Neglect alleged in sumo death

Stable master waited before calling ambulance

Kyodo

Sumo stable master Tokitsukaze neglected to aid a junior wrestler who had been physically abused and whose condition deteriorated during training, and waited before taking him to a hospital where he died later that day, sources said.

The 17-year-old junior wrestler, Tokitaizan, whose real name was Takashi Saito, died June 26.

While sparring that morning in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, in the runup to the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in July, Saito became exhausted. Tokitsukaze told senior wrestlers to stay away from him and did not give him any aid, the sources said.

The Aichi Prefectural Police are expected to build a criminal case against Tokitsukaze and some of his senior disciples, suspecting that habitual assaults led to Saito’s death.

Police believe repeated beatings of Saito the previous day, including assaulting him with a beer bottle and a metal baseball bat, led to his death.

According to investigative sources, the senior wrestlers were involved in a sparring bout with Saito under the instruction of the stable master shortly after 10 a.m. June 26.

Saito grew exhausted and Tokitsukaze told the seniors to stay away. Saito’s condition grew worse, but the stable master did not call an ambulance until around 12:50 p.m.

Following police inquiries, Tokitsukaze instructed his disciples not to tell investigators that he had struck Saito on the forehead with a beer bottle or that a senior wrestler had used a metal baseball bat to beat him the previous day, one source said.

Saito tried to leave the stable the day before he died but was eventually caught by senior wrestlers. Saito was berated by the stable master during dinner that day, the source said.

“I’ve been in sumo for decades, but I’ve never seen a jerk like you,” Tokitsukaze was quoted as telling Saito.

At around 7 p.m., when they were finishing dinner, Tokitsukaze struck Saito with a beer bottle several times. The final blow was to his forehead, which resulted in bleeding, the source said.

The stable master told senior wrestlers, “You can teach him a lesson, too.” They took Saito outside and assaulted him for more than 30 minutes, including with a baseball bat, according to the source.