Brutal Beating Death Brings Sumo’s Dark Side to Light
TOKYO–Baseball vats have become standard equipment in sumo training. Young wrestlers, though, don’t swing the bats. They are beaten with them.
This sadistic bit of sumo lore became common knowledge acrossJapan last year after a beating with a metal baseball bat, together with repeated blows from a beer bottle and multiple cigarette burns, caused the death of a 17-year-old junior wrestler named Takashi Saito.
“This happens all across the country, in schools and workplaces, and it is probably one of the cultural characteristics we have in Japan,” said Naoki Ogi, a professor of education at Hosei University in Tokyo and longtime critic of the culture of discipline in Japanese schools.
The abuse that occurs in sumo stables, Ogi said, is a contemporary echo of the beatings that were routine inside the Japanese military in the years before World War Ⅱ, when the armed forces had pervasive influence on Japanese society. This abusive pattern, he said, persists in business and education, albeit in ways that are far more psychological than physical.
“As a society, Japan has yet to go through a full democratic review of this kind of behavior,” he said.