Home Global News Sumo Wrestling Legend Akebono Passes Away

Sumo Wrestling Legend Akebono Passes Away


Legendary sumo wrestler Akebono Taro, who won 11 grand tournaments during his career, died from heart failure at the age of 54.

Hawaii-born Akebono, who became the first non-Japanese grand champion or “yokozuna” entered the sumo world in 1988 and rose to its highest rank of yokozuna in January 1993, becoming modern sumo’s 64th yokozuna. He later became a Japanese citizen, taking the name Taro Akebono. As a foreigner, Akebono followed in the footsteps of the even bigger Konishiki, also from Hawaii, and alongside fellow yokozuna Musashimaru, originally from American Samoa.

After becoming the first-ever foreign-born grand champion – sumo’s highest rank, he opened the door for other foreign wrestlers to find success in the sport.

Akebono also regularly appeared as a celebrity on Japanese TV shows and after retiring from sumo in 2001, fought in various mixed martial arts and professional wrestling events.  In 2005, Akebono competed against The Big Show at WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles.

The United States ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, has paid tribute to Akebono, describing him as a “giant in the world of sumo”.

Akebono is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons. A private funeral will be held for the sumo legend.

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