Women who attempted to save a man’s life when he suffered a stroke in a sumo ring in Japan were ordered from the ring as they were considered “ritually unclean”.
The 67-year-old mayor of Maizuru city, Ryozo Tatami, collapsed from a cerebral haemorrhage while making a speech at a sumo event in Kyoto on Wednesday afternoon.
As two women who were apparently medical experts rushed to treat him, the referee intervened.
“Ladies, please get off the ring,” he said. “Only gentlemen go up.”
The ring, or dohyo, is regarded as sacred in sumo wrestling and purified with rituals before bouts.
Salt was thrown into the ring to repurify it after the women left, according to local reports.
Mr Tatami’s condition is stable, according to city officials.
In recent months, controversies have plagued the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) which in February set up an external panel to question 900 members of the sport.
Sumo grand champion Harumafuji was forced into retirement last year after hitting a junior wrestler over the head with a karaoke machine remote while on a night out during a tour around Japan.
The sport’s highest-ranked referee, 58-year-old Shikimori Inosuke, resigned in January after sexually harassing a teenage referee by repeatedly kissing him and touching his chest while intoxicated during a regional tournament.
Wrestler Osunaarashi, 25, was disgraced in February when he collided with another car, while allegedly driving without a licence.
Yurika Mita, a newscaster on a Fuji Television Network talk show, commented on yesterday’s incident: “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.
“Without the women’s effort, the life of one person might have been lost,” she added.
Nobuyoshi Hokutoumi, the chairman of the JSA, issued an apology for the referee’s actions.
“In a situation that could have been life-threatening it was an inappropriate response,” said Mr Hokutoumi in a statement. “I am deeply sorry.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies