Friday, February 08, 2008

Finally arrested

Arrests made in death of sumo wrestler

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Masanori Fujii, one of three arrested wrestlers, enters Inuyama Police Station in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, on Thursday.

NAGOYA--A former sumo stablemaster was arrested Thursday on suspicion of assault resulting in the death of a 17-year-old wrestler in June, police said.

The former Tokitsukaze stablemaster, whose real name is Junichi Yamamoto, was arrested along with three wrestlers from the stable over the death of Tokitaizan, whose real name was Takashi Saito, after apparent hazing. The three wrestlers are Yuichiro Izuka, 25 (known as Doto), Masanori Fujii, 22 (Tokiomaru), Masakazu Kimura, 24 (Akiyutaka).

Yamamoto, 57, became the first person to be arrested over a sumo-related incident that took place when he was a stablemaster.

According to the Aichi prefectural police and Inuyama Police Station, Yamamoto, the three arrested wrestlers and four others assaulted Saito during training sessions between 12:40 p.m. on June 25 and 11:30 a.m. on June 26 at the stable's temporary lodgings in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, where they were staying ahead of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament. Saito collapsed after full-contact practice called butsukarigeiko on June 26. He was sent to the hospital but died later the same day.

Yamamoto allegedly hit Saito over the head with a beer bottle on June 25 after the wrestler tried to flee the stable's lodgings. Yamamoto also allegedly told the three wrestlers to assault Saito. During the butsukarigeiko, he allegedly hit Saito with a wooden stick.

According to the police, Yamamoto admitted to hitting Saito with a beer bottle, but he denied it was because Saito had tried to escape. Yamamoto also denied having instructed the wrestlers to assault Saito.

Izuka and Fujii basically admitted to the allegations, but Kimura said he believed he was disciplining Saito.

The police plan to send papers on four other wrestlers suspected of taking part in the assault.

The police initially said Saito died from illness, but an autopsy at Niigata University found he died from traumatic shock. Later, an examination by Nagoya University specialists of Saito's body tissue also found a connection between the assault and his death.

Butsukarigeiko involves a wrestler repeatedly pushing an inert opponent, who is in a brace position, across the ring. It is designed to build stamina and usually occurs at the end of training sessions. Normally lasting for a maximum of five minutes, it is not uncommon for wrestlers to vomit after such training. Police say Saito was forced to undergo the training for about 30 minutes.

Yamamoto was dismissed by the Japan Sumo Association in October over the scandal.

JSA Chairman Kitanoumi lamented the arrest of Yamamoto and the three others Thursday night. "It's so regrettable that sumo wrestlers have been arrested," Kitanoumi said at a press conference held at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The chairman said he hoped the four would cooperate with the police investigation. Referring to a possible punishment by the JSA on the four, he said, "We'll take measures that we think necessary while looking at a future judicial judgment."

He added that the JSA committee set up after the incident to examine ways to prevent a recurrence will take measures to handle the case.
(Feb. 8, 2008)


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(2008年2月7日23時38分 読売新聞)(2008年2月7日23時38分 読売新聞

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