Mitsuru Hanada, a famed sumo stablemaster who was once known as the “Prince of Sumo” in Japan, died on May 30 of oral cancer. He was 55.
Hanada’s family is one of the sport’s most powerful dynasties. He trained under his eldest brother, Katsuji, a grand champion who fought under the name Wakanohana, and fathered two sumo-wrestling champions, former yokozunas Takanohana and the second Wakanohana.
Hanada entered his brother’s stable and made his professional debut in 1965. He was only 18 when he reached the Makuuchi Division, sumo’s elite rank. An immensely popular fighter, Hanada attained the second-highest rank of ozeki despite weighing 243 pounds. Although he was considered a sumo lightweight, the handsome and stylish Hanada spent 16 years in the ring and fought a record 50 consecutive tournaments as ozeki under the name Takanohana.
Hanada won two Emperor’s Cups before retiring in 1981 with a career record of 726 wins, 490 losses and 58 withdrawals. He spent his later years running the Futagoyama stable and working as the director of the Japan Sumo Association. In 2004, Hanada handed over control of the stable to his eldest son, who changed its name to the Takanohana Stable.