Facts About the Sumo Murder Case as I Understand Them

February 17, 2008

The story about the murder case in Japan that I wrote about here in “CNN Almost Writes Pop-Japanology-less Article” has been described in a bunch of papers as a case of the traditional world of Sumo, and it’s incredibly tough training has produced a murder case which questions the fine line between “keiko” or a type of disciplinary training, and assault, abuse, or murder.

The facts of the case just seem to point to something closer to bullying, bordering on torture. Here’s what I’ve gathered from various media and tv news here:

  • The boy, 17 year old Takashi Saito, was refused dinner the night before he died.
  • He was physically removed from a local convenience store when he ran away to try to get food.
  • The main defendent in the case, formerly Toshitsukaze – now known by his real name Junichi Yamamoto, hit Saito over the head with a beer bottle ten times.
  • The “keiko” I mentioned above included being beaten with a metal baseball bat… not your average sumo training.
  • Saito was beaten eight times over the two days leading up to his death.
  • Saito was tied to a practice post and beaten with hands and wooden sticks.
  • Junichi Yamamoto was reportedly drinking alcohol during the beatings.
  • The morning he died, he was hit again with woodensticks, and also not given anything to eat.

So when the news stories talk about the traditional world of Sumo and the training being so hard that it seems like a case of training gone to far, think about the alcohol present, the beer bottle, wooden stick, metal baseball bat beatings. If this were a case of them sumo wrestling him to death I would accept that argument, but imagine if someone at a boxing gym in the US, or a football team hit a player with beer bottles and beat him tied to a pole…

Do you think murder charges would take 8 MONTHS to be filed?