Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2000
With the nation's first female governor taking office in Osaka, an old question is re-emerging: Are women to remain banned from stepping into the sacred sumo ring?
Fusae Ota, who won the Osaka gubernatorial election Sunday, is taking aim at that glass ceiling with her eagerness to personally present -- in the ring -- Osaka Prefecture's championship cup to the winner of the annual spring sumo tournament, which is held in the city in March.
On Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki -- the minister in charge of gender equality policies -- said if Ota really hopes to be the trophy presenter, Nihon Sumo Kyokai, the sumo association, will probably make a decision on the matter after taking various viewpoints -- such as custom and tradition -- into consideration.
Aoki welcomed Ota's victory, saying it was a good start for women to participate actively in various fields, and added, "Generally speaking, I don't think gender discrimination is good regardless of whether it's in the world of sumo or judo."
Of course, Ota herself is well aware of the hurdle the matter presents. In the past, two female education ministers' aspirations to literally leave their footprints in the ring were turned down by the sumo association.
Steeped in tradition and arguably one of the nation's more conservative realms, Nihon Sumo Kyokai argued that no woman has ever stepped into the ring.
"I know sumo has its traditions," Ota said at a news conference Tuesday. "But as the first female governor, I want to put the question (to the sumo association) now because I think the association hopes to achieve further development of the national sport through the attraction of a wider following."