Photo/IllutrationStablemaster Takanohana leaves Ryogoku Kokugikan on Feb. 2 after he finished last in the election for director candidates. (Shogo Koshida)

While Takanohana is fondly remembered by fans as one of the great yokozuna, his popularity does not extend to the point that sumo elders want him in their ranks.

Now a stablemaster, Takanohana's efforts to reform a centuries-old sport rocked by violence and other scandals ran into a brick wall Feb. 2 when he failed to win a place as a director candidate for the Japan Sumo Association.

Eleven stablemasters were entered in the election and 10 were elected as director candidates. Voting was open to all 101 stablemasters belonging to the JSA.

The faction backing Takanohana, which consists of eight stablemasters and three independent stablemasters, was obliged to vote for the faction candidate, in this case stablemaster Onomatsu.

However, Takanohana ignored pleas by associates and entered his name as well.

In the event, Onomatsu won with eight votes and Takanohana only managed to gain two, the least of the 11 running for a seat.

On his stable's website, Takanohana posted an entry Feb. 1 that touched on recent scandals that have severely tarnished the sumo world.

He said his decision to run was made after careful consideration about what the sumo world should strive to be.

But many people found his words unconvincing.

Mitsuru Yaku, a cartoonist and big fan of sumo, cited "a gap between the admirable arguments made by stablemaster Takanohana and his actual deeds," adding, "I do not believe he has a definite plan at this time for heightening the public nature and transparency of the JSA."

Essayist Yoko Kishimoto, also a big sumo fan, said, "I feel let down because Takanohana's failure in the election may mean the JSA has lost an opportunity to change."

The sumo world was rocked in November when yokozuna Harumafuji abruptly retired for beating and injuring a younger wrestler during a drinking session.

The victim in that incident belonged to Takanohana's stable.

Takanohana came under fire for not cooperating with the JSA investigation into the matter and failing to quickly report the incident even though it occurred during a sumo circuit tour that he was in charge of.

As a result, a JSA councilors' meeting agreed to demote Takanohana as director in January. That decision did not disqualify Takanohana from entering the candidate director election.

However, the election outcome suggests that sumo elders are not satisfied that Takanohana has sufficiently answered questions about his handling of last year's scandal.