Photo/Illutration Retired sumo wrestler Daisuke Yanagihara, center, speaks at a news conference in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, on March 2. (Atsushi Takahashi)

MATSUDO, Chiba Prefecture--A former sumo wrestler who claimed that he was forced to choose between unsafe conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic and retirement is demanding 4.15 million yen ($30,450) in compensation from the sport's governing body.

Daisuke Yanagihara, 25, filed the lawsuit against the Japan Sumo Association at the Matsudo branch of the Chiba District Court on March 2.

“I was frightened by the situation where many wrestlers came to the venue by public transport during the tournament weeks despite the earlier death from COVID of our fellow wrestler,” said Yanagihara, who was in the second-lowest jonidan division at the time of his retirement. 

He made the remark at a news conference held here. 

He blamed the association and his former stablemaster for failing to provide a safe and supportive environment for wrestlers.

The JSA’s public relations team told The Asahi Shimbun that it couldn’t comment as it hadn’t received the lawsuit.

Having a pre-existing condition, Yanagihara asked his stablemaster for permission to skip the tournament held in January 2021 in Tokyo. 

The stablemaster, a coach and the employer of his wrestlers, rejected Yanagihara’s request and reportedly forced him to retire by saying “do it or leave.” 

Yanagihara joined the Sadogatake stable in 2013 after graduating from junior high school.