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Japan Sumo Association bans girls from prohibiting in practice event as controversy continues

Stance that the sanctity of the sumo ring is tarnished by female presence extends all the way down to elementary school-age kids.

It’s been less than 10 days since a controversy erupted as women were asked to leave the ring at a sumo exhibition in Kyoto where the attending male mayor had collapsed. Now the Japan Sumo Association is once again under a critical spotlight as it asserts that the ring’s sacred purity will be contaminated by the presence of even grade school-age females.

As part of its regional spring exhibition tour (which included the above-mentioned event in Kyoto), a sumo exhibition was held in Shizuoka Prefecture on April 8. This was the sixth iteration of the annual event, and as part of the festivities, elementary school-age children from local youth sumo clubs are allowed to step into the ring (called the “dohyo” in Japanese) for a training session with top-tier professional sumo wrestlers. For the last three years, the kid contingent has included girls as well as boys (there are no records indicating whether or not girls participated in the event in 2013 and 2014).

▼ A photo from a previous iteration of the event

This year, five girls, two from Shizuoka City and three from the town of Yaizu (also in Shizuoka Prefecture) were to part of the training session, dubbed “Chibikko Sumo” (“Little Tykes Sumo”). However, a few days prior to the event, the local organizers received a phone call from retired sumo wrestler Daisuke Araiso (who competed under the ring name Tamaasuka). Araiso now serves as the national Japan Sumo Association’s director for Shizuoka Prefecture, and he called to tell the local organizers that the Japan Sumo Association did not want girls to participate in the Chibikko Sumo portion of the Shizuoka event.

Oh, and the exact date Araiso placed the call? April 4, the very same day of the incident in Kyoto, though it’s not known whether Araiso was aware of the mayor’s collapse at the time of the call.

So in the end, all 20 of the kids who took part in the Chibikko Sumo program were boys.

The prohibition against women entering the dohyo has its roots in ancient Shinto beliefs, and to this day sumo retains strong ties to religious ceremony. However, even to many Japanese people, this is a case of clinging too tightly to traditions, as evidenced by online reactions including:

“Utterly idiotic.”
“This is just cruel.”
“With the timing, it’s hard to see this as anything but rubbing it in women’s faces.”
“The Japan Sumo Association is worthless.”
“This isn’t going to do the sport any favors in the image department.”

If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s the fact that despite the Japan Sumo Association’s hard-line stance, not everyone involved in the sport feels like women need to be kept out of the ring, especially in the case of little girls. As evidenced by the inclusion of girls in the Shizuoka event the last three years, there are coaches willing to train girls in sumo, and organizations who want them to have a chance to compete. “I wanted the girls to be able to enter the dohyo, at least for a regional tour event,” lamented the coach of the Yaizu sumo club, and hopefully they’ll get the chance someday, even without the Japan Sumo Association’s blessing.

Sources: Tokyo Shimbun, Twitter/@taketake1w via Otakomu
Featured image: Twitter/@taketake1w
Top image ©SoraNews24

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Controversy as announcer asks “ladies” to leave sumo ring after elderly man collapses inside it

Video of the incident has critics saying sumo’s belief about women’s inherent impurities goes too far.

With a history that stretches back centuries, sumo is a sport steeped not only in tradition, but in religious significance as well. The raised sumo ring, called a dohyo, is considered sacred, and the practice of sumo wrestlers tossing salt across it is said to act as a further purification.

Because of orthodox Shinto beliefs regarding women as impure in certain ways, women are forbidden from entering the sumo ring, but a recent incident in Kyoto Prefecture’s Maizuru City has many saying that an exception should be made in situations of life and death.

On the afternoon of April 4, a regional sumo exhibition was being held in the Maizuru Culture Park Gymnasium. After yokozuna grand champions Kakuryu and Hakuho made their entrances, Maizuru mayor Ryozo Tatami stepped into the ring to welcome the crowd. However, during his speech the 67-year-old Tatami suddenly lost consciousness and collapsed.

A crowd quickly gathered around Tatami, with one woman promptly administering a heart massage to try to bring the mayor back to consciousness. Then, at the 38-second mark of the video above, two more women can be seen stepping up into the ring, ostensibly hoping to offer some sort of assistance.

Seconds later, though, an announcer’s voice can be heard through the PA system, saying “Josei no kata ha dohyo kara orite kudasai,” or “Ladies, please exit the sumo ring.” The announcement is immediately repeated, and when the two women remain in the ring, the announcer says it a third time, adding “Gentlemen, also, please exit the ring.”

The initial specification that “ladies” should exit the platform has drawn angry criticism from online commenters in Japan, whose reactions after watching the video included:

“So if the paramedics on-scene were women, were they just supposed to leave him to die?”
“Putting the sanctity of the ring ahead of a person’s life. Sumo is supposed to be religious, but do they think the gods will be happy with this sort of behavior?”
“No matter what the circumstances, saving a person’s life should come first.”

In the announcer’s defense, his announcement may not have been entirely prompted by a desire to protect the dohyo from female impurity. At the beginning of the video, several men can be seen in the ring, but they’re dressed in traditional garb or suits, or are wearing ID cards around their necks or armbands on their sleeves, denoting their status as event staff or administrators who, one would think, are trained and obligated to respond to health emergencies during the exhibition. At 0:13, a woman in casual clothing steps into the ring to begin massaging Tatami’s chest, and at 0:21 another woman also ascends into the dohyo to assist. Both appear to know what they’re doing, with the decisive movements of the first woman in particular suggesting that she’s a trained medical professional, and neither is immediately told to leave.

Two more women step onto the dohyo at 0:43, and the announcer makes his first request for “ladies” to leave the ring at 0:45. However, this is also the same moment that a man dressed in a kimono (again, likely an event administrator) arrives at the dohyo with a defibrillator, with a team of either security or medical personnel following close behind.

Because of this, it’s possible that the announcement for “ladies” to leave the ring is specifically referring to the second pair of women, who were standing about on the platform after stepping up onto it. From their attire, they appear to be spectators, not staff, and it could be that the announcer wants them to leave not because they’re women, but because he wants them to give the trained professionals space to do their jobs. As for the tacked-on request for “gentlemen” to also leave, after the second pair of women step into the ring, a man casually dressed in a plaid shirt also enters the ring, and it’s clearly his presence the announcer is saying is unwanted, as opposed to each and every man in the dohyo.

Nevertheless, Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hakkaku (born Nobuyoshi Hoshi) has deemed the announcer’s actions reprehensible, issuing the following statement of apology on the day of the incident:

“Today, during an exhibition at Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, Mayor Ryozo Tatai collapsed. We are praying for his speedy recovery.

We wish to express our deep gratitude to the women who promptly administered first aid measures. During their administration, the referee in charge of announcements repeatedly said ‘Ladies, please leave the ring.’ The referee was agitated, but nonetheless his actions were inappropriate in a life-or-death situation, and we deeply apologize.”

As for Tatami, he was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he regained consciousness and is no longer in any danger, though physicians plan a full medical examination to determine the cause of his collapse. Meanwhile, regardless of the motivation for the announcements made during the incident, Japanese people at large seem to believe that when someone’s life is on the line, a woman stepping into the dohyo doesn’t mean she’s trampling on sumo’s traditions.

Sources: YouTube/とろんぼーん, Nikkan Sports, Yahoo Japan News/Kyoto Shimbun via Jin, Sports Hochi
Images: YouTube/とろんぼーん

Beautiful Go master from Taiwan wins Internet’s heart competing in top-tier tournaments【Pics】

That’s not a spokemodel holding the prize check.

In March, Japan’s Nihon Ki-in organization, which oversees professional and amateur Go competitions, held the inaugural Senko Cup, and international tournament for female Go players. Among those in attendance were a Taiwanese seventh dan-ranked player who goes by the anglicized name Joanne Missingham, who dazzled spectators for multiple reasons.

Instagram Photo

First and foremost was her talented play. While she didn’t walk away with the championship, Missingham’s performance was strong enough to secure second place, which came with a prize of three million yen (US$28,000).

Instagram Photo

Then there’s the fact that Missingham is just 23 years old and already a force to be reckoned with in a game where most enthusiasts are decades older than her.

Instagram Photo

And finally, it’s hard not to notice that Missingham is remarkably beautiful, particularly since Go doesn’t ordinarily have a glamorous or fashionable image.

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

Missingham was born in Australia, but her family moved to Taiwan when she was 4. It was there that she began playing Go, and she kept up the hobby even after moving again to the U.S. at the age of 11. When Missingham was 15, she did her first stint studying the game in Beijing, and in the years since she’s competed in multiple international competitions.

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

Photogenic as she may be, Missingham is undeniably more than just a pretty face. Even when she was still in her teens, she was already an accomplished public speaker, as shown in the 2012 video below (with selectable English subtitles) where she gives her own TED Talk.

Though she’s achieved fame and success from playing essentially a board game, Missingham doesn’t lead a sedentary lifestyle. Aside from Go, her hobbies and talents include swimming, yoga, snowboarding, and playing the piano and pipa (a traditional Chinese stringed instrument).

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

She also appears to have an active social life, and hasn’t let the pressures of competing at Go’s highest levels prevent her from having some silly fun when the opportunity presents itself.

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

And best of all, Missingham still being in her early 20s means she’s still got a long Go career ahead of her.

Related: Joanne Missingham Facebook, Instagram
Sources: Seed Music, Focus Taiwan
Featured image: Instagram/jiajia94526

Here’s the oldest recipe for Japanese curry in existence, and how it tastes【SoraKitchen】

SoraNews24 goes back to the kitchen to go back in time as we taste-test the first written record of how to make curry in Japan.

Curry has become such a ubiquitous part of the Japanese diet that should you walk down a random street in Tokyo, you’re as likely to find a curry joint as you are a sushi or soba restaurant. That popularity has led to modern innovations such as matcha green tea and Attack on Titan curries, both of which we’ve happily eaten.

But today, instead of looking towards the future of Japanese curry, we’re turning our eyes to the past by making Japan’s oldest curry.

As popular as curry is in Japan now, it was entirely unknown until about 150 years ago. When Japan’s years of feudal-government isolationism ended in the late 19th century, it opened up the country not only to foreign science and technology, but foreign food as well.

Curry came to Japan through British sailors, who’d already made the originally Indian dish a staple of their at-sea cuisine. In 1872, the Japanese-language cookbook Western Cooking Michimasa-Second Volume was published, containing 110 recipes for the exotic meals and desserts eaten by foreigners who came to Japan.

Back here in 2018, we recently attended the Tokyo International Antiquarian Book Fair, where we got to look through a copy of the Meiji-period cookbook, which contained entries for:

● Curried Beef or Muten – Powder Sprinkled on Beer Technique
● Explanation of Curried Weel or Fowl Curry Bird Meat Cooked with Curry Powder

After a few moments deciphering the pre-standardized renderings of English loanwords (in modern Japanese, “curry” is written/pronounced カレー/karee, but the cookbook’s text has “curried” as コリード/koriido, for example), we realized we were looking at the two oldest recorded curry recipes in Japanese history, one for beef or mutton and the other for chicken. So we jotted down some notes and headed to the SoraKitchen to cook, and eat, a bit of history.

Since the curry beef/mutton recipe was listed first in the book, we figured it has seniority on the chicken version, so that’s what we decided to make.

Ingredients (as listed in cookbook):
● Meat trimmings
● Spring onions (2)
● Bottor (4.5 loaves)
● Curry powder (1 shitoruto spoon)
● Flower (1 shitoruto spoon)
● Salt (a measure)
● Water or meat drippings

Ingredients we used:
● Beef (200 grams [7.1 ounces])
● Spring onions (2)
● Butter (150 grams [5.3 ounces])
● Curry powder (1 tablespoon)
● Flour (1 tablespoon)
● Salt (1 pinch)
● Water (150 milliliters [5.1 ounces])

Our entire staff was unable to figure out what a “shitoruto spoon” is or was, so we decided to use a tablespoon, under the logic that a teaspoon wouldn’t be enough curry powder to impart enough flavor. Should we ever build a time machine at some point in the future, we’ll be sure to go back and ask the book’s authors what they meant, then come back to the present and update the recipe seen in this article (but since that hasn’t happened yet, you can either assume time travel remains impossible or that we got distracted by something in the past, probably being able to meet real-life ninja).

With our ingredients assembled, it was time to look over the cookbook’s directions.

Directions (as listed in cookbook):
1. Thinly slice the spring onions. Place them in a pot along with the bottor, and sauté until gray in color.
2. Mix the shitoruto spoon of curry with the shitoruto of flour and salt, then add the mixture to the gray spring onions.
3. Thinly slice the meat and place it in the pot. Mix it with the ingredients already there while cooking over a weak flame for 10 minyutes. Add the water or drippings, let simmer on a weak flame for half an hour.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, we’re going to assume that “cook the onions and butter until they’re gray” was either something that got lost in translation from the original British chef’s explanation, or maybe just an odd quirk of historical descriptions of color (maybe “gray-colored onions and butter” is just the cookbook author’s version of Greek poet Homer’s “wine-dark sea”). In any case, we’re not sure we’re talented/terrible enough cooks to get butter to turn gray anyway, so we made a slight change to that part of the recipe, but otherwise stuck to the cookbook’s plan, using a deep frying pan since it was large enough to hold our modestly-sized edible endeavor.

Directions we used:
1. Slice onions, sauté with butter until golden

2. Mix curry powder, flour, and salt. Add mixture to onions and butter.

3. Thinly slice beef and add to mixture. Sauté on low heat for 10 minutes.

4. Add water, let simmer for 30 minutes.

When our curry was done, we poured it onto a plate with white rice occupying the other half, as is the Japanese serving style, and it actually looked pretty tasty, if you’ll forgive us for tooting our own horn.

Begging for forgiveness is a surprisingly common occurrence for us.

Honestly, it didn’t look significantly different from modern curry. As for the taste…

…that’s a different story. For starters, this old-school curry is much saltier than what you’ll find in contemporary Japan. There’s also a bit of bitterness, which we attribute to the onions getting slightly scorched when we tossed the curry powder and flour into the pan. Finally, there wasn’t a trace of the kid-pleasing sweetness found in modern Japanese curries.

Both of those might be problems that you could probably overcome, though. Being extra-slow and cautious when adding in the curry and flour should help prevent singing, and as for the saltiness, we’re guessing that perhaps the 19th-century British navy didn’t use salted butter like the kind we had in our 21st-century fridge, and an unsalted variety should improve the flavor balance quite a bit.

Still, Japan’s oldest curry has a unique charm all its own, and with the adjustments we mentioned, could be even better. As for the fact that we didn’t think to do those in the first place, we guess that’s just one more piece of evidence that the SoraNews24 of the future still hasn’t sorted out time travel.

Related: Tokyo International Antiquarian Book Fair
Photos ©SoraNews24

New survey shows Japan to be deeply divided among blue and red prefectures

A difference in a fundamental way of thinking threatens to tear Japan apart at the seams.

There is a cultural war brewing in this great nation. Although not a secret, it has gone largely unspoken for years — perhaps in the hope that it will just blow over. But a new survey by J-Town shows that Japan is divided like never before between red and blue prefectures.

Of course as we all well know, “blue prefectures” are those who use blue-colored gas cans whereas “red prefectures” are those who use red-colored gas cans. The results were gathered by J-Town when they asked over 1,000 people across the country “What color is a kerosene polytank?”

“Polytank” is the Japanese word for plastic “polyethylene tanks” which are a modern derivative of the metal “jerrycans” created by German soldiers during WWII to carry extra supplies of fuel.

▼ Jerrycans got their name for the term “Jerry,” used for German soldiers


According to the chart posted above, the usage of blue cans is almost exclusively in western Japan, whereas people in eastern Japan identify with red cans. While it might look like the majority favors blue by land area, when factoring the population densities of each area, red polytanks are in the minds of 60 percent of Japanese people, nearly doubling the 33.3 percent who put their kerosene in blue containers.

▼ Other surveys have led to similar results.

Alarming news to be sure, but in an effort to help bridge this ideological rift, we must first try to understand how it got to be this way.

Various sources online seem to suggest that people in eastern Japan think red is the ideal color because it conveys the sense of danger that the flammable contents possess.

On the other hand, the prevailing theory is that people in the west — often characterized by the traditional merchant culture of Osaka and Kobe — chose blue simply because it is cheaper to produce and thus can be sold at a more competitive price. Having lived in Osaka quite a while myself, I can attest that the spendthrift stereotype of its people is not entirely unfounded, but still this theory seems very fishy.

Slapping on a fake mustache and monocle, I went undercover as a potential buyer of polyethylene to the websites of various wholesalers of “masterbatch,” which is the name given to the coloring additives to plastics. Everywhere I went, the color seemed to have nothing to do with the price which instead hinged more on the pigment’s ability to evenly dye the plastic.

That doesn’t completely rule out the “cheap blue plastic” theory, however. It’s still possible that this is a lingering relic of bygone days of manufacturing, or perhaps some masterbatch dealer in Japan was looking to offload a surplus or blue… possibly due to a lull in Doraemon merchandise production.

▼ That cat’s been around a while and even
it can’t keep the same pace forever.

Kyosuke Yoshimatsu of the website Miteco attempted to understand this peculiar trend as well. Yoshimatsu is stationed in Shizuoka Prefecture which falls along the demarcation line defined by a 2013 TV show to be National Highway 19. It is here, on the front line, where the battle for people’s minds is currently being waged.

In this nexus of the nation you can find both blue and red polytanks side-by-side, although the ratio of each can vary widely from store to store. Here, some manufacturers are also trying to defuse the situation by offering a rainbow of colors to choose from.

Unsatisfied with the “cheap west” urban legend too, Yoshimatsu decided to go straight to the source and ask the makers of polytanks what the deal was. However, when pressed to explain they had little more insight other than blue sells well in the west and red sells well in the east. As for the reason, they simply said, “We don’t really know.”

And so, with the mystery of why western Japan uses blue kerosene containers unsolved, the prospects of finding mutual understanding are bleak. This means that we currently stand on the brink of a full-scale civil war over the matter.

▼ Some still hold out hope that a compromise can be reached.

In this case despite being outnumbered, should push come to shove, blue Japan luckily has an ideological ally in the USA which also uses blue containers for kerosene. There, industry standards dictate that gasoline be kept in red tanks and kerosene in blue so that the two don’t get confused. This isn’t a problem in Japan though, because it’s illegal to keep gasoline in any plastic container here.

It is sure to be a bloody and prolonged battle, but necessary in the long run so that the nation can truly come together as one and begin to tackle the more serious issues, like the proper nickname for McDonald’s or which side of the escalator is for standing.

Source: J-Town, Miteco, Touzai-Bunka, Matome Naver
Top image: Photo AC