I know that very few of my readers have any interest in sumo, but this is a major story in Japan. The leader of the top stable of sumo wrestlers has died, and the story in the Japan Times explains a lot about the lineage that I was hazy about.
Sumo elder Futagoyama, a former ozeki and the father of former grand champions Takanohana and Wakanohana, died of mouth cancer at a Tokyo hospital Monday, his family said. He was 55.
Futagoyama, whose real name is Mitsuru Hanada [and whose sons first fought under the names Wakahanada and Takahanada], had been receiving treatment at a hospital in Tokyo since the fall of 2003 for a type of cancer that afflicts the region between the tongue and gums at the base of the mouth.
A native of Aomori Prefecture and younger brother of former yokozuna Wakanohana [a childhood favorite of mine], Futagoyama made his debut in professional sumo in July 1965 and earned promotion to the elite makuuchi division as an 18-year-old.
Nicknamed “Prince of Sumo,” Futagoyama quickly made his mark in the top flight as Takanohana and was promoted to ozeki, one below sumo’s highest rank of yokozuna, in the fall of 1972. He remained an ozeki for 50 tournaments until he retired in January 1981, the longest stint ever in the sport’s second-highest rank, and won two tournaments in the top division — both in 1975.
So, the recently retired brothers Wakanohana and Takanohana are the sons of the original Wakanohana, whose younger brother, retired ozeki Takanohana, ended up as their stablemaster. And now the recently retired Wakanohana’s younger brother Takanohana (not my favorite) assumes control of sumo’s leading Futagoyama [‘Twin (lit. ‘two child’) Mountain’] Beya.