Top Sumo Wrestlers Clash Outside the Ring
Wednesday, June 29, 2005 Posted: 08:59 AM JST
Sumo wrestlers are supposed to clash, but celebrated former sumo wrestlers Wakanohana and Takanohana have been slugging it out outside the ring. After their father Futagoyama died on May 30 the two brothers have engaged in a highly public feud. It has been feeding the headlines and television news programs in Japan for weeks now.
Takanohana, whose birth name is Koji Hanada, is generally considered to be one of the greatest wrestlers in Japanese sumo history. He won 22 tournaments in the top division, which puts him fourth on the all-time list. Wakanohana won five times in his career. During their reign as champions sumo's popularity soared to its highest point ever. But recently the family's fortunes have been downright terrible. Takanohana's stable, which he took over from his father, has no active wrestlers fighting in the top two divisions.
The two brothers first publicly argued about who would serve as the chief mourner at the funeral service. The 32-year-old Takanohana said his older brother had insisted that according to Japanese custom he should be the chief mourner. Takanohana countered strongly. He argued that because he had taken over the sumo stable from his father he should represent the family. They are reported to have shouted at each other for five hours. Even the intervention of an uncle could not stop them.
"I want him to realize," Takanohana told Japanese media at the time, "what his public position is. He has quit sumo circles and it is not a polite thing to do for the sumo elders attending the service."
Takanohana, the more successful grand champion of the two former wrestlers, said that his brother Hanada took control of Futagoyama's bones and mortuary tablet without discussing it with other family members. "We are told to get along well with each other once again," Takanohana said angrily, "but it is impossible."
Previously the two brothers differed over sumo philosophy and over their father's cancer treatment. But never before have the two slugged it out so publicly. Noriko Fujita, the two brothers' divorced mother has also jumped into the fray: "Takanohana has been trying to continue walking the high road of sumo and it has made him narrow-sighted."
Takanohana has publicly admitted that the important certificate of the rights entitling elder status in the sumo word has been lost from the stable, insinuating that his brother may have taken it. He also accused him of intervening in the running of his sumo stable.
The two brothers couldn't differ more. Takanohana is talkative and all over the TV screens, but Wakanohana tends to be silent. He simply writes his comments and faxes them to media organizations. In one of such statements he apoligized and took blame for the public brawl: "It is the result of my lack of virtue, as it's my role to protect the Hanada family. I take this opportunity to apologize to those who are worried about the series of reports."
Immediately Takanohana attacked his brother's actions on television. "It was a calculated technique that he had devised," he said. "The faxes were unreasonable."
The bitter feud has spawned a wave of angry calls to the Japan Sumo Association. Fans, which tend to be traditionally minded, view such spats with great disdain. They are deeply disturbed as sumo wrestlers are supposed to be taciturn, not showing their feelings. The clash may negatively affect the sumo world, which is already battling a disastrous decline in popularity. News coverage of major bouts show empty stadiums.
The worst is still expected to come; Futagoyama is reported to have died without a will.
* * *