Sumo fans and traditionalists have reacted with disappointment to reports that Donald Trump will have a ringside seat at a sumo tournament in Japan – eschewing hundreds of years of tradition of sitting cross-legged on a cushion.
Mr Trump is set to step centre stage into Japan’s sumo world this weekend as he presents a trophy dubbed the “Trump Cup” to the winner of a major tournament during his visit to Japan.
But the planned visit is already sending ripples through the deeply traditional sumo community. In a sport steeped in rituals dating back 1,500 years, reports of Trump’s seat has prompted controversy at the special treatment, with one fan, Masaru Tomamoto, 73, telling Reuters: “I also want to sit on a chair as we watch sumo wrestling.
“But if (Trump) watches a Japanese traditional sport, sumo, I think that it would be much better for him to sit cross-legged with the cushion on the floor, rather than on chair.
Another sumo fan Izumi Chiba, from Sapporo in northern Japan, added: “As we say, when you are in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
Mr Trump is expected to watch the final three bouts of the last day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament – a highly awaited climax of the sumo calendar – alongside Mr Abe and their respective wives at the Ryogoku Kokugikan hall in Tokyo on Sunday.
The US president, who said last month that he had always found sumo “fascinating”, will then present a special trophy custom-made in the US to the champion wrestler – triggering fevered media speculation as to whether he will wear slippers in the sumo ring as he hands it over, as shoes are not typically permitted.
Mr Trump is expected to sit in a chair among the most prized seats that immediately encircle the ring known as masu seki, which sell for around £71 (10,000 yen) each and normally involve sitting on flat cushions known as zabuton on the floor.
Security is another key issue flagged up by Japanese media, with almost an eighth of the 11,000 seats reserved for the president, Mr Abe and their security teams. There are concerns that around 1,000 people who have already bought coveted ringside seats face being security vetted.
There were also reports that organisers were considering the ban of canned beer sales in the same seating area, apparently in a bid to minimise potential security dangers to Mr Trump.
Mr Abe, who famously shares a love of golf with his “friend” Mr Trump, has apparently pulled out all the stops for the president’s state visit, having also arranged for him to become the first foreign leader to meet the new Emperor Naruhito.