Sumo's Rigid Ways: People Choose Traditions Over Someone’s Life

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao
Apr 06, 2018 07:49 IST
Sumo's Rigid Ways

During a recent Sumo Wrestling incident, women were forced to exit Dohyo, showcases how Japan is still trapped in misogynist traditions. As reported by NHK World, Maizuru City Mayor Ryozo Tatami collapsed while making a speech in the sumo ring or Dohyo on Wednesday. Several women, including one doctor, present at the venue entered the ring to help save the mayor’s life by giving him CPR. But a referee forced them to step out, as sumo wrestling traditionally forbids women from entering the ring.


Women's presence is considered "unclean", and can pollute the “sacred space”. The tag of impurity hounds women across countries and prohibits them from entering sacred spaces. That such a thing could happen to women trying to save someone’s life shows how for some, preservation of conservative beliefs is bigger than someone’s life.

You should know where the society is headed when people choose traditions over someone’s life

The Japan Sumo Association has apologised for this sexist behaviour, but such misogyny is not uncommon, especially when it comes to sumo wrestling.

Many cultures and traditions reduce women to nothing more than a sign of temptation, an impurity (mostly due to menstruation) and weakness. Men have conveniently adapted traditions which may help them adapt according to the modern world. But they still push women away from equality using age-old notions.

I don’t think many Japanese women could care less for stepping into a wrestling ring slippery from sweaty sumo bodies. But if the time calls for them to step in to help someone in need, or to hand over a prize, courtesy their political position, then forcing them to step out is indeed sexism.

What conservative minds from countries like Japan and India forget is that culture is always evolving, according to changes in our lifestyles and the world around us.

So, if women have meekly accepted the prohibition from entering a Dohyo till now, they may not do so in future.

Women are and will continue to fight for equal rights. They will continue to fight against traditions which brand them impure. The fact that Sumo Wrestling Board apologised for this incident shows that times are changing. People realise how sexist and unreasonable these traditions are.

But we cannot forget that a match referee managed to force women out of the Dohyo, while everyone else sat and watched in silence. No one got up to take a stand for these women, who were trying to save someone’s life. Not one from authority intervened amidst this interaction. Which means that the association’s apology stems from introspection and backlash it has faced. The apology would mean nothing, if it does not kindle a change in these traditions. We can only wait and watch how the Japanese society makes changes to its traditions, to become more inclusive, in the aftermath of this controversy.

Also Read : Japanese Island Which Bans Women Is A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own

#Sumo-wrestling #Ryozo Tatami #Misogyny in Japan #Maizuru City Mayor #Japan