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Japanese women treating collapsed mayor told to stay out of ‘sacred’ sumo ring

Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hakkaku issued an apology after women who were treating the mayor after he collapsed were ordered to leave the ring

By Reiji Yoshida
Japan Times

MAIZURU, Japan — A controversy over gender discrimination in sumo tradition flared again this week when a referee urged two women to stay out of the ring as they tried to assist an official who was unconscious.

The sumo world has long maintained that the ring is a sacred place and that women cannot enter, in a tradition often criticized as discrimination.

Maizuru Mayor Ryozo Tatami, 66, was delivering a speech in the ring, in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, on Wednesday when he collapsed due to a subarachnoid hemorrhage. He was later rushed to a hospital and underwent surgery. His condition is stable and not life-threatening, one of his secretaries told The Japan Times on Thursday morning.

The referee’s announcement, aired through loud speakers at the gymnasium, rekindled public criticism and prompted Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hakkaku to later issue a statement of apology.

“The referee was upset and made the announcement, but it was an inappropriate response because the situation could have been life-threatening,” Hakkaku said in the statement. “We extend a deep apology.”

He also said the association “deeply thanks the women for giving first-aid treatment.”

Video of the event was repeatedly aired on TV shows Thursday morning, showing several people rushing to help the mayor including at least two women.

Several commentators on different channels argued that the referee should not have urged the women to leave the ring. Numerous people also criticized the sumo tradition on social media outlets.

This is not the first time that the tradition banning women from entering the “sacred” area has been criticized as discrimination.

Copyright 2018 Japan Times