Daily Archives: May 7, 2010

Another Blow for Waka

Hanada Masaru, Kitabayashi Tanie, Sato Kei

The group of companies established by former sumo yokozuna Hanada Masaru (39, photo left) has filed for bankruptcy. Three companies, including the Dream Ark firm that ran the Chanko Dining Waka chain restaurants, filed at the Tokyo District Court yesterday. The group has outstanding debts in the region of ¥450 million.

Hanada set up the company in 2002 and opened the first Waka restaurant in the central Tokyo district of Roppongi in March 2003. The restaurant specialized in the chanko food that helps sumo wrestlers stay so bulky. With expansion into such foods as yakiniku and udon, the chain grew to 29 restaurants. Hanada ran the company until 2008, after which he only acted as an advisor. In 2009, six former franchisees sued Dream Ark for unpaid overtime. According to the company’s website, the chain currently has 14 restaurants across Japan and one in Seoul, South Korea. Most of those franchises are expected to remain in business for the time being.

Though not directly connected with the bankruptcy, it is yet another blow to Hanada. After injuries forced the popular champion – who used his father’s ring name of Wakanohana – to retire as relatively early from sumo in 2000, he made an unsuccessful attempt to get into the NFL, playing briefly in the local X League. He then switched to TV, appearing as a sportscaster and talento on the variety show circuit. While initially successful as a businessman, his personal life was a mess. 2005 saw a very public rift with his younger brother Takanohana and the death of their father. In 2007, he divorced his wife Mieko after a 5-year separation. The couple have four children.

Japan Loses Two Veteran Actors
Actress Kitabayashi Tanie (photo center) died of pneumonia at a Tokyo hospital at the end of April, it was reported yesterday. She was 98. A founding member of the Gekidan Mingei theater group, she is best remembered for her roles as an “obaasan” (grandmother). Her most famous role was as the mother who loses nine children during WWII, in “Taisanboku no Kinoshitade” (Under the Magnolia Tree). After playing the role for the last time in 2003, she retired and lived with her son.

And actor Sato Kei died on May 2, also of pneumonia at a Tokyo hospital. He was 81. Renowned for his portrayals of cool villains, from the mid-1950s he appeared in several movies directed by the great Oshima Nagisa (profile). He is perhaps best remembered for the 1981 movie “Hakujitsumu” (Daydream, photo right), though the movie’s reputation was less about the acting than the unsimulated sex scenes.