This week the annual charity event known as the Sumo Run took place in London’s Battersea Park. To raise money for education in sub-Saharan Africa, participants don inflatable sumo suits and run the 5km course around the park, no doubt delighting passersby in the country that gave us Monty Python.
But when media outlets in Japan reported on the event, the audience here was not universally pleased, with some people calling it racist cultural appropriation.
▼What? This is just standard running gear!
Although the organizers point out on their webpage that Battersea Park is home to the Japanese Peace Pagoda, there isn’t really a clear connection between the event and Japan that would explain why they chose the sumo theme beyond the obvious humor of seeing people in big inflatable suits running around. But given that sumo is a symbol of Japan and an honored tradition, some Japanese found the event’s angle distressing.
My feelings are complicated on this, but don’t you think this is prejudice?
When Japan had that airline commercial with a guy wearing a big nose and yellow wig, [foreigners] were quick to object, but at this event, they wear body suits and sumo wigs and that’s okay?
If this was any other country besides Japan, there would be protests that it was racist or discriminatory against overweight people and they would be forced to cancel the event. Japan is always made fun of like this.
Other readers were not so much offended, but confused as to why anyone would want to do this, much less in the middle of summer.
If it’s for an African charity, why did they choose sumo? I don’t get it.
As a Japanese, this made me smile, but what the heck is the point of this?
Is England really cool enough in summer for this? If we did this in Japan right now, people would be dropping like flies from heat stroke.
Of course, not everyone was offended. Many commenters found the event hysterical, even suggesting that it should be held in Japan as well.
I want them to do that in Japan! And then real sumo wrestlers could work at the water stations. Don’t you think that would be cool?
The Sumo Run certainly has its heart in the right place and is raising money for a good cause, but do you think the sumo suits are just lighthearted fun or do they cross a line? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.