Japanese sumo officials yesterday opted to postpone a decision on overturning the sport’s “men-only” policy following allegations of deep-rooted sexism.
Plagued by scandal, sumo was plunged into further controversy earlier this month after a comedy of public relations errors by the Japan Sumo Association that were almost universally slammed as sexist.
The association was forced to apologize after women who rushed to the aid of a local mayor who had collapsed during a speech at a regional event were repeatedly told to leave a sumo ring.
Just days after that incident triggered unwanted headlines, a female mayor from Takarazuka was barred from delivering a speech inside the ring.
It was then further criticized after trying to prevent girls from participating in a children’s sumo event in Shizuoka Prefecture, citing “safety concerns.”
In an attempt to arrest the latest public relations disaster to hit the sport, officials met on yesterday, but failed to reach a decision on reversing the men-only rule.
“[This policy] has continued for hundreds of years,” sumo gym chief Oguruma told local media following the hour-long meeting. “We can’t change it in an hour.”
Sumo dates back about 2,000 years and retains many Shinto religious overtones.
Its dirt rings, known as dohyo, are viewed as sacred in the Japanese Shinto faith and women — considered to be ritually unclean — are not allowed to enter for fear of desecrating the hallowed soil.
Association director Toshio Takano called for more time to bring change.
“We are talking about an extremely difficult issue,” he said. “Therefore we need to take our time over it.”
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