Japanese councillor and pro wrestler sues for ban on wrestling mask

Japanese councillor sues city for the right to attend meetings dressed as his masked wrestling alter-ego Skull Reaper

  • Skull Reaper A-ji is a professional wrestler as well as a city councilman
  • The councilman believes he should be allowed to attend meetings wearing his wrestling mask 
  • He was banned from council meetings in 2013 after refusing to take his mask off, but has been re-elected twice 
  • Skull Reaper is now suing Oita City for refusing to publish his image on the council website 

A councilman is suing the city of Oita in Japan after the council refused to allow him to wear his professional wrestling facemask in official meetings.   

The councilman, known by his professional wrestling moniker ‘Skull Reaper A-ji’, was first elected to a seat on the city council in 2013 with a campaign demanding educational reform and improved social welfare facilities.

But city councillors immediately protested against his decision to wear his professional wrestling attire and the council promptly banned him from doing so.

Skull Reaper officially filed a lawsuit last week against the ‘website discrimination’ of Oita City, demanding that it show his masked face on the website and cough up 5 million yen (£32,500) in damages.

Skull Reaper A-ji is not only a professional wrestler, but also a councilman in Oita City, Japan. He was elected to the council in 2013 thanks to a campaign that focused on educational reform and social welfare

The councilman was banned from attending council meetings in his professional wrestling mask, which Skull Reaper has campaigned against for the past eight years

Skull Reaper’s plight began eight years ago, when after winning a seat on the Oita City council, he was swiftly banned by his fellow councillors who disapproved of his luche-libre style attire. 

‘If I take my mask off, I’m an entirely different person,’ he told the Nikkan Sports newspaper. 

‘I will not take it off.’ 

Despite the ban on attending council meetings with his mask, the councillor has been re-elected to his seat twice by his constituents and is currently serving his third term on the council. 

His lawsuit relating to website discrimination is his latest action after a series of hearings held between April and June in district court ultimately ended with the council’s refusal to meet Skull Reaper’s requests.

Skull Reaper has continued his professional wrestling career alongside his work in Oita City’s council, having been operating as a civil servant for close to a decade

The councillor has proved popular with his constituents, and is currently serving his third term on Oita City’s council after being successfully re-elected for the second time earlier this year

In defence of his decision to sue Oita City, Skull Reaper said: ‘The council is neglecting the public opinion of voters who have supported my masked work.’

He went on to claim that the council’s refusal to display his image on their website is an infringement on his personality rights and freedom of expression.

Professional wrestling, or ‘Puroresu’, is a widely-enjoyed sport in Japan and took off in the 1960s and 1970s after a sumo wrestler began to organise professional wrestling tournaments. 

Though other non-dramatised combat sports such as MMA and kickboxing have gained more popularity and detracted from the audience of professional wrestling, the sport is still popular and attracts large crowds.

Skull Reaper argues that Oita City is ‘neglecting the public opinion of voters who have supported my masked work’, and its decision to not publish his image on the council website is an infringement on his right to free expression

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