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Elementary School Girls Compete in Japan’s National Sumo Competition for the First Time

“It’s not only boys who can practice or enjoy sumo.”
Japon tokyo sumo Ryoguku Kokugikan wanpaku
The ring where Wanpaku national competitions are held was historically only for boys. Image by Yves Picq via WikiCommons

Japan’s sumo kids are regular fixtures on the media. Many are enamoured by the young athletes who have been featured for their intense matches and commended for their early start to professional wrestling. For the most part, though, only boys have been recognised nationally--that is until now.

On Aug. 25, the Wanpaku national championship held a competition solely for elementary school girls, the first of its kind according to The Japan Times. Prior to this event, girls who won in regional competitions were not allowed to compete in the ring (called a dohyo) at Ryoguku Kokugikan, the official venue for the Wanpaku finals located in Tokyo.


One hundred eighty girls from across the country took part in the one-day competition. The traditions of sumo-wrestling were upheld: all girls wore the same uniform and event staff monitored the ring throughout.

“It’s not only boys who can practice or enjoy sumo,” 10-year-old winner Ria Ishibashi told The Japan Times. “There are girls who like sumo, too.”

Shika Shimabukoro came in first place for the sixth-grade division, Ria took home the top prize for the fifth-grade division, while Chiaki Kajiwara won under the fourth-grade division.

The Wanpaku organisation runs competitions for elementary school-aged kids all over Japan throughout the year and culminates with a national final every summer. The competitions have been held for 35 years. The rules for kid sumo wrestlers are similar to those for adults, with the exception of a few additional ones added for the children’s safety.

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