Japan's Top Sumo Stars Hold New Year Ritual (Video)

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Japan'stop-ranked sumo wrestlers held New Year ritual at Tokyo'sMeiji shrine with a foot-stomping performance.

Clad in nothing but loin cloths in the depths of winter, Japan's two top-ranking "Yokozuna" elite, Hakuho and Harumafuji, led the traditional New Year ritual, flanked by lower-ranking wrestlers.

Hakuho weighs 153-kilos (340 pounds) and stands 1.93 metres (6 ft 4 inches) tall, slightly larger than fellow Mongolian-born compatriot Harumafuji's 1.85 m (6 ft 1 inches) and 133 kg (290 pounds).

Professional sumo now has more than 40 foreign-born wrestlers from nearly a dozen nations ranging from Bulgaria to Brazil.

The participation of foreigners has raised eyebrows in the conservative sumo world, with a Japanese wrestler denied the top spot since 2000.

But the rivalry between waves of foreign competitors -- the Hawaiians in the 1980s and the Mongolians in the 1990s -- and their Japanese counterparts has also been credited with halting a decline in the sport's popularity.

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