapple, slap and push for victory in traditional mawashi loincloths.

The history of sumo, Japan's national sport, can be traced back over 1,500 years with its roots in a religious ritual conducted in Shinto shrines to pray for abundant harvests.

The annual Spring Festival at Yasukuni Shrine, seen as a symbol of Japan's past militarism by many in Asia, started with a blessing of Shinto's religious gods and wishing peace for all.

Traditional foot-stamping ceremonies took place before the bouts begun.

See footage from the event:
Japan's sumo wrestlers mark spring festival in Tokyo

One fan felt this year's event was more somber than usual after the biggest in a series of earthquakes to hit Japan struck near Kumamoto city early on Saturday.

"This time I hesitated to come and enjoy it after the earthquake disaster," said Mieko Nakamura, who also attended as a spectator last year.

"Some of the wrestlers, however, are from Kumamoto so we decided to come and cheer them up."

The next grand tournament, the Natsu basho, will take place in Tokyo on May 5 and will feature all the sport's top ranked wrestlers.

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