From Cambodia to Japan

A Cambodian Student Looks at Life in Two Different Worlds

Sumo and Discrimination

I read a short but interesting article about Sumo(相撲), a traditional style of wrestling in Japan, in the February issue of the Nihongo Journal yesterday. It gives a brief insight into the present day aspect of Sumo. For example, it talks about how and when sumo championships are organized, the career as a sumo wrestler, the background of the current wrestlers ---Rikishi (力士)---their salaries compared to professional players of soccer and baseball, and past and present championship winners.

But one unpleasant fact I just learned from this article is that unlike other types of sports in Japan--K1, or Boxing, for example, where you usually see girls appear on the ring to announce the start of a new round-- women are not allowed to enter the sumo's ring. The main reason, according to the article, is attributed to the fact that sumo is closely intertwined with Shinto( 神道), a religion unique to Japan. Sumo is a sacred sport, and in the past, traditional male rikishi(力士) wrestled each other in order to please God. Meanwhile, Shintoism considers women as impure( for a reason I'm not going to mention here) and thus are not allowed into the competition's area, which is believed to be a sacred place.

Moreover, sumo championship is organized alternatively at various places in Japan, namely Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto and so on. Traditionally, on the final day of the competition, the top officer( usually the governor of the City) would be asked to present the championship cup to the winner in the ring. But, this is not possible in Osaka as the present governor is a woman, otherwise it will go against the sport's rule.

The article goes on to say that while there is outcry from critics over such age- old rule, there is no sign that it's going to change soon.

As for my personal opinion, I find it a little surprise that such outdated practice is still allowed to exist in a modern and advanced country like Japan. Admittedly, I'm not a big fan of this sport, but I'd still join the critics too. It's time to change the rule.

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3 Responses to “Sumo and Discrimination”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    hmm, i recognize feminism although there r things that need changes and things that don't.

    if u seek for fairness in salary or recruitment, i vote for a Yes. but i don't see the necessity of bringing girls into Sumo screen. what for? doing Sumo themselves? or raising commercial name-tags half-naked like on the K-1 or boxing ring?

    sometimes old and unique points r the things that attracts people and i don really see any Japanese girls complaint about that.

    anyway, there's a famous japanese comedy about such kind of discussion titled "shiko fun jatta". check it out! the movie supports ur point.


  2. # Blogger seserak

    Thanks for the comment.

    I got a comment with almost the same reasoning to yours in my Yahoo 360 blog.

    So let me just cut some parts of my previous response and paste it here:

    "Maybe I didn't make it clear in my post...

    "Tradition maybe practiced for the sake of tradition itself." That maybe true, to a certain extent. You may say the Royal Ploughing Ceremony is practiced for the sake of tradition itself. However, unlike sumo, there's no obvious discriminated rule that women are prohibited from entering the ploughing field. (I'm not saying our tradition is perfect or whatsover, I just want to give a comparative view)

    On the other hand, in the case of sumo, the tradition has a practical effect on women. A governor of Nagoya is able to present the award to the championship winner, while the governor of Osaka can't do that. And the reason? she's a woman.

    My question is: why can't they alter the rule? If, for example, the governor of Osaka city is allowed to enter the competition's ground to hand in the award to the winner, will it have any practical effect on the sport? Will God rage against the change and distroy the whole sumo competition as a punishment? Not likely.

    In my opinion, tradition should be kept as long as it doesn't preserve injustice and bigotry.

    With the argument that it should be practiced for the sake of practice, one can say, for example, that the tradition that women should stay home and never go to school because it has been considered so for hundred of years should remain there forever.

    Of course, the issue here--that women should be allowed into the ring-- might not be as significant as the argument that women should have the right to vote. But for whatever small it is, it shares one characteristic with the bigger issue---that women are considered second class citizens."  

  3. # Blogger Wanna

    Nice article you have here!
    Anyways, still curious how the wrestlers earn a living after they go retired?? I find that their body form is too uglily fat which cause difficulty in daily life. And it's too hard to reform their body to a normal one after the retirement or when they get old.  

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