Breaking News: Former Yokozuna Futahaguro Koji Has Passed Away

Koji

Tachia has learned that former Yokozuna Futahaguro Koji, also know as Koji Kitao, has passed away due to renal failure at the age of fifty-five.  The sports 60th Yokozuna, Futahaguro was the first since 1942 to be promoted to sumo’s most prestigious rank without winning a single Yusho. While he did runner up in the two Basho before his promotion, it is generally accepted that Futahaguro was the beneficiary of a logjam of Ozeki and Ozeki-level rikishi at the top of the Banzuke. With five Ozeki already, and Sekiwake Hoshi (the future Yokozuna Hokutoumi) having earned his promotion, the NSK had to make room and thus elevated Futahaguro in 1986. This ultimately was a poor decision, as Futahaguro failed to meet expectations for much of his tenure as Yokozuna.  His career came to an end following a conflict with his Oyakata in 1987. When questioned about abusing his tsukebito, Futahaguro reportedly stormed out of the stable and struck the Oyakata’s wife while leaving. As a result, Futahaguro’s retirement papers were filed by his Oyakata without his knowledge, and thus he became the first Yokozuna to ever be expelled from sumo without a hearing. This early retirement also meant that Futahaguro would become the only Yokozuna in history, to never win a Yusho.

Following his sumo career, Futahaguro transitioned to professional wrestling in 1989, where he competed for several promotions under his birth name, Koji Kitao. In 2003, Kitao made a surprise return to the sumo world, when he was invited to be a guest coach by the new Oyakata of his old heya. During this time, many of the details of his expulsion came to light. One such revelation was the possibility that the allegations of tsukebito abuse levelled against him were false. In 2013, Kitao was diagnosed with the kidney disease that would, unfortunately, take his life.

Tachiai offers their heartfelt condolences to Koji Kitao’s family.

13 thoughts on “Breaking News: Former Yokozuna Futahaguro Koji Has Passed Away

  1. Many of my Japanese friends who are knowledgeable about Sumo History blame Tasunami Oyakata, not Futahaguro, for the yokozuna’s premature expulsion. Tatsunami was a notoriously volatile and violent man, and he had myriad issues with other wrestlers in his stable. He was also a wife beater, and there’s a theory that Futahaguro was in fact attempting to protect his oyakata’s wife on the day of the incident.

    While Tasunami’s reputation among many sumo fans is a problematic one, Futahaguro is actually a well liked figure by many. Even within the kyokai, his reputation was not permanently tarnished, and in fact he was welcomed as a coach at his old stable once the old stablemaster was replaced.

    Chiyonofuji is reported to have stated that he wouldn’t have won so many tournaments if Futahaguro had stuck around, and many sumo watchers from that time rate Futahaguro’s skill and strength very highly. I missed watching Futahaguro by a couple of years, but Chiyonofuji was not one to distribute praise wantonly.

    Ultimately, Futahaguro’s story may be one about the inflexibility of the stable system, and the dangers of being stuck in a stable with a volatile stablemaster. He may, by record, be the least accomplished yokozuna ever, but there’s more to his story than meets the eye.

  2. Sumo history and character’s aside, died at the age of 55 ?!? Man, that’s young. :(
    Poor guy. That’s really sad.

    • There aren’t a lot old sumo wrestlers. They do have a tendency to die on the young side, especially considering that Japan has the longest life expectancy.

  3. Just on the numbers I’d say “maegashira-level” is a bit harsh considering make-kochi is not unexpected for maegashira in the joi-jin; just getting a kachi-koshi is considered a signal of relatively high skill. Post promotion Futahaguro, at the top of the banzuke, got three jun-yusho, one “yokozuna kachi-koshi”, two single digit kachi-koshi, and went kyujo twice. That may not be yokozuna sumo but it isn’t maegashira sumo either. Call it san’yaku sumo, maybe.

  4. Oh no! My era, my age! This one really hits home! Condolences to his family friends former stable mates and Oyakata 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻😞

    • Maybe not to his Oyakata – should have instead typed Okamisama – his stable mother perhaps 😊

  5. Chris Gould did a video on him.
    He died Feb 10, but word did not reach the public for 7 weeks.
    He had competitve records against the yokozunas of the day.
    Chiyonofuji 6-8.
    Hoktomi (now chairman hakaku) 9-8
    Takanosato 3-0
    Japan has one of the highest life expectency in the world.
    But not if you were a sumo.

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