Festival brings sunshine to scandal-hit sumo wrestling

Laughter, sunshine and optimism were the order of the day at the ceremonial Spring Festival sumo wrestling tournament held at a controversial war shrine in Tokyo on Monday (April 16) amid scandals over Japan's national sport.

Thousands of wrestling fanatics and tourists enjoyed the annual festival, where top-ranked Yokozuna including Hakuho and Kakuryu as well as other sumo wrestlers treated spectators to exhibition bouts, starting with the time-honoured foot-stamping ceremonies.

Although sumo has been heavily criticised over a host of recent scandals -- the most recent of which saw female medics being asked to leave the sumo ring as they treated a local official who collapsed, there was no sign that the sport's recent problems would dampen sumo's popularity despite recent further reports that the Japan Sumo Association was clamping down on allowing small girls to join wrestlers in the ring, even though little boys were allowed.

The sumo ring is believed to be sacred and, according to some media, a place where sumo wrestlers make offerings to a jealous female goddess.