Fight for gender rights enters sumo ring

Fight for gender rights enters sumo ring


The women can then be seen stepping out of the ring, but remaining by the sidelines to supervise the rescue efforts. But then a voice came over the loudspeakers ordering them away from the scene - not because they didn't know what they were doing, but because they were women.

A sumo-wrestling referee ordered several women out of the ring on Wednesday, despite their attempt to give first-aid treatment to the mayor of Maizuru City in Kyoto Prefecture, who had collapsed while giving a speech. Two women, apparently medical experts, rushed in and started performing first aid as several male sumo officials surrounding the mayor looked on.

The head of Japan's Sumo Association, Nobuyoshi Hakkaku, later responded to many people's outrage by apologising to the women and thanking them for their quick thinking.

In a statement, Hakkaku said the announcement was made by an official who panicked after seeing the women in the ring, but did not mention the age-old tradition. In 1989, Moriyama became the first woman to become chief Cabinet secretary, and in 1990 she asked the association to allow her to enter a ring to present the prime minister's trophy.

Miwa said the mayor had been hospitalised and was now in a stable condition.

Sumo Association Chairman Hakkaku issued an apology later in the day, calling the referee's response inappropriate.

In sumo's tradition, the ring is considered sacred and women are prohibited from entering.

Stablemaster Kasugano, who's in charge of sumo tours, also said the reaction was inappropriate even if the referee was upset during the emergency.

"Of course it is important to protect tradition, but the way it excludes women perhaps is out of step with the times, and that's how I feel as a woman", said Yurika Mita, a newscaster on a Fuji Television Network talk show. One of the traditional responsibilities of the governor of Osaka is to crown the champion of an annual sumo tournament, so she would always need to request permission to enter the ring in order to fulfill that duty.

Sumo traces its origins back 2,000 years to a time when it was an integral part of Shintoism.

  • Terrell Bush