Sumo

Sumo 101: Restaurants run by former rikishi

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Sumo stable life is communal.

Rikishi take care of all of their own cooking and cleaning, and because they consume so much food the former is of paramount importance.

Michelin stars are unlikely to be handed out in sumo anytime soon, but while the dishes cooked by wrestlers may be lacking in flair, they are normally delicious and healthy.

The latter point often comes as a surprise to new fans. Seeing the size of rikishi many assume they spend all day gorging on unhealthy snacks. That bulk, though, comes from the volume of food rather than the content.

Sumo wrestlers’ main meal comes after morning training and is called chanko nabe. It is a stew of vegetables, meat, tofu and various other ingredients. Alongside it rikishi may eat up to ten bowls of rice and that is what packs on the pounds.

After a decade or more spent learning how to cook numerous versions of a few basic dishes, it’s no surprise that many ex-rikishi put that knowledge to use after retirement and open up restaurants.

Of course, the business world is almost as cutthroat as the sumo one, so many of those establishments last only a few years.

Even restaurants opened by former yokozuna have failed to make it past the initial few years.

Some, though, have had sustained success.

Chanko Kirishima, owned by the former ozeki of the same name, has been doing a roaring trade for years across the road from the Kokugikan, and has opened up a new location right beside the sumo arena.

It’s hard to walk far in Ryogoku without coming across an establishment run by an former wrestler.

Apart from the food, they are well worth visiting for tales of yore from the owners.

What better way to spend an evening than learning about sumo’s inner workings while eating chanko.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5