While we’re gearing back up for sumo, I do want to point out that parts of Japan are being hit hard by heavy rains and flooding. More than 50 people have died in flooding and landslides. The rains have crippled parts of the island of Kyushu, particularly Oita and Kumamoto prefectures, as well as the mountainous prefecture of Gunma, just outside Tokyo.
Many wrestlers, like the young recruit Taiyo (大海), hail from Kumamoto. Our favorite wrestlers have been hit hard by the coronavirus shutdown and while they’ve been relieved of the long touring duties of Jungyo, that also means they’ve not been able to make their usual visits to their home prefectures. More rain is expected around Tokyo and Kumamoto. The Weather Channel expects rain into the weekend from this front with 10 inches of further accumulation possible.
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.