NAGOYA (Kyodo) Prosecutors on Tuesday demanded a seven-year prison sentence for former sumo stablemaster Tokitsukaze, who stands accused of ordering wrestlers at his stable to assault a 17-year-old grappler, leading to his death.

During his trial session at the Nagoya District Court, the stablemaster, whose real name is Junichi Yamamoto, apologized to the relatives of the victim, Takashi Saito, whose ring name was Tokitaizan, over the 2007 incident.

But Yamamoto, 59, again denied giving an order for senior wrestlers at his stable in Aichi Prefecture to assault Saito, even though three wrestlers were convicted of the assault in a separate trial in December.

Wrestlers Yuichiro Izuka and Masakazu Kimura were sentenced to three years in prison and Masanori Fujii to 2 1/2 years. All three sentences were suspended.

According to the indictment, Yamamoto beat Saito with a beer bottle and ordered the wrestlers to hit him on June 25, 2007. On the following day, they also subjected Saito to what they called “exercise,” slamming him on the sumo ring and hitting him with a metal bat for about 30 minutes. Saito later died from shock as a result of multiple trauma.

In the course of his trial that began in February, Yamamoto has admitted the beer-bottle assault but denied ordering any of the three to assault Saito.

When the court handed down its guilty verdict for the three wrestlers, the presiding judge ruled that Yamamoto had told them to assault Saito.

The court also recognized that the excessive sparring session they conducted on the teen deviated from normal training and constituted illegal violence.

But Yamamoto argued that the training blamed for Saito’s death was never intended as hazing or punishment, claiming it was “done for the purpose of discipline.”

Saito’s death is one of the high-profile cases that have marred the public image of Japan’s national sport.

Boxer dies at falls

OTSU Shiga Pref. (Kyodo) A professional boxer was found dead in the basin of a waterfall in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on Monday evening, police said.

Noriyuki Komatsu, 29, a former flyweight champion of the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation, is believed to have accidentally fallen in while engaging in ascetic training at the waterfall, they said.

He had been visiting a temple in Kyoto since Saturday for meditation.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.