Sat, Jun 04, 2005 - Page 18 News List

Father's funeral fails to heal royal `Waka-Taka' rift

AP , TOKYO

A feud between sumo siblings is taking on the proportions of a royal scandal in Japan.

Retired grand champions Wakanohana and Takanohana stood side-by-side at their father's funeral service on Thursday, but there was little brotherly love between the two former wrestlers.

The passing of sumo elder Futagoyama has done little to resolve a cold war that exists between his two famous sons, who have long held philosophical differences over Japan's ancient sport and their place in it.

On Friday, Japan's sports newspapers and afternoon talk shows treated the spat as if it were a political scandal of utmost importance. Everyone from former sumo greats to famous actors weighed in on the "Waka-Taka" rift.

"At a time like this I wish they were making efforts to get along," actor Hayato Tani, who attended Thursday's service, told reporters.

In their prime, the two brothers were the darlings of Japan when they rose to the top of the sumo world in the 1990s and sparked a renaissance in a sport that was struggling at the gate.

Their careers took vastly different paths when they retired from sumo.

The younger Takanohana, whose real name is Koji Hanada, is considered one of the greatest wrestlers in sumo history, winning 22 Emperor's Cups in the elite division, fourth on the all-time list.

When Takanohana retired in 2003, he became a sumo elder and sought to recapture the past glories of the stable he took over from his father, who rose to sumo's second highest rank of ozeki a decade earlier.

Wakanohana, who had a less-successful career as a grand champion, also became a sumo elder after his retirement but has since left the sport and has taken up a career as a TV commentator.

"We're not on speaking terms these days," Takanohana said after his father's funeral. "People want us to get along but I'm afraid that's impossible."

Takanohana considered he should be the chief mourner at his father's funeral because Wakanohana had officially severed ties with sumo.

But that honor went to the older Wakanohana, who made an emotional speech while his younger brother stood by with a stern look on his face.

"I would like 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."

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