Exhibition Review: Laura Liverani's "Sumo Girls"

Exhibition Review: Laura Liverani's "Sumo Girls"

The Japanese tradition of sumo dates back to prehistoric times. Professionally it is forbidden for women to be sumo wrestlers. Regardless of this, there are female sumo wrestlers in existence that are not accepted within the profession's ranks.

From the press release, "Women sumo, or joshi-sumo in Japanese, is a fairly recent amateur sport that has been around for only a handful of decades. The International Sumo Federation, the main organization supporting joshi-sumo, was founded in 1992, while the first major women sumo championships date back to the mid-1990s. Women sumo teams in Japan and countries such as Mongolia, Russia, and Germany, and international competitions are now held annually. Sumo wrestling has never been featured at the Olympics, although the Tokyo-based International Sumo Federation aims to include it one day. Joshi-sumo is therefore restricted to amateur clubs within schools and universities such as the Asahi University Sumo Club. In 2018, Liverani visited the club which at the time had nine female members, making it the largest joshi-sumo team in Japan."

Laura Liverani is a documentary photographer who lives in Italy and Tokyo. Laura is also a university lecturer and has been published internationally.

Sumo Training Hall, Asahi University, Mizuho Gifu, Japan, 2018. Ishizaki Nanami, 19 years old, a member of the Asahi University women sumo team, poses in the squat stance that precedes the wresting bout.
 

Sumo Training Hall, Asahi University, Mizuho Gifu, Japan, 2018. Saki Ichihara, 18 years old, a member of the Asahi University women sumo team, demonstrates the shake, or foot stomping, a sumo training technique.

 

Sumo Training Hall, Asahi University, Mizuho Gifu, Japan, 2018.
Two female members of the Asahi University Sumo Club practice their shiko, a foot stomping technique, during a training session. The team, both males and females, practice most weekdays for at least two hours. On the left, Ishizaki Nanami, 19 years old, and on the right Saki Ichihara, 18 years old.

Sumo Training Hall, Asahi University, Mizuho Gifu, Japan, 2018. Saki Ichihara, 18 years old, a member of the Asahi University women sumo team, poses in the squat stance that precede the wrestling bout, with both fists touching the dohyō.
 
Sumo Training Hall, Asahi University, Mizuho Gifu, Japan, 2018. Two female members of the Asahi University Sumo Club untie and put back their mawashi after a training session.
 
Sumo Training Hall, Asahi University, Mizuho Gifu, Japan, 2018. A male and a female member of the Asahi University Sumo Club sweep the surface of the dohyo, the sumo ring, at the end of a training session.
 
Sumo Training Hall, Asahi University, Mizuho Gifu, Japan, 2018. Eight of the current nine members of the Asahi University women sumo team pose for a group photo by the dohyo, or sumo ring, right after training.
 

Sumo Training Hall, Asahi University, Mizuho Gifu, Japan, 2018. Jyuri Beniya, 20 years old (left) and Kotone Hori, 18 years old (right), members of the Asahi University women sumo team.

Check out the online exhibition through August 28, 2021 here.