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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 April 4 - 10  > Sumo referee orders women giving first aid to unconscious man out of ring
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2018 April 4 - 10 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Sumo referee orders women giving first aid to unconscious man out of ring

April 7, 2018
As to whether "nyonin kinsei" (No Women Admitted) in the world of "sumo" (Japanese-style wrestling) is right or not is drawing controversy after women were told to stay out of the "dohyo" (sumo ring).

It happened when the Maizuru City mayor on the dohyo was delivering an address to welcome the Grand Sumo regional tournament in Maizuru City in Kyoto. Suddenly, he collapsed on his back and fell unconscious. Several female spectators soon rushed to the dohyo and tried to revive him. However, a "gyoji" (sumo referee) told them to step out of the dohyo. One of the women reportedly has a nursing license.

Two days later, in the same tournament held in Takarazuka City in Hyogo, the female city mayor had to give a welcoming speech out of the dohyo precisely because she was a woman.

Similar cases occurred in the past as well. In 1990, the Chief Cabinet Secretary who was a woman was not allowed to present the Prime Minister's Cup to the champion on the dohyo. In 2000, during an Osaka tournament, the female Governor of Osaka was not allowed to award the governor's trophy to the champion on the dohyo.

Gender inequality affects children's sumo competitions as well. Girls can enter in regional preliminary sumo contests for children up to 12 years old. However, even if they advance to a national competition, they are not permitted to go into the dohyo of the Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Arena in Tokyo.

The first recorded book in Japan contains a description of sumo. It was about a sumo match between two women. In the late eighth century, however, women were barred from sumo competitions. It was a period where the Emperor hosted sumo ceremonies in the Imperial Court in Nara with the presence of the nobles. Women at that time were prohibited to even take a peek at sumo matches. In the Edo period starting from 1603, sumo became popular among townspeople and merchants. In that process, it became possible for women to see entertainment-style sumo events which had nothing to do with winning or rankings. Since the 1870s, during the Meiji period, women have been allowed to view sumo matches.

Outside Japan today, the women's world sumo championship has already taken place ten times, and international junior tournaments, four times. The Japan Sumo Association should turn its attention to the internationalization of sumo.

The association is a public interest corporation. Where does "public interest" lie in "nyonin kinsei"? The policy of the association stipulates that its purpose is to contribute to the promotion of sumo culture and the betterment of people's mental and physical health. If so, the purpose contradicts the "nyonin kinsei" rule. In the first place, the association has never given convincing explanations as to why it bans women from going up on dohyos (wrestling rings).

All sports organizations have a public nature accompanied by social responsibility. They should always review their customs and correct them when needed.
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