Mayor dies after 'unclean' woman doctor refused entry to sumo ring

Mayor dies after 'unclean' woman doctor refused entry to sumo ring

Mayor dies after 'unclean' woman doctor refused entry to sumo ring

But then a voice came over the loudspeakers ordering them away from the scene - not because they didn't know what they were doing, but because they were women.

Two female medics immediately rushed to give first aid, but when two more women tried to join, a sumo referee said, "Ladies, please get off the ring". Several women stepped up into the ring and performed first aid including cardiac massage until an ambulance crew arrived.

The Japan Sumo Association subsequently issued an apology.

Tradition forbids women from entering the ring on the grounds that it is sacred and their presence, considered "unclean", would pollute it.

"The judge was upset and made the announcement, but it was an inappropriate response because the situation could have been life-threatening", Hakkaku said in the statement. The incident can be seen in this video; the voice on the recording is a match judge telling the women over and over again to leave the ring.

In a statement, Hakkaku said the announcement was made by an official who panicked after seeing the women in the ring, but did not mention the age-old tradition.

Ms Miwa said mayor Ryozo Tatami had been hospitalised and was in a stable condition.

Meanwhile, sumo officials threw large quantities of salt into the ring after the women had left, in an apparent bid to "re-purify" the sacred space, according to witnesses cited in local media.

Sumo's male-only tradition has caused controversy in the past, with even top female politicians being prohibited from honoring sumo wrestlers.

Sumo wrestling is one of Japan's most popular sports and it's deeply embedded in Shinto religious principles.

Former Osaka governor Fusae Ota, who was Japan's first female prefectural leader, was turned down for five years from 2000 to 2004 when she asked the association to allow her into the ring to present the trophy to the champion wrestler.

The incident comes at a hard time for sumo in Japan.

Sumo traces its origins back 2,000 years to a time when it was an integral part of Shintoism.

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