Nana Abe, 12, is a true sumo champion: She has been practicing for 8 years and has rarely lost a competition. In Japan, club sports are a big part of adolescence and how many students connect with their schoolmates. Sumo – a historical Japanese martial art and favorite sport ever since in the country – is open only to men on a professional level, but that doesn’t stop some girls from practicing it as a club sport.
Tokyo photographer Yulia Skogoreva has been photographing girls and young women who have been practicing sumo for years. “Traditions in Japan are complicated,” says Skogoreva. “When people come and visit the country, that’s part of why they like it so much, because a big part of that tradition is still intact. But there’s also the issue of gender equality, and we can find a way to have both? “
Abe’s dream is to continue her career as a professional, but now there is no way for women to continue after graduating from university in the current system. The sumo wrestling women at the club level are passionate about the sport and give their sweat and tears to prove they deserve to compete. “I wish these girls could have the opportunity to continue their careers,” says Skogoreva. “Even in Japan, few people know that the female sumo exists. I hope my project will help these girls to get more attention and reach their goal one day. ”
Skogoreva, who has lived in Japan for more than 10 years, understands the dream of professional athletics, and his goal is to capture movement and space in a firm image. He grew up in Moscow and often went to see the ball. She ended up in Tokyo to study at the Nippon Institute of Photography and continued to photograph dance. “I like the natural state of the people who move,” Skogoreva says. “Dancers forget about the room, they just do what they do. I started to see dance moves when I watched all kinds of sports. ”
He was particularly interested in sumo, which has many rituals ahead of fights that can often seem like dancing – professional wrestlers sometimes approach the ring in a colorful dress that shows off their rank, and competitors gather on the stage. dohyō (the raised ring) before the match to stomp and show off in a ritual ritual choreographer called the “dohyō iri.” Skogoreva was originally curious about the world of male sumo wrestlers because she had never heard of women taking up the sport. Then a friend sent her an article about a sumo wrestling woman, and her interest was aroused. “It’s an incredibly narrow and closed world.” It took more than a year to get the permits to photograph here. I got in touch with Russian wrestlers, and then when I came back to Tokyo with photos of Russian wrestlers, it became a lot easier. ”
He planned to continue working on the project, photographing sumo wrestlers in Japan and elsewhere, as well as continuing to photograph Nana and her older sister, Sakura. “They are growing and changing every year.” I would love to continue photographing her until she graduates from college, and maybe even later. “