A sumo grand champion in Japan battles in feats of seemingly superhuman strength over 15 days to claim a pair of giant silver trophies named in honor of the nation’s emperor and prime minister.
This month in Tokyo, another shiny prize will be on the line — the “Trump Cup.”
President Trump’s state visit near the end of May coincides with the final day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, and Trump is expected on May 26 to present a custom-made trophy to the victor at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the sumo hall in the capital city, according to a report in the Asahi Shimbun, citing Japanese government officials.
White House officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An official at the Japanese embassy in Washington said he was unable to confirm the report.
But Trump hinted enthusiastically at his plans during a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House last month.
“I’ve always found that fascinating,” Trump said of sumo. “We’re having a trophy made in this country. We’re going to give the trophy to the winner of the championship.”
Abe has sought to court Trump by playing to his ego. During his visit, Trump also will become the first foreign leader to meet newly enshrined Emperor Naruhito. The president also is expected to visit the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka.
For Trump, who built his real estate promotion business by stamping his surname on hotels, casinos, golf resorts, neckties and even coffee, the move to christen a new award named after himself seems very on-brand.
Experts said it is not unusual for sumo champions to receive special awards from foreign dignitaries, private companies and provincial officials across Japan. But, they emphasized, the awards are typically named after a country or business, rather than an individual. For example, the late David M. Jones, who worked in Tokyo for the now-defunct Pan American Airways, presented the Pan American trophy to sumo champions for more than two decades.
Andrew Freund, director of USA Sumo, said that naming the award after Trump would be fine as a nickname. But “if it is officially the ‘Trump Cup,’ that would be a little over the top,” said Freund, who has lived in Japan and has been organizing sumo events in the United States for 25 years.
Trump would not be the first head of state to hand out a sumo trophy. Former French president Jacques Chirac, who was such a big fan that he named his poodle “Sumo,” created in 2000 what came to be known as the “Chirac Cup.” Formally called the “President of the Republic of France Cup,” the award was presented to sumo champions in Japan by the French ambassador or another diplomat for seven years until Chirac left office in 2007.
The award was discontinued after that; Chirac’s successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, mocked the sumo as “battles between fat guys with slicked-down ponytails” and said it is “really not a sport for intellectuals.”
According to the Asahi report, Trump is expected to watch matches on the final day and then climb into the “dohyo” — or sumo ring — to present the award. Shoes are not permitted in that hallowed space, meaning Trump would presumably don slippers.
During the awards ceremony, the sumo champion stands before a table draped with a purple cloth as tournament officials dressed in formal kimonos read a proclamation and hand him the giant trophies, one after another.
What kind of trophy Trump has commissioned is not known. The president’s challenge coin is far larger, with more gold, than those of his White House predecessors.
“I don’t think there really is a hard and fast rule about that,” Freund said, when asked if there were specifications for sumo trophies. “I suspect maybe they would say, ‘Hey, don’t make it bigger than the Emperor’s Cup.’”