Wednesday March 20, 2019
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Sumo in Uproar as Women First Responders Ordered Out of Ring

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Japanese grand sumo champion Yokozuna Kisenosato performs the New Year's ring-entering rite at the annual celebration for the New Year at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan January 9, 2018. VOA

The head of Japan’s sumo association has apologized over an incident in which women first responders were asked to get out of the ring as they attempted to revive an official who collapsed.

In sumo’s tradition, the ring is considered sacred and women are prohibited from entering.

That posed a problem Wednesday when Ryozo Tatami, the 67-year-old mayor of Maizuru in northern Kyoto, collapsed during a ring-top speech. Two women, apparently medical experts, rushed in and started performing first aid as several male sumo officials surrounding the mayor looked on.

When two more women rose to the ring trying to join the first aid effort, announcements demanded the women get out of the ring.

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“Ladies, please get off the ring,” a sumo referee said, determinedly. “Only gentlemen go up.”

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Footage posted on social media triggered outrage, with many criticizing sumo officials and saying they were choosing tradition over life. Pixabay

Sumo chief Nobuyoshi Hakkaku called the announcement inappropriate and apologized late Wednesday while thanking the women for working to save the mayor.

In a statement, Hakkaku said the announcement was made by an official who panicked after seeing the women in the ring but never touched on the divisive tradition.

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“It was an inappropriate response in a life-threatening situation,” Hakkaku said.

The mayor, who had an acute cerebral hemorrhage, survived and was in stable condition Thursday after receiving emergency surgery at a hospital, city officials said.

The footage posted on YouTube was shown on major Japanese networks and other media as the news topped headlines Thursday.

“Of course it is important to protect tradition, but the way it excludes women perhaps is out of step with the times, and that’s how I feel as a woman,” said Yurika Mita, a newscaster on a Fuji Television Network talk show. “Without the women’s effort, the life of one person might have been lost.”

Sumo’s male-only tradition has raised controversy for decades, with even top women politicians barred from honoring winners in the ring. VOA

Next Story

Japan to Drop Explosive to Make Crater on Asteroid to Collect Samples from Inside

Hayabusa2 made history on Feb. 22 when it successfully touched down on the boulder-rich asteroid, where it also collected some surface fragments

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FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2019, file photo, this image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the shadow, center above, of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft after its successful touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu. VOA

Japan’s space agency said Monday that its Hayabusa2 spacecraft will follow up last month’s touchdown on a distant asteroid with another risky mission — to drop an explosive to make a crater and collect underground samples to get possible clues to the origin of the solar system.

Hayabusa2 made history on Feb. 22 when it successfully touched down on the boulder-rich asteroid, where it also collected some surface fragments.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Hayabusa2 is to drop a copper impactor the size of a baseball and weighing 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) on the asteroid on April 5 to collect samples from deeper underground where they had not been exposed to the sun or space rays.

The new mission will require an immediate evacuation of the spacecraft to the other side of the asteroid so it won’t get hit by flying shards from the blast, JAXA said. While moving away, Hayabusa2 will leave a camera to capture the outcome.

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JAXA has previously planned to have Hayabusa2 briefly touchdown in a crater, but an agency researcher, Takashi Kubota, said they may not force it to prioritize safety for the spacecraft. VOA

The mission will allow JAXA scientists to analyze details of a crater to find out the history of the asteroid, said Koji Wada, who is in charge of the project.

Hayabusa2 will start descending toward the asteroid the day before to carry out the mission from its home position of 20 kilometers (12 miles) above. It will drop a cone-shaped piece of equipment containing explosives that will blast off a copper plate on the bottom. It will turn into a ball and slam into the asteroid at the speed of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) per second.

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JAXA has previously planned to have Hayabusa2 briefly touchdown in a crater, but an agency researcher, Takashi Kubota, said they may not force it to prioritize safety for the spacecraft. Kubota said it would be the first time a spacecraft would take materials from underground a space object.

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter and about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) from Earth. (VOA)