Fellow GP contributor, Kelsey Leuzinger has written a great article outlining how to watch sumo wrestling in Tokyo. To continue the theme, I’d like to encourage readers to not only go watch these fantastically large athletes, but to eat well like them, too!
Some may already know that Nabe is a traditional Japanese cuisine where you cook fresh vegetables, meat, seafood, tofu, and noodles in a community pot of boiling broth. However, what makes it Chanko Nabe is the enormous amount of food that is packed into the soup. To become the size of a sumo wrestler, the portions have to be huge and unforgiving. One needs to fill the pot until it is overflowing, providing no wiggle room for the ingredients as they boil.
A sumo wrestler’s main source of power comes from the hearty, yet healthy Chanko Nabe.
Around Ryougoku Kokugikan (Sumo Stadium) are over 20 restaurants serving this vat of delicious gluttony. These Chanko Nabe restaurants are usually owned by former superstar wrestlers. Some even produce their own Sake.
Make an adventure of your day when choosing where to indulge. Head to the tourist information center on the first floor of the Hotel Belle Grande (right outside of the JR Ryougoku Station). There you will find a Sumo Food Map, which will take you on a food hunt as you search for a Chanko Nabe restaurant that fits your budget and atmospheric desires. Any of the restaurants can give you a wonderful experience, and the healthy ingredients will keep your stomach full and happy.
Sumo wrestlers put their competitiveness and aggression aside as they sit together around their pot in between training. For laypeople, Nabe can be a team-building exercise or a catalyst for battle.
The soup base is the heart of your meal. Lighter broths bring out the delightful nuances of your fresh ingredients while heavier broths infuse the wonderful soup flavors into your every bite. “Taihen” doesn’t even begin to describe this group decision process – as evil glares, passive aggressiveness, and outward threats are thrown around. In fact, there could be a spontaneous Sumo match that occurs between friends who are each fighting for their desired broth.
Hopefully, choosing your platter of vegetables, meat, etc. goes smoother. Sumo wrestlers only eat the best and freshest ingredients, and these places will serve you nothing different. When you order, just make sure that you clarify whether you’re paying per person or per platter.
The Eating Challenge
Has peace returned to your tribe? You’ll need to be cordial, friendly, and maybe a bit inebriated for this next part.
It is said that a watched pot will never boil. So beckon, “Biiru to sake, onegaishimasu!” The sweet distraction of alcohol always works!
When your food is ready, blurt out “Itadakemasu!” giving yourself permission to grab those perfect mushrooms, melt-in-your-mouth beef, or sweet Kabochya. Your greedy stomach will at first force you to scald the roof of your mouth, but you must regain control and savor the tender ingredients softened by the delectable soup. So juicy, so healthy, so good.
The Japanese custom is to place food on empty plates and encourage more eating. You’re all in this food challenge together! While you’re at it, fill up those empty Sake glasses, too.
After the meal, you will be overcome with heavenly food coma. If you want to do as sumo wrestlers do, take a nap and let the food fill out your body with the wonderful ingredients you just happily gorged. If achieving sumo size is not in your plans, use the Chanko Nabe as fuel to explore the rest of Ryougoku.
Arrive at the JR Ryougoku Station and head to the tourist office on the first floor of the Hotel Belle Grande to pick up your Sumo Food Map. Eating at a Chanko Nabe restaurant can be combined with the Ryougoku Kokugikan, Edo-Tokyo Museum, and/or Kiyosumi Garden.