Former ozeki Takanonami died at the age of 43 of acute cardiac failure at a hotel in Osaka on Saturday, a Japan Sumo Association official said.
The Aomori-born Takanonami, whose real name was Tadahiro Namioka, entered the top-tier makuuchi division in November 1991 and won promotion to ozeki, the second-highest rank, in March 1994, winning two tournaments in January 1996 and November 1997.
Making his debut in March 1987 with the Fujishima stable, he used his 196-cm height and long reach to full advantage with an unorthodox wrestling style of hoisting opponents out of the ring.
While boosting sumo’s popularity alongside former yokozuna stablemates Takanohana and Wakanohana, he suffered demotion from ozeki twice and retired in May 2004 as a No. 13 maegashira.
He had been instructing young wrestlers as under his sumo elder name of Otowayama at the Takanohana stable following retirement and was appointed to be a ring-side judge by JSA in February.