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Trump to watch sumo matches from very close to ring

Tokyo, May 20 (Jiji Press) — U.S. President Donald Trump will occupy a “masuseki” box area very close to the ring, instead of second-floor seats for distinguished guests, when he visits the Ryogoku Kokugikan arena in Tokyo to watch final-day matches of the ongoing summer grand sumo tournament on Sunday, it has been learned.

The seating arrangement was accepted by the U.S. side after it was proposed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, sources said.

Abe hopes that having Trump, a combat sports aficionado, watch professional sumo up close will help the two leaders strengthen their bonds further, according to the sources.

Trump will visit Japan for four days from Saturday as the first state guest of the new Japanese era of Reiwa, which started on May 1.

On Sunday, Abe and Trump are slated to play a round of golf in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, before heading to Ryogoku Kokugikan to watch some final matches of the last day of the 15-day tournament with U.S. first lady Melania Trump.

On the following day, the U.S. president will meet with New Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, and hold a summit with Abe.

For security reasons, there were initially calls for Trump to watch the sumo matches from the distinguished guest area equipped with chairs, used by members of the Japanese Imperial Family and foreign dignitaries.

Trump, however, expressed his desire to watch from masuseki, after Abe suggested that the “closer area has more punch,” according to the sources. The U.S. side eventually accepted the seating arrangement.

Masuseki is a traditional style of seating with “zabuton” cushions laid out in a square, marked off on the floor. Masuseki users normally sit on their knees or cross-legged.

As neither the U.S. president nor the first lady are accustomed to sitting in the traditional Japanese style, they may be allowed to utilize the box in front on the next tier down for extra legroom, the sources said.

The boxes around Trump’s will be used by his secret service personnel.

After all bouts are over, the president will step onto the ring and present the specially made “Trump trophy” to the winner of the makuuchi top division in the tournament during the victory ceremony.

At a meeting of executives of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Monday, Abe explained the plan to watch sumo matches with Trump.

“I want to reaffirm the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance (through the series of events during Trump’s Japan visit) and demonstrate it to the world,” Abe said.

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