Photo/IllutrationDressed in formal kimono and hakama skirt, 69 sumo wrestlers complete the two kanji characters that spell Reiwa at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward on May 1. (Kotaro Ebara)

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As much of the nation stayed glued to TV screens May 1 to take in the pomp and circumstance of Japan's era change to Reiwa, burly sumo wrestlers and animals famous for being docile were tapped to use their bodies to spell out its two kanji characters at events.

Yokozuna Hakuho, who won the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in March, and Takakeisho, a 22-year-old wrestler newly promoted to the second-highest rank of ozeki after the tourney, joined a group of wrestlers clad in formal black crested kimono and pleated hakama skirts to form the kanji at the capital’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The big beefy bodies of the 69 wrestlers from the makuuchi and juryo divisions apparently helped speed up the process, as it only took seven minutes for them to complete two kanji on the arena floor.

They also took the opportunity to plug the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, the first competition of the sport in the new era, that kicks off on May 12 at the arena in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward.

“Please come to see sumo in Reiwa,” the wrestlers said in unison.

Meanwhile, out on a hilly pasture in Futtsu, Chiba Prefecture, a mob of sheep bolted to line up to spell out Reiwa in kanji with their wooly bodies.

About 150 sheep were involved in the afternoon public event at Mother Farm, an amusement park popular for several attractions featuring animals, and flower viewing.

The sheep dashed madly toward feed set on the ground in the shape of the Reiwa characters running first to "Rei," which became visible as more sheep gathered to feast.

Then they moved to "wa" for seconds. The whole spectacle was over in under three minutes.

The sheep will continue their performances throughout May.

The first day of the new era also overlapped with the half-way mark of the 10-day Golden Week holidays, accelerating the festive and leisurely mood nationwide.