Accused pleads guilty of assaulting kabuki’s Ebizo at bar

by Alex Martin

The 27-year-old man indicted for assaulting kabuki star Ichikawa Ebizo in Tokyo in late November pleaded guilty Friday as his trial opened at the Tokyo District Court.

Lion Ito has been in the spotlight since he was suspected of punching Ebizo, a kabuki actor whose father is the famed Ichikawa Danjuro, during an early morning brawl Nov. 25 at a bar on the 11th floor of a building in the Nishi-Azabu district in Minato Ward.

Ebizo, 33, sustained several injuries during the incident, including a broken left cheekbone, and has been suspended from performing indefinitely due to his behavior.

In their opening statement, prosecutors said Ito, whose father is American and mother is Japanese, was charged with assaulting Ebizo and inflicting injuries requiring two months to heal. The prosecutors brought up Ito’s record of being charged with assaults in the past.

Asked by the presiding judge whether there were any mistakes in the charges, Ito, wearing a black suit and white shirt, said: “No, there are no mistakes.”

Ito’s attorney said that while his client won’t contest the facts constituting the charge against him, hisactions could be describedas “excessive self-defense.”

The attorney said a drunken Ebizo initiated the brawl by head-butting Ito’s friend, Taichi Ishimoto, who has been described in the media as a former motorcycle gang leader.

Ito got between the two and attacked Ebizo to protect Ishimoto from further assaults, the lawyer said.

Reading a deposition taken from Ebizo, the prosecution quoted him as stating he “did not recall hitting (Ishimoto’s) head, and was only taking care of him.”

“It’s only natural that (Ito) be tried in court and face sufficient punishment, considering how he injured me,” it read.

Taking the witness stand, Ishimoto, who said he led a motorcycle gang during his teens but is currently working at an advertisement agency, expressed regret for getting Ito involved in the case and pleaded for a lenient sentence.

“I deeply regret involving Ito in a matter between Ebizo and myself,” he said. “This was an incident that happened over drinks between me and Ebizo. . . . I ask that the judge hand down a lenient sentence.”

After Ito was charged in late December, Ebizo and his lawyer said settlements had been reached with Ito and Ishimoto. The settlements included an apology from Ebizo to Ito and Ishimoto, a promise by Ishimoto not to file a criminal complaint against Ebizo or to sue him, and to recommend that Ito not be tried in a criminal court.

While Ishimoto has argued that he suffered injuries requiring two weeks of treatment and said one of his friends was forced by Ebizo to drink alcohol from an ashtray, Ebizo has maintained he has no recollection of committing any such acts, and said he was struck by Ito when he was providing care to Ishimoto, who had been drinking heavily.

The prosecutors said blood samples and the DNA of both Ebizo and Ishimoto were discovered at the scene of the brawl.