• Kyodo

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Gifu Vice Gov. Shunichi Sakata was found dead early Sunday at a hospital to which he was admitted earlier in a suspected case of suicide, police said.

Sakata, 50, was found at around 6:05 a.m. face down beside the bed in his room at the prefectural Gifu Hospital. A belt attached to the bed railing was slung around his neck. He was confirmed dead 10 minutes later.

The police are investigating the cause of death, but they suspect that the vice governor strangled himself. No note has been found.

Sakata was observed lying on the bed during a routine nurse visit at 3 a.m., according to investigations.

He fell ill July 17 during a meeting in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, of governors from around Japan and went to the hospital that afternoon. He was hospitalized July 20 and was scheduled to be released Sunday morning to resume work the following day, the prefectural government said.

He was diagnosed with diabetes in March, but no other diseases or problems were detected in the latest checkup, the hospital said.

A native of Hiroshima Prefecture, Sakata entered the Home Affairs Ministry in 1976 after graduating from the University of Tokyo.

As a career bureaucrat, he served in the Chiba and Shizuoka prefectural governments as section chief and in the Utsunomiya Municipal Government as a deputy mayor. Sakata also held several director’s posts at the ministry before becoming a Gifu vice governor in April 2002.

Gifu Gov. Taku Kajiwara said he feels sorry about the death of Sakata.

“I don’t know why such a thing has happened,” Kajiwara said. “He seemed to be a bit tired recently, and I suggested that he get some rest.”

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