Japanese politician banned for wearing wrestling mask to meetings
A LOCAL politician elected in the southern Japan city of Oita in February has been banned from council meetings for refusing to take off his full-face wrestling mask.
Skull Reaper A-ji won just 2,828 votes in the election, campaigning on a platform demanding educational reform and improved social welfare facilities, but that was sufficient for him to take a seat in the city council.
But even before he could attend his first meeting, other councillors suggested that it was inappropriate for a member of the assembly to wear a mask to conceal their identity.
But 44-year-old Skull Reaper A-ji resisted their requests that he remove his trademark item of clothing, a red-and-black leather mask similar to the "lucha libre" masks affected by wrestlers in Mexico.
"People find it easy to come up and talk to me because I have a mask on," he told the Nishinippon Shimbun, adding that he has done a lot for the community for more than a decade, including visiting institutions for people with physical disabilities.
The chamber apparently declined to take his charitable work into consideration, however, and refused to allow Skull Reaper A-ji to take part in a meeting on Monday on the grounds that he was contravening a rule that states "a person taking the floor shall not wear items such as a hat."
Interviewed after being informed of the decision, Skull Reaper A-ji said it was "frustrating."
"If I take my mask off, I'm an entirely different person," he told the Nikkan Sports newspaper. "I will not take it off."
A number of politicians who choose to wear wrestling masks have been elected at the local level in Japan, including a councillor who goes by the name Super Delfin in Osaka and the former professional wrestler The Great Sasuke, who was elected to represent Iwate Prefecture in 2003.
Julian Ryall Telegraph.co.uk