The world of sumo is unsurprisingly a very traditional one. Wrestlers are expected to know their place in the sports strict hierarchy, and personal conduct is of the utmost importance.
Yet one sumo tradition that doesn’t always go down too well is that women are not allowed onto the dohyo (wrestling ring). Even during an award ceremony.
With sumo’s links to Shinto, the dohyo is considered sacred. Meaning wrestlers must throw salt onto the ring as an act of purification before they enter. And the problem this holds for women is that due to the bleeding associated with menstruation and childbirth, they are considered unclean.
But this being the 21st Century, such blatant discrimination is understandably frowned upon. Yet for sumo fans, the issue is far from clear-cut. Professor Yoshihiro Oinuma of Tokai University, polled 165 visitors about the problem at the 2004 November tournament. Of the respondents, 52% said they believed women should be allowed onto the dohyo during the award ceremony, whilst the remaining 48% disagreed.
In regards to the ban in general, 62% of fans felt that it should be maintained, whilst 52% said the issue should only be decided by sumo association officials. And in a grand gesture of indecisiveness, coupled with a large dollop of ambiguity, 75% said that generally speaking, they wanted to maintain groups that try to keep their own traditions.
Sumo stable master Takasago said, “I don’t think the results of the poll alone show a decisive trend.”
I think he may be right.
But judging by the picture below, perhaps those sticklers to tradition have a point after all.