Japan parents sue uni club over son's binge-drink death

Japan parents sue uni club over son's binge-drink death
PHOTO: The Straits Times

TOKYO - The parents of a 21-year-old who died during a drinking binge with his university tennis club in Japan are suing fellow student members over his death.

The couple filed a lawsuit Wednesday against 21 former members of the club at the prestigious Tokyo University, demanding compensation of 170 million yen (S$1.86 million).

"There is no greater sorrow than losing your own child," tearful father Toshihiko Takahashi told a press conference after filing the suit at Tokyo District Court on Wednesday.

"I hope my son's death will be the last one" that involves binge drinking, he said.

In 2012, Akira Takahashi collapsed after drinking a litre (two pints) of shochu - a cheap distilled spirit usually made from wheat or potato, which is about 25 per cent alcohol - at a tennis club gathering.

He had been assigned the role of "head of the gathering", a job that entailed entertaining other participants and consuming a large quantity of alcohol.

Local media reported that none of his fellow club members gave him water or provided any treatment until they called an ambulance four hours later.

By that time, the young man was already dead from acute alcohol poisoning.

His parents said this week 10 former club members had already admitted culpability and had each agreed to pay 2.4 million yen.

They are suing another 21 who have refused to acknowledge any role in Akira's death.

Binge drinking of shochu was common at the tennis club, and several members have previously been admitted to hospital.

Japanese universities warn youngsters of the danger of excessive alcohol consumption, but it is still relatively common among students, especially when clubs hold welcome parties for new members.

Alcohol is widely available in Japan and plays an important role in adult life, especially for the country's army of suited "salarymen", many of whom will be involved in regular drinking bouts with colleagues and business associates.

While the alcohol-fuelled violence and disorder that plagues many northern European towns is largely absent in Japan, it is not uncommon to see very drunk adults on the subway or streets of large cities.

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