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Death in Japan under investigation

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Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008

Hazing probed in MSDF combat training death
Kyodo News

A Maritime Self-Defense Force sailor who died last month may have been made to undergo an excessively punishing exercise at an MSDF special forces academy, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Tuesday.

The incident has also raised the possibility that retaliation occurs in training against anyone trying to leave the MSDF special forces school.

“Given the circumstances we are aware of so far, I don’t deny that I am feeling there was something special or unusual” about the case, Hamada said, pledging to get to the bottom of the incident.

The 25-year-old petty officer third class died Sept. 25 after being forced to fight 15 opponents as part of his training with a special task force at the MSDF’s First Service School in Etajima, Hiroshima Prefecture, on Sept. 9, according to the MSDF.

The sailor’s father claims he died due to bullying during training.

He was in his second year at the training school. The incident took place just before he was to be transferred to a submarine unit.

“I have never heard that such a thing is done in the Self-Defense Forces” as a matter of practice, Hamada said, referring to the situation in which a single combatant has to take on several opponents during training.

Hamada held key defense-linked posts in the government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party before becoming defense minister.

The sailor died after sustaining a hard blow to the chin during the fight, which he was forced to take part in at a wrestling facility at the school.

One of the two instructors at the scene acted as a referee and made other participants force the victim to keep getting up and continue fighting.

Another MSDF member who was also forced in July to take part in a special forces training fight against 16 people sustained injuries, including broken teeth. That apparent assault also occurred shortly before the man was supposed to move to a different unit.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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