With the kabu being pretty valuable there are many latent straws that break camels' backs. Add that the oyakata are also just humans and the Kyokai's habit to conclude everything behind the scenes. And you get? Right, odd happenings and scandals around the 105 kabu.

1996Kirishima Lackkabu -- He-Who-Had-Many-Myoseki
1998Takadagawa Ante Portas
2002Rijikai Elections... Dead Races? -- Changing of the Guard, Part I
2003The Value of a Kabu -- Changing of the Guard, Part II -- Akebono Joins K-1
2004Takanohana vs. Akinoshima -- The Miyagino Incident -- Old Bitter Man -- Katsunoura no kachi
2005Black Holes in the Kabu Universe -- Another Hanada Story

March 1996: Kirishima Lackkabu

When an Ozeki or Yokozuna retires, he usually owns a kabu already that is waiting for him. Sometimes this isn't the case. The last instance was Kirishima. (For apparent reasons I don't count both Hawaiian Yokozuna Akebono and Musashimaru: They aren't exactly known for searching a kabu like mad.)

At the end of Haru Basho 1996 the charismatic Ozeki from Izutsu-beya called it quits. He became Shikoroyama, but this kabu was only rent from his shisho Izutsu (former Tsurugamine), as he had no kabu of his own at that point. Futagoyama (former Takanohana) drove the prices for kabu into undreamt-of regions by trying to buy as many kabu as possible for his many deshi. Kirishima's main sponsor, a real estate company, was hit hard by the burst of the Japanese Economy Bubble and was thus no help in gathering enough money to acquire a kabu.

Now-Shikoroyama tried to obtain Kumegawa-kabu first, but wasn't very lucky. Just the rumour that Futagoyama may also be interested in this kabu made the price climb higher and higher. Soon after it was reported that he would be the owner of Michinoku-kabu. Current Michinoku (former Hoshiiwato) had founded his own heya, but apparently was on the brink of bankruptcy and should retire for good at the end of 1997. In the meantime Shikoroyama changed to Katsunoura, but finally on 26th of December 1997 he made himself a Christmas present by taking over Michinoku-kabu and -beya.

July 1996: He-Who-Had-Many-Myoseki

It is not unusual that an oyakata retires before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 years. This time it was Sanoyama (former Wakajishi), who retired at the age of 48 years. There was nothing special about him as an active rikishi. He was Komusubi once and fought 31 tournaments in Makuuchi altogether with a total record of 200-262-3. But his career as oyakata was much more of an adventure. During his 13 years as oyakata, he was known under not less that eleven (!) myoseki. Needless to say that all these kabu were just on loan. Being taken away his tenth, he had already handed in his retirement papers, when he just again managed to rent Sanoyama-kabu. His further stay with the Kyokai was accepted.

He finally ran out of luck when Maegashira Kiraiho of Takadagawa-beya retired. The beya belonged to the same ichimon as Sanoyama-kabu owner Konishiki did, so its retiree was of course favoured.

Former Wakajishi is out of the Kyokai, but at least he can find himself on a first place in the Kyokai's big record book. Distantly following are former Onobori and Zaonishiki with seven kabu each. The latter one is still active and may add some more. Ironically he was also known as Sanoyama at the time of writing this section; today he is the 16th Nishikijima.

January 1998: Takadagawa Ante Portas

The 1998 Rijikai elections didn't start under a good star. Until then it had been common practice that every of the five ichimon nominated exactly two candidates and thus had two seats in the board of directors. With Nishonoseki ichimon having an overwhelming number of rikishi and oyakata, the ichimon nominated in three candidates. Additionally, Takadagawa (former Maenoyama) annouced to run as "independent candidate" without having the support of his Takasago ichimon. So in the end there were twelve possible candidates for just ten posts.

The first unlucky candidate was Jinmaku (former Kitanofuji). His Takasago ichimon had only 16 votes at that time, that were not enough for two posts. A splitting of votes could even have resulted in no "official" Riji for the ichimon. An intra-ichimon election made Takasago (former Fujinishiki) to the only official candidate. So the election day came, and there were still eleven candidates.

The result was surprising. Nishonoseki ichimon had their three candidates elected at cost of Tokitsukaze ichimon. One of their two candidates, Edagawa (former Kitabayama), wasn't re-elected. Takadagawa could draw eight votes by claiming that the Kyokai structures were not democratic. He was elected to Riji with that result. After that Jinmaku went haigyo (left for good). He interpreted the election result as lack of support within his heya. Takadagawa was thrown out of Takasago ichimon. It looked like he might join Dewanoumi ichimon, but in the end he decided to stay pariah. (Side note: If he had joined Dewanoumi ichimon, he might have restored the balance. Jinmaku was in Dewanoumi-beya in his rikishi days, but defected to Takasago ichimon.)

The election result had another big impact on the Rijikai. With Takadagawa and Magaki (former Wakanohana) two protesters were elected against Rijicho Sakaigawa (former Sadanoyama) and his way of leading the Kyokai. One of his visions was to abandon kabu trade at all and return to the old times, when kabu were given from shisho to deshi without any money involved. The two newly elected young oyakata had invested a lot of money in their kabu, and getting nothing back for them was unacceptable. Sakaigawa had to accept that his time as Rijicho was over and didn't apply for the post any more. Tokitsukaze (former Yutakayama) and Kitanoumi (Ichidai toshiyori) ran for the chairman's position. Tokitsukaze, more than 15 years older than his rival, was elected with a majority of votes. This result can be seen as a consolidation for the loss of a Riji post for the ichimon. Defeated Kitanoumi also knew that time was on his side. He would eventually ascend to Rijicho four years later.

January 2002: Rijikai Elections... Dead Races?

The result of most Rijikai elections is the same: There are just as many candidates as there are open posts, and the votes are spread equally among the candidates. Even crucial votes tend to result in a draw.

This time a crucial draw wasn't sure. Both Kitanoumi (Ichidai toshiyori) and Futagoyama (former Takanohana) announced to candidate for the Rijicho's post, and no one was willing to step back. But in the end the Kyokai stood united again. After electing ten Riji candidates to Riji, the final decision also had not to come in a real election round. Kitanoumi secured himself the chair by offering the Shimpan bucho (chief judge) position to his rival, despite it is reserved for former Yokozuna only. Futagoyama, a former Ozeki, withdrew. The tradition of breaking the tradition should continue: Kitanoumi gave that position to powerful former Ozeki from Nishonoseki ichimon in 2004 and 2006, too.

February 2002: Changing of the Guard, Part I

Takasago-beya's glory had faded a bit during the last years. After the haigyo of Sanoyama (former Konishiki) in 1998, another deshi of Takasago (former Fujinishiki) moved up to the first place in the succession line for this kabu and heya: Nishikido (former Mitoizumi). He made it to Sekiwake in his best days. During his shisho's illness he was already "acting oyakata", and he led the ship well through the ramblings aroung a sekitori of the heya, who hit a pedestrian when he drove a car (this is forbidden for sekitori). So Nishikido deserved even more the leading kabu of his Takasago ichimon.

But then there was his fiancee. She was a rather deranged women, who lied about her family and her past. Claiming that she was an orphan, not only both her parents were still alive, she was already married two times and had four children (whom she left back at her parents). When Nishikido announced his engagement to her, her past came to light, and she ended the relationship with a facsimile to the press.

So Nishikido was thrown rather ungraciously out of the race for Takasago-kabu. The winner was Wakamatsu (former Asashio). It is speculated that there was a lot of money involved, despite Takasago didn't really need the money, and should have given the kabu to his loyal deshi. The two heya merged, and the new Takasago became the third most powerful oyakata in the Kyokai, after Kitanoumi (Ichidai toshiyori) and Futagoyama (former Takanohana). Ten months later Nishikido branched out of Takasago-beya and opened up his own heya in the old Takasago facilities, that were empty since the merger.

February 2003: The Value of a Kabu

In September 2001 it was the first time ever in Ozumo history that a court had to deal with a kabu affair. As the happenings involve only two oyakata being known under the same myoseki, the respective oyakata will here be called by the shikona they had as an active rikishi. And here they are: Tatsunami[6] (former Haguroyama), mandatorily retired in February 1999, and his successor Tatsunami[7] (former Asahiyutaka), the current holder of the kabu.

Asahiyukata was part of Oshima-beya in his rikishi days. He married the daughter of Haguroyama in 1996. Subsequently he didn't acquire a kabu after his retirement but took one of the Jun toshiyori positions. When Haguroyama had his 65th birthday, Asahiyutaka inherited kabu, heya and facilities. No money changed hands, but just the unwritten promise of the son-in-law to care about the retired father-in-law. From the very beginning it was speculated that the marriage was arranged without or with just few love involved.

In August 2001 Asahiyutaka received the divorce notice from his wife. The betrayed father-in-law went to court and finally was given right in February 2003. The judges ordered Asahiyutaka to pay the the sum of 175 million yen to Haguroyama as compensation for Tatsunami-kabu. The heya facilities weren't part of the judges' decision, and Haguroyama sued Asahiyutaka out of the building some months later. This was the first time ever (in peace time) that a heya was evacuated.

This legal battle was the first time that a price for a kabu was named openly. In deteminating the sum the judges went with the following argumentation: "[...] because the Tatsunami stable is one of the most prestigious, and another former wrestler of the stable paid 175 million yen to receive a different elder right, even if the transfer was conducted within the family, the price should not fall below 175 million yen."

February 2003: Changing of the Guard, Part II

2003, 24th of February: Kasugano (former Tochinoumi) had less than three weeks until his mandatory retirement.

As usual when the shisho of a well established heya retires, he switched kabu with another oyakata in his heya. Here it was Takenawa (former Tochinowaka). Not so usual: Takenawa was the youngest who was affiliated to the heya. He had been an active rikishi until just four years ago. The explanation of the old oyakata was the following: "Considering the time we are in, I felt we would not be able to raise good solid rikishi by having a series of revolving changes at the top every 10 years or so. We should give young recruits a time to grow."

Also affiliated Chiganoura (former Masudayama) felt overlooked and opened eighteen months later his own heya, at the age of 53 years. His most successful deshi, Tochinonada, would not follow him, though: By staying with Kasugano-beya he secured himself the ownership of the then vacated Takenawa-kabu.

November 2003: Akebono joins K-1

When Akebono retired in January 2001 as Yokozuna East (only few go at their peak!) he claimed that he would not go back to Hawaii but stay with Azumazeki-beya. He wasn't in possession of a kabu, so he had to hang on Jun toshiyori status first. With a five years grace period no one saw a big problem for him finding a kabu. Even more as his shisho Azumazeki (former Takamiyama) offered to retire in 2006 at the age of 61 and give the kabu to Akebono. Accoring to his own words Akebono was also offered Takasago-kabu, but he turned down that. By taking it he would have overtaken his shisho in the hierarchy, and he didn't want to do that.

Akebono had completely different plans. It became more and more apparent that he wasn't happy in the Kyokai any more. The tensions between him and Azumazeki grew, and in November 2003 Akebono went haigyo (left for good). Destination: K-1. Reason: His kids should see him fighting. Also attractive: One million US dollars per bout (he had lost a lot of money in entertainment projects). Each fight can be filed under "The Deconstruction of a Falling Star." He finally regained consciuosness and decided to join less dangerous rings. At WWE Wrestlemania 21 he had a "Sumo Match" against the Big Show, who was referred to as the biggest man in sports entertainment. Akebono won that match and went on to Japan, where he steps into the ring for AJPW.

The voices calling Akebono a disgrace for the Yokozuna rank and his name are right only halfway. His career after the Kyokai isn't really worthy of a Dai-Yokozuna. But he is not a disgrace for the name Akebono: The name is big, no question, but only because Akebono made it big. Before him it was just the name of car brakes.

March 2004: Takanohana vs. Akinoshima

Right after Takanohana (Ichidai toshiyori) took over the heya of his father Futagoyama (former Takanohana), it came to a battle that had never occured on the dohyo. The former stablemates Takanohana and Fujishima (former Akinoshima) began accusing each other of various things. If their meeting on the dohyo would have been that intense, it had easily become the battle of the century. It is known that during their active days both weren't big friends already. Fujishima joined the heya one year before Takanohana did and was allegedly a bully picking on the younger ones. On the other hand Fujishima didn't like Takanohana's behaviour, especially when both had become oyakata: Takanohana had been introverted (almost autistic) all the time -- but also always aware of his great sumo. The combination of these two attributes can be really hard to cope with.

In March 2004 Fujishima -- who had rent this kabu from his shisho Futagoyama (Fujishima always referred only to him as shisho, even after Takanohana had become head of the heya) -- made the first bigger step by trying to buy the kabu of the recently retired Sendagawa (former Wakanaruto). Takanohana-oyakata read about this in a newspaper and was understandably pretty miffed. At that point Fujishima was very close to be thrown out of the Kyokai. Takanohana retaliated by skipping Fujishima's danpatsu-shiki citing a cold and joining that of Daizen (Jun toshiyori) the very next day.

Futagoyama, ex-shisho to both, tried to act as mediator. In the meantime Fujishima tried to switch to Hanakago-beya, but failed. In May there was a meeting between Futagoyama, Fujishima and pariah Takadagawa (former Maenoyama) at the Kokugikan, finally bringing a heya switch for Fujishima underway. Takanohana would not sign the papers for the heya transfer, however. After Fujishima officially became Sendagawa on 28th of May, he had to wait another four months until the Rijicho Kitanoumi (Ichidai toshiyori) and Futagoyama finally spoke a word on this matter.

Besides a near-loss of an undoubtedly loyal warrior and a full-loss of face for Takanohana it was also a loss of a kabu. Futagoyama gave away his very dear Fujishima-kabu to Dewanoumi ichimon in exchange for the Sendagawa-kabu (that had already been promised to Musoyama). Well, he didn't give it away exactly, but only returned it after some decades. This kabu was one of the very first to be traded between two ichimon. This lost kabu might become an important one in the rijikai elections in 2006, when Takanohana wants to run as a Riji candidate.

Just like six years ago when Takadagawa was expelled from Takasago ichimon, speculations ran high which ichimon the pariah heya might join. And just like six years ago, Dewanoumi ichimon was a hot candidate but in the end the heya stayed unaffilated. Some more background and discussion can be found here at sumoforum.net.

July 2004: The Miyagino Incident

2004, 17th of August: Former Juryo 2 Kanechika of Kitanoumi-beya announced his retirement as active rikishi. After losing sekitori status with a 4-11 at J11w in March 1998, he travelled more than six years through the lower divisions with just one guestplay in Juryo as ms5 at the beginning of 2000.

Kanechika was adopted by the widow of late 9th Miyagino (former Hirokawa), who died in 1989. Kabu and heya didn't stay limbo for long, as affiliated Nakagawa (former Chikubayama) took over both the very day after. During the coming fifteen years he would raise some sekitori, at last a very promising one: Hakuho finished 11-4 as Maegashira 8 in the July tournament. Not many -- if any -- persons except the widow and 10th Miyagino did know that kabu and heya were just on loan, and for a long time it probably looked like he was the "suitable successor" the widow had been searching for the kabu. In the end he wasn't, obviously.

Rijicho Kitanoumi (Ichidai toshiyori) vetoed against a sudden take-over by Kanechika, not only as chairman of the Kyokai but also as his shisho. The successful Miyagino-oyakata should a chance to find a new kabu. Which he did: After one month he assumed the name Kumagatani and decided to stay an affiliated oyakata to Miyagino-beya -- if he had not found a new kabu, half of the heya would have gone intai with "their" shisho. Not before that Kanechika was allowed to retire officially as a rikishi. With the transfer he became not only a shisho, but also member of Tatsunami-Isegahama rengo. During his rikishi days he belonged to Dewanoumi ichimon.

After this incident there was introduced a new rule for oyakata promotions: Oyakata on loan will stay Toshiyori and can't be promoted any more, no matter how long they have been with the Kyokai. All leaseholders who had rent their kabu before that date can count on grandfather rulings, however (former Chikubayama is the last to benefit). But should they switch their kabu and rent another one, their rank will be Toshiyori.

September 2004: Old Bitter Man

The Weekly Shukan Post, a rather trashy, notorious anti-Sumo paper printed an interview with Isegahama (former Kiyokuni) in their edition of 2004, 24th of September. It was an article full of allegations, speculations and "glorious old days" statements against and about the state of Sumo. Every line had a bitter taste making no good image of the then 62-years old oyakata. You can find the full article here and here at sumoforum.net.

Besides the usual stories about yaocho (bout fixing) and steroids, one point seemingly had disappointed Isegahama very much: His nephews Tamanoshima and Tamamitsukuni didn't join his heya, breaking an old tradition with that. He blamed the boys' parents for that. According to his words, they told around that they had Isegahama's permission to search for another heya than their relative's one. He came to the defence of their chosen shisho Kataonami (former Tamanofuji), however, by adding that Kataonami had indeed offered some money for the boys to join, but only after he had been deceived by the parents.

The Kyokai subsequently demoted him from Yakuin Taigu to Iin, kicking him out of the Vice Director's office of the Lifestyle Guidance Department. He might have gotten back this post, if he had proven that the interview was consciously distorted by the press, as he claimed. But he didn't (couldn't?) take the chance.

November 2004: Katsunoura no kachi

2004, 14th of November: It was the first day of Kyushu basho, that took place in the Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

In front of the center there was a little brawl that involved an oyakata: Katsunoura (former Kitakachidoki) was hit in the face by a man and got a bruised lip. But he returned the favour and got the guy into a headlock, turning him over to arriving police officers. The attacker said later, "I was pissed off. It could have been anyone!!" The physical conditions were quite unequal: The attacker was only 170cm, Katsunoura was 183cm and weighed 158kg/350lbs in his best time.

If one might add: This must have been either big despair or big hubris...

May 2005: Black Holes in the Kabu Universe

Heya with big influence and even bigger koenkai (sponsor clubs) are always know as such. When their rikishi quit their career on the dohyo, the heya start buying kabu like mad. One had been forgotten during the last years: Isenoumi-beya. Isenoumi (former Fujinogawa) wasn't too successful in raising promising new deshi. One of the reason for that could be his strict opposition to foreigners and college rikishi. During the last ten years only three rikishi out of his heya made it to Makuuchi. But let's direct the attention back to the kabu:

Kitakachidoki retired in August 2000 and got Katsunoura-kabu as a present from his shisho. Oikari retired in November 2004. Some weeks later Isenoumi found another kabu in his sleeve, Tatekawa (at that point rent to former Kotonishiki) and gave it to his most successful deshi Tosanoumi, who was still active. Surprisingly it was not revoked and rent to the just retired Oikari. At that point you could have seen the master plan already, that worked out like so: Oikari hung on Jun toshiyori status, and in May 2005 Kabutoyama (former Daiyu) had his mandatory retirement. The day after Oikari took over this kabu and was listed as owning oyakata in the Kyokai's directory.

In total this makes four kabu in the hands of Isenoumi-beya, a really big number if you put it into relation to the number of deshi. Albeit there is no new star in sight, they need not at any rate to be afraid of a sudden lack of trainers...

June 2005: Another Hanada Story

2005, 30th of May: Futagoyama (former Takanohana) died of cancer of the mouth. He had been in hospital for a little while already, and his health steadily became worse -- despite some rays of hope. He had been a heavy smoker and was even buried with a packet of his poison Mild Seven, and so this came not too surprising. But rather sudden.

One week later his son and successor, Takanohana (Ichidai toshiyori) asked the Kyokai for a re-issue of the certificate that proves ownership of Futagoyama-kabu. One month before the heya was searching the certificates for Otowayama-kabu and Yamahibiki-kabu as well, and the re-issues were no problem. But this time it was a bit different. As the owner, the late Futagoyama, understandably couldn't witness the ownership in person, the re-issue wasn't handed out.

It was a no-brainer that Futagoyama had given all three certificates to a trustworthy person before going to hospital. From then on it was speculated who might the one. Soon a "suspect" was found: His brother, the former Wakanohana I and predecessing Futagoyama. He did not comment the speculations but was only busy keeping peace between the parties. Takanohana was standing alone against his mother Noriko, his brother (the former Wakanohana III), and his former stablemate Sendagawa (former Akinoshima). Another yellow press answer to the whereabouts of the kabu was that late Futagoyama had left all assets to a woman who was caring about him in his last months. You hadn't had to wait long for the upcoming inevitable fight for the heritage, that was valued at about 500 million yen.

Fourty days later the lawyers of Wakanohana III and late Futagoyama cleared the situation: When Wakanohana III left the Kyokai, he and his father decided that the heya-inheriting son would inherit every other Sumo-related asset (kabu, heya facilities, ...) as well. The missing kabu certificates were in the hands of the died oyakata's lawyer all the time -- to prevent everybody from pulling a fast one. After the dust had settled, Takanohana was given a severe warning by the Kyokai not to wash dirty linens in public again. Some months later when Takanohana formally took over the kabu his father possessed, there occured another minor problem: You are only allowed to hold two kabu, but Takanohana had three now (Takanohana, Futagoyama and Yamahibiki).

Adding fuel to the fire, there were some parentage speculations around the Hanada family (I'll refer to the persons under their shikona when they were active; counting includes Yokozuna and Ozeki):

(1) Wakanohana I is not the brother but the father of Takanohana I. This rumour is based on the facts that Wakanohana I is 22 years older than his brother. Further he was known as a womanizer and hadn't been ready for marriage at the time of the birth of his brother.
(2) Wakanohana III is not the son of Takanohana I but of Wakanohana I. The theory is based on the strict opposition of Wakanohana I against the marriage of Takanohana I to Noriko (at that time Waka I was shisho to Taka I). This story gets a lot more spice if you take rumour (1) as granted fact.
(3) Takanohana II is not the son of Takanohana I but of Wajima. Background: Wajima introduced Takanohana I and Noriko as he knew both well. Some say: He knew Noriko too well. If you add the theories (2) and (3), Takanohana II never had born a child.

Given this speculations were all true, the inheritance might become a big question mark again? Not really. These aspersions occur whenever there is a bigger story around the Hanady family, but are put to bed pretty soon again. So it was this time, too, especially as it soon became apparent that Takanohana II would still be the heir of the kabu and heya given all that was true.

Wakanohana I gave all his Sumo related goods to Takanohana I by heya-merger. Therefore it was all the same, whether they are brothers of father/son. Then Takanohana I increased the heya's worth a bit by adding some kabu, but gave one away to Wakanohana III when he retired. Soon Wakanohana III turned to "mundane" things and gave it back. Again, the status quo wouldn't have changed if the generation ties between the two had been different.

We'll leave out Wajima. If he hadn't been thrown out of the Kyokai, he had just possibly increased Takanohana II's wealth.

The worst case scenario could only be Noriko inheriting everything (remember: she formed an alliance against Takanohana II). But it can be doubted with reason that she could have gotten hold of the Sumo related goods. They should be -- again by heya directive -- given to the successor of shisho Takanohana I: Takanohana II. And in case of need even the Kyokai might have interferred on behalf of Takanohana II, though they aren't too happy with his understanding of the shisho role.

For those who have lost track of all those coulds and mights in the meantime, here is an "all-rumoured" pedigree:

      Waka I                           
       |                              
  +----+-----+                        
  |          |                        
Waka III    Taka I oo Noriko    Wajima
                        |         |   
                        +----+----+   
                             |        
                           Taka II