Stable master faces ax over wrestler’s hazing death

Kyodo News

Japan Sumo Association Chairman Kitanoumi indicated Tuesday the group will dismiss stable master Tokitsukaze over the death of one of his junior wrestlers apparently as a result of hazing.

Stable masters are employed by the sumo association. Dismissal “could not be helped,” Kitanoumi said. “We could not take a step that is more lenient.”

The decision was made after the association on Monday questioned Tokitsukaze about the June death of Tokitaizan, 17, whose real name was Takashi Saito. He is believed to have been severely beaten and kicked by several senior wrestlers.

After Monday’s interview with the stable master, Kitanoumi told a news conference, “A child has died, so it is only common sense that harsh punishment be handed out.”

Tokitsukaze has admitted striking Saito in the forehead with a beer bottle the day before his death.

Calls have been mounting in the sumo association for Tokitsukaze to be harshly punished.

“Sumo is facing its worst crisis ever,” said a former grand champion and now a stable master who didn’t want his name used. “What the heck was he thinking?”

The Aichi Prefectural Police are expected to build a criminal case against Tokitsukaze and some of his senior disciples on suspicion of inflicting injuries resulting in Saito’s death.

According to investigative sources, the senior wrestlers sparred with Saito under the stable master’s instructions shortly after 10 a.m. June 26 in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture.

After Saito grew exhausted, Tokitsukaze kept the seniors away from him. Despite the teen’s deteriorating condition, the stable master did not call an ambulance until around 12:50 p.m.

Tokitsukaze has admitted striking Saito with a beer bottle in the forehead the day before his death and said a senior wrestler had used a metal baseball bat to beat him.

He had allegedly instructed his charges not to tell investigators about those two incidents.