Brotherly rift surfaces following funeral

The passing of sumo elder Futagoyama has exposed a widely suspected rift between his once celebrated sons.

News photoFormer Yokozuna Wakanohana (right) and Takanohana
at the funeral of their father Futagoyama in Tokyo. The pair have been engaged in a long-running feud.

Masaru Hanada, better known as former yokozuna Wakanohana, and younger brother and former yokozuna Takanohana admitted Thursday that they are unable to patch up their differences over a range of matters and it is hard to turn back the clock.

One of the thorniest issues arising from Futagoyama’s death was who would serve as the chief mourner at Thursday’s funeral service.

Takanohana, the more successful grand champion of the two and currently a sumo elder, said his older brother had insisted that he be the chief mourner according to Japanese custom.

The 32-year-old Takanohana strongly opposed the idea, arguing that he had the right to represent the family because he took over the sumo stable from his father after his retirement two years ago.

“I want him to realize what his public position is,” Takanohana told reporters. “He has quit sumo circles and it is not a polite thing to do for the sumo elders attending the service.”

According to Takanohana, Hanada decided to take control of Futagoyama’s bones and mortuary tablet without discussion after their father died at a Tokyo hospital Monday afternoon following a lengthy battle with mouth cancer.

“We’re not on speaking terms over these things,” Takanohana said, adding, “We are told to get along well with each other once again but it is impossible.”

This is not the first time that the rift between the brothers has come to the surface. They differed over sumo philosophy when they were both grand champions in 1998 and most recently over cancer treatment for their father, people close to the family said.

Hanada, who is two years older than Takanohana, said it is shameful to have such a rift made public and he hopes to solve it.

“My late father must be anxious about it and the Hanada family feels very sad,” he said. “It may take time but it’s best to solve the problems little by little.

“I want him (Takanohana) not to forget the feelings we both had when many people admired us as the Waka-Taka brothers.”

Futagoyama’s divorced wife and the mother of the two, Noriko Fujita, attended his wake and funeral. She left a critical message for Takanohana after the wake held Wednesday evening.

“He’s been trying to continue walking the high road (of sumo) and it has made him narrow-sighted. He came to know what a setback is in his 30s and I want him to polish himself more and return to the old Koji.”

Takanohana, whose real name is Koji Hanada, is considered one of the greatest wrestlers in sumo history, winning 22 tournaments in the top division, fourth on the all-time list. Wakanohana won five times in his career while wrestling in only 11 tournaments as yokozuna.

Both became sumo elders after retirement but Wakanohana quit in late 2000 and later became a sports commentator.

The brothers helped boost sumo’s popularity to a point the sport had never experienced but the family fortunes turned downward gradually over the past decade, with a series of family troubles drawing great media attention.

Takanohana is now struggling to recapture the past glories of the stable he took over from his father. He has no active wrestlers fighting in the top two divisions.