Maizuru Mayor Ryozo Tatami speaks at a press conference in Maizuru, western Japan Thursday, June 28, 2018. (Kyodo News via AP)

Japan mayor saved by nurse says female sumo ban irrelevant

Maizuru Mayor Ryozo Tatami suffered a stroke at a sumo wrestling event and was given first aid by a female nurse who entered the male-only ring.

A Japanese mayor who suffered a stroke at a sumo event and was given first aid by a female nurse who entered the male-only ring has said the sport’s ancient ban on women is outdated.

Ryozo Tatami, the mayor of Maizuru city in northern Kyoto, resumed work Thursday after recovering from the stroke he suffered in April while making a speech in the ring, or “dohyo.” Sumo officials repeatedly demanded that the nurse leave the ring, triggering public criticism of the female ban.

Tatami said the ban is outdated, especially in life-threatening situations.

“Even though sumo has a long history and traditions, its female ban policy is irrelevant today,” Tatami told a news conference on his first day back at work. He was earlier presented with a bouquet as city employees welcomed his return.

“At least in situations requiring first aid, male or female should not matter. Anyone should be allowed to help out,” he said.

When Tatami, 67, collapsed on the dohyo, two women in the audience, including one later identified as nurse, rushed in and started performing first aid as sumo officials looked on helplessly. When two more women entered the dohyo trying to join the effort, a sumo official repeatedly made an announcement demanding that the women get out of the ring.

In male-only sumo, women are considered ritually unclean and are banned from the dohyo, which is considered sacred. Tatami’s case has prompted sumo officials review the policy. Some female mayors also demanded that the sumo association treat them the same as their male counterparts at sumo events.

The head of the sumo association has acknowledged that the announcement at the Kyoto event was inappropriate, but said women can only enter the dohyo in an “emergency.”

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Related: Strong earthquake in Japan kills 3

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Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press

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