[sumo] More on Tokitaizan
philnorm at webtv.net
Thu Jul 5 08:32:30 EDT 2007
In a case such as this, if the oyakata is found to be grossly negligent, can he be replaced and look for other work? If so, who has the authority to carry this out?
Would he also face criminal charges along with the rikishi's who administered the punishment?
From: Emmett Wayne
Sent: Wednesday, July 4, 2007 8:57 PM
To: 'Sumo Mailing List'
Subject: [sumo] More on Tokitaizan
This from Japan Today on 5 July.
17-year-old sumo wrestler dies in suspicious circumstances
On June 26, Tokitaizan, a 17-year-old sumo wrestler apprenticed to the
Tokitsukaze stable, was pronounced dead at the stable's training camp in
Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture. Tokitaizan, whose real name was Takashi
Saito, had only joined the stable the previous May.
An autopsy performed at Niigata University medical school determined the
cause of death to be heart failure caused by shock from external injuries.
But the headline in Asahi Geino (July 12) uses a different term to describe
his death: he had been "lynched" - an English borrowing that refers not to
an extrajudicial hanging, but a gang beating.
"His body was swathed in bandages, and several teeth were cracked or
missing," says a relative of the deceased. "We'd spoken by phone not long
before, and he told me he'd been knocked around just for dropping some
rubbish. 'It's awful,' was how he put it."
A newspaper quoted an uncle of the deceased as saying that he'd passed the
physical exam for new sumo entrants and that heart disease was
"Tokitaizan's ear was torn, and there was evidence that he'd been made to
undergo what they call 'konjo-yaki' (tolerance burns), made with a burning
cigarette, on his upper thigh," a media source tells Asahi Geino. "His nose
and ribs were fractured. The boy's father reportedly asked the stablemaster
(former komusubi Futatsuryu): 'Are those the kind of injuries that you see
At a press conference two days after the death, stablemaster Tokitsukaze
said the deceased youth had "smoked marijuana in his past" and "was unable
to kick the cigarette habit."
But upon further investigation, Asahi Geino learned that the boy was
subjected to a severe exercise regimen.
According to a veteran sumo reporter, Tokitaizan's time of death was
confirmed after 2 p.m. His condition took a turn for the worse around 12:40,
when the senior wrestlers were either finishing up their baths or taking
lunch. By that time, the other low-ranked wrestlers, who began their
workouts from 6 a.m., were off running errands. But Tokitaizan was
apparently singled out for a special prolonged disciplinary session.
"Tokitaizan had tried to flee the stable three times in the course of a
month," the reporter relates. "He was brought back, but this figure alone is
Apparently at practice that day, neither stablemaster Tokitsukaze nor top
division wrestler Toyonoshima were present.
"His stablemates forced him to do 'butsukari-geiko' (an exhausting
conditioning regimen, administered at the end of the session, that involves
pushing another wrestler across the ring) for 30 minutes," relates a source
close to the stable. "Typically, it's seldom done for as long as five
minutes. Tokitaizan finally passed out. They lifted him off to the side of
the ring and let him 'rest' for an hour, and when they checked on him, he
had no pulse."
Japan Sumo Association head Kitanoumi was later heard to insist on more
rigorous physical examinations, which all wrestlers must undergo every six
months. But, the magazine opines, the autopsy findings of shock due to
external injury suggest his priorities are confused.
"Just before the May tournament in Tokyo, an incident involving violence by
Tokitsukaze stable wrestlers led to an injury," says sumo writer Kiyoshi
Nakazawa. "It's a pity no one took any proactive measures."
"The reason they didn't allow him to run away may also reflect on the dearth
of new sumo recruits," the veteran reporter tells Asahi Geino. "If they had
other apprentices, they would have probably just let him go."
Tokitaizan's father, Masato Saito, tells the magazine he has no plans to
initiate legal action against the stable. "It won't bring my son back," he
sighs. "I'd want to see measures adopted to make sure this kind of thing
never happens again."
First, bout-fixing scandals, and now the death of a young apprentice. Sumo,
the magazine concludes, desperately needs to clean house.
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