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Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 06:58 GMT
Sumo excludes woman governor
Sumo wrestlers
The sumo association says women do not belong in the ring
By Juliet Hindell in Tokyo

Japan's first woman governor has conceded her first defeat in the battle against institutionalised sexism in the sumo wrestling ring.

Fusae Ota was elected governor of Osaka last month and had asked to present a prize at the forthcoming sumo wrestling tournament in the city.

But the Japanese Sumo Association refused, saying it was the sport's tradition not to allow women into the ring.


Fusae Ota
Fusae Ota: Japan's first woman governor
There is little in Japan which is more male-dominated than the ancient sport of sumo wrestling.

Huge male wrestlers wearing nothing but loin cloths are pitted against each other in a ring.

The sport is ruled by traditions, based on Japan's native Shinto religion.

One rule bars women from entering the ring - not because they are too weak to fight against the wrestlers, but because they are considered unclean and would contaminate this sacred space.

Tradition

Japanese politics is almost as male-dominated as sumo, but women are making in-roads.

Fusae Ota last month was elected as governor of Osaka, the first woman ever to take such a post in Japan.

Tradition also dictates that the governor presents a prize at the annual sumo tournament in Osaka - except, that is, if the governor is a woman.

So Miss Ota has found herself in a battle with the Japanese Sumo Association, which controls everything to do with the sport.

The association refused Miss Ota's request to present the prize, citing a long history and tradition which could not be changed overnight.

The tournament starts on 12 March and, despite public opinion polls which show the majority of Japanese support the governor, the Sumo Association was unmoved.

Miss Ota has now accepted defeat and will send a representative to present the prize.

But she said she hoped the Sumo Association would reconsider before the next bout is held in Osaka next year.

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See also:

09 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Politician challenges sumo tradition
21 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Governor resigns over harassment claim
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