Wakanohana, who had achieved sumo’s highest rank of yokozuna (Grand Champion) the previous year, made the FCCJ’s New Year celebration a special event on Jan. 29, 1999, by cracking open a sake cask with Bob Neff (Business Week) and Haruko Watanabe (Press Foundation of Asia). This was not his first professional luncheon at the Club. He had appeared with his younger brother in February 1994, as the “Waka-Taka” siblings—a label derived from their earlier sumo names of Wakahanada and Takahanada— who had spurred greater interest in sumo.
Born into a family of sumo greats—they were sired by Takanohana I (born Mitsuru Hanada) who also became their stablemaster—the Hanada siblings (born Masaru and Koji Hanada) made their first appearance together as sumo professionals in 1988. When the two brothers joined their father’s stable they were subject to the same rules as their fellow trainees, including living in the communal area and calling their father Oyakata (Stablemaster).
Koji, the younger sibling with a larger physique, became Takanohana II and a yokozuna in November of 1994 and Masaru, as Wakanohana III, achieved the same high rank in 1998, making them the first siblings to share that title. (Over time, however, their sibling relationship became strained and culminated in a falling out after the death of their father in 2005.)
Wakanohana, who had won five tournament championships as a longtime ozeki, (champion) prior to becoming a yokozuna, retired in 2000 after injuries brought an end to his sumo career. He briefly served as a member of the Japan Sumo Association, then reverted in name to Masaru Hanada and went on to make a short-lived attempt to play professional American football.
Returning to Japan, he became a television personality and restaurant owner. Unfortunately, his restaurant chain that specialized in chanko nabe, a kind of hotpot that is a favorite dish of sumo wrestlers, went bankrupt in 2010, but he remains active as a television personality.
Masaru Hanada married in 1994 and fathered four children, but that marriage ended in divorce in 2007. He later remarried and fathered one more child with his new wife.
– Charles Pomeroy
editor of Foreign Correspondents in Japan,
a history of the Club that is available at the front des