Melania Trump Colors Fish With Kids at Japan Digital Museum

May 26, 2019 Updated: May 26, 2019

TOKYO—Melania Trump was perfectly cool Sunday at an air-conditioned interactive digital museum in Tokyo where she drew a purple fish and had it projected on a digital aquarium, as she and her host, Japanese first lady Akie Abe, joined dozens of schoolchildren while their husbands played golf under the scorching sun.

U.S. First Lady Melania Trump poses with Akie Abe, center right, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and children for a photo during a visit to a digital art museum in Tokyo, Japan on May 26, 2019. (Pierre-Emmanuel Deletree/Pool Photo via AP)

Mrs. Trump drew the fish for a girl named Julia, and wrote underneath it: “Julia, Best Wishes, Melania Tump.”

Her autograph became popular, prompting children to line up. The first lady signed the back of each student’s artwork, along with a message: “Be Best!”—the name of her children’s initiative.

The 30 children, third-to-sixth-graders at a Tokyo elementary school, were a bit shy when the first lady, in a stylish navy-color jumpsuit, walked in. She was escorted by Akie Abe. One by one, the children came over to her, and then they came in groups.

Melania Trump Japanese School 2
U.S. First Lady Melania Trump chats with children as she visits a digital art museum in Tokyo, Japan on May 26, 2019. (Koji Sasahara/AP)

“Nice to meet you. Can you show me what you drew?” Melania Trump asked a boy with a name-sticker on his chest saying “Aoi.” He showed her a green turtle with yellow feet, which they then projected on the wall.

A Japanese boy at the digital aquarium drew a green turtle with yellow feet. (Koji Sasahara/AP)

Akie Abe colored her turtle pink with three little red hearts on the back, and signed it with the word “Peace,” as well as “Reiwa,” the name of Japan’s new monarch whose reign started this month.

The two first ladies also toured other exhibits that included the crystal room and the lamp room where they stopped for photo sprays.

U.S. First Lady Melania Trump, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife Akie Abe visit a digital art museum in Tokyo, Japan on May 26, 2019. (Koji Sasahara/AP)
U.S. First Lady Melania Trump, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife Akie Abe visit a digital art museum in Tokyo, Japan on May 26, 2019. (Koji Sasahara/AP)
U.S. First Lady Melania Trump, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife Akie Abe visit a digital art museum in Tokyo, Japan on May 26, 2019. (Koji Sasahara/AP)

Mrs. Trump arrived Saturday in Tokyo with President Donald Trump for a four-day state visit that is largely ceremonial and aimed at deepening personal ties between the two leaders.

Trump and Abe played 16 holes at the Mobara golf course outside Tokyo, where the temperature rose as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), in a “cozy atmosphere,” Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.

President Donald Trump, right, plays golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, at Mobara Country Club in Mobara, south of Tokyo, Japan on May 26, 2019. (Ren Onuma/Kyodo News via AP)

Later Sunday, the first ladies joined their husbands to watch Japan’s traditional sport of sumo and venture out into downtown Tokyo for a dinner double date.

President Trump is the first American leader to do so. Trump, who is on a four-day state visit to Japan, presented a special U.S.-made trophy to the winner.

President Donald Trump presents the “President’s Cup” to Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament winner Asanoyama, at Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium in Tokyo, Japan on May 26, 2019. (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump attends the Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium in Tokyo, japan on May 26, 2019. (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump, left, and First Lady Melania Trump, right, chat during an annual summer sumo wrestling championship in Tokyo, Japan on May 26, 2019. (Daiki Katagiri/Kyodo News via AP)

Some key facts about sumo, which is deeply tied to Japan’s ancient religion of Shinto:

Shinto Ritual

The origins of sumo can be traced back to the Shinto ritual for a good harvest at imperial courts in the 8th century. It was later used as martial arts training for samurais before becoming entertainment for the people during the Edo period, with the introduction of stylized rules including the art of entering the ring, the use of loin cloths, topknots and kimonos, as well as fighting regulations.

The Ring

Based on Shinto belief, the elevated dirt ring, or “dohyo,” is considered sacred. Before every tournament, Shinto priests perform rituals to pacify the gods by pouring rice, sake and other offerings into a little hole in the center of the ring. Wrestlers also rinse their mouth with water before entering the ring, while only senior wrestlers are allowed to use salt to purify themselves and repel evil spirits. They use up to 700 kilograms (1,543 pounds) of salt during every 15-day tournament, according to the Japan Sumo Association.

Rigid Custom

Unlike other athletes, sumo wrestlers are considered living performers of cultural tradition and are expected to be role models. This is especially true of the yokozuna—those considered to have dignity and grace in addition to outstanding sumo skills. Wrestlers come from across Japan and are divided into 46 “stables,” each run by “oyakata,” or masters—retired wrestlers who had reached the sport’s highest ranks. By tradition, they live and train together at each stable, where young apprentices are assigned to cleaning, cooking and other chores for their seniors. The hierarchy-based apprenticeship has sometimes caused bullying and hazing.

Winner and Prizes

A wrestler who pushes his opponent out of the ring, or makes him touch the ground first, is declared the winner. The number of wins during a 15-day tournament determines their ranks, which go as high as the most prestigious yokozuna, or grand champion. There are six tournaments per year. A tournament winner is awarded two main trophies—the Emperor’s Cup and the Prime Minister’s Cup—as well as dozens of international and prefectural prizes such as a huge macaroon cookie from the French Embassy, a year’s supply of strawberries donated by Fukuoka prefecture and a trophy filled with dried mushrooms from Oita prefecture.

Spectator Customs

Fans in the ringside “masu seki” box seats typically sit on zabuton mattresses on tatami mats. The seats include servings of yakitori and tea served in ceramic pots and cups, while the spectators can also purchase beer and other drinks. The masu seki tickets also come with other treats, including sweet bean desserts, towels and memorabilia. Fans customarily throw their cushions toward the ring to cheer a wrestler who beat a senior opponent in an upset match.

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