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集合日時：11月3日(祝) 09:20 （雨天順延 11月6日）
集合場所：洞川温泉 バス停 (当日はメディアの方にもきていただく予定)
Peak's spiritual tradition raises hackles
No women allowed on Japan's holy Mount Omine
Bruce Wallace, Los Angeles Times
Sunday, September 5, 2004
Mount Omine, Japan -- At 5 a.m. on a summer day already sticky with humidity, three dozen ascetic priests known as yamabushi -- "those who lie down in the mountains" -- have gathered at the foot of this mountain in western Japan to pray before climbing its sacred slopes.
Peaking at 5,640 feet, Mount Omine is far from the highest mountain in Japan. But the yamabushi who follow the Japanese religion of Shugendo and other pilgrims have been climbing it since the ninth century, drawn by a belief that the two-hour ascent up its rocky trails will help them touch the spiritual world above, while leaving their worldly concerns below.
And that means leaving women behind, as well.
Women are not welcome on Mount Omine. Never have been. For 1,300 years, only men have been allowed to huff and puff the rutted paths leading to the Buddhist temple at the top.
With a final clap to draw the attention of the mountain's spirit, the yamabushi pass without pause through the "Off Limits to Women Gate" that demarcates where the men-only turf begins.
The barrier is hardly imposing, little more than a stumpy marker forged from three old logs. But in a culture where conformity rules and few dare to cross its invisible lines, the gate is a psychological maze of barbed wire.
The ban's logic is rooted in sex. The yamabushi and, later, trainee Buddhist priests on the mountain, were supposed to be engaged in a test of strict self-denial -- at least until they came down to avail themselves of the numerous brothels awaiting them at the bottom. Women on the mountain would be a distraction.
"We still believe this, that the mountain is only for men," says Kosho Okada, a 34-year-old Buddhist monk who is deputy to the chief priest at the Ominesanji Temple that crowns the mountain. "We have been protecting this mountain for some time now, and we are going to defend its tradition."
The gender ban persists despite an 1872 Japanese government decree that struck down ancient conventions keeping women off many of the country's mountains -- including national icon Mount Fuji. Across the mountain-ripped Japanese landscape, only Mount Omine has ignored that order, its uniqueness nurtured by generations of like-minded monks and municipal officials who insist they are defending tradition, not discriminating against women.
The locals can now point to a 21st century endorsement of their views, from an unlikely source. This summer, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, declared the entire Mount Kii range -- which encompasses the men-only pocket of Mount Omine -- a World Heritage site.
The United Nations said the sacred sites and pilgrimage routes across the mountain range reflected Japan's fusion of Shinto and Buddhist spirituality, and that universal access was not a requirement for World Heritage status. The decision dismayed Japanese women's groups that had lobbied the Japanese government and the United Nations against enshrining what they see as discrimination on Mount Omine.
"UNESCO didn't even seem to think this was an issue," says Junko Minamoto, 57, of the Institute of Human Rights Studies at Kansai University. Minamoto said her interest in the mountain was stirred by her academic study of Buddhism, which alerted her to what she saw as the religion's enduring bias against women and its tenets requiring women to be obedient to men.
There is virtually no sign of sympathy for her crusade in Dorokawa, the one-street town at the base of Mount Omine, where local businesses are wondering whether the U.N. designation will usher in a tourist boom.
"This is a convention, a custom we have kept for 1,300 years, and we are happy the U.N. has decided to help us preserve and recognize it," says Genichi Masutani, head of the innkeepers' association in Tenkawa and the local official most identified with the push for World Heritage status.
Some women do occasionally sneak onto the mountain -- activist Minamoto walked unimpeded across the demarcation line along with seven other women one sunny October afternoon a few years ago. They took pictures to document their act of defiance and left without climbing to the top.
So the mountain is not just for Japanese men, then? Foreigners are welcome to climb?
"Of course," Masutani says, with a huge smile.
"If they are men," he says, laughing.
"Fine." He is laughing hard now. "Look, we've even had men on the mountain dressed as women. That's OK, too."
But no women?
The New York Times
March 26, 2000
Governor Butts Heads With Sumo Ban on Women
By CALVIN SIMS
OSAKA, Japan, -- In one of her first public acts as Japan's first woman governor, Fusae Ota, weight 97 pounds, was to enter the ring at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday and bestow prizes on competitors up to five times as hefty.
Every year since 1953, it has fallen to the governor of Japan's second-largest prefecture, a tough commercial region 250 miles southwest of Tokyo, to award the prizes at the spring sumo competition. But there has never been a woman governor before. And so, just a month after taking office, Ms. Ota found herself battling not just the sumo wrestlers' ban on women in their hallowed ring, but also the centuries of tradition that have accorded her sex a distinctly second-class place in Japanese politics.
Hundreds of years of custom dictate that women may not enter the dohyo, the 15-foot diameter ring of sandy clay in which the sumo wrestlers grapple. At first, Ms. Ota aggressively challenged the rule. Eventually, after a tense standoff with Akebono, the 500-pound heavyweight of sumo wrestling's governing body, she backed down, agreeing that her male deputy would present prizes in her place, but vowing to pursue the matter again next year.
For the advocates of equal opportunity, the affair was cause to ponder just how far Japanese women have come, despite Governor Ota's election victory -- after her male predecessor was forced to step aside over charges of sexually harassing a 21-year-old female campaign worker.
"We were all so elated over Governor Ota's victory, not only because she was the first woman, but also because she was the best qualified candidate for the job," said Kiyoko Yamanaka, a woman who is a member of the Osaka prefecture's legislature. "But this sumo confrontation was like being splashed with a bucket of cold water. We suddenly realized that basically nothing had changed."
Only 7 percent of Japan's legislators are women, and the country, which has the world's second largest economy, ranks 140th among all nations in terms of participation of women in politics, she said.
An official of the Japan Sumo Association said that banning women from entering the sumo ring had nothing to do with sexism but rather was an age-old tradition that should be honored.
Sumo's ancient roots are entwined with Japan's indigenous Shinto religion that detests defilement, especially death and blood. Sumo wrestlers toss salt into the ring in a ritual meant to purify the ground at the start of each match.
"In my opinion, the sumo association is perfectly justified in maintaining its own traditional culture at a time of constantly changing views on values and history," Katsuo Tokitsukaze, the association's chairman, told Ms. Ota according to local news reports of a telephone conversation in which he persuaded her not to press her case. But Mr. Tokitsukaze left the door open for further discussions, saying, "It is also important to hear others' opinions on the issue."
Governor Ota, a former senior official of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, declined to be interviewed for this article, citing a busy schedule of budget meetings with the prefecture legislature.
Ms. Yamanaka, who described herself as a feminist legislator, said that the sumo association's tradition was problematic because it perpetuates the notion in Japan that women are unclean and therefore not as worthy as men.
She cited other examples of traditions that have excluded women, including one at Mount Ominesan in Nara prefecture, which for religious reasons has been off-limits to women for centuries.
A group of 10 female teachers climbed the mountain last year, much to the consternation of local priests who said the women had "trampled underfoot the faith of believers." The teachers' union later apologized.
In a public opinion poll conducted recently by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun, 47 percent of people surveyed said that Governor Ota should be allowed inside the ring, while 37 percent backed the sumo association and the remainder were undecided. Forty-eight percent of the men and 45 percent of women polled sided with the governor, while 39 percent of men and 35 percent of women supported the association.
Outside the stadium where the tournament is being held, sumo fans voiced differing opinions on the issue. "Tradition is often difficult to explain, but no one is trying to hurt women or deprive them of something by keeping them out of the ring," said Shigehiro Yonezu, a businessman. But his daughter, Kiyo, 25, disagreed. "No, papa, you have to understand that this tradition was created by a male-dominated society," she said.
The controversy comes at a time when the popularity of sumo wrestling is declining, especially among young Japanese, and the sport's credibility has been damaged by charges of bout-fixing.
For the first time in years, there are empty seats at major sumo tournaments, which have traditionally been sold out. Faced with hard economic times, many Japanese are unwilling to shell out the $50 needed for a decent seat.
Television ratings are also declining. More Japanese have come to prefer baseball and soccer and the $100 million-a-year sport now faces an uncertain future.
Many people still recall an incident in 1991 that was a severe blow to sumo's reputation. In grade school, boys and girls practice sumo together. A 10-year-old girl became the champion in Tokushima prefecture but a boy who came in second place was awarded the medal and allowed to attend the national championship.
At the sumo stables, where wrestlers rise every morning at the crack of dawn to practice, there were no words of support for Governor Ota's effort to step inside the ring. "I'm all for women's rights but the dohyo is a place where only men fight and if a woman steps inside I'm not going to wrestle there anymore," said Dejima, a 360-pound champion.
"You must understand that we've devoted our lives to these traditions, which encompass so much more than just keeping women out of the ring," he added.
Makiya Saito, Governor Ota's husband, said that his wife was very surprised and upset over what he said was the sumo association's narrow-mindedness. "On the surface it seems like a ridiculous issue, but it has big significance," Mr. Saito said. "It shows just how backwards Japanese society is when it comes to women's rights."
Mr. Saito, who refers to himself as Japan's "First Husband," said that since his wife's election, Japanese men keep asking him "what kind of man are you?"
"I'd like to tell Japanese men that I am secure enough in my manhood to support my wife and fulfill my official duties as husband to the governor," said Mr. Saito, who operates an optical lens company.
Norio Tsuboi, a popular television announcer, offered a comical solution to the dilemma: "We should strap the governor into a harness that hangs from the ceiling of the stadium and gradually lower her into the ring, stopping just before her feet touch the ground."