What is Chanko?
Chanko basically means any kind of food cooked by Sumo wrestlers. The most well known Chanko is Hot Pot (Chanko-Nabe, ちゃんこ鍋). Sumo wrestlers eat this hot pot almost every day after training. Unlimited combinations of ingredients and seasonings make their everyday food taste different. A variety of ingredients, including lots of vegetables, also gives the food balanced nutrients necessary for developing a strong body.
Healthy or Unhealthy?
The Sumo wrestler’ outlook is to become large and heavy. It is said that Sumo wrestlers take in about 8000 kcal per day. This is 4 times larger than what an adult woman takes in per day. Surprisingly, their body fat is relatively low. According to NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), average Sumo wrestlers have 23.5% body fat and the figure is lower than that of the younger generation of people these days. Sumo wrestlers are not obese, and Chanko Nabe contributes to keeping their bodies healthy.
Ryogoku is where the Tokyo Sumo stadium (Kokugikan:国技館) is located and is home to many Chanko-Nabe restaurants. We strongly recommend visiting a restaurant and experience the food. During Sumo tournaments at Kokugikan, advanced reservations are highly recommended.
1.Chanko Tomoegata (ちゃんこ巴潟)
Writers recommendation and a highly rated gourmet site
This restaurant prepares 4 different flavors of Chanko Hot Pot; soy source, salt, sour soy sauce, and miso.
We ordered a course menu (Sekiwake) that includes an appetizer, sashimi (raw fish), two seasonal dishes, and Chanko-Nabe. The Hot Pot concluded with Udon noodles.
Dining rooms have a sumo-like atmosphere, exhibiting sumo related collections. Ask for the large sake bowl (replica) from which Sumo wrestlers drink from when celebrating a tournament win, when you take photos. The friendly staff will help you.
This restaurant was established by the former Sumo wrestler, Kirishima. He became a Mutsu Oyakata (head coach of a Sumo training team) and is currently training Sumo wrestlers.
Kirishima’s Chanko-Nabe uses soup drained from chicken and pork bones in 4 different flavors; soy sauce, miso, salt and kimuchi. The soy sauce flavor includes minced sardines (tsumire,つみれ), and the other flavors include minced chicken (tori-dango, とりだんご).
3.Chanko Dining Ami (ちゃんこダイニング安美)
Various flavors of Chanko-Nabe are available, including a rare curry flavor and tantan chanko. They recommend the Yokozuna special Chanko (Yokozuna means a top rank Sumo wrestler).
All their best ingredients such as seafood, chicken, and beef are all added together to make a delicious taste. The restaurant has a good connection with Tsukiji market and as a result, fresh seafood is used in their dishes.
How often do Sumo wrestlers eat meals during the day?
Sumo wrestlers usually eat only two meals par day, lunch and dinner. They skip breakfast because they can’t have food before intense training in the early morning. (Sumo wrestlers do their training and practice at a Sumo stable. About the stable see this article ). After training, Chanko Nabe is ready for the extremely hungry wrestlers. However, priority is given to the head coach (Oyakata, 親方) and upper ranking wrestlers (Sekitori, 関取). Lower rank wrestlers first have to serve the Hot Pot to their upper ranks and then are allowed to eat. It is said that, in the past, the young wrestlers were only able to have soup. Even though this strict traditional custom sounds very discouraging, young wrestlers are highly motivated to move up the ranks in order to get their food earlier.
Victory food for a Sumo wrestler?
Sumo wrestlers are likely to prefer eating chicken to pork and beef. Why? Think of the Sumo rules. Any body parts other than bottom of their feet touching the ground means a loss in a Sumo match. Birds stand on their two legs, whereas cows and pigs are on four legs. Standing on four legs reminds the wrestlers of loosing a match. Therefore, many Sumo wrestlers will eat chicken in their meals, especially during tournaments.
How do you view the various Chanko-Nabe dishes? The food is crucial for the wrestlers to build a strong body, necessary for competitive matches. I hope you have an opportunity to try tasty Chanko-Nabe at Ryogoku after watching a Sumo match.