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Chanko Nabe (Sumo Stew) - Japanese Encyclopedia

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Chanko nabe is the indispensable food that supports those in the world of sumo, Japan’s national sport. In this article, we will introduce chanko nabe and where you can enjoy it in Tokyo!

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What is Chanko Nabe?

日本のことば事典「ちゃんこ鍋」

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Whether it be at a restaurant or at home, nabe-ryori refers to a typical Japanese dish made of several ingredients boiled together in a large pot.

Normally, these dishes get their name from the ingredients used or the way in which the dish is prepared. For example, there’s ‘tonyunabe’, ‘tonyu’ meaning ‘soy milk’, and ‘kimchinabe’. However, among there is a mysterious dish known as ‘chanko nabe’.

Believe it or not, the chanko nabe is actually a very important dish that helps support Japan’s national sport, sumo, behind the scenes.

Building the Robust Body of a Sumo Wrestler - A Hot Pot Full of Nutrition

Chanko is a word that indicates the food that sumo wrestlers eat, and the word ‘nabe’ means ‘hot pot’. In other words, ‘chanko nabe’ primarily refers to the hot pot that sumo wrestlers eat. Sumo wrestlers in Japan work together in order to strengthen their bodies and improve their skills, living in a type of training facility known as a sumo stable.

For sumo wrestlers, who need to maintain their massive bodies, eating is also an important part of their training.

On top of being a dish that can be made easily by an adult in just a few minutes, nabe dishes are very nutritious, allowing you to take in a number of different ingredients at once. By using chopsticks to eat together from the same hot pot, sumo wrestlers are able to boost their sense of togetherness. In a sumo stable, this is one dish that is a must have on the menu.

Chanko nabe and sumo are closely connected to each other.

Chanko Nabe Comes in Countless Varieties

It may go without saying, but if the food tastes the same every day, the sumo wrestlers will grow tired of it. For that reason, there are a number of different bases used in chanko nabe, such as soy sauce, salt, and miso. The same goes for the ingredients used, there are many different variations.

Having said that, it is said that chickens are auspicious because they have two legs, so there is a tendency to use chicken meat in chanko nabe (*1).

Strictly speaking, seeing as chanko nabe has this sort of history behind it, it’s not correct to call hot pots served at an izakaya, a Japanese style bar, and ones made in average households that have no connection to sumo ‘chanko nabe’. However, it seems that when making a hot pot made with the idea that you’ll gain energy from it just like a sumo wrestler would then that hot pot is sometimes daringly referred to as ‘chanko nabe’.

*1 Two legs are good luck for a sumo wrestler because when they place both hands on the ground during a bout, they loose.

Recommended Chanko Nabe in Ryogoku, the Sacred Ground of Sumo

両国駅

When you come to Japan, by all means, try chanko nabe.

In Japan, there are restaurants serving chanko nabe all across the country. However, the best restaurants serving this dish are definitely in the area where the Kokugikan (The National Sports Hall) is, namely in the Ryogoku area of Tokyo. Here are some of the chanko nabe restaurants in Ryogoku.

Ryogoku is an area where there are also a number of sumo stables, so if your luck is good then you might be able to see an actual sumo wrestler walking through the streets wearing a kimono.

Chanko Tomoegata
This is a well-established chanko nabe restaurant where you can enjoy not only hot pot dishes, but also other Japanese foods. It’s in a convenient location, just a 3 minute walk from Ryogoku Station. Here you can choose from a soy sauce base, a salt base, and a miso base. It’s not just the secretly passed down chanko nabe recipe that this restaurant is well known for, but the other Japanese foods that the cooks are very skilled at making are also delicious.

Address: Tokyo, Sumida, Ryogoku 2-17-6
Website: http://www.tomoegata.com/ (Japanese)

Chanko Kirishima
This restaurant is just a 1-minute walk from the JR Ryogoku Station. The entire building is a chanko nabe restaurant, and it’s very spacious, making it the perfect environment for talking about sumo wrestlers.

The owner of this restaurant is a famous retired sumo wrestler named Kirishima, so here you can enjoy authentic chanko nabe made by an actual sumo wrestler. On the top floor of this restaurant are panoramic seats, where you can enjoy the view of Tokyo SkyTree from. It sounds like it would be a lot of fun to share chanko nabe with a number of friends here.

Address: Tokyo, Sumida, Ryogoku 2-13-7
Website: http://www.j-kirishima.com/ (Japanese)

Sumo-Chaya Terao
The owner of this restaurant is a retired sumo wrestler also. This restaurant is famous, centering around the once popular sumo wrestler Terao. Just a 3-minute walk from Ryogoku Station, the exterior of this building looks as if it could be a sumo stable. Here you can apparently enjoy many unusual types of chanko nabe, such as a curry based one. This restaurant has an established reputation for having good value for the prices, and it’s a popular establishment where customers can enjoy the atmosphere of sumo.

Address: Tokyo, Sumida, Ryogoku 2-16-5 Azuma building 1F
Website: http://www.sumouchaya-terao.jp/ (Japanese)

In Closing

Chanko nabe is a dish that’s essential in the world of sumo. When you visit Japan, by all means visit Ryogoku, the sacred ground of sumo, and enjoy chanko nabe after watching a few bouts. This is without a doubt a special experience that you’ll only be able to have in Japan!

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