Women's sumo, known as "joshi-zumo" in Japanese, has its origins in ancient Japan, where historical records and artworks suggest that women engaged in sumo-style wrestling as early as the Heian period (794-1185). However, it wasn't until the modern era that women's sumo began to take on a more organized and formal structure.
In the early 20th century, women's sumo gained popularity as a form of entertainment, often performed at festivals and events. It was characterized by its theatrical and playful nature, emphasizing elaborate costumes and choreographed bouts. However, it was not officially recognized as a competitive sport and faced societal constraints that limited its development.
It wasn't until the latter half of the 20th century that women's sumo began to evolve into a more structured and competitive discipline. In the 1950s, organizations dedicated to promoting women's sumo were established, leading to the emergence of amateur and professional competitions. The sport gained further recognition and momentum, culminating in the establishment of the Women's Sumo Association in 1993.
Despite these advancements, women's sumo still faces notable differences and disparities compared to the men's version. One significant distinction is the absence of a professional women's sumo division equivalent to the men's "sekitori" ranks. While men's sumo has a hierarchical system with well-defined divisions, women's sumo remains predominantly amateur and lacks the same level of visibility, financial support, and infrastructure.
In recent years, efforts have been made to address these disparities and promote women's sumo on a larger scale. Some female wrestlers have gained international recognition, and there is a growing push for gender equality and increased opportunities for women in sumo. While women's sumo continues to navigate challenges and carve its path, its origins and evolving journey reflect the broader societal changes and shifting perspectives on gender roles in Japan.