While we are waiting for the last basho of the Heisei era, Sports Hochi published a series of articles featuring the 64th Yokozuna Akebono, one of the leading figures to usher in this era, interviewed at the hospital where he is currently admitted.
I thought I should share this with the readers of Tachiai, as information about the ailing former Yokozuna has been scarce. If you recall, Akebono has been active in his pro-wrestling career and in social media, when suddenly, in April 2017, He seemed to have dropped off the face of the Earth. One news source revealed that he suffered heart failure and was in an induced coma. His family denied this at the time, claiming he suffered from a leg infection, but in fact, the original report has been true. Since then we have learned that he regained consciousness and was undergoing rehabilitation, but the full situation remained unclear. This Hochi article helps put things in order.
As it turns out, he was feeling unwell for a while when he had his last pro-wrestling event at Omuta, Fukuoka. Following the event, back in his hotel, he started feeling chest pains. The next day, April 12th 2017, he went to the hospital (by car, not ambulance), and walked on his own feet to the examination room. However, in mid-examination, he lost consciousness and went into cardiac arrest. His heart stopped beating for 37 minutes.
His daughter, Caitlyn, who is studying in Hawaii, took a flight back to Japan, and together with her brothers, Cody and Connor, joined their mother, Christine, in the care of their father, until he regained his consciousness on April 25th. During this time he was transferred, in a two-day overland journey, from the Fukuoka hospital to a Tokyo facility.
The former Yokozuna weighed 210kg, but his weight dropped during his hospitalization as low as 130kg, though now he has gained some back and weighs at 150kg. He suffers memory loss, and has lost the use of his legs. At first, when he gained consciousness, he mistook his own sons for his two brothers, George and Randy. This was quite a shock for his wife, Christine. He seemed to have switched back to his childhood. She decided to think of it as if she gained a third, big son.
Akebono recalls little of his restless pro-wrestling days, but he recollects his Yokozuna days well, and remembered the author of the Hochi articles, who used to be his personal beat reporter. He can move himself in his wheelchair by his own power. He exercises walking, but only when externally held upright. He has some difficulty communicating. He speaks in short sentences: “good times”, “I remember”, etc., and his wife helps him with some English mixed in with Japanese.
This post is mostly based on the first article in the series. The other articles are a walk down memory lane.
- Despite memory loss, the first foreign Yokozuna does not forget his fights with the Waka-Taka brothers.
- To the Sumo community, the Waka-Taka era didn’t really exist.
- A three-way playoff with the Waka-Taka brothers that reached 66.7% rating.
- Akebono’s respect towards the brothers’ stablemaster and father, Futagoyama oyakata
- Aiming at taking part in the Tokyo Paralympics with the Waka-Taka brothers.
(Yeah, the titles of these articles are somewhat Waka-Taka centered…)