Japan's navy has admitted that a sailor killed himself on board his ship after being persistently bullied by a superior, the latest incident to shed light on the country's little-discussed culture of hazing.
Military police yesterday sent papers on the commanding officer to prosecutors, a naval spokesman said.
Maritime Self-Defence Force chiefs said that Petty Officer First Class Koichi Goto, 42, was being investigated over claims that he persistently harassed his younger charge.
"It is deeply regrettable that the force could not prevent a suicide due to hazing," naval chief of staff Katsutoshi Kawano said.
The crew member, who was reportedly in his 30s but whose identity is being withheld by his family, took his own life earlier this year after being repeatedly hit about the head by Goto and forced to kneel with his head on the ground, the naval spokesman said.
The sailor had frequently asked to be allowed time off, but Goto continued bullying him, he said.
The last time he had asked for leave, Goto made him stand in a hallway with a bucket, the spokesman said.
The crew man killed himself the following day, he added.
Goto has admitted that he had exercised "excessive discipline" on his charge, the spokesman said.
The case emerged months after the family of one serviceman was awarded US$700,000 compensation after he took his own life.
The 21-year-old killed himself in 2004 by jumping in front of a train after his senior officer reportedly shot at him with an air gun and forced him to buy pornographic movies.
Hazing is widely practised in many areas of Japanese life - in schools, workplaces and within sports - but it is rarely reported unless it escalates into a suicide or a killing.
In 2007, a 17-year-old sumo apprentice died after a hazing incident involving his stable master and senior wrestlers.
The stable master, who struck the teenager with a beer bottle, was sentenced to five years' jail for negligence resulting in death.
The national women's judo coach Ryuji Sonoda quit in disgrace last year after 15 of his charges accused him and his staff of slapping, kicking and beating them with bamboo sticks during training in the run-up to the London Olympics. The women said they had endured four years of the abuse before complaining.