Nana Abe is 12 years old and is a true sumo champion: she has been practicing since she was 8 years old and rarely loses games. In Japan, club sports are an important part of adolescence, and how many students keep in touch with their classmates. Sumo is a martial art with a long history in Japan and the country’s favorite sport for a long time. It is only open to professional men, but this does not stop some girls from practicing it as a club sport.
Tokyo photographer Yulia Skogoreva has been photographing girls and young women practicing sumo for many years. “Japanese traditions are complicated,” Skogoreva said. “When people come to visit the country, that’s why they love a part of the country so much, because so many traditions are still preserved today. But there is also the issue of gender equality. Can we find a way to balance both? “
Shinzo Abe’s dream is to continue her career, but currently, under the current system, women cannot move on after graduating from college. Club-level female sumo wrestlers are passionate about the sport and do their best to prove that they are worthy of the competition. Skogoreva said: “I hope these girls have the opportunity to continue their careers.” “At present, even in Japan, few people know about the existence of female sumo wrestling. I hope my project will one day help these girls gain more attention. And achieve their goals.”
Skogoreva, who has lived in Japan for more than 10 years, understands the dream of professional sports. Her goal is to capture motion and space in still images. She grew up in Moscow and often went to watch ballet. She eventually enrolled in the Japanese Academy of Photography in Tokyo and continued to shoot dances. “I like the natural state of people moving,” Skogoreva said. “Dancers forget the camera, they just do what they want to do. When watching various sports, I start to see dance moves.”
She is particularly interested in sumo. Sumo has many rituals before the fight, which usually looks like a dance-professional wrestlers sometimes walk up to the ring in colorful dresses to show their ranking, while competitors are before the meeting. Gather on the dohyō (raised ring) the feet of this game and show off in a ceremony choreographed as “dohyōiri.” Skogoreva was initially curious about the world of male sumo wrestlers because she had never heard of women participating in the sport. Then a friend sent her an article about female sumo wrestlers, which aroused her interest. “It’s an incredibly tightly connected and closed world. It took more than a year to take pictures there. I met Russian wrestlers, and then when I returned to Tokyo with pictures of Russian wrestlers , Things have become much easier.”
She plans to continue working on the project, taking photos of sumo wrestlers in Japan and elsewhere, and continuing to take photos of Nana and her sister Sakura. They are growing and changing every year. I would be happy to take pictures of her until she graduates from university and even afterwards. “