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HOME  > Past issues  > 2013 February 27 - March 5  > Glass ceiling over women’s promotion: judo journalist
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2013 February 27 - March 5 [ARTS AND SPORTS]

Glass ceiling over women’s promotion: judo journalist

February 27 and 28, 2013

The following are excerpts from an Akahata interview with judo journalist Kimura Hidekazu who reveals that women’s status remains low in Japan’s judo.

The All Japan Judo Federation (Zenjuren) has no women among the 23 directors on its Board of Directors as well as among the 57 members of its Board of Trustees.

Tsukuba University Associate Professor Yamaguchi Kaori is a pioneer of female judo athletes who has continued to make contributions to the promotion of the sport among women also after retirement. Zenjuren, however, has refused to give an important post to Yamaguchi because she has been vocal against the organization’s violent nature and backward system.

Park Yong-sung, the former president of the International Judo Federation (IJF), proposed during his tenure for the IJF to have more female officials and judges, and the number of female judges increased following the proposal. Zenjuren needs to take a similar initiative to invite women into its leadership.

At a press conference on February 5, Zenjuren Chairman Uemura Haruki said, “The reason why we do not have a female director is because the history of women’s judo is not long. There is no other reason than that.” However, there are many female judoists who have made great achievements during their days of competition and still taken active roles in the sport field.

When Zenjuren hosted a female coach seminar in June 2009, Tateno Chiyori, a female judo club coach at Tsukuba University (bronze medalist in the 1992 Olympics) stated that she felt that the atmosphere at Zenjuren committee meetings discourages women from speaking up. “It is difficult for female members to express their opinions in the committee,” she said.

Gender-based discrimination also exists in the system of promotion although things have significantly improved. Female judo athletes need to be over 27 years old to be promoted to the fifth rank, but men only need to be older than 20 years old to apply for the same rank. In order to receive the sixth rank, women are required to be over 33 and men to be over 27.
It is meaningless to set the age difference and require women to practice 6 or 7 years longer than men for promotion to the same ranks.

There are also different rules imposed in male and female judo matches. For instance, a male athlete would be called, “Kimura, the sixth rank,” but a female athlete would be introduced, “Yamaguchi Kaori, woman, the sixth rank.”

Zenjuren also requires women to wear a belt with a white line printed on its center while men do not have such a print on their belts. In the 1999 World Judo Championships in Birmingham, the IJF severely criticized this Japanese-oriented requirement, stating, “No matter if they are a man or a woman, doctors are doctors.”

Zenjuren officials at that time did not make any response to the criticism. Only after returning home, they issued an instruction requiring women to keep wearing belts with a white line printed on them.

Regarding this rule, Zenjuren has commented that it is not discrimination but differentiation. However, who would mistake a men’s match for a women’s match?

Past related article:
> Judo coach’s physical assault of female athletes is a warning to entire Japanese sporting world [January 31, 2013]
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