Sumo Beyond Stereotypes

Spotlight / Shoot Spotlight
Trevor Williams
Masaaki Kobayashi
Aug 26, 2023
Gender discrimination in Sumo wrestling has been a controversial issue in Japan for years. Traditionally a male‑only sport, women are not allowed to compete in Sumo professionally or even enter the ring. In 2018, a referee ordered female paramedics to leave the Sumo ring when they were attempting to perform first aid on a man who had collapsed, citing this long‑standing ban. This incident sparked a nationwide debate and calls for reform, resulting in some action from the Sumo Association. Still, the ban on women entering the Sumo ring remains in place to this day.

Sumo, however, is a global sport and more inclusive in other parts of the world. While brainstorming shoot ideas with contributor Trevor Williams, he mentioned having access to a Sumo gym in his hometown of Okayama prefecture. At first, I had doubts about Sumo being too niche and gender‑restrictive, but to my surprise, there were a few girls at the gym. Knowing females would be involved opened the shoot up to evolving stereotypes and highlighted the importance of inclusion and diversity in sports. I could see how this could be both an authentic and conceptual shoot that would be incredibly unique in the commercial marketplace.

The actual shooting location had beautiful light and a subtle color palette, so the rest easily fell into place. I loved watching and capturing the boys' and girls' passion and love for Sumo. Their real expressions and emotions conveyed concepts like individuality, discipline, respect, perseverance, strength, and honor.

Consumers are always searching for fresh sports imagery to communicate their messages, and this shoot celebrates a truly inclusive cast and an incredibly unique story.
Family Travel With Teens