Japan's sumo grand champion performed traditional New Year's rites at Tokyo's Meiji shrine Thursday. This was Mongolian-born Hakuho's first public appearance this year, and thousands of fans turned out to see the sumo star.
Japan's sumo wrestling has religious roots that remain strong even if its grand champions are no longer Japanese nationals.
Mongolian-born Hakuho is the 69th grand champion, or Yokozuna, of the ancient sport.
In his first public appearance this year, Hakuho was at Tokyo's Meiji Shrine.
Along with two other wrestlers, he performed New Year's rites.
Twenty-five-year-old Hakuho was promoted to sumo's highest rank of Yokozuna in 2007.
For many here at the shrine, seeing a Yokozuna up-close is a rare experience.
[Ran Ando, Student]:
"I was impressed. It was my first time seeing an actual sumo wrestler so I was really blown away by the performance."
[Kiyo Sakamoto, Housewife]:
"Hakuho actually looked kind up close. Watching him perform was refreshing and amazing at the same time. I'm lucky to be here today."
Participation of foreign wrestlers may have raised eyebrows here in the past.
But nowadays the rivalry between Hakuho and other Japanese wrestlers is making sumo more popular.