"We are reminded that aah, there are some parts of Japan that still do not understand it," said Emma Dalton, a Japanese specialist and professor at the Royal School of Global, Urban and Social Studies. Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia.
Women in Japan face innumerable obstacles to equality. A law that requires married couples to share a surname means that the vast majority of women must give up their names after their weddings. Japan has one of the worst global records of women in politics. Women can not sit on the imperial throne. Earlier in the week, news emerged of a private daycare where a supervisor chided an employee for getting pregnant before it was her "turn."
"I think both men and women in Japan are reluctant to change both the workplace and the tradition," said Kumiko Nemoto, professor of sociology at the University of Foreign Studies in Kyoto. "And then they use the name of tradition to not change things."
The women called out of the ring in the sumo event included a public nurse who ran to the dohyo, as the straw ring is known, to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the fallen politician.
Ryozo Tatami, the mayor of Maizuru, a city of some 84,000 people in Kyoto Prefecture, was giving a speech when he had a cerebral hemorrhage and collapsed.
In the video, it appears that several male sumo staff members gathered around Mr. Tatami before the nurse arrived to begin CPR. Three other women also rushed to help. When the referee told them to leave, the women stepped back, causing confusion and struggles around the patient.
From the video it appears that a man took over the CPR before the emergency workers of the Fire Department arrived. Mr. Tatami was taken to a hospital for surgery, where he remains in stable condition.
Most of the reaction on Twitter criticized the referee for calling women out of the ring. " This seems to present the crazy image of Japanese values with which Western fans fantasize," wrote one Twitter user.
But some commentators defended the tradition, even if they acknowledged that the referee should have made an exception for the emergency. One of those Twitter users said that " crazy feminists will take advantage of this ."
Historians trace the roots of sumo to harvest the rituals associated with the Shinto religion. There are several theories about why women are excluded from the ring. One theory suggests that sumo matches were originally used to entertain the goddesses of the harvest, and farmers believed that the women in the ring would invoke the jealousies and fury of the goddesses, which would spoil the harvest.
made in the imperial courts of Japan in the eighth century, and during the Edo period, which ran from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century, the organizers began to charge admission to sumo fighting.
In general, women were not admitted paying spectators, although there are some historical references to female wrestlers and referees.
Today's tradition of excluding women from the ring is as much a habit as anything else, said Lee Thompson, a sports science professor at Waseda University who has researched sumo.
"The people in charge now say that's how they remember it, and they just want to keep it the way it is," Thompson said.
the tradition has been tried before. In 1990, Mayumi Moriyama, the first secretary of the Japanese prime minister's cabinet, was banned from awarding a trophy at a Tokyo tournament, and in 2000, the sumo association banned Fusae Ota, the first governor of Osaka, and in all Japan. – Of the awarding of a trophy during a sumo tournament in the city.
Both incidents generated controversy, but the tradition remained.
Sumo is very popular among women, who represent almost half of most tournaments audiences. In 2014, the national sumo association organized a promotional event in which women could take photos in the arms of sumo wrestlers. More than 8,000 women applied for six slot machines.
After the protest after the incident on Wednesday, Nobuyoshi Hakkaku, president of the Japan Sumo Association, issued a statement thanking the woman who "quickly provided emergency measures" and apologizing for the referee who told her and the other women who left the ring. "It was not an adequate response," Hakkaku said.
The women's advocates said they expected this episode to trigger a debate about the tradition. "Such sexist behavior should not be forgiven," said Mari Miura, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo.
The reputation of sumo wrestling has already been battered in recent months by a series of rounds of championship rounds in junior wrestlers.
But scandals have not dented enthusiasm for the sport, and analysts say the sumo association will have little incentive to change.
"They need public pressure from abroad," said Yasuaki Muto, a professor of sports science at Waseda University. "Because so far they are quite successful despite several scandals and the seats are quite full in each tournament, there is no motivation for it to be reformed."
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