Photo/IllutrationWomen spectators and emergency workers administer life-saving assistance on the dohyo to Ryozo Tatami, mayor of Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, on April 4. (Provided by a reader)

MAIZURU, Kyoto Prefecture--The Japan Sumo Association chairman has apologized after women who were trying to save the life of the mayor, who suddenly collapsed during a sumo event here on April 4, were ordered to leave the dohyo.

Traditionally, women are barred from entering the sumo ring.

Hakkaku, Japan Sumo Association chairman, acknowledged that a "gyoji" (referee) who belongs to the JSA announced over the public address system more than once, “Ladies, please leave the dohyo.”

“We would like to offer a profound apology. This instruction was inappropriate under such life-and-death circumstances. The gyoji did it because he was upset,” Hakkaku said.

Ryozo Tatami, 67, mayor of the city, suddenly collapsed shortly after 2 p.m. while he was making a speech on the dohyo on the occasion of the Maizuru sumo grand tournament, part of the traditional sport's spring circuit tour.

At least two women climbed into the dohyo and administered cardiac massage to Tatami.

Members of the committee for the event, consisting of local volunteers, said after the two women spectators started emergency assistance, male ambulance crew members followed and took over.

During the emergency, the women were ordered to leave at least three times in announcements made over the public address system.

The gyoji also said, “Gentlemen, please climb up (to the dohyo),” according to municipal government sources and others.

Tatami was later taken to a hospital by ambulance and was conscious and talking, sources said. He was diagnosed as suffering from a subarachnoid hemorrhage. He is scheduled to undergo surgery and will remain hospitalized.

Some spectators said that after the women left the dohyo, staff associated with the JSA sprinkled a large amount of salt in the ring.

In sumo tournaments, this purification ritual is often conducted before a bout and when a wrestler is injured.

A JSA official told reporters, "We have not confirmed that yet (why the salt was sprinkled). But we don't believe they did it because women climbed into the dohyo."

In 2000, another controversial case involving a woman entering the dohyo became a social issue.

Fusae Ota, then-governor of Osaka Prefecture, hoped to personally present the governor’s award to the winning wrestler during the awards ceremony on the closing day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka.

The JSA, however, showed reluctance to granting her request, and the governor finally gave up.