Sumo Legend Akebono Taro, First Foreign-Born Yokozuna, Dies at 54 Due to Heart Failure

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Akebono Taro
Akebono Taro

Akebono Taro, a prominent figure in sumo wrestling and the first foreign-born wrestler to achieve the esteemed rank of “yokozuna” in Japan, has passed away at the age of 54 due to heart failure. Born Chad George Ha’aheo Rowan in Hawaii, he rose to fame after moving to Tokyo in the late 1980s, winning his first grand championship in 1993. Standing at 6 feet 8 inches and weighing around 500 pounds at his peak, Akebono was a formidable presence in the sport.

His passing was confirmed by his family, who disclosed that he died earlier in the month while receiving medical care in Tokyo. A private celebration of his life will be held, as per the family’s wishes, with Akebono survived by his wife, Christine, daughter, and two sons.

Akebono Taro
Akebono Taro (Credits: The Japan Times)

Akebono’s legacy extends beyond his athletic achievements; he served as a cultural ambassador between the United States and Japan, strengthening ties through his success in sumo wrestling. Rahm Emanuel, the United States ambassador to Japan, expressed his condolences, acknowledging Akebono’s role in paving the way for other foreign wrestlers to excel in the sport.

Throughout his 35-year career, Akebono garnered 11 grand tournament victories before retiring in 2001. His impact on sumo wrestling and his role as a bridge between nations will be remembered fondly by fans and admirers alike. The family has requested privacy during this time of mourning.


By Michael Smith

Hi. Hailing from Manila, I am an avid consumer of anime, gaming, football and professional wrestling. You can mostly find me either writing articles, binging shows or engaged in an engrossing discussion about the said interests.

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