NAGOYA – A 17-year-old novice sumo wrestler who died suddenly after training in June was denied meals from the day before his death, when he underwent violent hazing, police and other sources said Friday.
Investigators believe Takashi Saito, who had been given the ring name Tokitaizan at the Tokitsukaze stable, died June 26 after being subjected to sparring bouts with his seniors at the stable and passing out. The previous day, he had been severely beaten.
On Thursday, police arrested Junichi Yamamoto, 57, the former master of the stable, and three senior wrestlers there, for allegedly inflicting injuries that resulted in the young wrestler’s death.
Police said Yamamoto, formerly pro sumo wrestler Futatsuryu, admitted to beating Saito with a beer bottle on June 25 but denied he ordered any beatings.
They said the three wrestlers admitted to the allegations but one said the beatings were intended to “discipline” Saito, and thus did not constitute hazing.
According to police and sources, Saito ran away from the stable just before noon on June 25, the day before his death, without having had lunch. His seniors found him at a convenience store near the stable and brought him back the same day.
At dinner that day, he was denied food and was lectured by Yamamoto, then the stable master, and the dinner ended after Yamamoto and the senior wrestlers assaulted Saito, police and the sources said.
Yamamoto told the senior wrestlers to tell Saito he should come see Yamamoto if he wanted to continue sumo, but Saito did not do so, according to police and the sources.
Other senior wrestlers offered Saito some bread but his mouth was full of blood after the assault and he was so worn out that he could not speak, they said.
Saito took part in sparring practice June 26 without having had breakfast and passed out, they said. Skipping breakfast is normal for wrestlers, according to police.
Saito, who joined the stable a little over two months earlier, was pronounced dead at a hospital just after 2 p.m.
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