Japan’s sumo association has apologised after women attempting to administer emergency medical treatment to a politician who collapsed in the ring were ordered out of the male-only space.
The drama unfolded when Ryozo Tatami, the 66-year-old mayor of Maizuru city in Kyoto prefecture, suddenly collapsed in the ring while giving a speech on Wednesday.
Several women, medics among them, immediately rushed into the ring to carry out emergency CPR, prompting the referee to repeatedly shout over his PA that they had to leave the ring.
Women are not only banned from competing in the sport, but are regarded as “ritually unclean”, so are not permitted to enter the sacred ring which is purified by Shinto priests with salt before bouts.
Footage of the incident, which was broadcast widely in Japan, showed a number of women hesitating on the fringes of the ring as the announcement was repeated before staying to assist.
Mr Tatami, who reportedly suffered from a stroke, was taken by emergency services to a nearby hospital where his condition was not thought to be life-threatening.
Meanwhile, sumo officials threw large quantities of salt into the ring after the women had left, in an apparent bid to “re-purify” the sacred space, according to witnesses cited in local media.
Nobuyoshi Hokutoumi, chairman of the Japan Sumo Association, later apologised for the incident and thanked the women for their quick-thinking actions in helping Mr Tatami.
“It was an inappropriate response in a life-threatening situation,” he said. “I deeply apologise.”
The incident sparked a an outpouring of criticism in Japan, a nation increasingly thrown into the global spotlight due to a deeply entrenched gender inequality.
“I think it is all right for women to get on the ring when there is a reason to do so,” said Taro Arai, a respected sumo wrestling journalist. “There is no historical ground or reason at all why they cannot.”
Social media was also flooded with comments criticising the incident, with once Japanese Twitter user writing: “If tradition is more cherished than a person on the verge of death who is in front of you, the sumo association should collapse.”
Another user said: “So women are unclean? The sumo association should go under. This is so stupid.”
The news came in a week when Japan’s sexist culture was already under scrutiny. Just a day earlier, another scandal emerged involving a Japanese childcare worker who was reprimanded by her boss for becoming pregnant before it was her “turn”.
Female staff at the nursery were reportedly given an unofficial schedule detailing when they could get married and have children based on seniority, a practice that some commentators said was not uncommon in Japan.
The latest incident is not only likely to dent Japan’s reputation in terms of gender inequality but will also be damaging for the rituals-steeped world of sumo.
The national sport, which dates back 2,000 years, has been struggling to restore its reputation following a string of scandals in recent years, from illegal betting and bout-fixing to bullying and physical abuse.
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/05/sumo-association-apologises-female-medics-spark-sexist-row/