The Japan Sumo Association will hold an extraordinary meeting of its board of directors on Saturday to discuss its long-standing policy of excluding women from the sumo ring, the governing body said Monday.
The meeting comes after the association faced heavy criticism following an incident in which a referee demanded female medics leave a venue’s competition area when they were providing emergency treatment to a local mayor who had collapsed and suffered a stroke.
“We can’t move forward unless we talk about it first. (The board) will discuss the matter flexibly from different perspectives,” the JSA’s public relations chief Shibatayama said of the meeting scheduled at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The dohyo (sumo ring) is regarded as sacred, and women have been banned from entering because they are considered “ritually unclean” in the male-only sport.
The incident, which took place during a spring tour in the city of Maizuru earlier this month, garnered worldwide attention and prompted JSA chairman Hakkaku to issue an apology, saying the referee made an “inappropriate response.”
In a separate event this month, a female mayor of a city in Hyogo Prefecture was barred from entering the ring to give a speech during a sumo exhibition.
Takarazuka Mayor Tomoko Nakagawa visited the JSA on Thursday and met with Shibatayama to ask for the policy to be tabled for discussion.