A 17-year-old wrestler was beaten to death by stablemates and his stablemaster, supposedly as punishment for "sitting wrong." The International Herald Tribune has more details. The alleged crime took place at Tokitsukaze stable, with the wrestler, Tokitaizan, dying the next day during training.
And I was just getting psyched for getting reinterested in sumo after rereading David Benjamin's classic, hilarious The Joy of Sumo.
Of course, heartless tragedy can happen in any country, and frequently in the US. But, having seen Japanese ijime (bullying) firsthand in schools, I think the Japanese still-feudal subservience of junior to senior, employee to boss, "koohai" to "sempai" makes these situations more possible. All societies are going to have sociopaths, but Japan is more prone to having bystanders who do not question the abuse of the senior/junior relationships. Everybody is quick to blame Confucius for this mess, citing his analects promoting fidelity to the natural harmony of relationships, but everyone forgets that Confucius held the authority, the emperor, head of household, sempai, accountable for acting as a just leader:
If the people be led by laws, and uniformity among them be sought by punishments, they will try to escape punishment and have no sense of shame. If they are led by virtue, and uniformity sought among them through the practice of ritual propriety, they will possess a sense of shame and come to you of their own accord.” (Lunyu 2.3)Problem is, everyone has forgotten about this side of the equation. Questioning an unjust leader, even rebelling, was permissable in the analects as part of restoring the natural harmony of things. Over the years, though, the institutions of power across Asia have deemphasized the responsibilities of the leader, resulting in an interpretation of Confucian values that leads to blind obedience. See Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
And poor Takashi Saito, age 17.