A 22-year-old former sumo disciple has sued his then-stablemaster and a retired wrestler over a recently revealed 2014 assault, seeking ¥30 million ($274,000) in damages, sources said Thursday.
The suit, made public only now, was filed by the man last March against the 24-year-old former wrestler, who had been convicted of the assault, and their stablemaster Kasugano — a key member of the Japan Sumo Association — claiming Kasugano failed to exercise appropriate oversight on the attacker. The victim, who sustained a broken jaw, is still struggling with effects on his sense of taste.
The incident came to light only recently, fueling speculation that Kasugano may have tried to cover it up. It marks another blow for the sport, which is still reeling from an assault scandal that led to the retirement in November of then-yokozuna Harumafuji.
According to the suit, filed with the Tokyo District Court on March 22, 2017, the disciple suffered injuries doctors said would require 18 months to heal. It said the victim was hit in the face and kicked in the abdomen on Sept. 5, 2014.
The sources said that prior to the attack, an argument began when the convicted wrestler called some of his juniors to complain about their “way of cleaning” the stable. He grew particularly angry, they said, when the victim went to get a fellow wrestler who was giving a massage to a senior.
“I didn’t tell you to do that,” the convicted wrestler shouted as he attacked the victim, according to the sources.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff said Kasugano failed to oversee the attacker, and that his condition deteriorated because the stablemaster did not let him undergo swift and appropriate treatment — instead insisting that the injury would “heal after cooling it for a while.”
But Kasugano claimed that he indirectly advised the victim, through another wrestler, to go to a hospital, saying he had no intention of concealing the incident. The convicted wrestler argued that the victim was also at fault for prompting the attack.
The disciple quit the sport after the assault, which took place just seven months after he entered the stable.
In June 2016, the Tokyo District Court sentenced the offender to three years in prison, suspended for four years. He had retired from sumo in July 2015, after taking part in the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.
The victim also filed a criminal complaint against Kasugano for his alleged negligence in offering protection, but prosecutors decided against an indictment.
In a separate case in 2011, Kasugano, now a JSA director and communications chief, admitted to hitting his disciples with a golf club, but the victims did not report the incident at the time.
Kasugano may face calls to resign for what could be perceived as a cover-up.
“The (convicted) wrestler has quit,” Kasugano told a reporter on Wednesday, dismissing claims that the case should have been made public earlier.
But the victim has called on the JSA to be more transparent. “I think there have been cases of violence against other junior wrestlers,” the victim said. “I don’t want the association to hide these things. It should release everything.”
“I want my life back,” said the disciple, who now works as a janitor, expressing his disappointment at being forced to give up his dream because of the assault.
The convicted wrestler, meanwhile, said he was “sorry” about the assault. “It was my problem, and not the stable’s. I’ve never been told not to talk (about the incident),” he added.
In a statement, the JSA said it had heard from Kasugano about the incident, without saying when it was reported. “We don’t think there was any problem in how he responded to the incident as director and stablemaster,” it said.
Kasugano was elected as JSA director and assumed the post of communications chief in March 2016. He is concurrently serving as regional tour director, after the post became vacant when Takanohana was dismissed over his alleged mishandling of Harumafuji’s assault of a lower-ranked wrestler at his stable in October.
The scandal involving Mongolian yokozuna Harumafuji rocked the sumo world, which was already tainted by cases of match-fixing, violence and bullying. In 2010, then-yokozuna Asashoryu, also Mongolian, was alleged to have seriously injured a male acquaintance in a drunken rampage. He announced his retirement soon afterward.